Residents bash Midwood’s new hooky home

Yitzi Gruen, the owner of The Judaica Place on Avenue M, thinks it would be a terrible idea for the Department of Education to bring a truancy center to Midwood.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Midwood residents are lashing out at the city’s plans to put a truancy center next to a private all-girl’s school on Ocean Avenue — demanding that the city should put its bad apples in another basket.

The new Truancy Processing Center — where school-age children caught playing hooky will be housed until 2 pm or when their parents can come to pick them up — will be located near Avenue M, yet residents, merchants, and local civic leaders claim that the kids housed in the new facility could endanger students at Yeshiva Shaare Torah next door.

“Whoever is making this decision has no idea what he’s doing!” said Yitzi Gruen, the owner of Judaica Place, which is two doors down from the proposed center. “The city’s asking for chaos by putting these kids in a safe area and next door to a girl’s school.”

Other neighboring merchants say they have no interest in adding a bunch of hooky-playing kids to an area that already sees large flocks of rambunctious teenagers hitting the shopping corridor every time Edward R. Murrow High School lets out.

Calls to the yeshiva were not returned, but civic leaders say the whole community will be negatively impacted by the truancy center’s presence.

“I have deep concerns about the unacceptable behavior of truant students,” said City Council Michael Nelson (D–Midwood), who is opposing the plan. “Everyone will be negatively affected — residents, businesses and particularly the safety of other students in the community.”

Other community leaders are outraged that the city did not meet with them first before deciding to drop the truancy center in their neighborhood.

“We don’t know the number of truants that will be brought to the facility or how many will be released to roam the streets of Midwood unsupervised at the end of the school day,” said Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein (D–Midwood).

A Department of Education spokeswoman said that her agency does not control the placement of truancy centers, even though it will be inside an agency building.

Attempts to reach the Mayor’s Task Force on Truancy and Absenteeism were unsuccessful by our midnight deadline.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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