Teens want work, city slashes slots

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The city is pressuring the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center to register as many teens as possible for the Summer Youth Employment Program, even though fewer than 10 percent of the 7,700 who have applied will end up with jobs. 

For 50 years, SYEP has provided jobs to city youth. The 14 to 24 year olds work 25 hours a week at an assortment of non-profit and private organizations, from July 5 to August 19, at a pay rate of $7.25 per hour. 

The Mosholu Montefiore Community Center is in charge of processing and placing workers at sites in the northern Bronx and the Riverdale/Kingsbridge area, including Van Cortlandt Park, Hebrew Home at Riverdale, Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, Riverdale YM-YWHA, Riverdale Neighborhood House, Schervier Nursing Care Center and the Susan E Wagner Day School.

SYEP has been pared down in recent years. In 2009, 52,000 youths were put to work through the program, thanks in part to $18 million in federal stimulus money. In 2010, the program employed 35,000. This year, that number shrunk to 23,000 slots. 

At MMCC, the number of jobs has decreased from 3,300 in 2009 to 667 this year. But Don Bluestone, MMCC’s executive director, said he was asked to register between 8,000 and 9,000 youths. 

Despite the fact that there are fewer slots available, the Department of Youth and Community Development extended this year’s registration period one week past the original May 27 deadline. Mr. Bluestone said the city wants MMCC and other places like it to process more applicants than they can accommodate to put pressure on the state for more funding. 

“Of course that’s important, but we can’t handle it,” he said.

Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club program coordinator Via Childs said the same pressure has been applied to her organization. 

The city is trying to raise money so more workers can be hired.
In the middle of May, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city had come up with $3 million for the program. Then, earlier this month, Walmart officials said the company would donate $5 million as part of its effort to court city leaders into allowing it to open stores within the five boroughs. 

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