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Parents and Community Respond to The Proposed Closing and Sale of The Children’s Aid Philip Coltoff Center

A recently announced decision by The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) to close and sell the Philip Coltoff Center has left parents, teachers, staff and community members shocked. The “Center” situated on Sullivan Street has been the location for Children’s Aid in Greenwich Village for over 100 years. A legacy many thought might continue indefinitely is now at risk, much like the children the Children’s Aid Society claim to support.

A letter dated November 28, 2010 from Richard Buery, Children’s Aid Society CEO was the first indication this move was being considered. A week later, in what many parents interpreted as a phased-in announcement, that same consideration was upgraded to a plan. Citing a lack of poverty in the West Village, CAS plans to sell the properties to raise capitol to provide services in neighborhoods with high rates of poverty.

While no one would dispute impoverished areas of New York City need more support and better social services, the abrupt closing and sale of the Center would be a devastating loss for Lower Manhattan. On the heels of the shuttering of St. Vincent’s, the only hospital in the immediate area, closing The Philip Coltoff Center feels to many like a short sighted decision by an institution with an honorable and responsible history.

The Philip Coltoff Center currently serves more than 1,500 children and community members annually. The Center is home to the largest nursery school in downtown Manhattan, a state-of-the-art early childhood center, an affordable summer camp and an exceptional after-school art program which benefits community children. In a neighborhood already suffering from cuts to its public Pre-K seats, and with a population of children only set to increase, the services available at the Center are critical. If CAS closes the Center, these 1,500 children will be displaced and more than 150 loyal employees will lose their jobs. The Center is a vital part of the neighborhood and the community.

Save A Village Education (SAVE) was formed in response to the Children’s Aid Society proposal to sell the buildings that make up its Philip Coltoff Center. SAVE’s Mission is to ensure that CAS fulfills its commitment to keep the Center open through June 2012 and that it sells the Center to an organization that will preserve educational and community programs for children.

The CAS Board of Trustees votes on the proposed sale December 16th thus a petition to support SAVE and encourage a more community-minded approach by CAS has been quickly established. Considering the SAVE website was launched less than 3 days ago it’s certainly an indication of community response that at the time of this writing signatures have already passed 2000.

SAVE website and petition: http://www.saveavillageeducation.com

About the Contributor: John Bentham, a professional photographer and parent of CAS Philip Coltoff Center student, is a guest contributor to the NYC Firm Schools Blog.

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