WHLDC Contributes $756,000 to fund 500 Summer Jobs
June 25, 2012
The rain that fell on the morning of June 25, 2012 brought along good news for the 500 youth of West Harlem who would win placement lotteries for employment as part of the 2012 Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). In the new office of West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC) at 423 West 127th Street, the West Harlem Local Development Corporation (WHLDC) presented a check of $756,000 to New York City’s Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) to fund at least 500 positions for youth who are 14-24 years old and reside in the Community Board 9 area of West Harlem. WHLDC, the entity that signed the Community Benefits Agreement with Columbia University on May 18, 2009, is in the process of petitioning to transfer all of its assets, including its right to receive funds under the CBA, to West Harlem Development Corporation (WHDC) and thereafter to dissolve.
Adorned by original paintings on loan from West Harlem artist, Aleathia Brown, the modest new office of WHDC communicated class and efficiency. It provided an atmosphere of hope and excitement to the more than 60 attendees who comfortably fit into the less than 1,000 square feet of open space. In short order, the speakers: Donald Notice (Chairman of WHDC), Rev Georgiette Morgan-Thomas (Chairperson of Community Board 9), Maxine Griffith (Executive Vice President, Columbia University- Government and Community Affairs), Alan Cheng (Assistant Commissioner for Youth Employment Initiatives- DYCD), and Kofi Boateng (Executive Director, WHDC) built up the excited anticipation of the big moment.
Adding to the joyous mood that was written on the faces of the more than 25 youth in attendance, US Congressman Charles Rangel emphasized that what was about to happen was “only the beginning of bigger things coming to Harlem and an evidence of the power of collaborations and partnerships for which WHDC can count on one of the biggest institutions in the world, Columbia University, as a solid partner.”
Then the moment came. Raising an oversized check of $756,000 made out to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, Mr. Boateng asked the youth “How Much?” to a youthful response of “How Much?” To thunderous applauses and smiles, members of WHDC’s Board joined Mr. Boateng, Mr. Notice and Congressman Rangel to present the check to the representative of DYCD, Mr. Alan Cheng.
Earlier in his remarks, Mr. Boateng had explained that out of the $1,512 that is paid for each of the 500 placements, $325 would be paid to the Providers who are mostly Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in West Harlem. Thus there is a spillover effect of 24% of the funding going to local nonprofit organizations who place the youth in jobs. He emphasized that the rest of the per unit cost goes to pay the youth’s salary for the 7-week program and payroll taxes without a cent going to pay the DYCD’s administrative overhead. WHDC finds this process to be cost effective. It accomplishes the multiple objectives of providing employment, enhancing work readiness training, creating positive alternatives for the youth, and increasing the capacities of local CBOs. In 2011, the Board funded 200 Summer Youth Employment Program slots for $302,400. Out of the 2,837 applicants to SYEP in 2011 from the Community Board 9 area of West Harlem, only 20.5% were fortunate to be placed. With the expiration of the national economic stimulus, the Board of WHLDC voted to increase its contribution to the 2012 SYEP by 150% to $756,000 with the expectation that additional partners would be attracted to raise the placement rate for West Harlem youth to at least 33%.
The funding of the 2012 SYEP is the largest expenditure of WHLDC to date. Coupled with the opening of the organization’s office, the event of June 25, 2012 marked significant milestones for the implementation of the Community Benefits Agreement. Mr. Rangel wished that those who had in the past taken WHLDC to task would have been present to witness the “decent morning” and the vindication of WHLDC in “giving close to a million dollars” for an essential youth program. New York State Assemblyman Keith Wright attended the event to give his support and encouragement to WHDC to continue with its progress.
Going forward, the Chairman of WHLDC/WHDC, Mr. Notice, endorsed the vision of the Executive Director that is captured in the simple slogan: Solutions through Collaborations. Mr. Boateng explained that the significant mission of promoting economic development and enhancing the vibrancy of West Harlem can be accomplished by using the CBA as a foundation to build a community trust and delivering services through collaborations with West Harlem CBOs and institutions. Soon WHDC will start to have meetings with CBOs and implement a grant-making process. This system has to survive the funds from the Community Benefits Agreement in order to make a lasting impact. An anchor would be needed for the great vision of explosive economic development, and Arts and Culture can serve as a catalyst. Mr. Boateng extended an invitation to all minds, hands, and pockets.
Written by Kofi A. Boateng