By Daniel Katzive
City Councilmember Gale Brewer and Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal announced a new program on Wednesday to support young people living in the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Amsterdam Houses and Amsterdam Addition developments, located between W. 61st and W. 65th Streets, Amsterdam and West End Avenues. Brewer was joined by City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams at the Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center on West 65th Street to launch the initiative.
The “Creating Opportunities for Amsterdam” (COFA) program will feature direct, door-to-door outreach to young people living in the developments. Outreach workers, two of whom were at Wednesday’s event, will focus on young people “who may be orbiting criminal activity…restricting their activities due to health or disconnection…and whose aspirations for education and employment are difficult to realize,” according to a press release. The outreach team will connect these young people to services offered by partner organizations, and provide counseling to create and achieve “meaningful life plans.”
Councilmember Brewer said she believes this is the first time this direct approach has been tried and, if successful, it could provide a template for similar initiatives in other NYCHA developments.
COFA will be run jointly by Goddard Riverside, a nonprofit social-service organization supporting Upper West Siders and all New Yorkers from early childhood to older adulthood, and by Positive Influence, a youth program which started in the Amsterdam Houses. Roderick Jones, Executive Director of Goddard Riverside, said that staff has already been hired for COFA and he expects the program to be up and running in early March. The COFA initiative will leverage off existing programs offered by Goddard Riverside and other organizations.
Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service, which is based nearby at the University’s Lincoln Square campus, will also be involved, providing ongoing evaluation of the program’s effectiveness.
COFA is funded in part by a $100,000 grant allocated by Councilmember Brewer from Speaker Adams’ Community Safety and Victims Service Initiative, which provides funds to each City Council District for local community safety programs. At the launch event, Speaker Adams said, “safety is not just the absence of crime but a presence of well-being. This is the pathway to prevent crime before it ever occurs.” New York State Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal delivered an additional $125,000 in funding for the program.
The Amsterdam Houses were completed in 1947 and recently celebrated their 75th Anniversary. The 9.5 acre development stretches from West 61st Street to West 64th Street between West End and Amsterdam Avenues and comprises 13, 6- and 13-story buildings. The neighboring Amsterdam Addition is a 27-story building on West 65th Street between West End and Amsterdam Avenues, which also houses the Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center where COFA will be based, alongside other existing programs managed by Goddard Riverside.