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Group gives $100G to offset Nassau youth cuts

A group has donated $100,000 to help Nassau

A group has donated $100,000 to help Nassau County youth. (May 31, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Danielle Finkelstein

A coalition of Long Island philanthropists is providing Nassau County with nearly $100,000 to keep its youth services office afloat through September, but the future of the 47-year-old governing body -- currently tied to $7.3 million in youth funding cuts -- remains in limbo.

The Long Island Funders Exchange, a group of some 30 philanthropic leaders who meet periodically to discuss pressing social issues, donated the money with little fanfare after the cuts went into effect July 5.

"It wasn't to take any kind of political stand; it was really about trying to help preserve the programs," said Craig Fligstein, vice president of community development for the United Way of Long Island, which coordinates the discussions.

Fligstein, who declined to cite the specific organizations involved without first getting their approval, said the public-private partnership is not intended to be a long-term solution but is meant to buy county officials extra time to reach a resolution over restoration of the funds.

Republican and Democratic leaders have been deadlocked over a plan to restore the funds to some 40 social service agencies since the legislature's Republican majority voted in May to rescind the groups' funding to pay for $41 million in tax refunds the county owes to commercial property owners. County Executive Edward Mangano proposes borrowing to pay the refunds, but Democrats have opposed the idea, citing concerns about county spending and using their votes as leverage in calling for what they say is a fairer redistricting process.

Agency heads say they are concerned the impasse will dismantle an office established by the legislature in 1965 to address issues such as gang violence, drug abuse and teen pregnancy.

"We'd be losing in a matter of months what took decades to build," said George Siberon, who was executive director of the Youth Board from 2002 to 2005 and who is currently executive director of the Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association.

Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said the administration had "no comment" on the future of the board's seven employees but said the county has no plans to dissolve the office's volunteer advisory board.

To receive nearly $1.2 million in state funding for delinquency prevention and runaway programs, all counties are required to have an advisory board and director, said Susan Steele, a spokeswoman for the state's Office of Children and Family Services.

Joseph Smith, executive director of Long Beach REACH, said the Youth Board's role in the community has often gone unnoticed. He recalled the Youth Board staff's organization of discussions between white and black students after a June 1979 riot at Long Beach High School that required SWAT team intervention.

"While things didn't resolve themselves overnight, the situation improved radically," Smith said. "It isn't something remembered by many people, this was something that was done quietly, and unceremoniously, but it's just one example in a long history of addressing community needs."

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