Five Towns community members protest closure of community center

Rosemary Aguilera, of Inwood, brought says she and the parents of the other 70 children in the program don’t know what to do.

Jon Dowding

Jul 3, 2024, 1:02 AM

Updated 21 days ago

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The Five Towns Community Center, utilized for over 50 years, will permanently shut down Wednesday morning.
As previously reported, Nassau County told staff last year it is not renewing the current operator’s lease. Five Towns Community Center Board President Gwynn Campbell says she and the board submitted a bid last year to save the center.
"I've been ignored. I've reached out also to have just a simple appointment with the special committee or Mr. Bruce Blakeman himself, and I have been ignored,” she said.
Parents of children in the center’s Head Start program and other services at the center held a protest hoping for the center’s doors to remain open.
Rosemary Aguilera, of Inwood, brought her oldest son to the Head Start program over seven years ago and has another child currently in the program. She and the parents of the other 70 children in the program don’t know what to do.
"I feel like I'm in the ocean and I don't know how to swim,” she said. “I feel already like I don't know what I'm going to do with my kids. We need this program. We need this thing open."
Also impacted by the closure is the Community On Drugs And Alcohol program, a substance abuse program located in the center.
Jamie Smith is a peer advocate in the program and fears for the future of the clients she’s grown a relationship with.
"You grow to have a connection with them,” she said. “Now we got to refer them out and they have to start all over."
Lucy Keller says the program has helped people in the Five Towns for over 50 years and is worried not all clients will be able to find help elsewhere.
"Some people don't have the money or the funds to get to other programs,” she said. “This location is really very important for them to come to."
In a statement to News 12, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said, “There are current negotiations to open a new community center to replace the existing facility which has not been maintained up to the county's standards. A new organization and partnership will bring a better community center for the five towns area.”
The center also runs a food pantry and youth programs. Campbell says she worries what similar services would be available if the center closes.
"This community has nowhere else to go,” said Campbell.
Parents have a plea for county officials.
"Please, try to do the best for our kids,” said Aguilera.
The center will be open for a July 8 graduation. It’s still set to close on Wednesday, July 3.


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