Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Good intentions, but no safety net

East New York, at the end of the 3 train in Brooklyn, is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Over half the population lives under the poverty line, and infant mortality is way above the city average.

This week's financial crisis has created a near-panic for many people this community - no, not the employees of city agencies, not the residents themselves, but people who work at nonprofits. As Lehman Brothers and other firms have folded, it suddenly seems like most of the major sources of charitable funding have dried up overnight.

Some of the nonprofits in East New York are the best in the city, programs that have won praise and major grants in the past. Over the years they've gained a larger and larger role in people's lives. Many of them provide the most basic services: shelter, childcare, furniture, legal help. There are also dozens of churches that provide food, many reporting a drop in their tithing income.

New Yorkers have yet to see what will happen to these organizations and to the people who rely on them.

In a short walk through the neighborhood, you'd come across a huge number of charitable programs, sometimes a few to a block. Here's a cross-section of what's available in East New York and the kinds of things they do:

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