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New Report Shows Growing Inequality for Children and Families on Staten Island’s North Shore

A new Staten Island community needs assessment released today by Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York (CCC) calls attention to the growing inequality on the North Shore of Staten Island where many residents are not benefiting from the strengthened economy and citywide efforts to improve conditions for children and families.

The report, The North Shore of Staten Island: Community Driven Solutions to Improve Child and Family Well-Being,” illustrates wide social and economic disparities experienced by families both districtwide and acutely within neighborhoods.

“The North Shore is a microcosm reflecting both the rich diversity as well as the profound disparity in conditions that we see in New York City as a whole,” said Jennifer March, executive director of CCC. “No other community district has such a high share of residents both living in poor households and in higher income households, and these disparities are echoed across every issue impacting child and family well-being, including housing, health care, and education. Persistent inequality on the North Shore presents a unique set of challenges in ensuring not only that the needs of vulnerable children and families are met but that all households thrive and are upwardly mobile.”

The report is the result of a year-long assessment of child and family needs in the community, gathered through analysis of government data and new data collected from focus groups and interviews with service providers, parents and youth.

Findings from government data in the report show a sizable and widening gap in outcomes between the North Shore and the city overall. For example:

  • Economic conditions on the North Shore are marked by wide levels of disparity. No community district with a poverty rate as high as the North Shore’s (21 percent) has such a high share of residents who live in higher income households (nearly 40 percent).
  • The North Shore has the eighth lowest labor force participation ratio out of the city’s 59 community districts and the 10th lowest employment rate.
  • The North Shore has a higher share of households experiencing severe rent burden compared to the city overall, even though rents in the community district have not increased on the North Shore at the same rate as they have citywide.
  • Rates of enrollment in early educational programs for 3-and 4-year-olds on the North Shore are lower than for the city as a whole, which may be partly attributable to a lack of subsidized child care.
  • Despite having higher rates of youth employment than 16- to 24-year-olds citywide, North Shore youth are more likely to be disconnected (meaning greater numbers are both out of school and out of work) than youth citywide.

The report is the latest comprehensive assessment of community assets and needs conducted by CCC. Through participatory research methods, CCC elevates the perspectives of people living and working in specific communities of the city, gaining feedback on strengths and opportunities present in the community, and identifying whether or not residents utilize existing community resources to their full potential. The report highlights several examples of innovation on the North Shore. This includes the collaborative spirit among service providers and residents who have formed collective impact efforts to meaningfully improve outcomes for children, youth, and their families across a range of issues, such as youth employment, child health, and educational achievement across the lifespan.“CCC’s assessment of the North Shore paints a striking picture and one that is remarkably different from what people often perceive as life on Staten Island,” said Betsy Dubovsky, executive director of the Staten Island Foundation. “The recommendations identified by the community through this research provide an important opportunity to advance our collective work of aligning efforts to catch up with the progress experienced elsewhere in the city.”

Through interviews and focus groups with dozens of community-based organizations and residents, CCC found that resources available for low income working families on the North Shore — affordable housing, child care, health care, transportation — are both limited in supply and often geographically clustered. According to North Shore community members:

  • The transportation infrastructure on Staten Island is a profound impediment to economic mobility and access to services; community members describe long commute times and infrequent service.
  • While efforts are underway to bring new housing developments into St. George-New Brighton and other parts of the North Shore, service providers and residents expressed concerns that these developments are marketed toward young professionals, not current North Shore families.
  • Residents were adamant about the need for more job opportunities on the North Shore and expressed acute concerns about families struggling with economic insecurity and constrained mobility.
  • Staten Island has no public hospital and a comparatively low take up rate of Medicaid despite a high poverty rate. Interviews with service providers and caregivers also revealed that it is challenging to find doctors, and particularly specialists, on the North Shore who accept insurance plans.
  • There are wide disparities in student educational outcomes across schools in different neighborhoods on the North Shore. Community members feel that these disparities are largely the result of an unequal distribution of resources, and that the students and families at many schools need more onsite school-based services as well as year-round recreational programs and opportunities for parent engagement that are linguistically and culturally inclusive.
  • Staten Island neighborhoods have some of the highest rates of opioid use per capita across the city. Youth, parents and services providers discussed the complex contributors to substance use and abuse – whether alcohol, cannabis, opioids, or other substances – drawing attention to economic insecurity, community level violence, and lack of access to mental health resources and needed social supports.

“Our hope is that the findings and recommendations in CCC’s report will inform responsive action taken by government, philanthropic and nonprofit leaders to support programs, policies and budget initiatives that improve outcomes for the community, particularly for children,”  said Bijan Kimiagar who led the qualitative research for CCC. “In our conversations with families, youth and service providers, we learned about the many community-driven efforts underway on the North Shore that should be leveraged and expanded upon to change the trajectory for children and families in the community.”

Among the many community driven recommendations included in the report, highlights include:

  • Increase bus frequency and pilot transportation alternatives.
  • Ensure new housing developments include not only affordable units for North Shore residents but leverage ground floor space for child care, food retail and intergenerational programming.
  • Expand job training and employment opportunities for adults and expand bridge programs for youth to concretely connect youth to training and career pathways.
  • Create outreach and awareness campaigns to help eligible, uninsured residents enroll in Medicaid and other social supports that improve health and well-being such as SNAP and WIC.
  • Prioritize school-based opportunities that foster community and increase the pipeline of teachers who live in and reflect the diversity of students in North Shore public schools.
  • Undertake concerted community building activities – town halls, inclusion of NYPD Community Affairs in collaborative initiatives and events – to build trust between police officers and community members, especially young people.

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