News & Politics

Coffee House for Gang Members Only


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April 25, 1963, Vol. VIII, No. 27

Mobilization for Youth Launches Coffee Shop

By Susan Goodman

Club 169, a coffee shop-nightclub-settlement house on Allen Street, had its “shake-down” last Saturday night. An exclusive operation, it is open only to card-carrying members of three Puerto Rican gangs. This unusual variation on the Village coffee shop scene is part of the $12.5 million Mobilization for Youth program aimed at wiping out juvenile delinquency from the Lower East Side.

With funds supplied by the Federal and City governments, as well as the Ford Foundation, the vast five-year Mobilization project has just go underway. Included in the imaginative four-pronged attack against the poverty and social disintegration of the area are action programs in work, education, individual services, and community organization. Some of these have been in operation since last October, others have yet to be started.

The unofficial opening of Club 169 — an official one, perhaps complete with a blessing from JFK, may come later — filled the house to its 175-seat capacity.

The audience consisted of elegantly dressed Puerto Rican teenagers and social workers almost as magnificently garbed, including the chief of the entire mobilization project, James E. McCarthy. Sitting at ring-side tables covered with red-checked oilcloths, they drank coffee from paper cups as they watched the professional entertainment. The performers, including a marvelous magician, drew loud uninhibited whistles and excited commentary in Spanish.

After an electric-blue-suited twist quartet finished their routine, the kids poured onto the dance floor. The observers fled, and their places were quickly taken by another carload of teenagers. Some tiny Puerto Rican children hung around outside fascinated by the weird doings of their elders.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]


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