Mary Perot Nichols: The Poverty Pocket


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April 22, 1965, Vol. X, No. 27

Will the Poverty Warriors Reach the Poverty Pocket?

By Mary Perot Nichols

The War on Poverty is running a neck-and-neck race with the James Children’s Center. The question of the moment in Lower Manhattan is whether the poverty warriors will arrive in the Chinatown-Little Italy area in sufficient time to stop the 52-year-old community house from being closed down. Or, even, whether they see the center as something worth rescuing.

Last week a committee of the Borough President’s Community Planning Board No. 2, chaired by South Villager Helen Iannello, launched a move to keep the James Center open. The center is at Hester and Mullberry Streets in the southeast corner of the planning board’s district.

The parents of some 1500 children who use the center received a letter in march stating that the house would be shut down on June 25 because of “increasing deficits.” A spokesman for the Children’s Aid Society, the private philanthropy that supports it, told The Voice that the Society’s deficit of $750,000 was the only reason that they had decided to eliminate one of their nine children’s centers.

In the March letter to the parents, Morgan Dix Wheelock, president of the Children’s Aid Society, stated that the center would have to be closed “because of the expense of maintaining the obsolete, eight-story building it occupies, which is only partially used.” He also noted that within the neighborhood occupied by the James Children’s Center, “the family incomes and the incidence of intact family households are generally higher, while the rates of juvenile delinquency and concentration of population lower than in the other neighborhoods served by the Society.”

Countered Father William F. Mulcahy: “The parents here answer that argument with the comment that one of the reasons for the low rate of delinquency has been the James Center facilities.” “Closing the James Center,” said Father Mulcahy in a letter to the planning board last week, “is very like contributing to juvenile delinquency!” Father Mulcahy is pastor of the Catholic Church of the Transfiguration, located on Mott Street in Chinatown and attended almost entirely of Chinese-Americans…

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