THE LIFE OF A CITY KID

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Babies have a greater chance of surviving infancy than they did a decade ago, according to a new study, but they are also more likely than ever to be born into poverty.

According to “Keeping Track of New York City’s Children,” a biennial report released on Thursday by the Citizens’ Committee for Children, the city infant mortality rate has dropped by 38.8 percent since 1990. But the number of kids living below the poverty line — $18,100 for a family of four — has increased slightly, by 0.7 percent.

Things remain particularly bad in Mott Haven. The South Bronx neighborhood, which is 70 percent Latino, continues to rank as the poorest New York City neighborhood, where it has sat for more than a decade. According to the study, based on government reports and 2000 Census data, 78
percent of Mott Haven children are born into poverty. It’s only slightly better for teens: about 55 percent of kids under 18 live below the poverty line. And more than one in three Mott Haven households earn less than $10,000 a year.

“When I saw these numbers, I wanted to cry,” said City Councilmember Margarita Lopez. “At the bottom line this is an issue of monetary and economic development.”

While other neighborhoods may not be as poor as Mott Haven, conditions in some areas, the study finds, have worsened in the last decade. East Flatbush and Canarsie, for instance, have both seen a rise in infant mortality, despite the citywide downward trend, the study found. In those
communities, expectant mothers are more likely to go without prenatal care, says the study.

Teen pregnancy in East Flatbush has also increased, by 8.7 percent since 1998, despite a 15 percent drop in teen pregnancies citywide. And misdemeanor and felony arrests among teens there have also become bigger problems.

Changing conditions in Howard Beach, Queens, seem to go against citywide trends, as well. Poverty rates are up, as are felonies and reports of child abuse, says the report.

To address some of these issues, the Citizens’ Committee for Children has called on officials in Albany and Washington to help New York City cover the costs of preventive outreach and social services in order to
prevent kids from getting illnesses like asthma and pneumonia; to enroll them in pre-kindergarten programs; and to make sure they receive mental health services for trauma related to the September 11 attacks.

“Our children deserve their fair share of funding from the state and federal governments,” said Gail Nayowith, executive director of CCC. “We cannot and will not balance the city’s $3 billion budget deficit on our children’s back. ‘Keeping Track’ arms us with the facts we can use to
ensure that President Bush and Governor Pataki don’t, either.”