EG Housing Authority, Day Care Center Tenant At Odds

A long-time relationship if fracturing over a new EGHA requirement that London Bridge Learning Center clientele be 40 percent EGHA tenants.

The East Greenwich Housing Authority usually operates in relative obscurity, but a conflict between the federally-funded agency and , which uses its space free of charge, could bring it more attention.

London Bridge has operated a daycare center at Marlborough Crossings, a cluster of public housing units located between Marlborough, London, and Duke streets in downtown East Greenwich.

Recently, the EGHA asked London Bridge for three changes in their relationship. First, it said it would require a signed lease — up until now, there had been no written lease. Second, it told London Bridge it would have to move out of housing space the EGHA let the center expand into several years ago. Third, it required that 40 percent of the child-care center’s clients be EGHA tenants.

The first two requirements had been under discussion for a couple of years, according to Marsha Sullivan, EGHA executive director. The third requirement grew out of board discussions about the housing authority’s relationship with the nonprofit London Bridge.

“We wanted to see more of our tenants using the child care,” said Sullivan. London Bridge currently offers daycare to two EGHA children and two Section 8 children. To reach 40 percent, the center would have to enroll about 18 EGHA and Section 8 children, based on current enrollment.

“It was shocking,” said London Bridge director Janet Kenney, of the 40 percent enrollment requirement. “It essentially closes us down.”

Kenney said London Bridge cares for two children from the only two families at Marlborough Crossings with preschool-age children. “That’s 100 percent” of that population, she said.

Whether or not there are enough other EGHA families with preschool-age children in need of London Bridge’s services was not clear Wednesday. Sullivan estimated the housing authority probably had about 100 families with children, but many of those children could be school age. In a statement to the Town Council in March, Kenney said she wasn’t sure EGHA had enough preschool-age children to make up the 40 percent requirement.

For Sullivan, the request focuses EGHA on its core mission: to serve its tenants. And since most of the children at London Bridge are not EGHA tenants, it made their course clear, she said.

But for Kenney, that actions by EGHA made little sense.

“We’ve always been in collaboration with them,” she said. “It’s been wonderful having that space. Our mission is to have all families regardless of income be able to access affordable, quality child care and education.”

When HUD provided money for Marlborough Crossings, the downstairs space at 157 Duke St. was designated as a “community center.” From the beginning, in 1994, the space was given over to London Bridge. Eventually, London Bridge gained use of the upstairs too — the space it now needs to return to EGHA. London Bridge owns the train station building across Duke Street from the EGHA property and it divides its program between the two spaces. While it could consolidate, moving London Bridge completely over to the train station building would require shrinking its offerings and laying off several workers, Kenney said.

She said 65 percent of her students were in the low-income to extremely-low-income categories, as defined by the federal Housing and Urban Development department and that about half the children who attended London Bridge were from East Greenwich.

The EGHA’s original deadline was June 30. London Bridge has been given a 60-day extension, but Kenney said she wasn’t sure they’d be able to find a downtown relocation spot. That’s necessary if they are to retain the $40,000 a year in Community Development Block Grant funding that helps support the sliding pay scale offered to clients. Kenney said they were the only child-care center in the area that gets CDBG funds.

“I’d like to know what better use of the community space would there be,” she said.

Sullivan said she has a few ideas, including offering after-school programs and educational programs for parents. She questioned the need for a child-care center there and wondered whether or not a real study was done at the time Marlborough Crossings was built to figure out the best use of the community center space.

“I think the board members are doing what the Town Council appointed them to do — they’re putting the housing program first,” said Sullivan.

j April 19, 2012 at 10:24 AM
That's a shame. It appears the board adopted a "sounds good" idea before doing the research. Seems this decision is drastically harming the population they are charged with serving. Unless board members reconsider their position and requirements, they will be left with an unused, unsupervised area vulnerable to vandalism, and a large group of low- income families without access to affordable childcare. Where's the win for Marlborough Crossings?
polly wants the cracker too April 19, 2012 at 03:01 PM
So who pays for the space being used by London Bridge? Does the Housing Authority own it or does it belong the the Federal Government? Did other daycares get the option of using the community designated space? Were other community service programs allowed to apply for the granted space? Free space at no cost is very valuable. How much is the taxpayer paying for this and how do I get on the list to bid for using the space? One other thing, the article mentions a first space and then additional space later. Is the daycare losing both of those spaces or will the Federal Government (the taxpayer) still be paying for one of them?
EG826 April 19, 2012 at 03:12 PM
This seems very unfair IF there are not enough pre-school aged children to fill the quota that EGHA is setting. If London Bridge is already serving 100% of the children that fall into that category then what else can they do? It sounds like EGHA is just trying to force them out for their own purposes, which is a shame because London Bridge is one of the few affordable daycare centers I've seen that is so clean and well run. It will be a big disservice to all the children who go there if London Bridge is forced to change the terms of their agreement with EGHA and probably lose grant money, forcing them to raise their rates. Many middle and low income children go to London Bridge and benefit greatly from their flexible rates. I hope EGHA will reconsider, as I really don’t think there’s anything more valuable to the community that they can put there. Save London Bridge!
Elizabeth McNamara (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Polly, from what I understand, the property is part of Marlborough Crossings and that is owned by the Housing Authority, which is funded by the federal Housing and Urban Development Corp (HUD). London Bridge was granted use of the "community center" space, which is the downstairs of 165 Duke St, after it was built in 1994. The childcare center gained use of the upstairs of 165 Duke St. some years later. The center must now move out of the upstairs space, as per HUD regulations. The downstairs is designated as community space to benefit Housing Authority tenants. London Bridge may stay there, depending on whether or not they can meet the new EGHA guidelines or, as Ms. Sullivan said, they could use the space in another way, say to provide adult education classes or after-school activities.
concerned EG resident April 20, 2012 at 12:59 AM
I'm wondering why EGHA and LB couldn't share the space? Adult education classes or parenting classes could be held in the evenings or weekends, right? Has there been research done to see if an after school program would be viable? If I remember correctly several years ago after school programs were offered in the train station bldg - not sure why it ended.
Elizabeth McNamara (Editor) April 20, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Monique, your comment from yesterday was deleted. Please refrain from personal attacks.
cajun April 20, 2012 at 03:08 PM
The below comment is not correct. There are NO HUD regulations requiring London Bridge to move out. Community Space can be used for anything the Housing Authority deems it useful for and has been used for London Bridge for many years. What dictates EGHA guidlelines, certainly not HUD. The center must now move out of the upstairs space, as per HUD regulations. All other activities that the Housing Authority would like to conduct can be done at night and weekends and probably if asked, London Bridge would allow the Housing Authority to use the London Bridge owned building acoss the street, also. ( The downstairs is designated as community space to benefit Housing Authority tenants. London Bridge may stay there, depending on whether or not they can meet the new EGHA guidelines or, as Ms. Sullivan said, they could use the space in another way, say to provide adult education classes or after-school activities.)
Elizabeth McNamara (Editor) April 20, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Cajun, the comment referred to the HUD ruling on the upstairs space, which was built to be a housing unit.
cajun April 20, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Elizabeth, again there is NO HUD regulations requiring London Bridge to vacate the upstairs nor is there a HUD regulation requiring Londong Bridge to vacate the community space. It is solely up to the Housing Authority what is to be done with both spaces. It is my recollection that when the upstairs was expensiively converted from a housing unit to space for London Bridge, HUD agreed to allow this change.
tenant May 19, 2012 at 11:31 PM
I think its great our kids have nowhere to play but a parking lot which is very dangerous. They are only allowed to play in their backyard which is the daycare playground after the daycare closes so what happens in the summer time when our children are out of school? They have to play in a lot where cars drive through all day? I don't send my children to that daycare for my own personal reasons that I have seen with my own 2 eyes. My children go to a daycare that is also close by. Janet is very nice I have to say and I feel awful this is happening to her and other families of london bridge but it would be nice to have our kids be able to play safe...if the housing authority stands by what they said "to serve their tenants" because I have yet to see that. I have to say we don't only need a play area we need new paint jobs, floors, carpets and repairs


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