Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell and Community Members Rally on Columbia University’s Campus to Save the Red Balloon Early Childhood Learning Center

New York, NY Today, Assembly Member O’Donnell released the following statement on Columbia University’s decision to end their affiliation with the Red Balloon Early Childhood Learning Center. This childcare center provides quality, affordable childcare to the West Harlem and Morningside Heights communities regardless of their affiliation with Columbia.

Said Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell, “Red Balloon Early Childhood Learning Center cannot be replaced. I am disgusted by Columbia’s inane insistence to continue with plans to evict this long-standing nonprofit over the clear objections of the community. Red Balloon’s decades of experience and ties to this community are irreplaceable and add another layer to my deep concern over how easily Columbia has sought to evict them. Not only does Red Balloon deserve to be preserved because of its outstanding service, but because they offer unique and unparalleled programs to a community that is historically underserved. At a time when there is a high need for affordable childcare, it makes the most sense to work with a struggling childcare center to uplift them rather than tear them down.

“I, along with my community, ask Columbia to commit to restoring Red Balloon to its longstanding home on Riverside Drive, and to work with Red Balloon to ensure that the quality of care they have been known for (and that Columbia is seeking) continues. Columbia can do this; it just comes down to whether they want to."

Assemblyman O’Donnell has repeatedly called on Columbia University’s representatives to reconsider their unreasonable decision. On January 27, 2023, the Assembly Member, along with Council Member Shaun Abreu, Assembly Member Inez E. Dickens, Assembly Member Al Taylor, and Manhattan Community Board 9 Chair Barry Weinberg delivered a letter to President Lee Bollinger and Provost Mary Boyce requesting Columbia work with Red Balloon’s leadership to address any concerns over their track record, assist Red Balloon in finding a temporary space for the 2023-2024 school year, and welcome them back at 560 Riverside Drive for the 2024-2025 school year and onward. The letter built on a previous letter from Assembly Member O’Donnell on November 10th, 2022, expressing support for Red Balloon. Unfortunately, Columbia representatives have responded with a clear message that they have no intention of reconnecting with Red Balloon.

Columbia has promised to work with Red Balloon’s families to identify alternative childcare facilities. Yet a number of families have expressed the difficulty in simply trying to get in touch with Columbia’s representatives. More importantly, they remain concerned over the lack of childcare options providing the same services as Red Balloon. In response to Columbia’s decision, the Red Balloon launched a petition to save the childcare center. This petition has amassed 15,000 signatures.

On Friday, March 3, 2023, Assembly Member O’Donnell’s office attended a rally on Columbia’s campus and expressed deep concern and disgust over Columbia’s lack of support for a childcare center with decades of experience providing a range of services to a range of children.

Assemblyman O’Donnell continues to demand Columbia revisit their decision and instead provide Red Balloon with an opportunity to remain at their current location to continue providing the quality childcare they are known for.