Círculo continued to operate its youth, adult education, domestic violence and HIV and AIDS programs. It also
continued to apply for housing programs, and submitted an application to the Office of Temporary and Disability
Assistance and its Homeless Housing Assistance Program to purchase two two-family homes in Long Beach.
In 1995, Senator Skelos was able to introduce another legislative grant for Círculo for $1,500,000 to be administered
by the New York State Division for Youth, now known as the New York State Office of Children and Family Services.
Funds were sent to the Division for Youth to be supervised and administered. In this way, Círculo was able to finally
contract with the State Youth Agency and receive the funds, enabling the organization to look for property and provide
all requirements for the disbursement of funds.
Círculo received approval for its first housing program from the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance in 1995
and signed a contract to operate a Homeless Housing Assistance Program (HHAP) to help families. This program
enabled Círculo to purchase two two-family homes. Although Círculo had amended its incorporation papers back in
1990 to operate housing programs, it took the organization five years to finally get a proposal approved before it could
implement programs. Círculo purchased two homes in Long Beach and began renovating these for families.
CírculobeganaMorningandAfter-CareProgramfor elementary school agechildreninHempstead. Círculoopened
four programs in different elementary schools. These programs were also open during holidays and vacations when
school was closed except national holidays. We had the program about five years. We served approximately 150
children during the week and more than 200 during the summer. One year the Hempstead School Board
decided to reject our building use permit. We had heard that they wanted to give another community based program
Círculo’s project. Despite many protests from parents, we could not operate the program since our permit was not
granted. In the end our program was terminated and the other community agency that one particular School Board
Member supported never implement the services. It was a great loss for everyone, caused by politics of favoritism and
discrimination. In the end the children and families suffered.
Círculo Center Beginning Years
s we worked to locate space for a center, we realized that the Center had to be in a location where most
Hispanics lived or where they could easily travel. Hempstead was ideal for the Center location because of its
central location and because it was also an area where many Hispanics reside.
We looked at different buildings and sites in the Village of Hempstead. We found some property that we liked on
Main Street but there were family disputes among the owners and in the end we could not purchase the land. We also
saw another building on Fulton Street that we liked but this was too small for the programs we wanted to implement
even though this was centrally located. In the end the one we chose, at 605 Peninsula Boulevard, was attractive to us
because it was large enough to build a center with a parking lot. This was the site of the former Nassau County Central
Post Office. It was the largest post office in its time in the County. The building was later used for other businesses.
We began working with an architect to repurpose the existing building on the site.
After twelve festivals, Gil thought he had the answer to raise the needed funds to build the Community Center: a
Mega Festival – Festival a la Orilla del Mar at Nassau Beach on May 16 - 19, 1996
with different orchestras and
popular singers. By charging an entrance fee and inviting some well-known singers and international groups, he
thought he could raise funds for the organization to build the Center. Thus the
Festival was planned with
performers including Enrique Iglesias, Marc Antony and over fifteen different orchestras and musical groups. Channel
41, a Spanish TV Network, sponsored the festival and provided free publicity.
The experience of operating small festivals for over twelve years helped Mr. Bernardino prepare for the Mega
“Festival a la Orilla del Mar”, Festival XIII. Círculo’s staff at that time was small. We planned all aspects for
a successful implementation of the event. Parking was the most difficult challenge. Mr. Bernardino personally
planned it and met with an officer from the nearby precinct. The parking included not only Nassau Beach but the
Town of Hempstead Park, at Point Lookout, which included hundreds of spaces, where Círculo implemented a
soccer program for many years and still does today.
In preparation for the event, meetings were planned with Channel 41 to tape a program to publicize the event.
On Tuesday May 14th, Gil planned to travel to the Chanel 41 studio with Kathy Ballesteros and Enilda Columna
to tape the publicity announcement for the event. That early morning just as he was starting his work day after