New Aging Chief Urges ‘Greatest Generation’ To Support Mayor
Edwin Mendez–Santiago, the city’s new Commissioner of the Department for the Aging, has called on seniors to cooperate in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to get everyone through the severe fiscal crisis the city is facing.
Mendez–Santiago said in a release, "Although we all must cope with the severe economic consequences resulting from the World Trade Center attack, it will be the department’s challenge to continue to provide essential services to older New Yorkers. Even though city and state funding has been reduced, I believe we must maintain a fulfilling and supportive quality of life for older residents, especially during uncertain times."
Continuing, the commissioner stated: "As you know, Mayor Bloomberg has asked for budget cuts that will affect all city agencies—including the Department for the Aging. The City Council will still have to approve the upcoming budget, which includes the consolidation of seven department funded senior centers and the curtailment of several recently implemented pilot projects.
"I trust that you, members of what has been called ‘The Greatest Generation,’ will continue to support our Mayor’s efforts to get our city back to fiscal health so that we then once again move forward."
Although the city is facing a $4.7 billion deficit, there is still a possibility that some of the program reductions or eliminations proposed by the mayor will be opposed by the City Council and then will be funded in the intense negotiations that will take place before the budget is finalized. The budget goes into effect on July 1, so there is still time for many changes to be made in the mayor’s initial proposal.
A pattern of behavior was established between former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the Council under which the mayor would propose cuts in the seniors’ budget. The cuts then would be reinstated for the most part by Speaker Peter Vallone and the Council. There is hope yet that Bloomberg’s proposed cuts will disappear in his negotiations with the Council.
Mendez–Santiago is taking on a major task as the new DFTA leader. His agency services 1.3 million elderly New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs, including administering nearly 350 senior centers. The current department budget totalled $235 million. The city received funding from the federal government for luncheon and other programs.
However, the commissioner brings with him extensive experience in administration of senior programs. His immediately previous assignment was executive director from 1985 to 1997 and then president and chief executive officer from 1998 to 2001 of the Spanish speaking elderly council, RAICES.
At RAICES, Mendez–Santiago was instrumental in enhancing the organization’s administrative infrastructure, placing particular emphasis on efforts to support the development and operations of the RAICES geriatric mental health clinic and new programs targeting elder abuse, social adult day services, and services for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Prior to RAICES, Mendez–Santiago directed the BHRAGS Senior Citizens Program and North Brooklyn Mobile Meals. Since 1988 he has held the rank of assistant professor at the New York City Technical College human services department.
In 1995, Mendez–Santiago served as a delegate to the White House Conference on Aging. This is his second tour with the Department for the Aging, having worked there as a student intern during the early 1980s.
MEETING: AARP North Flushing Chapter No. 4158 meets next Tuesday, April 9, at noon at the Church on the Hill, 167-07 35th Ave., Flushing. A tai-chi demonstration will be given by Robert Brown.