2003-09-10 / Features

Charge Bush Betrays

NYC On Beetle Funding
by john toscano


Reps. Anthony Weiner, speaking  and Joseph Crowley directly behind Weiner, urge President Bush to restore funding for Queens to fight the Asian Longhorned beetle, as environmental activists look on.Reps. Anthony Weiner, speaking and Joseph Crowley directly behind Weiner, urge President Bush to restore funding for Queens to fight the Asian Longhorned beetle, as environmental activists look on.

Although more trees have been infested by the Asian Longhorned Beetle in Queens and Brooklyn than anywhere else in the United States, the administration of President George W. Bush has cut funding sharply to New York City this year, congressmembers from those boroughs charged last week.

Congressmembers Anthony Weiner (D–Queens/Brooklyn) and Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx) blasted the Administration for cutting funding for the city to fight the pest by 85 percent and then denying the city $39 million in emergency aid.

Meanwhile, the lawmakers said, funding to Illinois to fight the beetle infestation increased from $3.4 million to $5.2 million and in New Jersey from zero to $100,000, although 5,979 trees in New York City have been infested, compared to 1,767 in Illinois and 150 in New Jersey.

Since 2001, Weiner and Crowley explained, the Bush Administration has underfunded Asian Longhorned Beetle eradication by $63.3 million, falling short of the amount set by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) the previous year.

This year, they said, the administration fell another $28 million short of the USDA strategic plan, providing $36 million instead of the requested $64 million and adding to the $40 million shortfall over the previous two years.

As a result, Weiner and Crowley said, the USDA dramatically cut funding to New York City as a whole, and allocated no funds at all to Brooklyn and Queens specifically.

Responding to this crisis, the local lawmakers urgently appealed to the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to provide $46 million in emergency funding, the amount USDA says it needs to resuscitate eradication efforts. But OMB has refused to do so, advancing only $7 million in additional aid.

Stung by the OMB action, the two lawmakers urged Bush to reconsider the funding decisions and to change beetle eradication funding formulas to offer New York City better protection.

Weiner said, "Somehow, the USDA has come up with a funding formula under which more beetles means less federal aid. That’s nonsensical and inexcusable. If the Fed has its way, ‘a tree grows in Brooklyn’—or Queens—will be little more than a movie title."

Crowley declared: "While the Bush Administration and the Department of Agriculture may believe that the Asian Longhorned Beetle knows geographic borough boundaries, for the residents of Queens and Brooklyn who have had neighborhoods infected and trees chopped down and burned, this substantial reduction from $46 million in funding to $7 million with no money allocated to Queens and Brooklyn, will mean that many of those destroyed trees will never be replaced.

"The Asian Longhorned Beetle in New York City started in Queens, and Queens plays host to the two airports of New York City and the United States’ major gateway airport, which is where the infestation was tracked in the first place. [Not to] spend money to stop the spread of the Asian Longhorned Beetle in Queens and Brooklyn is inexplicable."

The Asian Longhorned Beetle was first discovered in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 1996 and quickly spread to areas of Queens, including Bayside, Woodside and Astoria. Although it eventually spread to Manhattan and Long Island, as well as Illinois and New Jersey, more than two thirds of the problem remains in Queens and Brooklyn, the lawmakers said.


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