Millions In Funding Sought For Budget Priorities
Going to the mat for the final time, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall told the borough’s community civic leaders and City Council members that the borough’s next budget, like so many others, offers slim pickings for a wide variety of programs.
Marshall, whose final term will end this year, reported at the annual Borough Board Meeting at Borough Hall last Wednesday, that according to Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed $70 billion Preliminary Budget, $1.6 million of her discretionary funding has not been continued.
“This funding supports dozens of senior programs across the borough. Without it, six senior centers will close and four adult daycare centers and transportation programs will cease.”
The budget, which takes effect for the year beginning next July 1, foresees reductions for libraries, some school programs ($300 million), the fire department and so on down the line.
Marshall pointed out that the budget proposed by the mayor “does not contain new taxes or layoffs, but unfortunately, this year the city lost $250 million in state education aid because of a labor dispute”.
The budget basically remained stagnant from 2013 to 2014, Marshall explained. However, she added, as a result of uncontrollable cost increases, the fiscal year 2014 budget once again reduces already strained services and programs.
On hand for the meeting were members of the Borough Board, which consists of the borough’s city council delegation and the chairs of the 14 community boards. City Councilmembers present were Peter Vallone Jr. (Astoria), Julissa Ferreras (Corona), Daniel Dromm (Jackson Heights), Ruben Wills (Jamaica) and delegation leader Leroy Comrie (St. Albans), all Democrats; and Dan Halloran (Whitestone), a Republican.
During the day-long meeting, a steady stream of councilmembers, community board representatives and the public testified. As expected, the subject of Hurricane Sandy came up. Jonathan Gaska, district manager of Community Board 14, testified about the devastating battering the storm gave the Rockaway Peninsula and he praised the many volunteers who responded to help Rockaway residents get back on their feet.
Vallone also praised the role houses of worship played in fighting the storm and the relief they provided afterwards in the recovery effort.
Representatives of hospitals presented requests for aid also.
Executive Director Julius Woods, of Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica, ticked off a list of requests totaling about $4.7 million in capital funding requests for the hospital, which had more than 104,450 visits to its emergency rooms between July 2011 through June 2012. Woods singled out an aid request of $750,000 alone for the purchase of a CT simulator to treat cancer patients.
•Judy Trilivas, COO of Mount Sinai Queens in Astoria made a request of $700,000 to purchase four mobile x-ray machines to treat patients who are too sick or medically unstable to be moved from their hospital beds.
Muyskens requested $915,000 to upgrade the college’s Behavior and Microscopy Care Facility and an additional $850,000 for improvements in its anthropology laboratory.
•Greg Mays, of a Better Jamaica organization, continued an annual tradition by providing bags of popcorn for members of the dais. His organization also asked for $30,000 to continue six community programs, one of which provides movies in Rufus King Park.
•Queens Library President and CEO Thomas Galante thanked Marshall for her “unwavering support of Queens Library… from the Rockaway Peninsula to the East River”. Since becoming borough president, Marshall has provided more than $117 million to libraries in Queens, including $21 million for a new library in Far Rockaway, that will break ground this year. Galante testified that this year’s proposed budget faces the largest reduction the library has ever faced—a 35 percent reduction from current funding, or $30 million and a staggering 47 percent from 2008 levels.
•In perhaps the most dramatic testimony Marshall and the others heard, Gloria Vargas, a sign language interpreter, translated as a deaf senior citizen couple, Jennie and Cosmo Caragliano signed a request for continued support for the Peter Cardella Center in Ridgewood. The center, long supported by Marshall, has the only program for hearing-impaired seniors in the entire county.
Earlier, Marshall had outlined some good news in the proposed budget—almost $8 billion for the construction of new schools. The spending plan also includes capital funding, she said, for resurfacing more than 6,000 lanes of streets citywide as well as other infrastructure improvements.
But she concluded her presentation saying, “We will work together with our state legislators, mayor and city council to shape a city budget that meets the needs of our citizens within the constraints of sound fiscal policy.”
Marshall will end her reign as borough president and her long career in public life, including stints in the city council and Assembly, at the end of this year, forced out by term limits.