Thursday, July 8, 2010

Local Impact of City Budget (West)

By Eric Yun

The New York City Council passed a $63.1 billion budget last Tuesday, preventing massive cuts to critical services like senior centers, daycare programs and fire companies throughout the city.

While some programs have been cut, the council was able to save many by adding approximately $397 million to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed executive budget. Several senior centers and daycare centers slated to close were saved by the budget, along with about 20 fire companies.

Approximately $156 million of the city’s budget will go to the council member’s discretionary funding to help support non-profits within the district and borough.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) ranked last out of 51 council members in money garnered for discretionary funds for the 2011 fiscal year at $358,321.

"In these tough budget times, it was my priority this year to deliver as much, if not more, as last year to our community's major youth programs and senior centers - and through my discretionary dollars, we succeeded,” said Crowley in a statement.
“I am pleased to continue supporting the important programs that matter to our taxpayers.”

When approached at a recent press conference by a reporter, Crowley only said, “I think we passed a great budget” before getting in her car.She didn’t address the reasons for her poor showing regarding discretionary funding.

Crowley’s office said that although she has received $120,000 less than last year, the difference will be accounted for by funding from the Queens delegation. In a review of documents released by New York City however, the $508,321 Crowley
secured in the last fiscal year was $150,000 more than she secured this year.

Among the groups and projects to receive discretionary funding in Crowley’s district are Glenridge Volunteer Ambulance Corps,Maspeth Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Firefighters, Glendale Civilian Observation Patrol and the Glenridge Senior Citizen Multi-Service and Advisory Center.

Robert Holden, President of the Juniper Park Civic Association, says that Crowley’s poor return of funds for her district is of major concern for all residents. “We have very serious problems in the community that are not being addressed,” said Holden. “She's been unresponsive on the railroad noise, the trash issue, truck traffic, police coverage and building issues to name only a few. Now she's in hot water with Speaker Quinn and as a result our neighborhood has and will continue
to suffer.”

The “political hot water” Holden referred to comes as a result of Crowley prematurely releasing a press release taking the credit for singlehandedly preventing the fire company closings.Insiders say Crowley may be gearing up to make a run for the Speaker’s position in the future.

“Elizabeth Crowley received the least amount of funding out of 51 council members and that directly affects our quality of life. She should really start to work for the community instead of for herself,” an angry Holden concluded. “I think Elizabeth
needs to get her priorities straightened out.”

Council Member Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) secured $528,321 in discretionary funding and millions more in capital projects for her district, which includes Rego Park and parts of Elmhurst. Last year, former Council Member Melinda Katz received $478,321 in discretionary funds for the same district.

“I feel I did very well for my district,” said Koslowitz. “I helped fund senior centers and all the schools in the district will receive funds for things like smart boards, libraries and music programs.”

Key programs funded by Koslowitz include $8,000 to Catholic Charities to support senior centers. The Forest Hills Jewish Center will receive $5,000 to help support their senior center and the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce will receive $2,500 to fund jazz concerts for the community.

Capital projects in Koslowitz’s district will help schools and the public libraries. PS 174 will receive funds to build a new library, and Forest Hills High School and PS
144 will have their library refurbished.

PS 99 will receive funds to create a computer lab. Koslowitz also helped fund heating and air conditioning repairs at the North Forest Park public library and customer service technology at the Richmond Hill branch.

Discretionary funds and capital projects are critical to the budget process and support local causes in council member’s districts. Citizens attempting to understand how their tax dollars support their district should scrutinize how council
members are making specific allocations.

Reporter Tamara Best contributed to this story.

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