Thursday, February 19, 2009

Budget Woes Top CB 5 Meeting

By Conor Greene

A discussion on the requests being submitted to the city for the 2010 budget highlighted last week’s Community Board meeting.

Board District Manager Gary Giordano informed board members and residents in attendance last Wednesday in Christ the King High School that the city’s current budget situation is “very difficult at best” as a result of the nationwide economic crisis. With about $1.5 billion less coming in through projected tax revenues, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed “significant budget cuts” in many important areas, said Giordano.

According to Giordano, proposed cuts include about $94 million from Department of Environmental Protection; $455 million from the Education Department; $1 million from Department of Buildings; $17 million from Housing; $23 million from Parks; $33 million from the Department of Aging; $136 million from Administration of Children’s Services and $9 million from City Planning.

The FDNY budget is due to increase by $5 million while the NYPD’s increases by $87 million, under the mayor’s preliminary budget. The Sanitation Department would receive a $22 million increase in its budget under the current play.

However, according to Giordano, the police and fire increases are likely due to wage increases, as the NYPD’s head count will reduce from 31,349 this year to 28,656, and the FDNY ranks would decline from 11,349 members this year to 10,929. As a result of the city’s budget woes, some items requested by the board have been put on hold.

“Lots of items we requested are difficult to pinpoint the extent to which they are going to get funded,” said Giordano. “Personally, I am more worried about police protection and fire protection than some of the capital items.”

However, Giordano did express confidence that the Cooper Avenue underpass project will move forward. “We lobbied hard for that in a lot of different directions,” he said, adding that he is expecting to receive at least half of the $20 million requested.

Other projects requested include measures to prevent flooding throughout the area, which Giordano said has begun starting in the northern portion near Calamus Avenue, and the construction of new catch basins, especially ones with brick that has worn away. A project to improve Grover Cleveland Park is being funded through the Schoolyards to Playgrounds initiative and should begin this year. Finally, Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Bushwick) was able to secure funding for the second phase of the Ridgewood library project.

Beyond that, “other projects are difficult” to secure funding for, said Giordano. For example, reconstruction of south Middle Village streets has been pushed back to 2013, he said. Since that entire project is close to $20 million, “I don’t see that happening,” he said, suggesting that the board may have to divide the project into smaller sections to get it moving forward.

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