New York 1 News

April 16, 2003

Rally at Ground Zero    

Protests Follow Mayor's Bleak Budget Forecast

The steps of City Hall Wednesday are crowded with protestors who stand to lose services and jobs under the so-called doomsday budget released by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The mayor said Tuesday that the city will have to endure at least $600 million worth of cuts, including some 5,000 layoffs, the closure of zoos in Brooklyn and Queens and a reduction of rush hour service on the Staten Island Ferry. But another $1 billion in “draconian” cuts, including up to 10,000 more layoffs, will also take effect, Bloomberg said, if Albany doesn’t reinstate the commuter tax and provide other aid to help the city close its $3.8 billion budget gap.

A handful of police officers Wednesday protested the possible slashing of the NYPD to its lowest staffing level in over a decade. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the NYPD would be able to keep the crime rate down if the cuts go through, but the union said public safety is at risk.

“You cannot overestimate the safety factor, and we’re on the verge of losing that” said Pat Lynch, the head of Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. “We cannot allow this to happen. We’re calling on Albany to come through and give us the money we need to fix this devastating problem.”

Attrition, civilian job cuts and delaying the next Police Academy class would reduce the police force from the current 41,000 to 32,000 officers under the mayor’s worst-case scenario. Steep cuts to the Fire Department could also force 30 to 40 firehouses to close, in addition to the eight that will be shuttered next month.

“Even if the Albany continues to tell the city to drop dead,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone at the rally, “we are here to tell the mayor that we need to set priorities. And the priority has to be the safety of our public.”

Child care advocates alsp spoke out against proposed budget cuts today. State Assemblyman Roger Green and others gathered on the steps of City Hall to call on lawmakers not to accept funding cuts for youth summer jobs and after-school programs proposed by the governor.

“I am embarrassed that we live in a state that has essentially turned its back on the children and youth who are sorely in need of those services that provide for their survival, protection and development,” Green said.

Green also says if the $25 million in cuts Pataki is proposing go into effect, it will leave 50,000 kids without after-school programs and eliminate 33,000 summer jobs for the city's youth.

The mayor’s backup budget would also close 15 senior centers, and a city councilman is visiting some of the centers Wednesday to rally opposition.

Bloomberg said he was still hopeful that state lawmakers will come to the rescue by with some combination of aid and taxes. He is also still seeking concessions from city unions, but any savings would

Governor George Pataki has ruled out any “job-killing” tax increases, but the leaders of the Legislature – who are at odds with governor over the state’s own $11.5 billion deficit – are believed to be discussing such possibilities as a temporary income tax surcharge on all city workers, including commuters. Any tax hikes that solely affect commuters not appear unlikely to pass.

Meanwhile, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and other councilmembers will also gather at City Hall Wednesday to denounce Pataki’s proposed cuts to Medicaid. Those cuts would actually save money for the city, which shares the healthcare costs for the poor with the state and the federal government.