By Bob Harris
I spent most of Feb. 21 at the public hearing conducted by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. I must congratulate our borough president for sitting through almost all of the testimony. Her knowledge of the requests which the many groups brought to her attention shows her qualifications for the position to which we elected her last November. There were 161 listed speakers. I stayed through speaker 95 and Helen was sitting and listening when I left about 5:30 p.m.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that there is a $4.8 billion budget gap for the fiscal year 2003. He has proposed a 13 percent cut in funding for New York City. He proposes to save money by not firing city workers but by not replacing those who retire. I repeat a previous question in a previous column which is why this budget gap was not discussed in detail during the election for mayor. Why is the gap so high?
The hearing was held at Queens Borough Hall. Each of the 14 community boards in Queens was scheduled as speakers 1 to 14. Each community board manager or representative spoke. They were not limited to the regular three-minute speaking rule. The community board speakers pressed for money to meet the needs of their communities. They asked for things such as more police officers, more school seats, parking, better park maintenance, sewer construction, tree pruning, keeping city baskets from overflowing on the streets, stopping the proliferation of illegal vans, more youth centers, more Buildings Department inspectors, keeping cultural institutions open and maintaining the quality of life.
A hearing like this makes one realize how many different cultural and service groups in Queens serve the many communities and receive some public money. A few of the Queens groups which are often run by paid professionals but often have many volunteers are Flushing Town Hall, Legal Service for the Elderly, Quality Services for the Autistic Comity, Community Advocacy Center, Momentum Aids Project, Queens Community Cadet Corps, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, Cultural Collaborative of Jamaica, Queens Museum of Art, American Museum of the Moving Image, PS 1, Queens Council on the Arts, Inc.,. Laurelton Rosedale Local Development Corp., St. Albans Chamber of Commerce and New Directions.
The speakers made some interesting points. Flushing Town Hall lost $254,000 in funding since Sept. 11 but the Carnegie Corporation will give it a grant. A representative from Quality Services for Autistic People explained that one in 250 children are autistic and they have a four-year waiting list. The Cadet Corps provides a tour of 28 black colleges for students who must write an essay about their experiences and share it with their communities. The Jamaica Arts Center services 65,000 people a year.
The Ridgewood Property Owners & Civic Association and the Restoration Corp. reserved 12 speaking slots. Each person spoke about a different quality of life concern, ranging from recycling trucks which drop materials on the streets to the need to plant street trees which would clean up the air and cut the $1 billion we spend to treat asthma in NYC. Planting trees, apparently, would only cost about 5 percent of the medical costs to treat asthma. They also spoke about money to cover graffiti.
The president of the Ridgewood Property Owners civic is Paul Kerzner who spends many hours trying to improve the quality of life in Ridgewood. He and I would like the city to make property owners cover graffiti immediately the way they do in Yonkers.
Other groups asking for financial help from Queens Borough President Helen Marshall were Colden Center for the Performing Arts, King Manor, Astoria Restoration, Walk the Walk (which helps seniors who are abused), the Langston Hughes Library, Rockaway Artists Alliance, Maspeth Town Hall, Thalia Spanish Theatre, Forest Hills Action League, Poppenhusen Institute, Cheer Foundation of Howard Beach (which provides video tapes for hospitalized children), Queens St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Irish Fair, Institute for Puerto Rican/Hispanic Elderly, Queens Symphony Orchestra, Bowne House, Northern Queens Health Coalition, Queens Jewish Community Council, Neighborhood Family Services and the Business Leaders of America.
A few other groups which serve us and need money were the Lewis Latimer House, Queens County Farm Museum, Queens Child Guidance Center, LaGuardia Community College, Sunnyside Community Services, Queens Historical Society, Friends of Baisley Park, Black Spectrum Theatre, Forest Hills Community House and several Police Athletic Leagues, Korean American Association of Flushing plus other worthy groups which function with the help of many volunteers and workers who work for low salaries out of the love of their communities.
Good News of the Week
There are many community groups which provide service to their communities for a fraction of the cost that a government agency would require.
Bad News of the Week
Money is not available to help all the groups that just want a little money to help their neighborhoods. Borough President Marshall did say that the community boards’ services will not be cut. She and her staff will have to decide how much money will be available to the many community groups mentioned in this column.
Reach columnist Bob Harris by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 140.