Council passes $59B budget

By Jeremy Walsh

The City Council has approved a budget on time, preserving the contentious property tax cut and restoring education funding, but at the expense of individual Council members' funds for nonprofits in their communities.

The $59.1 billion budget passed 49-1 late Sunday night, just a day before the July 1 deadline for the 2009 fiscal year.

The budget retains the 7 percent property tax cut and $400 property tax rebate. It also restores $18 million in senior services cuts and $129 million in cuts to city schools made by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“Queens ends up a big winner in this budget, with its many homeowners, public school students and senior citizens benefiting from restorations the Council worked tirelessly for weeks to achieve,” City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said.

The $18 million senior restoration fended off the majority of Bloomberg's proposed $30 million cut and included a deal to save the Meals on Wheels program, Gennaro said.

The money to restore school funding came out of the $429 million fund for Council members' initiatives for nonprofits.

“We had to kind of trim here and there,” said City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), chairman of the Council's Finance Committee. “Everybody took a haircut. That was a tough part. People rely on us every year to be their heroes and we didn't completely come through for them.”

Queens Council members still had plenty of funds to give, though.

City Councilman Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) gave the most money — $74,000 — to the Doe Fund for street cleanup in the Rockaways and Richmond Hill. He gave $35,000 to the South Queens Boys & Girls Club for program support, and $30,000 to Trinity Senior Services for transportation.

City Councilman Tony Avella's (D-Bayside) top member items for the upcoming year are fairly modest. He pledged $43,000 to the Samuel Field Young Men and Young Women Hebrew Association for senior services, and $35,000 to Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament School for computer lab renovation.

City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) concentrated large sums on the arts. He allocated $46,500 to the Black Spectrum Theatre for operations and $45,000 to the Southern Queens Park Association for cultural programs.

Gennaro focused his largest allocation — $98,714 — on the Samuel Field YM & YWHA for community recreation, programs for the developmentally disabled and Beacon programs. He gave $55,000 to the Doe Fund for Main Street cleanup and beautification, and $27,500 to the Queens Jewish Community Council for cultural programs.

City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) gave $63,000 to the LIC YMCA for youth sports leagues, $40,000 to Chess in the Schools for a community chess tournament for local children, and $29,900 to Sunnyside Community Services Center for food stamp outreach programs.

City Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) gave $43,500 to Queens Community House to fund senior and youth programs, $30,000 to the Young Israel of Forest Hills Senior League to fund senior programs, $19,250 to the Queens Jewish Community Council to fund senior programs.

City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) gave $25,000 to the Flushing BID, $25,000 to the Flushing YMCA, $17,857 to the Sanitation Department for street sweeping in Queens and $15,000 to the Northern Flushing Senior Center.

City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst) gave $28,500 to Elmcor Youth and Adult Activities for senior and youth services, $25,250 to Jackson Heights-Elmhurst Kehillah, Inc. for senior programming and lunches and $25,000 to the New York Agency for Community Affairs for educational programs on education, housing, immigration and jobs.

City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) had by far the largest allocation to any one group of any Queens Council member. He gave $273,500 to the Margert Community Corporation, a housing outreach group. He gave $150,000 to the Association of Minority Enterprises of New York for advocacy, capacity building and entrepreneurial classes and $100,000 to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for mosquito spraying.

City Councilwoman Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) gave $30,500 to the Lefrak City Youth and Adult Activities Association to fund community programs, $15,000 to the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights to fund senior centers and $15,000 to Jewish Center of Jackson Heights to fund community programs.

City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) gave $120,750 to the Hellenic American Action Committee for senior services and after-school programs, $100,000 to the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens and $55,000 to the Central Astoria Local Development Coalition for celebrations, revitalization and a model BID on Broadway.

Weprin gave $95,000 to SNAP for senior programs, $70,000 to the Samuel Field YM&YWHA for senior programs, youth programs and adult counseling, and $45,000 to the Afkin Foundation for education health program.

City Councilman Thomas White (D-Jamaica) gave $70,000 to the Parks Department for recreational activities, $60,000 to the York College Performing Arts Center, and $45,214 to Rochdale Village Social Services for recreation and fitness programs.