Weiner, beep warn of boro budget pain

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner explains how the long-term Republican budget proposed last week would hurt the borough. Image courtesy Anthony Weiner
By Joe anuta

A Forest Hills congressman took the Republican Party to task Tuesday for the millions of dollars in proposed budget cuts that would harm the working-class and senior citizens of Queens and the borough president bemoaned belt-tightening at the city level after $5 million of funding for the long-awaited Queens West library branch become embroiled in budget talks.

Weiner outlined several programs that would suffer from the 10-year budget proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last week and would affect nearly every aspect of life in the borough, especially for the low-income and elderly.

“The GOP budget is not about debt reduction, it’s about increasing the dangerous inequities in our economy and society,” he said. “It is an assault on the middle class and those struggling to make it.”

The federal government recently passed a stopgap measure and agreed on a budget for next year, but Ryan’s budget is for the long term.

Weiner’s study claimed that the Republican budget would cut $25 billion in federal funding for the borough over the 10-year period. And that could mean a loss of 450 police officers since federal grants to the city Police Department of Queens would be trimmed by $111 million.

For education, federal funding for primary and secondary schools, called Title I funding, would be cut by more than $205 million, according to Weiner.

Elderly and low-income residents would also suffer, according to Weiner’s budget analysis.

About 300,000 seniors would have to pay Medicare premiums that are currently covered, and tax dollars will have to cover $20 million in cuts for Medicaid, he said.

More than 96,000 Queens residents would lose their food stamp benefits while the borough overall would see a $1.7 billion cut in the program within the next decade.

Six housing programs would also be cut by a total of $540 million, according to Weiner.

And in a further blow to residents of western Queens, the proposed citywide cuts spell trouble for the Queens West Library, which is part of a larger redevelopment plan in the Hunter’s Point area.

According to Borough President Helen Marshall, budget negotiations are ongoing and she hopes the issue will be resolved within a month.

But for now, $4 million of the $5 million in money for the library might be cut. That money was supposed to come from a debt to the city owed by MetLife Insurance.

In 2001, the company signed a lease and agreed to move 1,000 workers to an office building in Long Island City. To encourage MetLife to make the move, the city offered $24 million in tax and energy incentives.

But when the insurance giant backed out and retreated back to Manhattan, the company was required to pay back $5 million — although it could have been on the hook for as much as $24 million — which it has yet to pay.

According to a spokesman for the borough president, that $5 million was supposed to go into the city’s capital budget plan and used to help fund the waterfront Queens West Library, but $4 million is currently proposed to be used elsewhere.

The funding is being handled by the city Economic Development Corp., which could not be reached for comment, but the borough president vowed to get the money back for the project.

“The borough president is not going to give that money up,” said spokesman Dan Andrews. “We’re going to be working with EDC.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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