By Steve Mosco
A broad stroke from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s veto pen eliminated funding for too many local community groups, according to state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach).
By vetoing 126 items in total, the senator said Cuomo sought to trim what he saw as unnecessary pork from the state budget, but Addabbo said the money was for old projects that never got all their previously promised cash and the local funding allocations were a fraction of the total $132.6 billion state budget.
Cuomo vetoed the member items, saying he has following through on a promise to ban any funds used to finance lawmakers’ pet projects.
“The governor’s vetoed member items range from $10,000 for the Police Athletic League citywide to benefit local youth programs to more general grants aiding school districts with academic programs, libraries, not-for-profits and educational institutions,” Addabbo said. “This was funding that was supposed to help local people and community groups, but the governor didn’t want to allocate it. I believe that was wrong.”
Some of the other cuts in Addabbo’s district included $5,000 to the Greater Woodhaven Development Corp., $3,000 to the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps, $3,000 for the Ridgewood Local Development Corp., $3,000 for the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council, $3,500 for Middle Village’s Juniper Park Civic Association and more.
Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park civic, said elected officials encourage volunteerism, but those programs need funds to operate.
“We have dozens of groups in the 15th Senate District willing and able to organize volunteers to work on hundreds of projects and programs,” he said. “A small amount of money is needed to keep these groups afloat.”
The 15th Senate District includes the communities of Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Far Rockaway, Forest Hills, Glendale, Howard Beach, Kew Gardens Hills, Maspeth, Middle Village, Neponsit, Ozone Park, Rego Park, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, Rockaway Beach, Rockaway Park, South Ozone Park, Woodhaven.
Eileen Reilly, of Maspeth Town Hall, which stands to lose $2,000 with the cuts, said youth and senior programs would be hit hardest — and those are two groups that should be protected the most.
“Maspeth Town Hall would have used these much-needed dollars toward our Tutorial Program, Regents Review classes and After-School Program for children in the area who need our services,” she said. “Maspeth Town Hall would be very grateful if the governor would let these dollars be used by our center to offer the programs that enhance the lives of the families of our community.”
Addabbo said a process should be established where applications can be submitted directly to state agencies where the funding has already been allocated to their individual budgets. He also believes that eliminating elected officials from the process would address any concern of misuse or impropriety.
“It’s not about the photo op or press release to be issued by elected officials,” said Addabbo, who plans to write directly to the governor. “It’s about getting funding to local residents, schools and community groups who provide services but are now being ignored by our state budget.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.