Seven city Beacons survive Bloomberg’s budget

Seven city Beacons survive Bloomberg’s budget
Eniaya Smalls (l.) and Jourdan James from the Beacon prgram at PS 56 in Richmond Hill rally with other children outside Queens Borough Hall.
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Phil Corso

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg boasted his balanced fiscal year 2013 budget, Bayside buzzed with a resounding bravo.

The $68.5 million financial plan saved schools, libraries, fire companies and more from the chopping block, but for some in Bayside and Little Neck the survival of the coveted Beacon after-school program through the Samuel Field Y was the mayor’s greatest save.

“For me, it is the ultimate illustration of how community organizations, advocacy organizations and the community members themselves can work together and really impact government decisions,” said Samuel Field Y Executive Vice President and CEO Dr. Steve Goodman. “We have been working on this for months now and thousands of people have been involved. The city listened.”

Since the mayor’s March proposal of an initial $2.1 million in budget reductions, which included the shuttering of seven citywide Beacon programs — including two in Queens through the Samuel Field Y in Little Neck at MS 158 and the Forest Hills’ Queens Community House at JHS 190 — activists of all sizes rallied together throughout the borough to push for the after-school program.

“Child care and after-school programs provide children with critical educational opportunities that pave the way for future success,” said Borough President Helen Marshall, a former teacher. “Youngsters who attend these programs do better in school are more likely to graduate and have lower incidents of violence, drug abuse and teen pregnancy.”

Parents, teachers, students and elected officials gathered outside Bayside’s Marie Curie Middle School, at 46-35 Oceania St., in April in one of the many outcries for the mayor’s reconsidering of the cuts.

“I’m very happy we were able to fight to restore these services, which are vital in getting people back to work without having to worry about where their kids are in the post-school hours,” said City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), one of the many elected officials who spoke at rallies in support of the programs. “In our district, we don’t get the resources from City Hall that we should, despite being the fourth-largest tax base in the city. Similarly, these kids have come to depend and rely on having a safe place to be after school.”

Goodman said saving the Beacons allowed for a big collective sigh of relief for parents and kids throughout the city, particularly in Bayside and Little Neck.

“Now parents can go back to concentrating on the other parts of their lives, like their jobs and other responsibilities, knowing their kids will be safe and well-cared for in our program.”

The budget will not raise taxes or lay off any teachers, the mayor’s office said, and remained balanced through the use of “prudently saved prior-year resources, billions in agency savings actions and increased revenues from strong growth in the tech, film and television, tourism and higher education sectors.”

But according to Halloran, Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s (D-Manhattan) budget agreement used short-term victories at the expense of the future.

“The reality is that we are not on a long-term sustainable footing with this budget,” Halloran said. “We are at the point where we have used the entire surplus generated during former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the early Bloomberg years. Next year, we will not be able to use the same restoration money.”

As for the future, Goodman said he would be working with the city to assure that Beacon programs stay away from the chopping block next year or any year in the future.

Reporter Steve Mosco contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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