Ridgewood group sees state funds fade

Ridgewood group sees state funds fade
Dave Ortiz, one of the drivers for the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation, helps clean graffiti. The corporation has lost its state funding and will have to rely on donations from the public. Photo courtesy the GRRC
Photo courtesy the GRRC
By Steve Mosco

With its state member item funds gone and city cash quickly fading away, the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corp. is cutting staff hours and shrinking services, but the nonprofit remains hopeful that it can remain a viable resource to the community.

“We are literally running out of money,” said Angela Mirabile, executive director of GRRC. “We haven’t received state [member item] funding for over three years, and our city funding has been slowly declining.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has the power to veto any state discretionary funds he views as new money being spent on legislative earmarks. In April, the governor vetoed 126 member items for lawmakers’ local projects because he viewed them as new spending.

Mirabile said the staff has lost hours and some have taken dramatic pay cuts in order to keep some of the group’s program’s afloat. The most hard hit from the disappearing dollars is the graffiti program, according to Mirabile.

The graffiti program that at one time consisted of two crews going out five days a week has already been cut back to one crew three days a week. Mirabile said counseling hours at Community Board 5 and the Ridgewood Older Adults Center will continue, as will other services.

“We’re trying to save money wherever we possibly can in order to keep programs up and running,” she said. “We’re important to the community. There is no way the city or state could provide these services for the amount of money we do. We’re very efficient at what we do and at a low cost.”

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), who said in April that Cuomo was far too reckless when he vetoed 126 member items and labeled them as “pork,” said groups like this suffer greatly at the broad stroke of the governor’s veto pen.

“This is the problem when the governor vetoes discretionary money,” said Addabbo, adding senior groups and veteran posts are being forced to shut down because they are not being funded. “If you’re going to take money away from the elected official, that’s fine, but give us another avenue where credible groups can get the money they need.”

Addabbo said the state has roughly $80 million in old allocations waiting to be dispersed, but as of now the funds are off-limits.

“For two years I haven’t been able to give state funds,” he said. “They need to have a system where these groups can apply directly to the state agency.”

The group said discretionary funds from City Councilwomen Diana Reyna (D-Ridgewood) and Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) have helped pay the bills, even though Crowley had her allotted funds slashed this year by the Council.

Crowley was able to secure $3,500 in city funds for GRRC this year, according to data released by the Council. Addabbo said the idea of punishing officials by cutting their funding is a flawed and wrongheaded approach.

“These actions have a direct negative impact,” he said.

Mirabile said any community members who would consider donating can write GRRC at 68-56 Forest Ave., Ridgewood, NY 11385. The group can also be reached by phone at 718-366-8721 and on the Web at ridgewoodrestoration.org.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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