Tough Cuts for R’wood

Restoration Corporation In Cash Crunch

Facing a budget gap that could lead to the reduction of its graffiti cleaning and advocacy programs, the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation (GRRC) is asking the public to donate to their nonprofit organization as soon as possible.

The president of the GRRC, Paul Kerzner, told the Times Newsweekly in a phone interview that the nonprofit group is operating with a deficit of about $20,000 which it will need to fill largely through private donations since public funding has been either cut, frozen or slow to be released.

“We’re between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “Within the month, we need to raise that money because we don’t have a cushion now as we go forward.”

“We are literally running out of money,” GRRC Executive Director Angela Mirabile added in a press release issued last Thursday, July 26. “We haven’t received state funding for over three years, and our city funding has been slowly declining.”

Kerzner explained that local state lawmakers such as Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, Assemblyman Mike Miller and State Sen. Joseph Addabbo have requested funding for the GRRC as member items generally requested by other lawmakers. These discretionary funding items have been subsequently vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in recent state budgets.

Ridgewood’s two City Council members, Elizabeth Crowley and Diana Reyna, have kicked in thou- sands of dollars to the nonprofit group, but Kerzner noted that “we don’t get that money until next January at the earliest.”

The GRRC is one of many organizations across the state bearing the brunt of the member item freeze, according to Addabbo. Along with previous budget crises, the member items are also being upheld, in part, as a result of previous scandals by former state elected officials accused of misusing them.

“If the governor wants to cut the elected officials out of the process, that’s fine,” Addabbo told the Times Newsweekly in a phone interview. “But let’s have another mechanism that supports these programs so they can apply directly to the state to get their money.”

Adding that “those few who have misused” discretionary funds “have ruined it for the many of us trying to do the right thing,” Addabbo added that his member items for 2010-one of which included funding for the GRRC-are allocated in the budget but won’t be released until a reform of the program is passed by the legislature and signed by the governor.

“We have the paperwork ready and all the documents have been figured out. The groups have all been vetted and cleared” by the state, the senator stated. “My allocations from 2010 are just sitting there, and that’s what’s so frustrating. The money is there. You just need a piece of legislation passed by the legislature-and ultimately signed by the governor- to get this money.”

The end result of this situation, Kerzner stated, is that GRRC staff have agreed to accept pay cuts or reductions in their work hours. The organization’s graffiti removal program, which once had two crews working five days a week, has already been cut back to one crew working three days-and the GRRC president added that “we may have to cut back even further.”

“We are current with keeping graffiti off the buildings,” he said. “Still, there are about 400 buildings that we keep clean that have constantly been hit” by vandals.

“It would be a shame if we have to cut back” the graffiti removal efforts, Kerzner added. “It would make a difference to the appearance of the neighborhood.”

The cutbacks could also impede other GRRC services, including legal counseling available on a weekly basis at Community Board 5’s Glendale office and the Ridgewood Older Adult Center, he added.

Kerzner stated that the GRRC board of directors would meet in the coming weeks to discuss fund-raising options. In the meantime, the organization is accepting donations of any and all sizes, which are also tax deductible.

Contributions may be sent via PayPal on the GRRC’s website, www.ridgewoodrestoration.org, by phone at 1-718-366-8721 or by writing to the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation, 68-56 Forest Ave., Ridgewood, N.Y. 11385.

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