Health Care, Storm Recovery Top Priorities at Budget Meet

Dozens of representatives from community boards, hospitals, CUNY institutions and nonprofit organizations came to Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens last Wednesday, Feb. 20 to testify before Borough President Helen Marshall and members of her Borough Board to request funding for needs that ranged from $750,000 for equipment to localize and treat tumors to $10,000 to expand a program for deaf senior citizens.

The annual hearing was held in response to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed preliminary budget, released in January and valued at over $70 billion, for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

At the beginning of the hearing, Marshall stated that $1.6 million of her discretionary funding alone has not been continued. “This funding supports dozens of senior programs across the borough,” she said. “Without it, six senior centers will close, and four adult day care centers and transportation programs will cease.”

The Queens Borough Board consists of the borough president, the borough’s City Council delegation and the chairs of the 14 community boards. Among those on hand Wednesday morning were City Council Members Peter Vallone, Julissa Ferreras, Daniel Dromm, Dan Halloran, Ruben Wills and delegation leader Leroy Comrie.

Jonathan Gaska, district manager of Community Board 14, testified early on about the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy and the Rockaway Peninsula’s ongoing recovery from the Oct. 29 natural disaster. He praised the many volunteers who came to Rockaway with a multitude of supplies, including dozens of pizzas.

Vallone also extolled the role of houses of worship in relief efforts in the wake of Sandy and their subsequent recovery needs.

Queens Hospital Center Executive Director Julius Wood came with a wish list of almost $4.7 million in capital funding requests for the hospital, which had more than 104,450 visits to its emergency room from July 2011 to the end of June 2012. Wood testified that the hospital needed $750,000 alone for the purchase of a CT simulator, which can localize, define and reconstruct-in three-dimension-a patient’s tumor, thereby allowing radiation oncologists to design a treatment plan.

Citing recent years as transitional ones for healthcare, Judy Trilivis, chief operating officer of Mount Sinai Hospital in Astoria, testified that many patients in the hospital’s critical care and emergency department are too sick or medically unstable to be taken to the imaging department. She requested $700,000 from the Borough President’s office to purchase four mobile x-ray machines.

Meanwhile, Jamaica Hospital’s director of construction, Hans Kuenstler, requested $3 million from Marshall and the Queens City Council delegation to augment city, bank and federal funds for a $19 million project to build a new Jamaica Senior Housing Corporation facility.

Queens College President James Muyskens sought $915,000 to upgrade the college’s behavior and microscopy core facility and an additional $850,000 for improvements in its anthropology laboratory.

Greg Mays of A Better Jamaica organization continued an annual tradition by providing bags of popcorn for members of the dais. His organization asked for $30,000 to continue six community programs, one of which provides movies in Rufus King Park.

Queens Library President Tom Galante thanked Marshall for her “unwavering support of Queens Library hellip; from the Rockaway Peninsula to the East River.” Since becoming Borough President, Marshall has provided more than $117 million to libraries in Queens, including $21 million for a new library in Far Rockaway that will break ground this year.

Galante testified that this year’s proposed budget has the largest reduction the library has ever faced- down 35 percent over current funding, or $30 million, and 47 percent over 2008 levels.

In perhaps the most dramatic testimony, Gloria Vargas, a sign language interpreter, translated as a deaf senior citizen couple, Jennie and Cosmo Caragliano signed a request for continued support for the Peter Cardella Center in Ridgewood.

The center, long supported by Marshall, has the only program for hearing impaired seniors in the entire county.

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