2003-04-26 / Columnists

Simon Says...

From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B
Simon Says...

Simon Says...

Lew M. SimonLew M. Simon

From the Desk of Lew M. Simon, Democratic District Leader, 23rd A.D. Part B

Happy belated Easter and Passover to all. With the holidays coming to a close, many people have asked me for a copy of my diet. They are amazed that I lost more than 70 pounds since August. I am currently working out, lifting weights and walking around the community as I usually do.

The key to a successful diet is to cut out all starches, which means no white bread, rolls or bagels. I have been able to subsist on whole wheat bread. Thank God I feel twenty years younger and I dare anyone to keep up with my schedule.

This week Mayor Bloomberg presented us with a budget that will create a hardship for many New York City residents from service cuts due to firehouse closings and reduced services in education, police, sanitation, senior centers and youth services.

Currently planned cuts for youth services and education include lay off school aides $76.4 million, cut day care centers and child care slots $71.3 million, cut summer school $33 million, cut summer camp $16.8 million, cut Queens Public Library $13.8 million, reduce teacher-mentor programs $12.5 million, eliminate 2,500 child care vouchers $9 million, cut Beacon after-school program $8.4 million, eliminate 70 out of 600 drug prevention specialists in schools $6.2 million, cut subsidies to Queens and Prospect Park zoos $5.8 million, cut contracts for after school programs $5 million, close 12 of 30 child health clinics $3.5 million, reduce City Council discretionary funds for youth programs $3.2 million, cut 105 Family Court probation officers $2 million, cut infant-mortality prevention program $300,000 and cut school-based health clinics $268,000.

If the city does not get an extra $1 billion from other sources some additional cuts would include 11,020 child care slots, eliminate after-school educational programs, cut summer school for all but mandated students, reduce school nurse services to half day, eliminate subsidies to remaining 18 child health clinics and all 51 dental clinics, close 31 outdoor pools and lay off 535 lifeguards, cut subsidy to Queens Public Library and lay off 20 juvenile counselors.

The mayor proposed nearly $600 million in cuts and the layoff of over 5,400 city workers including Fire Department employees, school aides, Sanitation workers, foster care parents, child care workers, meals for seniors workers and even the employees at the Queens Zoo.

The loss of school aides and paraprofessionals will deal a serious blow to our children and the public school system. School aides work to protect our children in the hallways and protect children using the bathrooms. Many school aides keep order in the lunchrooms and in the schoolyard during lunch. Paraprofessionals assist teachers in overcrowded classrooms. There may be three reading groups. The teacher works with one group while the para works with another. Paras also work in special ed classes for the emotionally disturbed and physically challenged where children need to be directly supervised while the teacher is presenting a lesson. It is important that our children and education professionals are always safe in all school buildings.

A new class of recruits for the Police Academy in July has been cancelled. 1731 administrative positions would be eliminated forcing our NYC police officers to do even more paper work and keep them so busy they won’t have enough time to be on the street. Police head count would fall to 35,850, the lowest since 1993 when Safe Streets was passed. In this time between war and terrorism one must not be a genius to realize that our police and fire personnel are essential.

Queens is about to lose two engine companies. It will also lose the fire marshals office with 75 full time layoffs and 119 civilian layoffs as well as 25% reduction of fire marshals to 100. What will this do to all who pay property insurance? This will bring insurance rates up to where we can’t afford it.

During these troubled times with over 8.8% unemployment how could they think of closing or cutting back on hours and staff at the Queensborough Public Library? Our libraries serve as safe havens and educational resources at our fingertips. They provide resources and assistance for persons looking for jobs. Some have computers for persons writing their resumes to get jobs.

Recently, we have been made aware that the New York State Labor Department office in Far Rockaway would be closing forcing those looking for jobs to travel to Jamaica. With the transit fare going up, this closing will hurt people who need help. The closing of token booths will hurt people who have trouble with their Metrocards, need directions or are victims of crime when the police are not around.

Our next Atlantic City bus trip to Trump Marina will be on Saturday, May 17. The cost is $28 with $17 returned. We leave at 5:30 p.m. and return at 8 a.m.

On Wednesday morning I received a call from an outraged constituent. Pearl Harwood called me because she thought I could help her. The area in front of her home always had grass and a tree. The Department of Design and Construction said they would have to pave the area because a bus stop requires 110 feet. The tree had been taken down because of a paving project but they planned to replace it.

On April 15, the Harwoods saw that the area had been prepped for concrete with a layer of gravel. On April 16 I reached out to District Manager Jonathan Gaska. I reached DDC Engineer Anthony Macaluso and I made it clear that Pearl Harwood would plant herself in the way of paving over her little lawn and get arrested if necessary. Then they compromised and allowed Mrs. Harwood to keep a small piece of lawn.

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