Why Do They Have To Eat, Anyway?
When Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn shook hands last week on a new city budget, they pleased many in the school community who now could retain their jobs, as well as homeowners who would get their rebate; but at the same time they angered many in the social service community, who saw the new budget as a sellout that favors some constituents at the expense of the poor and the elderly. Bloomberg made the point while signing the new budget that the city cannot go on funding everything, that there is a limit to what the city can do, especially given the financial climate that is presently moving steadily downward. "This is a question of setting priorities," the mayor said. "You just can't say 'all of the above' any longer. I think those days are gone." The budget restores $129 million for school programs, and that is good. It maintains the $400 rebate to homeowners. It keeps the seven percent property tax cut for the second year. To maintain those items, however, the budget had to be cut elsewhere and, as usual, elsewhere means programs for senior citizens and the poor. The New York City Housing Authority, already reeling from past cuts, will get only $18 million of the $30 million it needs to maintain its vital community centers and their programs for seniors and teens. The budget cut more than $1 million from senior food programs and rent for the buildings in which the senior programs are run. "How can you cut back on money for senior meals when the food prices are going through the roof?" asked one advocate. Of course, the mayor and his friends continue to spend money on Manhattan projects that bring little to locals. For example, "New York City Waterfalls," a public art installation along the East River, will cost the city taxpayers $15.5 million, a sum that would feed many seniors for a long time. At the same time, the mayor and his agencies continue to pay for high-priced consultants, who are brought in from out-oftown to review city projects, while many believe that there are people already on the city payroll who could do the job for far less. When the mayor says it's all about priorities, he is obviously talking about his priorities and those of his Manhattan friends, who often see the elderly and the poor as only minor distractions from making the city into what they want it to be.