2010-12-17 / Columnists

East End Matters...

Have You Heard The One …
Commentary By Miriam Rosenberg

Have you heard the one about having to pay for emergency services if you are in a car crash? Yes, that is one of the ideas of the commissioner of the FDNY, Salvatore Cassano, to raise money. While it was Cassano’s idea, it is beginning to be called Bloomberg’s crash tax.

Here’s how it would work. The FDNY would charge drivers in a crash up to $490 when it responds and you are injured, $415 if there is a car fire, and $365 if an ambulance responds but there is no injury or fire.

The commissioner, who preferred the word fee to tax, tried to defend his idea at a City Council hearing this week. He said, “I’ll consider any revenue generating proposals before I close a fire company.” But, he told council members that the plan by the FDNY to cut its budget still included closing 20 fire companies at night.

Considering that something like having the FDNY respond to an emergency is something most of us believe we already pay for in our taxes, not to call it an additional tax is ridiculous. When the FDNY shows up are they first going to ask you if you can afford to pay for their help. OK, that’s not going to happen. But the mayor told all city agency directors to cut their budgets. In November Bloomberg announced cuts worth $1.6 million to city services.

In addition to the FDNY, Council Speaker Christine Quinn mentioned several other areas of concern that are due for cuts in the mayor’s budget. The Department for the Aging, according to the Daily News, would lose approximately 100 managers and social workers. It is estimated that some 8,000 homebound seniors would lose services.

In a Daily News article published this week, Bobbie Sackman of the Council of Senior Centers and Services said, “If you eviscerate the management system, how are these homebound people going to stay in the community? How are they not going to go into a nursing home?”

The Department of Youth and Community Development is due to be cut by $12.5 million. There would be reduced monies for runaway homeless youth drop-in centers and no funding for street outreach contracts. The Administration for Children’s Services would lose more than any other department except cultural affairs. That means departments such as the Design Commission, which reviews permanent works of art, architecture and landscape architecture proposed on or over city-owned property; the Office of Theatre, Film and Broadcasting; Latin Media and Entertainment Commission; Parks and Recreation, the Sports Commission; the Anti-graffiti Force and even the Board of Elections seems to have priority over the ACS. Eighty child protective specialist supervisors would be lost at the agency. These are the people who investigate possible cases of child abuse. These are the people who abused children need to be watching out for them.

The cuts at ACS are already affecting Rockaway as three of its children’s daycare centers are on the chopping block.

Fortunately, Quinn has said that, “We will not simply stand by and allow cuts to go through that could put children’s lives at risk.”

According to DNAinfo.com the speaker has made suggestions for cuts in other areas such as $7 million from the Department of Sanitation, some of which would come from cutting the agency’s information budget. The rest would come from closing the department’s enforcement program. Quinn has also suggested cutting funds from the Department of Transportation’s budget, including from its meter collection staff.

Unfortunately, Bloomberg believes that more cutting will need to be done. And he can cut. And he can do it without the approval of the City Council.

So what to do? Our own council members, Councilmen James Sanders Jr. and Eric Ulrich, must stand firm with Quinn in her quest to get the mayor to negotiate. The futures of the children and seniors in Rockaway, in New York City are at risk. As the list above shows, there are other city agencies that would not put people’s well being at risk if additional cuts were made. It’s simple – cuts to children, seniors and the FDNY versus cuts in nonessential services? Is there really any doubt about the answer?

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