2013-03-15 / Top Stories

Richards Prepares For First Budget Fight As Councilman

By Miriam Rosenberg

After being sworn into office last week, Rockaway’s new city councilman is getting ready to do battle with Mayor Bloomberg’s yearly attempts to cut vital services to the Rockaways.

Councilman Donovan Richards told The Wave that he is preparing to fight any cuts to fire houses and children’s services that Mayor Bloomberg is proposing in the city’s $70.1 billion budget for 2014. For the last few years the budget axe has constantly hung over Engine 328 in Far Rockaway as well as local day care centers and after-school programs.

“You can’t close firehouses,” said Richards. “It is a detriment to our community. You don’t close a firehouse in a disaster zone. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s borderline criminal.”

Richards went further by saying that “Even if Sandy didn’t hit, it’s criminal. We’re vulnerable.”

This year, it is reported that the mayor’s budget proposal will close 20 firehouses. No list has been released yet, but Engine 328 has been targeted for closure every year since 2008.

The mayor’s budget also looks to cut from child care and after-school programs. According to reports a total of $47,000 child care and after-school program slots – $10,000 in child care and $37,000 in afterschool programs – would be eliminated. Day care center on the peninsula has constantly been targeted for closure during Bloomberg’s administration.

“It’s sad children have to be subject to budget battles,” said Richards. “Many parents are still suffering from Sandy.”

As chief of staff for former councilman and now State Senator James Sanders Jr., Richards and his former boss fought each year to avoid the cuts.

“This is why they elected me,” said Richards. “I’ll be fighting like hell.”’

This will be Mayor Bloomberg’s last budget as mayor. Bloomberg says this budget will reduce the city’s deficit by $1.1 billion dollars and at the same time avoid raising taxes or layoffs.

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