2013-07-05 / Columnists

From The Councilman

What The Budget Means For Rockaway
By Eric Ulrich

Last week, the City Council adopted the budget for Fiscal Year 2014 which begins July 1st, 2013. For the fifth year in a row, I was proud to work with my colleagues to pass an on-time, balanced budget with no property tax increases. The FY2014 budget prevents fire engine closures, supports senior centers and protects other city services including parks, beaches, schools and libraries. And despite the significant challenges presented by the federal government’s sequestration cuts, nearly every city program and service will be maintained or modestly enhanced.

Each year, I have worked hard to secure discretionary money for various groups and important programs that serve the residents of Rockaway, Broad Channel and the entire 32nd Council District. Several local volunteer fire departments, JASA, Golden Age Clubs, Rockaway Artists Alliance, Rockaway Theatre Company, Broad Channel Athletic Club, and the Rockaway Youth Task Force are just a few of the groups that are receiving city funding.

In addition, more than $1.7 million in capital funding was allocated for local schools, libraries and parks projects. The Participatory Budgeting process was also one of the highlights of this year’s budget. Although many people are still rebuilding their homes and/or businesses, nearly 1,000 residents turned out to vote for their favorite projects. For the second year in a row, Participatory budgeting gave ordinary citizens the opportunity to vote on how to spend their tax dollars. As a result, all of the items that appeared on the ballot this year were included in the adopted budget. Recreational upgrades will be coming to Dayton Towers, new computers, smart boards and laptops will be purchased for P.S. 47, P.S. 317, and P.S. 114. Scholars’ Academy will be receiving much needed gym safety equipment.

The Parks Department will install additional ADA mobi-mats for improved beach access as well as water fountains and benches at the Dog Park at Rockaway Freeway and Beach 84th Street. Broad Channel library will be getting a major facelift on the exterior of the building with new signage and renovated outdoor space. These are just a few examples of how local residents devoted the taxpayers’ money instead of simply allowing the city to unilaterally make those decisions for them.

New to this year’s budget is an allocation of $250 million in spending for protection and investment in low-lying coastal areas. This money will go towards resiliency measures detailed in “A Stronger, More Resilient New York,” the comprehensive report on steps the City should take to protect against the impacts of climate change. Approximately $100 million will support highpriority investments that City agencies must make to secure critical facilities and ensure services can continue during and after future storms. The remaining $150 million will fund various resiliency projects, including $3.3 million in matching funds for a federally funded ferry landing in the Rockaways among other things.

Rockaway has made tremendous progress since Hurricane Sandy and while this year’s budget reflects only a down payment on what it will cost to fully restore the peninsula, I am committed to doing everything I can to fight for the necessary resources to rebuild the community. It will take more than a hurricane to break the spirit of a true New Yorker, especially when you’re from Rockaway. Above all, they are resilient, indomitable and possess a rare and enviable ability to get the job done. Clearly, there is still much more work to do but I am confident that like the phoenix, we will rise from the ashes together.

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