Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Mayor Bloomberg's 2004 Budget

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented his plan to close a $3.8 billion deficit last week, he said that "there are no good answers, there are only choices."

For each and every choice, somebody is protesting. (See a budget breakdown below.)

The mayor has chosen to cut $600 million and lay off some 4,500 city workers. He plans to close 12 child health clinics, end take-home weekend meals for 7,500 seniors, padlock eight firehouses, and even shut down the zoos of Brooklyn and Queens.

And he is counting on the State Legislature and Governor Pataki in Albany to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and a commuter tax.

That's his best-case scenario. If Albany doesn't come through, the mayor's "doomsday budget" has an additional $1 billion in cuts and another 10,000 layoffs.

Some agree with Bloomberg's approach.

Douglas Offerman of the Citizens Budget Commission supports the mayor's plan. He says it is time to ask three groups that have failed to help the city so far – commuters, politicians, and the labor unions – to do their part. (Read his article).

But others say the mayor is making the wrong choices.

Doug Turetsky of the Independent Budget Office says Bloomberg is resorting to scare tactics, grabbing headlines with the threat of closing zoos, when he should be exploring other, more substantial ways of saving money. (Read his article)

Glenn Pasanen says the City Council, which proposed a more palatable commuter tax, is being more realistic than the mayor. But he says, both the mayor and the City Council should be seeking an increase in the personal income tax, which is more likely to get through Albany. (Read his article)

While experts offer their analysis of the entire budget, advocates are focusing on the line-by-line cuts in areas like police, fire, education, parks, health, and transportation. Here are some of the specific cuts in the mayor's best-case scenario (his "doomsday" budget would be worse) and how New Yorkers are reacting.


Children And Youth

• Close 12 of 30 child health clinics
• Eliminate school-based health programs
• Lay off 100 school nurse assistants
• Eliminate hepatitis B immunization program in schools
• Cut $762,000 to youth programs
• Cut $6.3 million cut to child care and increasing parent fees
• Eliminate 600 beds in group homes for foster children

"It cuts out the nuts and bolts support that families need to live, work and raise their children," said Gail Nayowith, Citizens' Committee for Children of New York.


• Eliminate 864 full time classroom aides
• Eliminate summer school for 29,500 students
• Cut $17 million from after-school programs
• Eliminate 300 of 500 full-time school lunch workers through attrition
• Cut 77 substance abuse workers
• Eliminate the entire $200 yearly allowance for each teacher to buy classroom supplies
• Fewer paid sabbaticals for teachers

"The programs that really help kids like after-school, like summer school, like school aides, like paraprofessionals, those are being cut," said Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers. "I suggested to the mayor that he put a hiring freeze on at Tweed [for the Department of Education]. Stop hiring these executives at $135,000 a pop."


• End take-home weekend meals for 7,500 senior citizens
• Close two senior citizen centers
• Eliminate 9 information and referral services that serve immigrant communities
• Cut $7.5 million in discretionary money for elderly from borough presidents budgets

"We're just being let down," said Bobbie Sackman of the Council of Senior Centers and Services. "The people of New York City are being told to fend for themselves, and clearly frail senior citizens can't do that."


• Close eight firehouses
• Hire 300 firefighters to reduce overtime
• Lay off 75 full-time and 119 part-time civilian workers
• Reduce number of the Fire Marshal Program by 25 percent

"It makes about as much sense as cutting the 101st Airborne during the war in Iraq," said Peter Gorman, President of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association.


• Cut 351 jobs from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
• Reduce city funding for six Communicare health clinics
• Lay off 20 people in the chief medical examiner's office

"If you mess with healthcare in an urban area this compact and tight, you're threatening every New Yorker," said David Jones of the Community Service Society. "I don't care how wealthy. We only have to look at the epidemic that's spreading through Asia now to recognize: Don't mess with healthcare."


• Eliminate subsidies to Queens and Prospect Park zoos
• Eliminate 152 full-time staff through attrition and early retirement
• Reduce seasonal workers by 1,000 part time and 3 full time positions
• Prune trees only in emergencies

"If a park is not cleaned and programmed, its not safe. We'll be tumbling back to the 1970s," said Rowena Daly of New Yorkers for Parks.


• Reduce number of officers working on the streets each day by 290
• Eliminate Operation Condor – the narcotics enforcement initiative
• Eliminate $4 million in overtime for special events

"You cannot underestimate the safety factor and we are on the verge of losing that and we can't allow this to happen," said Patrick Lynch of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association police union.


• Lay off 202 uniformed sanitation workers
• Eliminate 75 other positions through attrition and early retirement
• Reduce trash pickups in Queens and Staten Island from two to one time a week
• Reduce trash pickups in Brooklyn from three to two times a week
• Close centers where residents can dump trash too large for curbside collection

We fought that blizzard, turned it around," said Harry Nespoli of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association. "He should be pinning medals on the men, not laying them off."


• Cut $200 million in city subsidies to Metropolitan Transportation Authority
• Reduce Staten Island Ferry service from 4 to 3 boats during rush hour
• Increase street parking from $1 to $1.50 an hour

"Cutting city aid will lead to another fare hike," said Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign. "Mayor Bloomberg is trying to balance the budget on the backs of the riding public."


• Evicting Bears Won't Balance the Budget by Doug Turetsky
• The Mayor Is Right to Go After Commuters, Albany, and Labor Unions by Douglas Offerman
• Stop the Rhetoric – Raise the Income Tax by Glenn Pasanen


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