Last week I attended the Society for Clinton Hill monthly meeting because Letitia James was scheduled to present about the Mayor’s proposed budget (and Sisters of Mercy were scheduled to speak about their plans for the site). However, schedules being subject to change, the SOM decided not to show up, but NYS Assembly member Hakeem Jeffries spoke along with Ms. James. Here’s a quick summary of what I learned. I should preface this by saying I have a very intimate knowledge of the City’s budgeting process, as I spent several years working as a budget analyst for the Mayor’s budget office and at a City agency. As a result, I became extremely cynical about our local politicians because I learned firsthand how they grossly spin facts in order to appease the voting public. To be honest, I was not expecting much from Ms. James or Mr. Jeffries. However, I was very impressed with both of their command of our local issues and what appeared to me to be a genuine, passionate commitment on their part to the needs of our community.
Summary of Hakeem Jeffries' remarks:
Although we find ourselves in difficult times, the middle class and the poor should not have to bear the burdens of the sacrifices that need to be made, and he supports an increase in the income tax of the wealthy in this State (in opposition to our Governor).
The MTA has serious credibility issues, especially given that not too long ago they were found to be keeping two sets of books. It is not a cost efficient agency, and the proposed cut to the B25 bus line does not make any sense. The G train serves the neighborhoods that are showing the most growth in the City, and therefore should be maintained at current service levels.
Summary of Letitia James' remarks:
Disgraced AIG gave Barclays $400 million to purchase the naming rights of the proposed Atlantic arena. ‘Nuff said right there.
The police department will not hire the previously planned 1,000 officers. The 88th precinct is already down in staffing, so this will not help matters.
A reduction of 15 EMS tours and 1 firefighter from each fire company. Also not good.
Libraries will be cutting hours and laying off 170 employees. 35 libraries will reduce hours to 5 days a week. Museums and cultural institutions will be reduced by 20%, on top of a 14% cut that was already taken in November. Very bad.
The proposed cut of the B25 line: the rationale was for this was that the C line goes along the same route. However, this does not help the elderly or disabled for whom it is difficult to take the subway (mayven aside: there are certain days when I’m tired or have a lot to carry when I wonder how anyone who is NOT absolutely physically fit negotiates the NYC subway).
Federal stimulus funds will only go for brick and mortar projects, which will help the construction industry but not the City or State budget woes.
Neither had a lot of time for their remarks, and there weren’t a lot of time for questions, but the audience seemed very receptive to and appreciative of their efforts.