NY1 News

City Lawmakers Make Case For Senior Center Funds

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

By: Erin Billups

Publication & Publisher: NY1 News

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New York City lawmakers in Albany are pushing back against a new state mandate that would force the city to shift funding from seniors to kids. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

Another funding stream to New York City is taking a hit in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget.

“This particular change that is being proposed would result in over 100 senior centers closing in New York," State Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz told lawmakers Wednesday.

The mayor’s office says it’s a $27 million hit to the city’s budget. Governor Cuomo’s proposal requires local governments to spend discretionary federal funding, specifically on preventive and protective child welfare services, saving the state $22 million.

“We’re forcing the city, putting them between a rock and a hard place to make a decision between one or the other," said State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island.

“This is a recognition that these dollars, that the primary purpose of these dollars is to support child welfare," said New York State Office of Children & Family Services Commissioner Gladys Carrion.

A similar proposal was introduced by the governor’s office last year but later blocked. It’s unclear whether during a fiscal crisis city lawmakers will be successful in shelving the plan again.

Last week, during his testimony before the state Legislature, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city has already closed the underutilized senior centers and what’s left are in full use.

Meantime, lawmakers are calling this another mandate the city simply cannot afford.

“Don’t you think that local governments know where the funding should go, should be allocated? I mean they know first hand," Malliotakis said.

The commissioner of the state's Office of Children and Family Services says the city has other options.

“Counties would be able to go to the flex fund and fund some of these services. These are very difficult decisions that have to be made," said Carrion.

A spokesman for the mayor says there are no extra dollars.

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