A little more, despite the times
by Daniel Bush
Jun 30, 2009 | 1433 views | 0 0 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Considering the unusual economic times, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley feels more than comfortable with the $59.4 billion budget passed by the City Council.

The council member spoke of the budget process - her first - and outlined in broad strokes her own budget allocations at a recent roundtable with reporters. She spoke generally, as the specifics of her 30th Council District budget have not yet been released.

Crowley said negotiating a responsible budget for fiscal year 2010 was extremely difficult, given the financial sector meltdown, which helped cause massive shortfalls in expected state and city revenue.

Nevertheless, "I think at the end of the day we were able to preserve vital services in a tough budget year," Crowley said. "I feel good because of the whole picture."

The original budget proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg - used as a jumping-off point to negotiate a final version with the City Council - included several unpopular spending cuts, including to libraries and Fire Department services, to help close the budget deficit. These were largely averted, however, by drawing on the city's reserve surplus to offset a $5 billion loss in tax revenue.

The final budget restored a proposed cut to the fire department that would have closed 16 firehouses, including Ridgewood's Engine Company 271, which Crowley opposed. The budget also preserved library hours and childcare services while cutting roughly 2,000 city jobs, instead of the 14,000 Bloomberg originally suggested.

In the 30th Council District, which comprises the communities of Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, and parts of Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, and Woodhaven, Crowley said she was able to largely preserve - and even in some cases expand - spending for some community organizations and public works projects.

Crowley said she secured a capital budget of roughly $6.5 million, and over $500,000 in discretionary spending.

"Pretty much all the local organizations that applied [for money] and passed our vetting process received funding," said Crowley. She said all of the educational and cultural institutions and community groups that were funded last year received at least as much this year, if not more.

Crowley's budget allocated funding for the relocation of the Greater Ridgewood Youth Center; provides funding for schools throughout the district, including upgrades for new playgrounds at P.S. 229 and I.S. 71; and secured assistance for Maspeth Town Hall and the Glendale Community Observation Patrol, among other community groups and centers.

She said in finalizing her own budget she followed a strict City Council vetting process that ensures community organizations with criminal histories do not receive funding.

Crowley said she tried to spread funding across the district; for example, some schools, upon being notified that they would receive funding from her office, said it would be a first. "There were schools that got money that never remembered receiving [funding from the 30th Council District office]" Crowley said. "We wanted to balance the spending fairly."

Other district budget highlights include funding for several parks, among them Juniper Valley, Forest and Frank Principe parks. Crowley said roughly $1 million has also been set aside for a new park in Glendale.

A detailed budget report is forthcoming.

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