It was disheartening to read the recent letter to the editor (“What About Pride” by Richard Reif – 5/1/14), written by a member of Club Pride, regarding my office being unable to compensate daily transportation service for its members which was previously provided by Samuel Field Y in Queens.
A few members of Club Pride, a center which offers services to individuals suffering from mental illness, came to me regarding the loss of their transportation last December, at which point I immediately reached out to the Samuel Field Y to determine what, if anything, could be done to preserve this service. Unfortunately, the organization simply no longer had the funding to continue the transportation.
I was also unable to assist financially since the Executive Branch eliminated all discretionary funds for State officials since 2010, placing a great burden on struggling non-for-profit organizations. I continue to advocate for the reinstatement of these funds which are crucial and can truly make a difference when appropriated under strict supervision. To replace this much needed funding, I have also introduced Senate Bills S. 330 and S. 723, which would create a new lottery scratch off game whose proceeds would be strictly dedicated to a new Community Grant Fund. This fund will benefit community groups administering educational, recreational, cultural, senior or veterans programs or providing volunteer ambulance services.
Although I was finally able to secure State funding for three senior centers in my District, for which I fought since 2012, these non-discretionary monies went through an extensive review process prior to being adopted as part of the State Budget. The reason I was able to allocate the funds was because, in addition to my joining the Independent Democratic Conference, the three centers were in imminent danger of closing their doors. Fortunately, Club Pride, which is funded through the Pride of Judea, a community-based mental health clinic located in Eastern Queens, is not facing such impending closure. I am extremely glad that this center continues to thrive and provide essential services under the Pride of Judea clinic.
Since the three senior centers in my District were not as lucky, I made it my mission to step in and save them. I am proud of my efforts on this behalf and will continue advocating for increased services for senior citizens throughout the State of New York.
State Senator Tony Avella