Budget sees Paterson, Bloomberg at odds with...everyone

Stephon Johnson | 4/12/2011, 5:31 p.m.

First, the furlough, which was denied by the courts; then, the threat of closing senior citizen centers. What's next? Facing a $9.2 billion deficit, nothing seems to be off limits for New York State Governor David Paterson or New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Due to the budget situation in Albany, Bloomberg plans to eliminate 50 of the city's 300 senior centers. Last week, senior citizens, along with Councilman Charles Barron, members of Assemblywoman Inez Barron and State Senator John Sampson's offices, and community activists rallied at Louis H. Pink Houses Senior Center in Brooklyn. The center is on Bloomberg's chopping block, if everything goes according to plan.

Councilman Barron hopes the plan doesn't come to fruition.

"First of all, it's ridiculous," said Barron. "When there's a surplus in our 2010 budget--when you have $3 billion in the health care retirement fund, like a rainy day budget--and you don't have $42 million to keep senior citizen centers open? And the state is putting their money back in? Bloomberg needs to stop this madness."

The councilman, however, wasn't finished with putting his two cents in.

"Stressing seniors out when you still have the money--I am angry that they would even put us through this when they have a surplus in our budget and there's money floating around to get this done and keep these senior centers open," Barron continued. "And these are the people that gave so much of their lives and contributed to who we are today. This should be the most peaceful time of their lives. It is pure madness."

According to the list of senior centers on the block, released by Department of the Aging Commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, 16 centers would be closed in Manhattan, 11 in Brooklyn, 10 in Queens, 9 in the Bronx and four in Staten Island.

When Bloomberg formally announced the number of centers at risk, he blamed a lack of funds on Albany's inability to master the state budget. Is he right?

Last week, legislators approved New York State Governor David Paterson's request for furloughs in an emergency spending bill that would force close to 100,000 state workers to take one unpaid day off per week. The furlough would last until the state addresses budget, currently $9.5 billion in the red. According to lawmakers, the emergency spending bill was the only option left before a complete government shutdown.

The furlough, however, wouldn't affect all state employees. State troopers, corrections officers and nurses will not have to enter the state furlough program.

But those furloughs were blocked by temporarily by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn, who stated that public employee unions have proven that its members would be severely hurt by the institution of state employee furloughs.

Paterson, of course, was not happy with Kahn and released a statement through his communications director, Morgan Hook, that expressed as much.

"We are disappointed with the court's decision, which was granted without the benefit of a hearing," said Hook. "We look forward to our day in court. It is imperative for the state to conserve revenues and maintain the orderly operation of government, and the governor remains committed to this objective."