Borough President Helen Marshall and representatives from Queens community boards convened on the steps of City Hall Tuesday with groups from around the city to rail against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to carve $35,000 from each of the board’s budgets, saying the move would be devastating to panels that have not had a raise in funding for 19 years.
Each board currently has a budget of about $169,000.
“Our community boards are vital in the city’s land use review process and in helping to set budget priorities,” Marshall said. “They are the eyes and ears of government in the community. They know what is happening down the block and around the corner.
Borough presidents, members from all 59 community boards in the city, and City Comptroller Bill Thompson attended the rally Tuesday morning.
“A cut of $35,000 will put them out of business, and that’s what the mayor is intending to do,” said Thompson, a Democratic mayoral candidate.
“They’re trying to cut boards to the point where they can say, ‘Let’s get rid of the borough presidents,’” Thompson added. “It’s an attempt to centralize everything in one location.”
Marc La Vorgna, a spokesman for Bloomberg, vehemently denied that the administration is attempting to eliminate community boards or borough presidents.
“From the police and fire departments to education and social services, every taxpayer−funded entity has had to reduce expenses, find ways to be more efficient and do more with less resources.” LaVorgna said.
Andrea Crawford, chairwoman of CB 9, which covers Richmond Hill, Woodhaven and Ozone Park, agreed it seemed like Bloomberg is attempting to make the boards ineffectual in order to funnel more power into City Hall.
“What the comptroller said is right,” Crawford said. “We’re being cut to the bone. Most community boards only have three to four people working for them, so to lose one of these people is crippling.”
Crawford said the fact that boards have not received additional city funding in 19 years has hampered their ability to serve the community.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R−Rockaway Beach) did not agree with other officials’ statements that Bloomberg was trying to strip boards of their power.
“This is a budget dance,” Ulrich said. “The mayor has to make very difficult decisions about the budget. I think people’s attempts to demonize Mayor Michael Bloomberg is wrong.”
Ulrich did say, however, he hopes community board funding is restored.
CB 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio said a $35,000 slash in its budget would force him to lay off at least one full−time person in an office with two full−time positions and one part−time position.
“It will be very difficult to keep the office open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” said Joseph Hennessy, chairman of CB 6, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.