The kids are all right, for now

BY John Bayles

On Tuesday Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Council approved a budget of $63 billion for FY ’11. It ended weeks of despair for numerous groups whose programs were on the chopping block.

No group can be happier than the students, parents and staff of the after school program at I.S. 289 in Battery Park City. Two weeks ago hundreds of students and faculty protested the looming cuts on the steps of city hall. New York City Council member Margaret Chin greeted the protestors that day and told them she would do everything in her power to save their after school programs.

On Tuesday, she came through on her promise.

“In a year of painful budget cuts, I’m so thrilled we were able to save this after-school program at IS 289. It’s an essential resource for parents and kids in Lower Manhattan, and will continue to be in the future,” Council Member Chin said in a statement.

On Wednesday she told the Downtown Express it was the effort of the “advocates – the students, the parents and Bob Townley and Manhattan Youth” that helped seal the deal.” She also noted the strong support by the council’s Chair of Youth Services Lewis Fidler.

“There were at least 20 programs where we were able to get 20 council members together to work on this,” said Chin. “That was important.”

But Chin noted the most important aspect was the organizing effort.

“The organizing was very significant,” she said. “People are really concerned with these programs – they wrote letters, they held protests.”

But the battle is not over. Chin said in the future she hopes these sorts of programs never have to face the possibility of cuts.

“They key point and one thing we continue to work on is to continue to look at revenue generating options,” said Chin, “and make sure programs like the after school programs remain baseline, so they never have be on the chopping block.”

Chin and the city council were also able to save numerous other after school programs, day care centers and senior centers. Another big victory for the council member was the saving of the Engine 4 Fire Company, which was one of twenty fire companies threatened by the Mayor’s cuts.

“That was so critical not just in district one,” said Chin. “We know the importance of our firehouses. Ever since I started, I have observed and went to so many emergencies throughout the district.”

She thanked Fire and Criminal Justice chair Elizabeth Crowley, and Speaker Christine Quinn for help in preserving the monies necessary to avoid shutting down fire houses throughout the city. Chin also preserved funding for the Immigrant Opportunities Initiative as well as a half a million dollars in funding for much needed renovations for Gulick Park.