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‘We won’t allow that’: City Hall rallygoers demand Mayor Adams roll back cuts to senior centers, meal programs

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City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams rallies with her colleagues, advocates and hundreds of seniors outside City Hall to call for the restoration of funding for older adult centers and meal programs. Thursday, May 16, 2024.
Credit John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

Advocates, City Council members and hundreds of seniors rallied outside of City Hall on Thursday against Mayor Eric Adams’ $72.9 million in proposed cuts to the city’s Department for the Aging.

The proposed reduction, which is part of Adams’ Fiscal Year 2025 executive budget, comes on top of another $20 million cut from the department in the current fiscal year. Advocates say the cuts could result in the closure of 60 senior centers across the city as early as next January as well as reductions to vital services like the Home Delivered Meals program (HDM).

The council also wants additional investments, like raising the HDM reimbursement rate and increasing the Department for the Aging’s capital budget, so it can update senior centers’ kitchens. 

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who attended the rally, said the city’s legislature is advocating for restoring the cut funding to senior centers, increasing and baselining funding for older adult meals and boosting investments in case management and home care services.

“All of us and the ones we love will need care one day,” the speaker said. “All of us deserve to age with dignity … And that’s why we want to make sure our older adults can age in place in their communities, where you can live and lead safe and independent lives. We can’t afford to leave our city’s older adults behind in the budget, we won’t allow that.”

Seniors at City Council rally against cuts to senior centers
“Seniors just wanna have funds” was the message many at Thursday’s City Hall rally sent to Mayor Adams in opposing millions of dollars in cuts to senior programs.John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

City Council Member Shahana Hanif (D-Brooklyn) — who often criticizes the mayor’s handling of the budget — called the cuts, “cruel, counterproductive and absolutely egregious.”

“What the mayor is signaling is he does not care about you,” she added.

Department for the Aging Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, in responding to claims the rallygoers made that $80 million in cuts were on the table, said, “There is no $80 million dollar cut to the NYC Aging budget for FY25, and no centers will be closed. Any claims about budget cuts or center closings are inaccurate.

A review of budget documents show funding reductions for the department between FY24 and FY25. According to a City Council source, the actual figure is about $72.9 million.

The Department for the Aging is just one of the agencies whose budgets Adams has reduced over the past year, and are facing more cuts in the name of balancing the city’s finances — which have been strained by spending on the migrant crisis and expiring federal stimulus funds.

The mayor insists the previous cuts were key to closing a projected $7 billion budget gap, and exemplify his administration’s “strong fiscal management.”

City Council leadership, however, argues the cuts were overly broad and never necessary because the city had far more money in tax revenue than the mayor’s budget office would recognize at the time they were enacted. On top of that, the council estimated the mayor’s office has not recognized roughly $1 billion in funds, which its leaders say can be used to reverse the remaining cuts.

Adding strength to the council’s argument, the city’s Independent Budget Office on Wednesday released a report projecting a $2.2 billion budget surplus over this fiscal year and the next on top of what was estimated by the mayor’s team.

Beth Finkel, director of AARP New York, said the city should be using the extra funds identified by the IBO to reverse the cuts to older adult services.

“The Independent Budget Office announced yesterday that the mayor’s budget is off by over $2 billion in available funds,” Finkel said. “Two billion dollars and we gotta worry about an $80 million cut, we gotta worry about closing senior centers. Outrageous. It’s outrageous.”

The mayor and City Council must agree on and pass a final budget for the coming fiscal year by a June 30 deadline.

Updated on May 16 at 6:10 p.m.