Modernization of Senior Centers
Councilwoman, 29th District
The City Department for the Aging (DFTA) recently announced a cost-cutting proposal disguised as “modernization” that could undermine the progress our city has made in providing much-needed services to seniors. I urge Mayor Bloomberg and the DFTA to reconsider these potentially damaging changes to programs elderly New Yorkers depend on.
The proposed modernization effort focuses on two core services, home delivered meals and senior centers. These programs are vitally important to our seniors and should not be restructured without keeping an eye on the manner in which they are delivered. I am concerned that DFTA has not fully addressed the details and potential problems which may arise as a result of the significant changes they seek to implement. I don’t believe anyone wants to create a system that reaches fewer seniors than we
Neighborhood senior centers are so much more than bureaucratic government offices. Senior centers offer the opportunity to socialize; participate in educational, recreational, and health programs; and have a hot meal. It is important that centers continue to be able to provide programming and services that address the cultural and linguistic needs of the neighborhoods they serve. In order to attain this goal, senior centers must be community-based and run by an agency knowledgeable about the local community. The idea of regionalizing senior centers – as noted in the concept paper - seems to be contradictory to ensuring culturally competent services.
Home delivered hot meals are also a vital part of what DFTA currently provides and cost should not dictate the way in which this service is administered. This program is not just about seniors receiving hot meals - it also provides daily social interaction that many elderly New Yorkers may not receive under the new proposal. We need to provide our seniors with stability and constancy and refrain from making drastic changes in their diet and daily routine. Every effort must be made to continue providing this important personal interaction.
I urge Mayor Bloomberg and the Department for the Aging to reconsider the direction we are moving with respect to providing senior services. A one-size-fits-all approach is shortsighted and won’t address real concerns of an expanding senior population. Budget tightening is important in a time of economic uncertainty, but we can’t balance the city’s budget on the backs of the most vulnerable New Yorkers.
March Madness in Albany New Alignment of Big 3?
By HENRY STERN
The New York State Legislature, known far and wide for its self-indulgence and dysfunctionality, faces two major deadlines at the end of this month.
That means 18 days remain for the solons to take action on both congestion pricing and the $124.5 billion state budget proposed for fiscal 2009.
On congestion pricing, we have been told that March 31 is the last day New York State can pass a bill in order to qualify for federal transportation funds.
In our judgment, that date is fiction. If you recall, last year we were told that July 16, 2007 was the absolute deadline for New York State to apply to the US Department of Transportation for hundreds of millions of dollars that would go to implementing an elaborate system of cameras and other machinery to collect fees from drivers entering Manhattan below 86th Street. We said that threatening the loss of outside funds was a scare tactic as old as Moses.
The 2008 model of congestion pricing, produced by a committee stacked with its proponents, moved the northern limit of the Forbidden City (as in Beijing) or the Forbidden Zone (as in Superman) south to 60th Street.
Further migration in either direction is possible. After creating its own forbidden zone, London just about doubled its area, and raised the entry fee from 5 pounds (now about $10 as the dollar sinks) to 8 pounds ($16). Over the years, the toll on the Triborough Bridge has risen from 25 cents to $4.50. Once government imposes fees, they tend to rise again and again.
For example, after the passage of the 16th Amendment in 1913, the Federal Income Tax was imposed with rates ranging from one to seven per cent of personal income. The top rate rose to 90 percent during World War II, and has since been reduced to a mere 35 percent. New York State’s top rate is now 6.85 percent and New York City’s is 3.68 percent. The Assembly Democrats want to increase the tax rate on higher incomes, but the Senate Republicans do not. At this time, Governor Spitzer is resisting an income tax increase, but some Democrats in Albany opine publicly that he will cave.
We will know whether the governor stands firm or turns tail. He is in a difficult position, since on the major issue of tax increases, his principal ally is his worst enemy. There is talk that Bruno will be indicted any day now, and no one in our pay grade knows whether that is true. My belief, which may or may not be correct, is that the decision will be made personally (although possibly without prints) by Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and that if the indictment hasn’t happened yet, it is unlikely to happen soon.
People, even public officials, can make mistakes and violate laws in ways that may not add up to indictment in a Federal case, unless a prosecutor is particularly bloodthirsty or ambitious.
We observe that Governor Spitzer’s behavior has improved substantially this year. It is to his credit that he learned from last year’s series of unfortunate events. However, this does not mean that the legislature will adopt his program or respect his priorities, good as they may be. They will do what they want, as usual, with deference to their contributors and to those who can threaten political reprisals. Hopefully, they will no longer be able to blame Spitzer for their own dysfunctionality.
Just as the March madness describes the mood during the post-season basketball playoffs, the legislature is headed for its own frenzy as the month winds down. So far the pace has not significantly quickened, but we predict that it will. Speaker Silver is known for the tactic of not reaching agreement until the last minute, or until his terms are met. The problem is that, with his penchant for linkage, he may use legislative pay increases as a carrot for his members to follow his bidding on issues that are merely substantive.
If one wanted to be theatrical, one could call this month’s drama “Three Characters in Search of a Budget.” While the lion slowly becomes the lamb, we will watch with you as the play unfolds. Will it be comedy, tragedy, or farce?