Friday, June 27, 2014
No ferry in city budget but pols keep pushing
While the city council and Mayor de Blasio omitted the Rockaway ferry from the budget process, pols such as BP Melinda Katz (left) and Assemblyman Eric Ulrich, continue to fight.
Posted at 2 p.m. on June 27
The City Council approved a $75 billion budget early Thursday morning that will set a new, more liberal tone for government spending over the next year.
The Council voted 50-0 to sign off on the spending plan, with one abstention.
Negotiated between Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the budget has grown 7% over last year and adds many new programs, but it also represents a compromise on the Council’s top priorities.
It does not include the top item on Rockaway's wish list -- a subsidy that would keep the Rockaway commuter ferry running indefinitely, or at least after the October cut-off point now in sight.
Local politicians, who were fighting hard for the ferry's inclusion in the budget, reacted angrily.
City Councilman Eric Ulrich, one of the three Republicans, said, "Despite the Council's best efforts, the de Blasio Administration has decided not to include any funding for the Rockaway Ferry subsidy in this year's budget. While I am pleased that we will be adopting yet another on-time, balanced budget without raising taxes, I am extremely disappointed that ferry service may end in October. The fight is not over and I am committed to working with all my fellow elected officials to put pressure on the Mayor to keep this vital lifeline going."
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder added,
"Although the Rockaway ferry service was not included in the final city budget, our community will not give up the fight. I am severely disappointed in Mayor de Blasio and the Economic Development Corporation for ignoring the transit needs of southern Queens and Rockaway families. Like every other borough in the city, we deserve an affordable, efficient and reliable means of transportation. The ferry has been a lifeline for our families and small businesses after the devastation caused by Sandy and it must remain permanent. I will continue to work with the community and my colleagues in government to pressure the Mayor to do the right thing and support our struggling neighborhoods."
Borough President Melinda Katz said,
"The temporary Rockaway ferry now in operation has been a great boon for Rockaways residents seeking an easy commute to other parts of the City and for people from other parts of the City seeking to get to Rockaway Beach and its attractions. In the short time since it was established during the immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the temporary Rockaway ferry has proved enormously popular and has contributed to the peninsula’s economic growth and to its attractiveness as a tourist destination. Unfortunately, this year’s Expense Budget does not contain the funding that would make this wonderful service a permanent part of our City’s transportation network. However, I will continue to advocate for permanent ferry service and will seek a mid-year budget modification that would provide funding that would guarantee that the Rockaway ferry remains in operation after its current funding runs out in October.”
The budget also omitted 1,000 new cops the body demanded, instead moving 200 officers from desk jobs to the street.
And it offers free lunch for middle school students, instead of all public school students as requested by the Council.
The Council tacked on $236.7 million in spending, from $18 million for daycare programs and vouchers to $10.9 million for CUNY scholarships and $1 million for tree pruning. They also added $4.9 million to hire lawyers for immigrants facing deportation and $3.5 million for street cleaning. Separately, there’s $50 million the pols dish out in controversial “member items” to nonprofits in their districts.
Another added item is money for veterans who need legal help with a variety of issues.
A de Blasio spokesperson told NY1 that they will continue to examine ridership and seek a sustainable funding stream that can support the $25-$30 subsidy per trip, which is the highest of any public transportation in the city.