Budget wrap-up

BY COUNCIL MEMBER MARGARET CHIN  |  On June 28, the New York City Council passed the city’s budget for Fiscal Year 2013. This year’s budget was unique in many respects. In my three years serving as the City Council representative for Lower Manhattan, I have never seen so many community members raise their voices against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s cuts to child care, after-school programs and essential services for our city.

With your help, the Council was able to restore nearly $130 million to children’s services and after-school programs. In fact, Lower Manhattan actually gained an after-school program that will serve the Lower Manhattan Community Middle School.

I would like to update Downtown residents on the exciting capital projects and programs that I was able to fund in this year’s budget.

Downtown is fortunate to have some of the best public schools in New York City. I firmly believe that a quality public education is a right, not a privilege. I am happy to announce several large capital grants meant to improve our neighborhood schools.

This year, the number one request from our public schools was for upgrades to existing technology, including student laptops, new computer software and Bluetooth keyboards. This year, P.S. 89, the Lower Manhattan Arts Academy, the Lower Manhattan Middle School and the Richard R. Green High School of Teaching will each receive grants ranging from $35,000 to $50,000 to help better integrate technology into their classrooms. In addition, P.S. 150 in Tribeca will receive $100,000 for a portable Mac lab and upgrades to existing hardware. Improving access to technology, interactive media and the latest research are ways that we can ensure our students remain engaged and competitive in the classroom.

In addition, P.S. 397 — the Spruce Street School — will receive $95,000 to renovate a 5,000-square-foot paved play area. This grant will allow for the play space to be resurfaced with recycled rubber and thus make it safer for our children. The layout will allow for space for structured games, such as soccer and hopscotch, and will help prevent injuries. I also secured funding for the Battery Conservancy’s Urban Farm at Battery Park, which is a favorite destination for many Downtown students.

The Harbor School on Governors Island, meanwhile, will receive $100,000 toward the Marine Science and Technology Center. This center will house the school’s commercial diving program, as well as aquaculture facilities to raise native New York species including oysters, mussels, lobsters and blackfish. Enrollment at the Harbor School has been steadily expanding in the last few years: this year, the school received more applications from Lower Manhattan than any other neighborhood in the city.

Over the last decade, Lower Manhattan has developed into a leading cultural destination that is home to some of the most unique museums, art and technology centers in our city. This year, I allocated funding for the New York City Police Museum to replace an old boiler with a more energy-efficient model, and for 3-Legged Dog, which received a $40,000 grant from my office in support of emerging artists.

One of my major accomplishments this past fiscal year was to secure funding for the newly renovated South Street Seaport Museum. Two hundred thousand dollars was allocated to the Seaport Museum for the deck repair and renovation of the Lightship Ambrose — a ship that once served as a beacon for New York Harbor. In addition, I was able to designate $1.3 million for the museum with the help of my colleagues in the Manhattan delegation.

But that’s not all.

I’m thrilled to announce that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn allocated $10.3 million toward the continued renovation and growth of the Seaport Museum —  bringing the total funding for the museum in this year’s budget to $11.8 million.

In order to maintain world-class programs and exhibits at our local cultural institutions, discretionary grants from my office will support local programs at the Anne Frank Center, the Children’s Museum of the Arts, Poets House, the Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Tribeca Film Institute and Tribecarts Inc.

This year, I continued funding for Downtown senior programs, including the senior choir at the Church Street School of Music and Art, Hamilton Madison House’s senior services in Battery Park City and Greenwich House’s senior program at Independence Plaza North.

Several other important improvements were made to our neighborhood thanks to  City Council funds. The Alliance for Downtown New York, for example, will receive a new power washing vehicle; Bogardus Plaza in Tribeca will receive funds for a historic clock tower; the Battery Conservancy will receive $500,000 to turn an existing building into a much-needed comfort station; and the New Amsterdam Library will receive $500,000 for a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (H.V.A.C.) system. In addition, Edgar Street Plaza in the Financial District received $1.25 million for renovations and improvements

Year in and year out, I remain dedicated to fighting for the resources to support the projects and programs that keep Lower Manhattan strong and vibrant. I look forward to serving you in the year ahead.

Margaret Chin represents City Council’s District One.

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