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For Immediate Release: Contact:
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 1997 Corey Bearak
(718) 343-6779


Statement to the Queens Borough Board
on behalf of the Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council
Tuesday, February 4, 1997
prepared by Corey B. Bearak, President 
presented by Helene Zaro, Vice President

Thank you for this opportunity for the Northeast Queens Jewish Community Council [NEQJCC] to comment on the City Budget for Fiscal Year 1998 which begins July 1, 1997. The Council represents 20 synagogues and other community, educational, fraternal, and religious institutions and organizations in some of the communities which form the City's backbone: Bayside, Bay Terrace, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Glen Oaks, Hollis Hills, Holliswood, Jamaica Estates, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens and Queens Village. The Council has worked since its inception to maintain Northeast Queens as an attractive place to live and raise a family. We have found that when people look at northeast Queens as a place to raise their families, they compare our neighborhoods to communities in the City's eastern and northern suburbs and across the Hudson River. People shop for quality schools, secure communities, predominantly low density housing, proximity to transportation, reasonable shopping options, health care and local recreation. 

We keep hearing the mantra: New York needs to keep its middle class. Absent intelligent policies embodied in the City budget, that middle class family the city covets often leaves and may be harder and harder to replace.

Yes, we have low property taxes on our homes; yet, New York City's tax policies wrongly subsidize extra illegal occupancies which crowd some schools in our southern neighborhoods (and other parts of the borough). The City similarly fails to collect the correct taxes from the illegal commercial uses of our homes. Citywide, this failure costs taxpayers over one billion dollars. This could be applied to the City's structural deficit. Alternatively, this amount could be dedicated to build affordable housing to help relieve the demands that help fuel illegal development.
In terms of City services, it's time to re-think how New York City composes it budget. The budget should reflect the need to involve communities in the delivery of services. Community Boards continually note their priorities which often vary. The budget never reflects the need to allocate resources to reflect different neighborhood priorities. Direct City resources to address community needs such as code enforcement, tree pruning/ removal, traffic studies and signal installation, and programs for youth and seniors.

Recognize that while schools in northeast Queens - we cover most of District 26 and parts of 25 and 29 - succeed better than most other city schools, prospective and current residents compare our schools against education offered outside the City. Don't shortchange our schools here just because the students score better. Install state of the art computer centers in all our schools - several schools continue to lack them. Develop a program to maintain this investment and train our teachers to integrate the technology with the core curriculum. Look hard at the course offering and make sure the resources exist to teach science, art and music as well as the basics.

Let's talk about funding. We recognize that resources are tight and tough choices must be made. Yet, a budget document can offer leadership and philosophy. It seems when commissioners make cuts, they always cut the worker who performs the services. The budget should put a premium on that worker and then build, to the extent resources remain, the appropriate level of supervision, not the reverse.
In additional, explore regional models for funding agencies. Some communities may require more of a service than others. A city-wide approach rarely works. As long of the basic package gets reasonably and fairly divided, we should get beyond a discussion. Instead of a pie, think of a package of several smaller slices, cut up differently but when placed on each person's plate, the amount of dessert is about the same.


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