Saturday, June 26, 2010

Pedro Espada and Ruben Diaz Confused On Senior Centers?

Frank Lombardi of our City Hall Bureau reports:


State Sens. Pedro Espada Jr. and Ruben Diaz Sr. should do an Emily Litella “Never Mind” bit right now over their day-late and totally confused letter (which you can read more about here on State Of Politics) to Mayor Bloomberg criticizing his “ill-advised plan to shutter 50 senior centers on June 30, 2010.”

For you kids out there, Litella was the perpetually confused TV commentator on Saturday Night Live sketches back in the late 1970s who used to rant and rave over something or other — such as confusing endangered species with endangered feces —and when told of her mistake, would deapan into the camera and say, “Never Mind!”

Such is the case with the Espada-Diaz letter to the mayor, dated June 24, which takes the mayor to task for planning to close 50 senior center even though the Senate conference on June 14 had approved an emergency budget extender that included $18 million in Title 20 funds for the city, specifically earmarked to keep the 50 centers open, and not “to fill another city budget need.”

The senators, however, were confusing two different sets of senior centers.

There are 50 centers that had been on the chopping block because of budget cuts requested by the mayor. But most of those 50 centers were saved by the budget agreement announced late last night by the mayor and City Council President Christine Quinn. Using entirely city funds, all but 5 top 10 of the targeted centers, won’t be closed. The list of those still in jeopardy has yet to be released.

There was ANOTHER set of 60 senior centers that had been in jeopardy because Gov. Paterson had diverted Title 20 federal funds from the city, to be used in helping offset state expenses for other social service programs. Those centers would have had to close—in addition to the other 50 in jeopardy because of city budget cuts—if the Legislature and governor had not agreed to send it to the city.

So, the senators should do two “Never Minds” — one for confusing the 50 centers with the 60 centers; and two for sending their letter on the same day the mayor and Council cut their budget deal and rescued most of the 50 endangered centers.

By the way, in their letter, Espada and Diaz cite the Tolentine-Zeiser Senior Center in the Bronx as an example of a center in danger of closing because of the mayor’s supposed diversion of Title 20 money for other uses.

That center wasn’t among the set of 60 centers affected in any way by the Title 20 funding. It was on the set of 50 centers that had been on the chopping block until last night’s city budget deal. Whether it’s one of the five to 10 centers on that list that still might have to close has not been disclosed.

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