By Jill Colvin
MANHATTAN — Service providers across the city are warning New Yorkers to brace themselves if the mayor’s proposed $1.6 billion budget goes through.
On Thursday, the Mayor’s Office announced sweeping new layoffs and funding cuts that would eliminate more than 2,000 city jobs and slash funding to several city agencies. The cuts will impact everything from fire houses and police, to schools, youth homeless services and senior care.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the cuts are necessary as the city faces decreasing tax revenue and skyrocketing pension costs. And he's promised that more cuts are coming soon.
But agencies affected warn that the cuts will put residents at risk.
One of the proposals involves limiting the staff at 20 fire houses during nighttime hours, which Steve Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, threatened "will compromise the safety of the entire city."
"The message from the Fire Commissioner to the public is: Don’t have a fire or a heart attack at night," he said.
UFA spokesman Tom Butler said "the city is playing Russian Roulette with lives of New Yorkers."
FDNY spokesman Jim Long said the Department is aware of the tough economic times, but that coping will be difficult.
"What we’re faced with presents challenges in being able to provide a high level of service to the people of New York," he said, adding that the Department will be evaluating ways to reduce costs without impacting response times.
Annabel Palma, the chairwoman of the City Council’s General Welfare Committee, joined City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in warning that cuts to the Administration for Children’s Services and other youth programs will put vulnerable children at risk.
"I am extremely alarmed about the serious negative impacts that less service and support will have on our city’s most vulnerable populations," Palma said in a statement.
She said that in this economic crisis, residents are relying on social safety nets more than ever.
"With every dollar, service, and position cut, there will be thousands of New Yorkers who will suffer and people’s lives will be put at risk," she said.
While many service providers are still trying to determine precisely how the cuts will affect operations, there are already some certainties.
The $20 million cut to the city’s library budget would reduce average weekly hours from 46.6 to 42. In 2008, libraries were open for an average of 52 hours a week.
The cuts would also eliminate Sunday service at locations including the main Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and W. 42nd Street and the Mid-Manhattan branch at 455 Fifth Ave.
The budget also proposes cutting the budgets for 66 "Beacon Schools," which provide tutoring, after-school and weekend programs to kids in high-risk neighborhoods.
The program's spokesman, Andrew Doba, said the program will be forced to cut the number of children it can accept, though services for youth who remain should stay the same.
The City Council is planning hearings in December in an effort to get the mayor to roll back some of the proposed cuts.