By Olivia Scheck
LOWER MANHATTAN — Thousands gathered in Lower Manhattan Thursday to protest the mayor's proposed budget cuts, calling on the city to spare social programs and "make big banks and millionaires pay."
The crowd, which included activists from education, housing, transportation and several other industries that would be affected by the budget cuts, was estimated to have reached 20,000, according to organizer Dan Levitan.
Participants convened in eight meeting places around Lower Manhattan and began marching towards Wall and Water streets in the Financial District about 4:30 p.m.
Organizers had planned to hold "teach-ins," in which representatives from each of the groups would educate each other about their respective challenges, but the sessions were mostly stymied by the fracas of the crowd and by police attempts to wrangle protesters.
Still, many participants took the opportunity to speak about their experiences and about their fears of looming budget cuts.
"According to my principal I'm a highly effective teacher, my kids score higher than the other teachers, but I'm probably going to lose my job," said Dana Roberts, a Queens math teacher with seven years experience.
Roberts worried that teacher cuts could increase class size to 40 students per class at her school.
But for the students of Bronx art teacher Jake Jacobs, who expects to be let go at the end of the year, the layoffs could mean the end of classes altogether.
"I'm the only art teacher," Jacobs, who said this would be the second year in a row that he'd been laid off, explained. "So far this year I've taught over 300 kids."
Under the latest version of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to rein in spending for the upcoming fiscal year, roughly 10,000 city jobs, including 6,100 teaching positions, would be cut.
The final budget must be approved by the City Council and passed by June 30.