By Ben Fractenberg
MUNICIPAL DISTRICT — Thousands of union workers gathered in front of City Hall Wednesday in a last-ditch effort to save funding for services threatened by cuts to the state and city budget.
The Teachers Union and Transport Workers Union were among those that packed Broadway from Worth Street to the bottom of City Hall Park to get their message to lawmakers.
“Stop layoffs and cuts,” said Chris Engren, who has been teaching for four years in the Bronx. “To blame teachers is outrageous.”
Gov. David Paterson has said cuts to education may be necessary to close an estimated $9.2 billion dollar budget gap and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said teachers' salaries would have to be frozen in order to avoid layoffs. State Senate Democrats voted in March to cut $1.4 billion from education.
“If you cut our schools you may get money back a couple of years from now, but those years will be irrevocably lost for the students,” said Paul Schichler, 61, who has taught in the city for 14 years.
Teachers and students at the rally worried cuts could mean laying off educators and cutting vital programs.
“Kids are influenced when you’re in an after school program,” said a 17-year-old student at Manhattan University High. “It helps you with school.”
Uniformed Firefighters Association President Stephen Cassidy said, "This is not our fault. This is Mike Bloomberg's fault," said according to NY1.
"Just like any household hit by tough times, the city has to continue to tighten its belt, and that means reducing the amount of taxpayer dollars spent," the Bloomberg administration said in a statement.
Paterson set a June 28 deadline on Wednesday for passing the state budget. If lawmakers do not enact a budget by then the governor said he will draft an emergency spending plan. Legislatures would then have to choose between adopting his budget or shutting down the state government.
“This is the richest country,” said June Lesandro, who has taught in Staten Island for 10 years. “They shouldn’t touch education.”