By Gabriela Resto-Montero
MANHATTAN — Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently released a YouTube video welcoming LGBT teens to the city — but gay rights advocates say Bloomberg has turned his back on the at-risk LGBT teens who already live here.
In the video published online on Monday, Bloomberg tells LGBT teens that although their sexual identity might make them outsiders in their hometowns, they are welcome in New York City.
"New York has always been the place where anyone can go and be who they are supposed to be, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation," Bloomberg said in a video that's part of the "It Gets Better" project to address the alarming suicide rate among LGBT teens.
"We need you," Bloomberg added. "We need your enthusiasm, your ideas, your passion, and your talents, and so do lots of other places around the country and the world."
But advocates say the mayor sends quite a different message to LGBT teens in Manhattan, by slashing the budget for LGBT youth programs and support.
Bloomberg's cuts to the Department of Youth and Community Development cut the budget for LGBT teen street outreach programs by half and stripped 33 to 50 percent of the funding for LGBT homeless youth centers as of Jan. 1. In addition, all financial support for street outreach will be eliminated by July, the city said.
"Two days after slashing support to homeless youth programs in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg has the gall to release a video telling LGBT Youth that 'It Gets Better'," Carl Siciliano, the director of the Ali Forney Youth Center, which had its budget significantly reduced by recent cuts, in a statement to the blog Towelroad.
"Mayor Bloomberg, your cruel and reckless cuts to the meager support system for homeless LGBT youth in New York City just made things for them much worse!" Siciliano said.
Critics also lashed out at Bloomberg online, blasting what they called his hypocrisy.
Bloomberg declared October 2010 "LGBTQ Youth Empowerment Month," and announced the cuts months later.
"Sorry but being two-faced doesn't make anything better," wrote a user named MyGayDragons. "NYC wants you...just don't be homeless and in need of help."