By Jill Colvin
CITY HALL — The city budget battle grew way cuter Tuesday as dozens of preschoolers descended on City Hall with a red wagon full of signatures in a demonstration against childcare cuts.
More than 50 3, 4 and 5-year-olds from the nearby Hamilton Madison House and the Chung Pac Day Care Center marched in sneakers and sandals to protest cuts to the Administration for Children's Services targeting daycare slots and after-school programs.
"If we don’t have quality childcare… we’re undermining our future," said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who slammed the current plan for kids as "stripped down, watered down, diminished."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg had originally announced that he would slash 16,624 of the ACS’s 100,000 day care slots for low-income kids — the largest cut in the program's history.
Under a revised plan unveiled last month, 4,400 of the childcare slots will be saved and 10,500 kids enrolled in an expansion of the Department of Youth and Community Developments' Out-of-School Time program.
But critics say the restorations fall short.
Millicent Murph, 53, a teacher at Hamilton Madison House day care program at 10 Catherine St., said the center expects to lose one classroom and two to three teachers because of the cuts.
"A lot of parents are working parents," Murph said.
Brooklyn’s Elizabeth Villafane, a nurse’s aide and mother of three, said she was informed the day care center where she sends her kids will close its doors this month for good.
"What am I supposed to do?" she asked. "There's nothing I can do but quit my job."
According the Emergency Coalition to Save Childcare, which was formed to fight the cuts, 7,000 fewer kids from low-income families will have access to child care next year.
"We want them to see the faces behind the numbers," said Emma Jordan-Simpson, the executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund.
City officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The childcare cuts are among a host of unpopular cuts proposed by the mayor, including eliminating more than 6,000 teachers and closing 20 fire companies citywide.
The Mayor's office and the City Council are required by law to have a budget in place by the end of June.