Neighborhood Chatter

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Lower East Side and Chinatown Chin Says Cuts to After-School and Daycare Programs Remain In response to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's executive budget, Council Member Margaret Chin noted that while the mayor has committed to fund 2,600 teaching positions, the budget still includes cuts to daycare, after-school programs and other services in the Lower East Side and Chinatown. "The mayor's budget once again takes aim at working families and minority neighborhoods in New York City," Chin said in a statement. "These are programs that New Yorkers rely on in order to hold down a job, make a living and support their families. In Chinatown and the Lower East Side, we stand to lose 70 percent of our elementary and middle after-school programs." Chin said these cuts prove the programs "are not a priority for this administration. Instead, the City Council will be called on to restore these programs to what are already significantly reduced levels. Since 2009, we have lost 61 percent of our daycare and after-school programs. As a city, we should be focused on expanding after-school and daycare and making high-quality programs available for all our public school students," Chin continued. Citywide Stringer Calls for MTA to create Temporary Reduced-Fare Cards for Seniors and Disabled People This week Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer demanded that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority reform its process for replacing lost or stolen reduced-fare MetroCards for seniors and disabled people, calling the current system "a ridiculous, time-consuming maze that burdens the very people we're supposed to be helping and makes it harder for them to get around our City." The borough president said that reduced-fare MetroCard holders face formidable obstacles if their cards are lost or stolen. When they call MTA to request a replacement, Stringer noted, the wait for a new card can frequently take up to three months. In the meantime, those who want to ride a bus at reduced fare must present evidence of their age to bus drivers and come up with exact change of $1.10. To ride the subway, they first have to find a station agent. Next, seniors or disabled get a one-trip MetroCard and a paper voucher that's about as useful as an old token. It only works if they can find another subway station agent to take the voucher on their return trip. "All of this takes an emotional and financial toll on New Yorkers, who have a right to expect better service," Stringer wrote in a [letter to Joseph J. Lhota](, the MTA's chairman and executive officer. In his [letter to the MTA](, Stringer suggested that there is a simple solution to this problem: provide temporary MetroCards to seniors and disabled riders whose reduced-fare cards have been lost or stolen. Stringer said the MTA already gives out such replacements when reduced-fare cards are defective, adding: "It's a smart, sensible solution. These temporary cards last for three months under the current system, which is plenty of time for a new reduced-fare card to be issued. We'd be extending the same courtesy, the same seamless service to seniors or disabled whose cards are lost or stolen. No waiting for station agents. No digging for identification or the exact change every time you want to get on a bus." In a letter penned last week to School Chancellor Dennis Walcott, New York State Assembly Speaker urged the Department of Education (DOE) to abate school overcrowding in Lower Manhattan by opening a new pre-kindergarten center in the area. Silver pointed out that while the community has helped build several new schools over the past few years, there is still a kindergarten waitlist nearing 100 students for the Spruce Street School, P.S. 276, P.S. 89 and the Peck Slip School. "This is the most serious overcrowding problem we have ever had in this neighborhood, and it is taking place when we have even more kindergarten classes than originally planned in these four schools," wrote Silver. Silver pointed out that a new pre-kindergarten center would free up seat in the zoned schools in the neighborhood for incoming kindergartners, a measure that has been advocated by Silver's School Overcrowding Task Force and Community Board 1. "As I expressed to DOE officials at my last School Overcrowding meeting, it is important that the DOE present a plan for creating one of these centers in time for the coming academic year, consider adding an extra kindergarten class to the Peck Slip School, or come up with another option for adding seats in September," Silver continued. "While implementing these plans would help cut down on our waiting lists, these are not long-term solutions. Our overcrowding problem is getting worse. We need more elementary school seats in Lower Manhattan and we need to begin planning for them now. It takes years to bring a new school on line and we simply don't have the luxury of waiting. Members of my task force are already searching for possible locations for new schools and I hope the DOE and the School Construction Authority will do the same."

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