Proposed budget means deep cuts in New York

May 11, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK -- New York Mayor David N. Dinkins presented a "doomsday" budget yesterday that would pare the Big Apple toward a seedy core, raising taxes while turning off 25 percent of the street lights, laying off 28,000 city workers and closing many libraries, clinics and the Central Park Zoo.

All week, New Yorkers have heard grim tidbits about what bad times have wrought, including a somber televised speech in which the mayor suggested that citizens themselves might have to pick up litter off the streets.

But yesterday was the first time the dreary details were offered in bulk. This city of 8 million faces a $3.5 billion gap in its $28.7 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning in July.

Mr. Dinkins begged for help.

"No adjectives can explain the consequences of cuts so large," the mayor said. "For unless our friends in labor, in the state legislature, in the governor's office . . . and in the City Council step forward and help out, the unthinkable will become the unavoidable."

There are suggestions that at least part of this hand wringing is a posture. Mr. Dinkins hopes for givebacks from labor unions and direct aid from the state, itself $6 billion in the red.

The budget cuts would leave New York darker, dirtier, poorer and sicker. Proposed moves:

* Taxes: Increases of nearly $1 billion, primarily in property and personal income taxes.

* Layoffs: 22,000 full-time workers, including 2,800 teachers, plus 6,000 part-time workers.

* The homeless: Close several shelters and reduce security and medical care in others.

* Sanitation: Dismiss most street cleaners; suspend recycling.

* Fire: Close two engine companies.

* Health: Eliminate the city's program for lowering infant mortality rates; discontinue hearing and vision exams for schoolchildren; reduce the number of lead-paint inspections.

* Hospitals: Close six walk-in clinics established to reduce pressure on emergency rooms and eliminate all dental clinics and out-patient pharmacies.

* Police: Delay both 1992 police academy classes by three months and reduce by half the number of school crossing guards.

* Parks: Close the Central Park Zoo, half of the city's beaches and several recreation centers.

* Transportation: Turn off 25 percent of the city's 295,000 street lights and double the price of the Staten Island ferry to $1.

The proposals have something to make everyone gasp. "If they're going to close the Central Park Zoo, they may as well close the Statue of Liberty," said Aldo Vitalli, a street vendor.

The City Council has until June 30 to pass a new budget. By law, the city must begin its fiscal year with a balanced budget or face takeover by the state Financial Control Board.

New York has been hurt by plunging revenues, due in large measure to the recession. Federal and state aid also have declined.

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