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Protest Rally Against Proposed Service Cuts

Carrying signs with such messages as “Don’t Betray Our Kids” and “Don’t Leave Our Youth in the Street,” up to 300 people gathered at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building on Monday, June 18 to protest the possible loss of funding to numerous community service programs.

Various agencies organized the event once they received notice that their county contracts would be cancelled and funding eliminated on July 5 if Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano’s fiscal recovery plan is not approved, the event organizers said.

The coalitions that sponsored the event are the Nassau County Youth Services Agencies, Senior Services Provider Coalition, the Coalition of Behavioral Health Providers, the Nassau Alliance for Addictive Services, and the Long Island Hispanic Coalition.  According to organizers, the coalitions have no position on the fiscal recovery plan. However, they “vehemently” oppose the cancellation of county contracts.

Speakers were defiant but optimistic as they denounced both the policy and the politics behind the threatened funding losses.

Peter Levy, president of Youth Services Coalition, called on the county legislature to stop “playing games with the lives of children, senior citizens and the most vulnerable people [in the county]. This has nothing to do with politics, it has to do with real people.”

And that was the theme of the rally, as speakers warned of ominous consequences if, especially, youth services are eliminated, especially in light of the county’s substance abuse problem.

“This is a sad occasion,” said Joe Smith, executive director of Long Beach Reach. Inc. “The county is saying to kids: ‘You don’t matter.’ We won’t let that happen. This is the most cynical action the county has taken in a very long time,” Smith added, referring to the July 5 deadline date.

Smith said that in the past, agencies have accepted budget cuts and limited contracts, but that the elimination of programs was “not acceptable,” adding that the rally was just the beginning of the resistance.

Jamie Bogenshutz, of the Massapequa-based YES Counseling Community Counseling Center spoke in similar terms, denouncing what she called the “incredulous, irresponsible” July 5 deadline. Calling the non-profit workforce “the backbone of the county,” Ms. Bogenshutz noted that such organizations are not just responsive to community issues; they also “save lives.”

Maria Cuadra, chair of the Long Island Hispanic Coalition, also touted the practical nature of such organizations. She said program eliminations would result in “thousands of people” being unemployed. Ms. Quadro also called on the county to divert monies from red light camera fines to youth services.

Echoing Ms. Bogenshutz, Dr. Mary Lou Jones, executive director of South Shore Guidance Center, claimed that the county is experiencing its worst instances of chemical dependency in recent history. She, too, painted a grim picture, claiming also that losing youth services funding would result in “more DWI, more suicide, more death.”

Although the gathering was nonpartisan, the response to the rally turned, not surprisingly, on partisan lines.

“As a legislator in 2009, Ed Mangano supported the red light camera law which provided revenue to the social service agencies, but now because of his mismanagement he has decided to revoke that promise he made,” said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams. “As county executive, Mr. Mangano has wasted taxpayer dollars on glossy mailings and lucrative contracts to politically connected law firms that could have gone to keep these programs funded.”  

“I stand with the protestors,” said County Executive Edward P. Mangano. “The Democrats should do the right thing and provide the three votes necessary to avoid these draconian cuts.”