A few days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo State of the State address, an emissary from the governor came to North Brooklyn’s Swinging Sixties Senior Center to give an overview of NY State’s Budget for 2015 and answer questions.
Paul T. Williams, Jr., the President of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, pointed out that for the past four years state spending has been held below 2%, compared to the 6.8% of the spending from the preceding administration. The theme of the budget is that New York now is a state of opportunity.
Mr. Williams discussed tax cuts for small business owners being the lowest in a century and the proposed lower property tax and an extension of relief to renters too. Doubling the New York State’s venture capital fund and raising the minimum wage to $11.50 were also hopeful indicators.
On the topic of affordable housing, the $50Mil allotted for not for profit housing came up. The money seems to be linked to setting up a new Office of Faith Based Community Organizations.
Affordable housing was a definite hot-button issue for those in the Swinging Sixties Senior Center. Currently the center is in a fight to stay where they are, in the face of a landlord’s penchant for prodigious profit margins.
Early in the Q & A session, someone asked about affordable housing for seniors. Paul Williams answered that he didn’t have the specific numbers, but that there is money in the budget for investment in affordable housing.
Assemblyman Joe Lentol picked up the ball and after thanking Mr. Williams for coming, briefed him on the peril that the senior center they were all standing was under. Mr. Lentol updated the audience with the news that he is working with Andrew Kennedy to find a mechanism to save Swinging Sixties if the City fails. He mentioned the Mayor has been looking into the option of relocating the center but is seeing how difficult it is to find affordable housing in this gentrified neighborhood.
“We believe the City has dragged its feet long enough, and we need the help of the state government to assist in this effort. Because to lose this place would be a disaster,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol.
After the roar of applause that followed Mr. Lentol’s statement, Paul Williams answered, “Just being here today, and seeing the crowd here and seeing the investment that you guys have made in this center, it’s very clear that it is a very critical resource and I certainly will take that message back and see what I can do to support that cause as well.”