City Council Honors World AIDS Day Speaker Christine C. Quinn, along with City Council Members Rosie Mendez, Jimmy Van Bramer and Daniel Dromm, commemorated World AIDS Day last Thursday, Dec. 1. It was 30 years ago, in 1981, that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first recognized HIV/AIDS. In honor of World AIDS Day, panels of The NAMES Project Foundation's AIDS Memorial Quilt were on display at the Emigrant Savings Bank during the council's scheduled Meeting. The council's theme of World AIDS Day this year was "Getting to Zero." This means zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. "While these quilted panels are impressive, beautiful memorials, they are also a devastating reminder that the AIDS epidemic is far from over," said Quinn. "On World AIDS Day?and truly, every day?it is critically important that all New Yorkers do their part to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. Several city programs and initiatives are already in place to prevent the spread of this virus, and the more we take advantage of these resources, the closer we'll get to 'zero.'" "The quilt is a stark reminder that the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS is ever-present," said Mendez. "Especially during these tough economic times, it is imperative that we advocate for the most vulnerable and at-risk to ensure that services and funding remain available for those who need it the most." Founded in 1987, The NAMES Project Foundation is the organization responsible for overseeing the creation of The AIDS Memorial Quilt. The Quilt is comprised of more than 40,000 panels with each section measuring approximately 12 square feet, four of which hang in the Emigrant Savings Bank. Chin Calls on Cuomo to Protect Seniors Last week, Council Member Margaret Chin joined the New York Coalition for Senior Centers & Services to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to exempt funding for New York City's 256 senior centers?"Title XX funds"?from reductions in the Fiscal Year 2012?2013 Executive Budget. Supporting the cause were members of the New York State Legislature, New York City Council, advocates and community members, including Brenda Tong, director of Hamilton-Madison House, a Lower East Side settlement house, and seniors from the Lower East Side and Chinatown. "Every year seniors across our city are told their centers are in danger of closing due to budget cuts. And every year, local elected officials have to organize, write letters and demand that the governor keep our senior centers open. This year, more seniors in my district wrote to Governor Cuomo than any other council district," said Council Member Chin at a press conference. Over 15,000 letters from seniors have been sent to Governor Cuomo supporting the retention of this funding for senior centers. "This budget dance has to stop. It is unfair to our seniors and it is unfair to our communities. When I walk into my local senior center and see seniors playing ping-pong, mahjong and exercising, I know that we are doing the right thing. We are providing an invaluable service that allows older members of our population to stay energized and active. I am here today to tell Governor Cuomo to keep his hands off our senior centers. This is a fight we must win, and it is a fight we will win," Chin added. In a letter sent by Chin and 39 other members of the New York City Council, the group reported: "The past two Executive Budgets have contained proposals to eliminate the local discretionary portion of Title XX [Social Services Block Grant] funding, repurposing it for mandated social services. While this action would have produced a small cost savings for the state, it put 105 senior centers at risk of closing in New York City... Currently, the city has a robust network of 256 centers? New York City has used Title XX to fund its senior centers for over three decades... We understand that difficult economic times call for difficult decisions. In fact, in New York City, we have already closed 27 centers. Painful as that was, we did it in a responsible and thoughtful way. The ones that remain are critical to service delivery and need to remain open."
Photo: Council Member Margaret Chin joined senior citizens and politicians on the steps of City Hall last week to protest a possible cut in funding for area senior centers. Photo courtesy of Margaret Chin's office