Neighborhood Chatter

Written by NY Press on . Posted in News Our Town Downtown.

Last Thursday, Jan. 19, Council Member Margaret Chin, along with Michel Zisser, executive director of University Settlement and members of Community Board 3, celebrated the 125th anniversary of University Settlement with an honorary street naming. The group installed a street sign in honor of the settlement house, which provides everything from adult literacy classes to mental health services, and in celebration of the Lunar New Year—University Settlement’s early childhood education classes feature the traditional lion dance. The Settlement is located on Eldridge Street between Delancey and Rivington streets.

Mary Spink, a member of Community Board 3, passed away on the morning of Monday, Jan. 16 at Beth Israel Hospital after struggles with liver and kidney failure. Spink, 64, was active in over 20 organizations in the Lower East Side, and her life was devoted to serving the community. Over the years she was part of the LES People’s Federal Credit Union, the LES Girls Club and Seward Park Urban Renewal Area,and was currently serving as executive and development director of the LES People’s Mutual Housing Association. “Mary was truly one of the Lower East Side’s bright lights and her strong dedication to our neighborhood will be sorely missed,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. State Sen. Daniel Squadron presented Spink with a “Women of Distinction” award last May.

In time for the Chinese New Year, which began Monday, Jan. 23, State Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assembly Member Grace Meng are reiterating their call on the city to make the Lunar New Year a school holiday.

Currently, a student who celebrates the holiday receives an “excused” absence—but it remains an absence on the student’s record and results in the student missing class. In a letter sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the legislators wrote, “As representatives of two of the city’s largest Asian American communities, we believe that making Lunar New Year a school holiday would help recognize the important role that Asian Americans have played in our city and state.”

They are urging the city to designate the day as a school holiday or professional development day to allow students to celebrate with their families.

Squadron and Meng also sponsor legislation that would establish the day of the Lunar New Year as a school holiday in municipal jurisdictions with substantial (at least 7.5 percent) Asian American populations.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his 2012-2013 Executive Budget and Reform Plan last week, which introduces sweeping changes in an effort to cut spending and create a new New York. Cuomo closed the $2 billion state budget gap without introducing new taxes or fees on taxpayers—instead, the governor introduced a new $25 billion economic agenda funded by private sector investment.

In the plan, he sought to do away with the current top-down model of state economic development to a bottom-up community based one, which means slating an increase of $715 million in unrestricted operating aid to local governments. Under the new plan, the state’s operating budget would increase less than 2 percent while increasing school aid and Medicaid funding by 4 percent, with measures to take over Medicaid spending from municipalities over the next three years. With Cuomo’s planned health care redesign, over 1 million New Yorkers will gain coverage and the costs to persons and businesses who purchase coverage will be slashed 66 percent. Schools will get an increase of $805 million, with high-need districts receiving the majority of the allotted aid.

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