Published: Saturday, February 12, 2011
Judith Randall, Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Saying Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget cuts could result in the “painful closure” of as many as five friendship clubs here, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis yesterday called on him to amend his current plan so the centers can remain open.

“You built this community, you pay taxes, you earned this program,” Ms. Malliotakis (R-East Shore/Brooklyn) told seniors at the Arrochar Friendship Club yesterday.

She said Cuomo is looking to cut $37 million from the state Office of Children and Family Services, of which $25 million is used by the city to fund state-mandated programs for children. The result, she said, would force the city to shift Title XX funds it currently uses to support senior centers to pay instead for the mandated child welfare programs.

She said the move would “pit children against seniors”– and could result in one-third of the city’s 110 senior centers closing, including five of the 15 remaining centers here.

Ms. Malliotakis, a member of the Assembly Committee on Aging, said senior citizens need community-based centers they can easily reach, where meals are provided and friendship is offered. She called the centers “a necessity.”

A fiscal conservative, Ms. Malliotakis said broad cuts should instead be made in the state’s bloated Medicaid reimbursement system and by merging a dozen overlapping state agencies, rather than on the backs of seniors.

“The governor has 21 days to make amendments to his budget,” she added.

“I am coming here 23 years,” Mary Cammarata, 92, told Ms. Malliotakis. “If they take it away I will have no place to go.”

Representatives of the Staten Island Inter-Agency Council for Aging, Community Agency for Senior Citizens and the borough’s Friendship Clubs were on hand to back up Ms. Malliotakis.