In a rare display of budgetary reversal, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has agreed to restore $1.6 million in funds to aid the elderly, most of which will go to the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty.
Bloomberg announced the restoration of the Extended Services Program to the Department for the Aging’s budget at Met Council’s annual legislative breakfast Sunday.
A half-dozen Jewish community councils under the Met Council umbrella were faced with closing without the $800,000 Extended Services grant. The program also funds similar organizations in Italian, Greek, Polish and Irish communities.
Workers in the program help the elderly obtain government benefits and other services and provide other forms of assistance, such as loans and transportation. Met Council relies on the city funding to leverage other funding sources.
"We all have a duty to help the less fortunate among us," Bloomberg said at the breakfast. "We recognize that in these difficult times we don’t have the resources to do everything that we would like, but our conscience dictates that we really have to find a way to help people."
Insisting his administration was committed to preventing any reduction in services to the elderly, Bloomberg said restoring Extended Services was made possible by an influx of state and federal aid. He praised Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and members of the Legislature for "stepping up to the plate" to increase revenues for the city budget.
Bloomberg’s announcement was met with sustained applause. The mayor avoided an awkward situation in which a group whose work he had severely curtailed would have had to hand him a plaque.
"He created sunshine on a cloudy day," said Met Council executive director William Rapfogel. "It would have been much more gloomy had he not done this."
With only 30 percent of his district remaining in Brooklyn, Rep. Anthony Weiner recently gave up his Sheepshead Bay digs, packed up his SUV and headed for the hills.
Forest Hills, that is.
After spending most of his life in Brooklyn Weiner, who grew up in Park Slope and represented Sheepshead Bay and Midwood in the City Council for almost a decade, is now a Queens resident.
Weiner told The Jewish Week the move brought him closer to LaGuardia Airport, easing his commute to Washington. But he added, "It’s undeniable that what was once a 100 percent Brooklyn district is now a majority Queens district. It’s no longer unusual to see ‘D-Queens’ in newspapers after my name."
Although he’s reduced the staff at his new Brooklyn district office, Weiner insists he’ll still be visible in the borough.
"So much of who I am as a person is tied up in being from Brooklyn," he said.
Reapportionment recently shifted 70 percent of the district formerly represented by Sen. Charles Schumer from Brooklyn into Queens. The last reapportionment had split the district about evenly between the two boroughs.
Aside from allowing him to sleep later and still catch the shuttle, Weiner’s move may also serve to expand his political base.
"The presumption is he would always do well among Jews in Brooklyn," said political guru Hank Sheinkopf. "Now it’s time to conquer Queens, which has a large population of white Catholics that is very important to him."
Also noteworthy is the fact that most Queens City Council members (including Melinda Katz, who narrowly lost the congressional seat to Weiner in 1998) will be out of a job in a few years due to term limits, and some may be gunning for Capitol Hill.
It’s unclear how the move will help Weiner’s expected mayoral bid in 2005 (which would not require him to give up his current job.) The only other Queens official known to be considering a run is Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin. But the county’s Democratic organization is said to be tight with City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, a Manhattanite and all but certain mayoral contender.
Sheinkopf said the move gives Weiner "a broader base to talk about outer borough issues, such as the perception that Bloomberg has favored Manhattan."
Brooklyn’s most fervent booster, Borough President Marty Markowitz, who is often befuddled that people would want to live anywhere else, declined to fault Weiner.
"He will never forget his roots," said Markowitz.
Sabbath-observant liquor store owners have long complained about the stateís anachronistic blue laws, which essentially force them to observe the Christian day of rest.
The constitutionally shaky statute forbidding alcohol sales on Sunday was probably one lawsuit away from oblivion, but somehow no one mustered up the resources to challenge it.
"I didn’t have the money to take this to the Supreme Court," said David Orlander, who was fined $500 several years ago for opening his 13th Avenue shop on the Sunday before Passover.
Now, economics seem to have accomplished what religious liberty couldn’t. Hoping libation leads to more taxation, legislators quietly included a provision in the recently passed budget allowing liquor emporia to open Sundays for the first time since Prohibition, so long as they close on another day.
No sweat for Orthodox Jews, who are prohibited from opening on Saturdays. But not everyone is popping the bubbly to celebrate.
"I don’t feel that people are going to be buying more because we are open on Sunday," said Moshe Fink, proprietor of Chateau de Vin in Cedarhurst, L.I. "They will just refocus their shopping from other days of the week."
Fink plans to open his Central Avenue shop from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, but doesn’t believe it will be worth the expense.
"ìThe only advantage will be the Sunday before yom tovim," or Jewish festivals, he said.
In past years, last-minute shoppers who may not have been aware of the blue laws were left high and dry (or perhaps dry but not high) when festivals began on Sunday night.
Orlander said he will probably open Sundays for a few weeks throughout the wedding season, then go back to his old schedule until Rosh HaShanah.