The mayor of the nation's largest city presented his "doomsday budget" Friday, a $1.5 billion cost slashing that would lay off 29,000 workers, close the Central Park Zoo and dim the Big Apple's Great White Way.
Mayor David Dinkins appealed for help to restore the cuts, warning if there is none, "the unthinkable will become the unavoidable.""With a heavy heart" Dinkins presented his recession-riddled budget that affects every agency and service except police and jails to the City Council which has until June 30 to beat it into shape.
The plan appears to hit the poor hardest, creating a darker, dirtier, more unhealthy and pest-ridden city.
It calls for laying off more than 22,931 full-time workers - including some 2,800 teachers - and 6,147 part-time workers. Pink slips were to be issued before July 1.
It would close the newly refurbished Central Park Zoo and switch off 25 percent of the city's 295,000 street lights.
In one bit of good news, budget officials said they have managed to save drug treatment programs from being eliminated.
But the proposed budget calls for elimination of many preventive health programs, including infant mortality initiatives, school vision and hearing exams, city hospital pharmacies and walk-in clinics.
It would suspend the city's recycling program, and would reduce street cleaning, litter basket collections and pest control efforts.
It would slash deeply into spending on education, reducing school security and food services.
As the city faced its worst fiscal crisis in a generation, one veteran New Yorker summed it up.
"I didn't think I'd live to see the day New York would be in such a mess," said Theron Brown, 45, of Brooklyn, who was laid off previously in a budget cut and now works as a security guard at the public library.
The plan also calls for some $1 billion in personal and property tax hikes to help close a deficit that has ballooned to some $3.5 billion for the new fiscal year that begins July 1 because of the continuing recession.
The City Council strongly opposes the size of the tax hike. But the city by law must begin the fiscal year with a balanced budget or face a takeover by the state Financial Control Board, a prospect both the council and Dinkins insist they will do everything to avoid.
The mayor, who appealed directly to the public for help in a prime-time address earlier this week, insisted the only way to avoid the fiscal bloodshed was if the city got help soon from its unions and from the state.
Maine workers take a day off
Maine's cash-strapped state government closed up Friday and more than 10,000 workers stayed home for the first of two one-day shutdowns to save money. Hundreds of prison guards, state police and other essential workers were required to work although years may pass before they are paid for the day. The shutdowns are designed to help bridge a $77 million gap in Maine's budget for the fiscal year, which ends June 30. The next shutdown is May 24. Each closing is expected save about $1 million. The state's 13,500 state employees will forgo pay for the two days until they leave state service. The 1,000 to 2,000 essential employees required to work also will get compensatory time off.