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Boro calls for more money despite influx in budget $$

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg unexpectedly restored $90.2 million in services and programs budget cuts last week, but those in line for the funds are still asking for more.

Bloomberg agreed to give back money to initiatives and groups that had received steep cuts, such as the Queens Borough Public Library, the Summer Youth Employment program and garbage pickups, he announced last week.

The $90 million in restorations will trigger another $74.4 million in matching state and federal funds for a total of $164.6 million spread across 11 categories citywide.

“Budgets are not about numbers and dollars, they are about people and they are about our city,” Bloomberg said when he announced the restorations June 4. “We will never forget that, not as long as I am mayor.”

The restorations bring $2 million back to the Queens Borough Public Library as part of the $7.6 million reinstated to libraries around the city. The funds were intended to ensure five-day service at all the branches, but library spokesman Joe Catrambone said the library would need an additional $2.2 million to keep those hours.

“We’re grateful that the mayor did it, but the jury’s still out,” Catrambone said. “We’re hoping the Council can find another $2.2 million for us.”

The Council is still working to hammer out a compromise, and Bloomberg said Sunday that he is open to “a limited amount” of additional restorations. Among the Council’s priorities are to save the Queens and Brooklyn zoos and the six firehouses that closed last month.

Bloomberg’s restorations also include $10 million for the Summer Youth Employment program, qualifying the city for $32 million in state and federal funds. The money will bring about 6,000 jobs to the borough, said Adjoa Gzifa, one of the borough’s program coordinators.

“It’s not enough for a full program, but it is enough to have a substantial program,” Gzifa said. “We’re still hoping to have a successful program.”

Twice-weekly garbage pickups will also be maintained citywide thanks to $11 million in canceled cuts to the Department of Sanitation, Bloomberg said.

Other restorations include $8 million to the Department of Education for instructional materials, $12.5 million for park maintenance that will trigger $25 million in matching funds, $5.7 million to maintain services at senior centers, and $9.7 million for cultural institutions.

“We will continue to deliver many of the services New Yorkers care deeply about and depend on so we can preserve the quality of life in this great city,” Bloomberg said.

The restorations were a surprise move from Bloomberg, who may have played political chess to boost his falling approval ratings, which had dropped as low as 32 percent in recent weeks.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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