Brought to the razor’s edge by budget cuts over the past year, the Queens Botanical Garden managed to duck what its executive director said would have been a crippling blow last week.
The City Council approved its 2010 budget last Thursday, and in doing so restored the majority of $18 million in proposed cuts for the city Cultural Institution Group.
The Council voted to restore about $16.1 million of the cuts, which had Botanical Garden Executive Director Susan Lacerte and the rest of the 34-member CIG all smiles.
“It’s a relief,” Lacerte said. “It’s an acknowledgement that the cultural institutions in this city are important. That’s really what it says.”
The economic crisis has hit the Queens Botanical Garden particularly hard in the last year.
Lacerte said the garden has laid off five employees and reduced the hours of another employee. In addition, the entire administrative staff just finished a 10-week furlough period in which employees were required to take one unpaid day off a week — amounting to a 20 percent pay cut.
Lacerte said if the cuts, originally proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, had been approved, they would have been devastating.
“Truly with cuts of the size that were proposed, it would have been crippling,” she said. “I really wasn’t sure what we were going to do next.”
Though the exact amount of funding each institution in the CIG will receive has yet to be finalized, the restoration of the funding will directly affect eight Queens groups — the garden Flushing Town Hall, the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, the Museum of the Moving Image, the New York Hall of Science, the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, the Queens Museum of Art and Queens Theatre in the Park.
Lacerte said the garden is currently in the process of reviewing its budget for the coming year.
Lacerte said she understands the garden and other institutions are not necessarily out of the woods and her staff has been working hard on innovative programs that can both educate the community while bringing in money.
Twilight weddings, winter weddings, discounted rates for schools in the winter months and children’s birthday parties are all things the garden is looking at for the upcoming year.
“We know that we can’t rely as much on city and state funding,” she said. “It’s a changing paradigm, I think, towards more of a user-helped support.”
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@
©2009 Community News Group
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