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Protesters Urge Mayor to Spare Programs for Children

Monday, March 05, 2012 - 06:55 PM

Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate and a likely mayoral candidate in the 2013 election, joined half a dozen City Council members, parents and other advocates on the steps of City Hall on Monday afternoon to criticize proposed cuts to the city’s child care and after-school programs.

The cutbacks, which are reflected in Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s budget plan for the next fiscal year, could affect 47,000 children, protesters said on Monday. They would hurt working parents like Nancy Maxwell.

Ms. Maxwell, 38, who works as a toll collector on Interstate 95 and lives in the Bronx, sends her two children to Public School 142 Amalia Castro on the Lower East Side. She depends on its after-school program to look after her children, she said at the news conference on Monday.

“I can’t be there when that bell rings at 2:45,” Ms. Maxwell said in an interview afterward. “Without these after-school programs, I’m going to have to quit my job.”

The city’s child care and after-school programs served 137,225 children in 2009, according to the Campaign for Children, the group behind Monday’s event. But several years of budget cuts have reduced that number to 94,215, and the latest proposal could reduce it to 53,315.

Councilman Jumaane D. Williams of Brooklyn condemned the budget plan, saying he was watching his language because children were present.

The children — three dozen 4- and 5-year-olds in puffy coats from the Chung Pak Day Care Center a few blocks away in Chinatown — waved signs in front of Mr. Williams and the other speakers.

The Campaign for Children is a new partnership between the NYC Youth Alliance, an advocacy group for after-school programs, and the Emergency Coalition to Save Child Care, and its structure may help to save both programs, said Wayne Ho, the executive director of the Coalition for Asian-American Children and Families, which works with the Campaign for Children.

In the past, Mr. Ho said, “there were times when they would play child care off against after-school, and after-school off against child care.” This time, he said, will be different.

Samantha Levine, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bloomberg, declined to comment on Monday. But on Sunday she said that the administration was “working within our means to provide critical services.”

Many of the speakers on the City Hall steps on Monday seemed frustrated not only with the cuts, but also with Mr. Bloomberg himself. Though Mr. de Blasio’s remarks were measured, Mr. Williams suggested that it was time for new leadership at City Hall.

“I can taste January 2014,” he said. “It’s going to be a great time for this city.”

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