|Hundreds Protest DD Cuts during Cuomo Speech at Willowbrook Site|
|Wednesday, 27 February 2013 01:16|
An estimated 250 protestors gathered at the College of Staten Island (CSI) on Monday to greet Governor Andrew Cuomo and call for a reversal of his recently-announced plan to impose a 6% across-the-board budget cut on nonprofit providers of developmental disabilities services. The demonstration came as the Governor was delivering a budget presentation at the college. Protestors viewed the Governor’s choice of his venue as particularly ironic given that the College is built on the former grounds of the infamous Willowbrook State School.
“These $240 million in cuts are going to impact services in a very negative way,” said Diane Buglioli, Deputy Executive Director of A Very Special Place, Inc. “For agencies like ours, 70 percent of our budget is staff. There is no place else for us to cut but in direct services to individuals. People who need services will not be able to access them.” Buglioli emphasizes that the proposed new 6% cut comes on top of effective budget cuts over the past three years resulting from the State’s refusal to provide Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) to cover inflationary increases in costs. .
Donna Long participated in Monday’s protest in hopes of protecting services that she and her 34-year old daughter Janeen, who has autism, rely upon. “These programs are her life,” says Long. “They are the reason for her to get up every day, get dressed and go out. They give her the opportunity to be part of the community. They teach her daily living skills and enhance the quality of her life.” And, these services – which include Day Habilitation, Community Habilitation, Recreation and Respite – are critical to the whole family. “If Janeen was at home without these services, there is no way I would be able to go out and work,” says Long who also works in the field of developmental disabilities services.
The setting for the Governor’s speech was particularly painful for many of the protesters. “The Willowbrook property is very important to us,” says Buglioli. “This is where the system began to change. For us to hear this announcement at this site was very troubling. I think as a result we are coming together and reuniting our passions. This is the beginning of a process where we will take a stand and say this is enough. We cannot get to a point where we are no longer able to protect people who need our services.”