3:54 pm May. 9, 2012
As a parade of city politicians cycled through their rally at City Hall Park, the “13% and Growing Coalition” found themselves this afternoon, both literally and figuratively, in the center of New York’s political geography.
“We make up nearly 14 percent of New York City’s population, but we get less than one percent of foundation dollars, we get less than one percent of city social service contract dollars,” said Wayne H. Ho, Executive Director of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, to a thickening crowd of roughly 100 people, holding signs and wearing yellow construction-paper flowers.
They stood between the Municipal Building and City Hall as competing press conferences and rallies took place around them.
At various points over the course of the event, six councilmembers and the city comptroller walked up to participate.
Manhattan councilwoman Jessica Lappin greeted them then left. Councilmembers Rosie Mendez and Margaret Chin walked up and each spoke, referring to each other as “sisters.” As they finished, Brooklyn councilman Jumaane Williams walked and took the podium and joined in a chant for more funding.
“I actually didn’t know about this presser,” Williams told the crowd. “I happened to be walking by. I always like a good crowd of people, so I decided to stop over and see what’s going on and it’s something I definitely support."
Leroy Comrie, who spoke next, teased Williams.
“Unlike councilmember Williams, I knew today’s press conference was today,” he said, to laughs. “And I planned to be here. But as you should know, the comptroller had a press conference at 11, seniors are having their annual advocacy day, too, their press conference was at 11, but I’m at all three.”
A couple more advocates spoke. Queens councilman Daniel Dromm, chairman of the immigration committee, walked to stage right of the podium as Liu, fresh off introducing a job-creation strategy at his offices across the street, walked from the opposite side. Liu spoke first, telling the crowd it was important to keep working, most importantly, to defend day care and afterschool programs. He mentioned CityTime as an example of wasteful spending.
“So, we’ll continue to look for wasteful spending,” he said. “You continue to advocate on behalf of what our community needs."
After he spoke, Liu walked into the crowd and as Dromm spoke, it briefly turned into an impromptu Liu rally as the comptroller pumped his fists, posed for pictures and one elderly woman playfully touched his cheek. Dromm credited Liu with keeping the budget from being worse.
“You know, John Liu is very humble and he didn’t mention the fact that it’s because of his involvement in uncovering the CityTime scandal that the city now has $500 million that’s added into the budget because he uncovered that scandal,” he said.
As he left, Dromm said councilmembers’ education would help Asian groups get more public money.
“A lot of councilmembers are unaware of the Asians that live in their district," he said. "You know, I have a large Asian population but I needed to look back and reflect on what my budget was, what my priorities were to more accurately reflect services to the Asian community.”
Dromm said on members should have their staff look at budgets and reevaluate how much is going to Asian organizations.
Around noon, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio walked toward City Hall with an aide on his way to a press conference on stop-and-frisk. And an aide to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who was scheduled to speak at noon, said the Manhattan borough president had gotten stuck in traffic.
It was the fourth annual "advocacy day" for the group, whose name is an allusion to the increasing percentage of Asian Americans in New York City. (Its name was recently changed from "12%" to reflect the latest Census). During the day, the groups lobby with dozens of council members to get more funding. They say Asian groups right now only get one to two percent of discretionary dunging. Ho said since last year, they’d managed to increase Council discretionary funding for Asian-American groups from $700,000 to nearly $1 million.
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