Last night, Governor Paterson came alive on the stage of a Lehman College auditorium during a "Community Conversation," promising a better future for the Bronx while rattling off statistics of how he has improved the borough and the state since he has been in office.
“No one would know the despair of unemployment like the people in the Bronx would,” said Paterson, who said that the Bronx unemployment statistics indicate a state of emergency. However, at the same time, the governor openly admitted that New York is going to have a negative cash balance for the first time in the state’s history. “What we will have to do is tighten our belts,” said Paterson.
Before Paterson took the stage with his double-sided message, Councilman Oliver Koppell (who represents the district that includes Lehman College), Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr., Assemblyman Carl E. Heastie and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz each took a moment to express their support for the governor. Not surprisingly, Diaz came to the stage booming, "Is the Bronx in the house tonight?!" and got the crowd of Bronx residents cheering on their feet.
After Diaz left the stage, the crowd quickly turned more serious. When Paterson arrived, the crowd was clearly happy to see and communicate with such a powerful elected official, but they also wanted answers about how the Bronx is going to survive and earn money in this recession.
The audience was most concerned with the proposed MTA cutbacks. In the most recent proposed cutbacks, the MTA would no longer offer MetroCards to public school students. This has caused a universal outrage throughout the Bronx, where many parents are unable to afford a daily MetroCard for their kids. Single parents, teachers and students all asked the governor about how he plans on dealing with this financial and educational crisis.
“No one should not go to school because they cannot afford to get there,” said Paterson among a wave of applause. “Between now and September I will find a way to make sure the young people will not pay for these MetroCards.”
Bronx residents also hounded Paterson for more money for school programs, small businesses and better insurance policies.
While the governor could not make any definite promises or plans for the future since the state is currently posting a deficit, he did remind the crowd that during his years in office he has fought for and improved minority business ratings and school programs. Still, he will have to cut back a number of programs to get the state out of debt."I am not going to let New York State run out of money on my watch," said Paterson.