Nearly 300 supporters and clients of nonprofit social service agencies rallied on the steps of Nassau County’s capital building Friday to protest canceled contracts and more than $7 million in funding cuts that may force many groups to close.
More than 50 groups that provide programs and services for at-risk youth, the elderly, veterans, disabled people and substance abusers seeking treatment were among the casualties of partisan gridlock between Democrats and Republicans in the GOP-controlled county legislature. An estimated 35,000 residents could be affected is a deal is not struck soon.
“This county has declared a war on youth,” Sergio Argueta, executive director of Hempstead-based anti-gang organization S.T.R.O.N.G., said on the steps of the Theodore Roosevelt Legislative and Executive Building in Mineola.
“If these gangsters don’t have an answer for us by the end of the day, they’re going to feel our wrath,” he told the crowd that cheered his message and booed the lawmakers in the building behind him.
Protesters included members of the Coalition of Nassau County Youth Serving Agencies, Inc., the Senior Services Provider Coalition, the Coalition of Behavioral Health Providers, the Nassau Alliance for Addictive Services and the Long Island Hispanic Coalition.
Funding to the nonprofits was cut off Thursday following a lengthy funding stalemate in the county legislature. Democrats refuse to provide the three votes needed for a supermajority to approve $41 million in borrowing to pay overdue property tax settlements unless Republicans agree to a more fair legislative redistricting process.
“It’s unfortunate but the county executive needs to make the cuts,” said Ed Ward, a spokesman for Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa).
“We continue to have healthy conversations with Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams [D-Hempstead] to address youth board funding,” Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said in a statement emailed through his spokeswoman.
A spokesman for Abrahams was not immediately available for comment.
“It took us 30 years to build these programs and we will not allow the absence of leadership to close them,” said Maria Cuadra, chair of Long Island Hispanic Coalition.
Supporters of the nonprofits planned to pack the chamber of the Nassau County legislature at their 1 p.m. meeting Monday.
“Closing our doors will have devastating and detrimental impacts on the lives and futures of thousands from Nassau County’s most vulnerable populations,” said Peter Levy, president of the Coalition of Nassau County Youth Services Agencies. “By cutting these programs, our elected officials will cost the county and taxpayers much more.”