In a mock funeral for children's services recently cut by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, supporters of some 40 providers called Thursday for restoration of the programs.
"We need that money restored or else we will be going to real funerals for real youngsters killed by this action," said Sergio Argueta, the founder of the STRONG anti-gang program in Hempstead, Roosevelt and Uniondale.
Nassau faces a multimillion-dollar budget deficit, and Mangano has cut $7.3 million from this year's budget by trimming dozens of youth social service programs. Mangano blames legislative Democrats because they have refused to provide the votes for the county to borrow to pay property tax refunds until Republicans agree to a "fair" legislative redistricting plan.
"Nassau's nine Democrat legislators are to blame for the loss of these programs," Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said Thursday. "The Democrats should be ashamed of themselves."
"It was the county executive's choice to cancel these vital programs," said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).
Two hearses and a cortege of more than a dozen cars pulled up outside the State Supreme Court in Mineola Thursday morning. A coffin, covered with the flag of Nassau County, was moved from each and carried up the stairs to the entrance.
They were followed by more than 100 supporters, some with signs from agencies including STRONG, Family & Children Services, the Glen Cove Youth Bureau and Gateway Youth Outreach.
"They think that we do not matter, that we do not care and that we don't vote," said STRONG executive director Rahsmia Zatar. "They're wrong on all counts."
The Rev. William Watson Jr., pastor of both St. John's Baptist Church in Westbury and the Free Will Baptist Church in Freeport, said: "The legislature and Mr. Mangano are playing games with our children, especially those in the minority community. That has to change."