A group of New York residents with SCI, researchers and advocates want funding that was designated for spinal cord research to be restored after being diverted into the state’s general fund in 2010 by Gov. David Patterson.

In 1998, former state trooper Paul Richter teamed up with Christopher Reeve and others to create the Spinal Cord Injury Research Fund. A $5 surcharge on moving violations provided the funding. Gov. George Pataki signed the bill into law.

David Carmel, a C6 quad and former board member of the spinal fund, wants Gov. Andrew Cuomo to restore the funding, which totaled $71 million between 1998 and 2010. “We think what they’ve done is both immoral and illegal, and we think that they should listen to the will of the people and the legislators to put that funding back,” Carmel says.

Morris Peters, Division of Budget spokesman, says the Patterson administration moved the funds to alleviate a budget crisis. “There were a lot of very difficult actions to address that gap,” Peters says. Currently there is no plan to restore the funding.

“We don’t want to have to resort to legal means to get this through,” says Carmel. He encourages people to call and write Gov. Cuomo and New York Commissioner of Health Dr. Nirav Shah and ask to have the funding restored. “They pulled it just at the moment when we’re starting to see some real breakthroughs,” says Carmel. He says research provided by the fund has restored some function in people and is positively affecting lives.

Carmel hopes Gov. Cuomo won’t continue to hide behind the decisions of previous administrations. “It’s not going to serve him well because the people behind getting this reinstated aren’t going to give up,” Carmel says.