Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and fellow council members reached agreement June 19, 2014 on an on-time and balanced city budget for Fiscal Year 2015—marking one of the earliest budget handshakes in recent history.
Mayor de Blasio said that the approximately $75 billion budget signaled a new, more compassionate era for New York City, with investments in public housing, expanded education programs but with no tax increases or major cuts. However, the new budget is nearly $5 billion more than the previous budget.
Honest Progressive Budget
Defending the increase, city officials said a surge of revenues, thanks to an improved economy, helped make the expansion possible. According to the mayor, the agreement on an approximately $75 billion budget represents a fiscally responsible, progressive, and honest approach to the city’s finances, and moves forward key initiatives that will improve the health and vitality of the city by beginning to address income inequality all the while strengthening the city’s fiscal health.
“A budget agreement is where rhetoric meets the road—and we’ve delivered a fiscally responsible, progressive, and honest budget that will have an enormous impact on New Yorkers across the five boroughs, while protecting our city’s fiscal health,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “This is one of the earliest agreements in recent history—a result of the productive dynamic we’ve developed with the Council that ends the cynical budget dance and delivers results for New Yorkers. I’m grateful to Speaker Mark-Viverito, Chair Ferreras, and all of their colleagues in the Council for their partnership as we reached this historic agreement.”
“This budget process was substantive and thorough, and the result is an on-time and balanced budget that reflects the needs New Yorkers face in public safety, employment, education, health and infrastructure,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
“Through the Council’s advocacy, NYPD will very soon have more cops on the beat to help keep New Yorkers safe, and thousands of children will have access to free lunch through an important pilot program aimed at keeping our children healthy and focused on learning. This was a collaborative effort among all 51 City Council members who put in hundreds hours of hard work at meetings, hearings and briefings to create a budget that truly benefits the five boroughs. I want to thank Mayor de Blasio, Budget Director Dean Fuleihan and the entire administration for working with the Council on a budget we can all be proud of.”
Though the budget process itself was marked with little acrimony that has accompanied negotiations between the city's executive and legislative branches in the past, there were two major requests by the City Council which were not met in their entirety.
Priorities and Cuts
Instead of the 1,000 new police officers the council members had asked for, which would have cost nearly $100 million, the city will spend $6.2 million to hire 200 new civilian administrative aides, allowing uniformed officers now doing desk jobs to return to their beats. The other request was to provide all New York City students with lunch. Instead the city will provide free lunch only to all middle school students.
Among the budget initiatives:
• $19 million for a comprehensive, citywide plan to reduce violent crime in NYCHA developments by increasing community engagement efforts and expanding neighborhood watch and domestic violence outreach teams.
• $32.5 million to provide increased programming and enhanced services to inmates with mental illness and reduce violence at Rikers Island.
• $6.2 million to hire 200 police administrative aides, allowing uniformed police officers to return to the streets.
• $6.25 million to provide free school lunch to all middle schoolers starting in September.
• $17 million to keep 57 NYCHA community and senior centers open.
• $17.5 million for summer out-of-school time slots to provide 10,700 summer youth jobs.
• $10 million to create additional child care vouchers for low-income families to ensure parents have access to quality child care.
Creating Affordable Housing
Also allocated in the budget are funds to begin work on the “Housing New York” initiative, one of the centerpieces of the de Blasio administration. This initiative is one of the most expansive and ambitious affordable housing agendas of its kind. The $41 billion dollar plan, formally entitled “Housing New York: A Five Borough, Ten Year Plan,” calls for the following:
Creation of 200,000 affordable units over 10 years—120,000 preserved and 80,000 newly built.
Affordability programs that will serve households ranging from middle to extremely low-income (income $25,150 for a family of four).
Agencies will protect tenants in both subsidized affordable housing and rent-regulated housing from the tide of deregulation, and combatting neglect and disrepair that threatens affordable buildings.
Comprehensive neighborhood planning to identify corridors and communities for more housing.
Providing 194,000 construction jobs and nearly 7,100 permanent jobs to the economy.
Streamlining the development process to contain construction costs by overhauling outdated regulations and removing duplicate agency processes.
In outlining his housing plan Mayor de Blasio said, “We have a crisis of affordability on our hands. It touches everyone from the bottom of the economic ladder, all the way up to the middle class. And so we are marshaling every corner of government and the private sector in an unprecedented response. This plan thinks big—because it has to. The changes we are setting in motion today will reach a half-million New Yorkers, in every community, and from every walk of life. They will make our families and our city stronger.”
The Fiscal Year 2015 Executive Budget also provides universal, full-day pre-K for all 4-year-olds and an expansion of after-school and summer enrichment programs for middle school students; protects the most vulnerable citizens through investments to prevent and reduce homelessness; creates economic opportunity by heeding the mayor’s pledge to reduce arbitrary and punitive fines on small businesses and, makes New York City safer by adopting the mayor’s Vision Zero initiative to reduce pedestrian traffic deaths to zero.
Liam P. Cusack is associate editor of The Cooperator.