When many of you voted in April’s participatory budgeting — to make a downpayment on an elevator at the 7th Ave F/G station, for diaper-changing stations in our parks, and for sewing circles for survivors of domestic violence — you voted to improve public institutions we all rely on, to support those most at-risk, and to invest in the long-term future of our city.
In the budget that the City Council voted to adopt today, we tried to follow those values as well.
We are investing another $33 million in our public libraries — the largest support for libraries ever. Earlier this year, when Rosa and I attended the “all night of philosophy” at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch, Eric Klinenberg asked: Why aren’t our libraries (all of them) open every evening when people need them. This doesn’t get there, but it moves a little closer.
Pre-K educators at community organizations will get pay increases to close the gap with their counterparts in our public schools. Public defenders will also get raises to help ensure that the people defending low income New Yorkers against criminalization are paid similarly to the prosecutors who charge them with crimes.
There will be 285 more social workers and guidance counselors in high-needs schools, helping to support students and interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. Locally, this is good news to ensure that P.S.124 will have the resources they need to help serve low-income and homeless students.
And, at a time when assaults on reproductive rights are growing around the country, I’m especially proud to say that New York City became the first city to specifically allocate funding for abortion access for those who can’t afford it (something I fought especially hard for in this year’s budget).
We will invest in a major outreach effort to ensure that every single New Yorker is counted in the 2020 census so that our communities are not shut out of federal resources and representation in the years to come.
Locally, in addition to funding the projects you selected through participatory budgeting earlier this year, we also secured funding to help staff a mobile shower bus for homeless Brooklynites (you voted previously for capital funding, but now there will be staff to operate it as well).
We allocated funds to reopen the Gowanus Community Center to provide community & youth programming for NYCHA residents. And we put Weeksville Heritage Center, a landmark that celebrates the history of one of America’s first communities for free blacks but was recently at risk of closing, on a path to financial security as a part of the “Cultural Institutions Group.”
This budget also takes some good steps to attend to our city’s long-term financial future. We are adding $1.25 billion to the general reserve, along with another $250 million in the Capital Stabilization Reserve, bringing reserves to their highest level yet.
I still wish we were investing some of our surplus as “pay as you go” capital — a way of investing in our infrastructure without borrowing, so we can move faster, don’t have to pay interest costs, and don’t incur recurring obligations. I’ll keep pushing for it as part of my work for reform of NYC’s capital projects management.
Big thanks to the Speaker Johnson and Finance Committee Chair Danny Dromm, to the Council’s Finance Staff led by Latonia McKinney, to Mayor de Blasio and OMB Budget Director Melanie Hartzog, and to the staff who work around the clock this time of year to make sure we get everything done by the deadline.
At a time of so many cruel policies and cuts from the federal level to push back against, it’s great to be part of a city government that works hard to make our city more equitable & inclusive, responsible and accessible.
P.S. We’ll start the participatory budgeting process again in the fall. Want to get more involved next year? Sign up to volunteer here.