The People’s Plan organization joined city officials to rally for criminal justice reforms in the city budget. Credit: Contributed photo

New York City’s budget is far from getting a stamp of approval, but City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and council members have recently put out a lengthy response that focused on “filling major gaps” left in Mayor Eric Adam’s initial plans.

Mayor Adams released the $98.5 billion preliminary budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 on Feb. 16, which he hailed for reducing spending by $2.3 billion. The city’s revenues
and expenditures were estimated at about $101 billion in 2021, said the city’s Independent Budget Office.

After a long session of public budget hearings within the city council, it was decided to prioritize an “aggressive budget agenda.”

“The Council’s priorities reflect the holistic needs of New Yorkers who face increasingly tough challenges,” said Speaker Adams in a statement. “By filling in the notable gaps in the Preliminary Budget to provide our diverse communities with the resources and services necessary to confront this moment, the Council is showing the leadership how to implement solutions with urgency and thoughtful attention.”

Councilmember Justin Brannan, who chairs the Committee on Finance said, “We cannot cut our way to prosperity. Now more than ever, New Yorkers want to know the neighbors they elected are listening and delivering tangible results.”

Mental health, education, public safety and violence interruption, and homelessness solutions were key, and in some cases controversial, areas of the budget.
In terms of education, the city council wants to invest $14.1 million to hire social workers and guidance counselors in schools with a plan to reach all 79 school districts by 2026. They want $12 million in funding for shelter-based Department of Education community coordinators to help students who are unhoused get to school every day. And, they aim to break the school to prison pipeline by making a $59 million investment in restorative justice coordinators in schools.

“Our students cannot afford to lose a single cent in the upcoming FY 23 budget, and we call on the Administration to invest more money into our public schools rather than eliminate important educational programs. Proposed budget cuts to the Department of Education are unacceptable,” said Councilmember Rita Joseph, who chairs the Education Committee.

Public safety proved to be a hot button topic. The latest public safety city council budget hearing, on Friday, March 18, had progressive members exchanging heated words with NYPD representatives over Adams’ gun violence plans, reinstatement of modified anti-crime units, broken windows policing, and maintaining police oversight, reported PoliticsNY.

The city council’s response calls for $8.4 million to create the first trauma recovery centers to serve underserved victims of violence in communities that experience violence the most.

Because of historic issues with racist practices and discrimination in anti-crime units, they want to strengthen staffing for Civilian Complaint Review Board and commit to a zero-tolerance policy towards any adverse effects on communities of color in response to Mayor Adams’ Blueprint to End Gun Violence and Neighborhood Safety Teams. They also want to address the humanitarian crisis at Rikers Island without increasing the budget for the Department of Correction, and invest more in the city’s violence interrupter Crisis Management System.

In direct response to Mayor Adams’ sweep of homeless individuals encampments for the last week and his subway safety plan, the city council wants to convert hotels into affordable housing for homeless families and fully fund single room occupancy (SROs) emergency shelter units. They also want to increase rental assistance programs, the domestic violence shelter system, beds for homeless youth, and $114 million to fund safe haven beds for unsheltered homeless people.

Gabe Tobias with The People’s Plan organization said that the city council seems strongly aligned with advocates instead of sticking to the mayor’s austerity perspective of the budget. “It’s a lot of the same stuff that we’ve been saying,” said Tobias about the city council’s response. “Things need more funding, there were a lot of areas where there were cuts that were unnecessary.”

To summarize the rest of the city council’s recommendations, they want to expand youth employment, get more funding for sanitation and parks, increase career training and technical education, make a commitment to affordable housing, shrink pay parities for emergency medical workers, raise wages, and provide effective mental health services and treatments citywide.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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