Mayor Eric Adams and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams,

We write to you to express deep concerns, anger, and disappointment with the FY23 budget process. At this moment that our communities are enraged and rightfully frustrated, we call for and expect that this process be more collaborative and just in future years.

There are three main areas of concern. First is the choice to cut hundreds of millions of dollars to school funding, cuts which are devastating to already struggling communities of students, parents, and educators in the aftermath of the pandemic. Second is the lack of transparency during the process itself. And last is the reported retaliation against council members who voted their conscience against the budget.

We, the undersigned, believe that the school funding cuts present serious risks to students, teachers, and families, and scheduling a vote on the budget before full information was available about these cuts was a grave and dangerous error. There was a great deal of misinformation spread by the mayoral administration claiming that “this is not a cut” when in fact many schools are facing severe cuts with only a vague and undefined possibility of “register relief” to ameliorate some of these cuts (which still fail to cover the extent). With funding the largest NYPD budget in history, including hiring hundreds of new school cops, and the reduction in the health and hospitals top line from FY22, these education cuts are even more egregious and threatening to the health and safety of our communities. Schools cannot possibly plan around this level of uncertainty, council members should never have had to vote without understanding the full picture, and we demand that full funding be restored to every school immediately.

We, the undersigned, believe that transparency during the budget process is critical to democracy. New Yorkers deserve to know how over $100 billion of their money will be spent far before any “budget deal” is made, and more than a few hours before their elected representatives vote on the budget. Information about the state of negotiations should be regularly communicated to council members and to the general public, not through rumors in the press but through formal briefings. We hope that FY24 negotiations are not conducted under the same veil of secrecy that is not just unethical and immoral, but is tangibly and materially affecting our communities’ rights to resources.

Finally, we, the undersigned, believe that all council members should be free to vote their conscience without fear of retaliation from the speaker or the mayor. This is in keeping with Council Rules 2.55(b) and 6.60(a), among others. Requests from seven council members were left out of the “Speaker’s Initiative to Address Citywide Needs.” Six of those members voted their conscience against the FY23 budget: CM Alexa Avilés, CM Charles Barron, CM Chi Ossé, CM Kristin Richardson Jordan, CM Sandy Nurse, and CM Tiffany Cabán. As our communities deal with multiple simultaneous crises, it is critical that council members be able to vote with their values and their community’s best interests at heart, and that council funds always be distributed in an equitable and just manner. We hope that the speaker will state publicly that these reported exclusions were either made in error or incorrectly reported, and fully support the ability of members to vote their conscience without fear of retaliation including discretionary budget cuts, future committee assignments, or opportunities to serve on the Budget Negotiating Team.
We appreciate your time and consideration, and look forward to working with you and your offices on behalf of working families across our great city.

Signed,

Senator Jabari Brisport
Senator Julia Salazar
Senator Robert Jackson
Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas
Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes
Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest
Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani
Alliance for Quality Education
BNS/BCS Parent Action Committee
CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities
Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC)
Churches United for Fair Housing
Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF)
Community Voices Heard
D15 Parents for Middle School Equity
Dignity in Schools Campaign NY
District 28 Action for Equity
DRUM – Desis Rising Up & Moving
Education Council Consortium
Girls for Gender Equity
Housing Justice for All
Housing Works
ICE PAC (Parent Action/Educational Advocacy Committee @ Institute for Collaborative Education)
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ)
Justice Committee
Mekong NYC
Met Council on Housing
MinKwon Center for Community Action
Moms United for Black Lives NYC
Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE)
Mural Justice Project
New York City Support Group for Families with Disabilities
New York Communities for Change
New York Working Families Party
New Yorkers for Racially Just Public Schools
Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition
NYC Coalition for Educational Justice
NYC Democratic Socialists of America (NYC-DSA)
NYC Opt Out
Parents Supporting Parents NY
Parents to Improve School Transportation (PIST)
Policing and Social Justice Project
Restorative Justice Initiative
S.T.O.P. – The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project
The Anti-Racist Coalition at John Jay Campus (ARC-JJC)
Theatre of the Oppressed NYC
The People’s Plan
Urban Youth Collaborative

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