Outlining the city’s preliminary budget for the next year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he was confident that it would “deepen the investments” his administration has been making in the city’s social services and infrastructure, while also shoring up reserves to weather the storm brewing in Washington as the Trump administration begins to upend the nation’s social and fiscal order.
“We’re assuming there will be profound challenges from Washington,” the mayor told reporters this afternoon at City Hall. The budget proposal does not preemptively identify or provide extra support for line items like hospitals and housing that might be without federal in the coming months, but de Blasio explained that he would be revising the budget as the Trump administration begins to identify the drastic cuts it has hinted at. The mayor added that the budget was meant to project the “strength” and values that the city stands for, something he believes that Trump will respect.
The $84.67 billion preliminary budget sees spending increase under de Blasio by $2.6 billion from the final budget last year and sets aside $340 million for increased action on street safety initiatives (including Vision Zero), $303 million for the eventual completion of Water Tunnel No. 3, and $495 million to create 38,487 more school seats across the five boroughs.
De Blasio touted the city’s strong employment record under his administration, where the city has added more jobs itself than 46 other states in the union. Unlike last year, where the city’s budget was thrown into disarray after governor Cuomo made several seemingly random cuts to state support during his own budget announcement, the city’s funding from the state appears secure.
The mayor also played up a $10.4 million dollar investment in bulletproof windows for NYPD squad cars, as well as $162 million in flood mitigation for southeast Queens.
Missing from de Blasio’s plan entirely was his streetcar proposal, the BQX, which heretofore had been a priority of the de Blasio administration.
“A 10-year $1 billion commitment to public housing might sound substantial but it represents crumbs,” Bronx councilmember Ritchie Torres told the Daily News. “The city should be stepping up. If the city can invest $2 billion in an elaborate street car, surely it can invest more in public housing.”
In the new budget, the administration set aside just $1 billion for public housing improvements over the next ten years.
The mayor also shot down the idea of the city subsidizing MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, just as the fare is set to rise to $3. Calling the proposal a “noble goal,” de Blasio said that the city “can’t afford it,” and that the state, which operates the MTA, “should fund it, because we’re not in a position to fund it.”
In addition, de Blasio confirmed that a $529 million dollar new jail on Rikers Island remained in the executive budget, but that work had been paused on the jail. He told reporters he would wait on the report from a City Council commission on the feasibility of closing Rikers Island before revisiting that line in the budget.
With “historically” high saving and reserves, de Blasio appeared confident that the city would be able to weather whatever happens in Washington over the next few months. With federal support for the city down to 8%, a possible federal funding nosedive would still be glancing, but not as catastrophic as in the past.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 25, 2017