President Donald J. Trump’s proposed budget is a catastrophe for every American who enjoys clean air, housing, a functional transportation system, and not living under six feet of water. It’s especially disastrous for New York City, which depends on the federal government for much of its social services funding, its health network, its resiliency initiatives, and the money to clean up its polluted waterways and former industrial sites.
According to a City Hall analysis obtained by the Voice, the proposed cuts are deeper and further reaching than Trump-allied politicians had expected. Even a compromise on many of these proposals with congress would still yield a tremendous change in how the city functions and prepares itself for even more residents, a changing climate, and a fundamental restructuring for how it distributes funds.
The EPA would take a massive hit according to the analysis, with a 31 percent decrease in funding, bringing its budget down to $5.7 billion for the year (for reference, the current budget for defense is $582.7 billion). These cuts would eliminate funding for Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan, and end international climate change programs that Obama committed to. It would also reduce the funding for Superfund cleanup by 43 percent, meaning large-scale cleaning efforts, like the Gowanus Canal and the Newtown Creek, could see their funding dry up. Without those cleanups, developers can’t build condos in those polluted areas (along with the pittance of affordable housing that comes along with them).
While loosened regulations would accelerate climate change, Trump wants to slash the city’s own resiliency efforts as well. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would see a cut of $5 billion (or 17 percent of its budget), while its emergency funding budget is eliminated entirely. The Corps has been responsible for maintaining much of the city’s receding shorelines, helping to create buffers and beaches that protect even worse flooding. On top of that, FEMA’s mitigation budget, which helps prevent humanitarian and natural disasters before they happen, has been drained by $667 million, while flood mapping, which helps cities prepare for rising sea levels, is cut by $190 million under Trump’s proposal. (The billions in dollars of federal money to help fortify the city after Hurricane Sandy is safe, thanks to a federal law.)
The city’s housing budget, already feeling the pain from cuts to NYCHA, would lose out on a portion of $1.4 billion that’s being eliminated as part of the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief program, which HUD handed out to low-income communities dealing with disasters. In addition, the city’s Department of Transportation would see a 13 percent cut, imperiling several state projects that impact the economic viability of the city, like the second phase of the Second Avenue Subway as well as the much-needed cross-Hudson tunnel.
— Ben Fractenberg (@fractenberg) March 16, 2017
For these cuts to become a reality, it first has to go through both the House and the Senate, where it will run into resistance from members of both parties. Many of the programs that Trump has slated to cut help support many members of his base, so expect cuts to Agriculture to find little sympathy from his own party. When it comes before the Senate, the Democrats will wield some more powerful tools to dispatch of some of the more odious cuts, but many of them will go through, even if they’re watered down just a bit (which is why the cuts are so drastic to begin with).
The de Blasio administration has said that it won’t start planning for cuts until they actually become law, and instead focus on fighting against them from coming to pass in the first place. But based on this analysis it appears that the mayor is taking these proposals seriously, and the city’s priorities will have to shift considerably. Weathering the literal and figurative storms to come will be a monumental challenge for the mayor who has staked his reputation on being a leader in the progressive resistance against Trump, during what will likely be his second term.