A city budget we can be proud of

A city budget we can be proud of

The City Council and Mayor Bloomberg reached an agreement this week on New York City’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget – one that invests in our kids and preserves funding for vital public services.

The City’s $68.7 billion budget is a statement of our priorities, and I am proud that those priorities reflect a deep belief in education (public schools continue to be the largest item by far), in core public services and infrastructure that make sure we have safe and vibrant communities, and in a strong safety net for those who need it (young, old, and in-between).

I’m also excited that, for the first time, the City’s budget includes items that you selected, through participatory budgeting. The seven items – totaling $1 million – that more than 2,200 of you voted for in March are being officially adopted as part of the City’s capital budget this week … and we’re launching a new webpage to keep you posted on their progress.

Investing in our future When the budget was first presented in February, it would have reduced the number of classroom teachers and cut tens of thousands of child-care and after-school slots. Thanks to strong advocacy this spring (including a report from my office that showed how reducing teachers was leading to many more elementary school kids in classes of 30 or more students), the Mayor agreed in May to allow for new teachers to be hired to replace those who retire or leave.

In our final agreement, we were also able to restore funds for child care and after-school programs. As a result, more than 50,000 kids from low-income households will receive quality child care and 160,000 kids will be able to participate in after-school educational, cultural, and recreational programs. I’m proud that we are passing a budget that invests in giving kids in New York City a future full of opportunity.

Protecting vital public services The Council also fought to protect the core public services that keep our communities safe and make them vibrant places to live. We restored funding for 20 firehouses (including the one on 11th Street in Park Slope), for our public libraries and cultural institutions, and for our parks and pools (including a big restoration for the “job training partnership” program in the Parks Department, which both keeps our parks well-maintained, and provides meaningful employment opportunities for thousands who need them). We also restored money for important senior centers and programs, and funded a new Gun Violence Task Force to help reduce violence and get more guns off the streets.

Thanks is due especially to Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Finance Chair Domenic Recchia, who fought hard for our kids and our core public services; to the Council’s great Finance staff; and also to the Mayor’s team who worked closely with us. I also appreciate the voices of thousands of you who reached out to my office or gave testimony before the City Council. It is only because people deeply believe that these programs, services and investments matter that we were able to preserve so much of what makes our city great.

Participatory budgeting … now a reality in the City’s budget The budget we are adopting this week is especially exciting to me because it contains the seven items that community members chose this year through “participatory budgeting.”

For the first time this year, four City Council Members opened up the budget process to direct participation from our constituents … and you responded with creative ideas, important projects, and big turnout. Hundreds of you gave ideas and volunteered, and over 2,200 of you came out to vote for how to spend $1 million in New York City capital funds.

The seven projects that you chose – new bathrooms from PS 124, a community composting facility, more trees, school technology, improvements in Prospect Park, pedestrian safety on Ocean Parkway, and enhancements at the Kensington Library – will have tangible benefits for our community, but that’s not all. They also help to connect community members to each other, to the budget process as a reflection of our shared values, and to the shared project which is New York City.

To help keep you up-to-date on the progress of those projects, we are launching a new webpage that will include status updates on the participatory budgeting projects. It will not only include these seven projects, funded in this year’s budget, but others that could not be funded through participatory budgeting but are moving forward in other ways – projects like bus countdown clocks, the repaving of 50th Street, and improvements to the Fort Hamilton subway station.

We promise to keep you up-to-date on these projects (and some of these things will take a long time to complete), even as we start to gear up for next year’s participatory budgeting cycle, which will begin in the fall.

* * * * *

With the passing of the budget, and the end of the school year, summer is now officially under way. There’s still a lot to do to keep our city and our neighborhoods vital, so you won’t stop hearing from me. But I hope you can find some time to relax with your family, to enjoy the outdoors (within the city limits and beyond), and to reflect not only on our challenges, but on the good fortune we have to share this great city.