Our City's budget, and our values

Our City's budget, and our values

Last week was a busy one at City Hall. We passed two important police reform bills (more on those here), overrode the mayor’s veto of legislation that will guarantee paid sick days for a million more New York workers, and we passed the City’s FY2014 budget, for the fiscal year that begins today (for good measure, we also passed a bill to “save brunch,” which had apparently become threatened due to an outdated law).

In budget negotiations, we were able restore the essential public services proposed for cuts by Mayor Bloomberg. Libraries will keep their full hours. Low-income families will keep their childcare. Our neighborhood firehouses, parks, and pools will remain open. You can access all the details of the City’s FY2014 budget here, and on those areas where the Council focused on restorations and additions here.

We even had to pick up the pieces where Congress had failed. The sequester leveled huge cuts to public housing in New York City, and if we didn’t step in, NYCHA would have had to lay off much-needed staff and close community centers.

One thing I was especially glad to vote for was the first $250 million toward Mayor Bloomberg’s impressive climate resiliency plan, a first installment in long-term infrastructure investments to prepare our city for the very real effects of climate change. After Hurricane Sandy, I wrote about our obligations to turn the closeness and purpose we showed into real, concrete, long-term action. I hope this plan will help guide the way.

The budget also includes six very special projects – ones you voted for. For the second year in a row we have allocated $1 million of capital funds in this district through Participatory Budgeting. Residents give ideas and vote to decide which projects get funding. This year, over 2,800 neighbors voted!

The winning projects this year included technology for PS 230 and PS 179, bathroom renovations at PS 58, environmental improvements to reduce runoff and add trees on 3rd Street near the Gowanus Canal, safety improvements at the corner of Church and McDonald Avenues, and new computers for the Windsor Terrace and Carroll Gardens libraries.

You can keep track of these projects, and look in on the ones we funded last year, on the website at BradLander.com/PBupdate. Some will be completed in about a year; others will take longer. We also track all of the projects that did not get enough votes for funding, but that we have been able to make progress on in other ways.

Participatory Budgeting will enter its third year this fall, and new Council Members will be joining us, bringing the total citywide to ten! I hope to see you at one of the neighborhood assemblies this fall, to give your idea for what is needed in the neighborhood.

Also, for the second year in a row, we were able to avoid cuts to the NYC Department of Education. This is something I pushed hard for last year, publishing a report covered in the New York Times that showed rapidly-growing numbers of very large elementary school classes. But we have a long way to go before we will make up for all of the state and federal funding cuts that have been made in recent years – let alone making the big funding commitment that our schools deserve.

The end of the school year is a great opportunity to celebrate what extraordinary places our public schools are. To me, there is no better celebration of democracy than a fifth grade graduation: rooted in the idea that every single student has the potential to achieve their goals and has the right to get a real opportunity to try; that equality and diversity matter; and that we get there by organizing ourselves together, in shared, common, public schools.

On my blog, I’ve written about the conversations I had with our fifth and eighth graders at graduations across the district over the last couple weeks, and about some of the great arts and cultural programs I was able to attend, which help to develop and reveal the deep power of our students’ imaginations.

If you have any specific budget questions, please contact my office at lander [at] council [dot] nyc [dot] gov. And have a great summer!