Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday presented the priorities in his $84.86 billion executive budget for fiscal year 2018, his first since President Donald Trump revealed his draft "skinny budget," which includes significant potential cuts to affordable housing, healthcare and other social services for New York City, as well as anti-terrorism funding.

The mayor admitted "a lot of uncertainty" when he revealed his preliminary budget in January, but said that he would not budget to anticipate every possible cut, raising concerns among budget watchdogs.

"I think that compared to a couple months ago, when we presented the preliminary budget, we have been shown that some of the most pernicious proposals coming out of the White House will not be easily achieved," de Blasio said on Wednesday. Trump's failure to quickly repeal the Affordable Care Act exemplifies this, he said, as well as pushback in the courts against his executive orders: the travel ban and, more recently, attempts to cut funding to so-called sanctuary cities.

"Nothing is certain to say the least," de Blasio added. "But I will say that I'm a little more hopeful today than I was a few months ago."

The mayor's election year budget includes an increased investment in one of his signature policies, universal per-kindergarten. A new plan, dubbed "Universal 3-K," would provide free access to pre-k for all three-year-olds, starting with a $16 million investment in the 2018 budget for students in the South Bronx and Brownsville, two of the city's poorest districts. The city has pledged to invest $177 million by 2021 to cover eight total districts, though full implementation will require $700 million in state and federal funding.

The program calls for 4,500 new teachers, according to the Mayor's Office.

Meanwhile, de Blasio announced Wednesday that the city will instate a "partial hiring freeze" for "certain managerial and administrative staff" in order to increase savings. He declined to comment on how many positions will be impacted, saying the specifics will be hammered out over the next six weeks of final negotiations.

The city is also investing $16.4 million in legal services for immigrants in detention, as well as those facing deportation proceedings—a move the Legal Aid Society praised Wednesday as setting a "bold example." De Blasio estimates that the funding will cover at least 15,000 immigrants. He clarified Wednesday that the aid will not fund representation for immigrants convicted of any of 170 "violent" crimes set out in NYC's sanctuary guidelines, including gun possession and felonious assault.

The Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan research group that analyzes city and state spending, criticized the mayor for presenting a budget with $700 million in new agency needs over last year, especially considering the uncertainty in Washington. The $78 billion five-year capital plan is a $5 billion increase over last year. The city "should have exhibited more spending restraint," the group said.

"We could sit around dead in the water just waiting for the unknown, or we could keep moving and keep building our city," de Blasio said.

"We are not going to be paralyzed by uncertainty," he added.

Doug Turetsky of the city's Independent Budget Office, said that the mayor has to walk a fine line. "If the mayor was sitting there and saying, 'Look, Washington, do whatever you want to us,' wouldn't that be an invitation to do it?"

De Blasio also reiterated Wednesday that he is staring down Trump with adequate reserves, totaling about $5.25 billion. According to the city, about $1 billion of the total is savings accumulated over the past four years. About $4 billion comes from a retiree health benefits trust fund, which the Citizens Budget Commission argues should not be for general use.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito stated that the Council "remains concerned that the Mayor's proposal does not increase the City's reserves."

Major capital investments in the budget include $120 million to repair facades across 150 NYCHA buildings. NYCHA is bracing for particularly deep federal cuts.

The budget also includes $1.1 billion in capital funds to study possible alternatives to a jail on Rikers Island, a reassignment of funds already allocated to the Department of Correction. While the money could also go towards construction, the budget does not mark funding for a specific Rikers replacement facility. Prison reform advocate Glenn Martin, a leader of the Close Rikers campaign, stated that the allotment is vague, and proof of the "continued absence of a concrete plan for closing Rikers."

Advocates have said that City Hall's ten-year timeline for closing the jail should be expedited.

"One thing to remember is that a substantial part of the new announcements are things that are going to be funded with capital dollars," Turetsky said. "Whether we are talking about the air conditioners [for every public school classroom or the Greenway. A lot of this is going to be done by borrowing, so a lot of these new capital expenditures are going to show up in small doses on a year-to-year basis."

Absent from the budget is funding for a $50 million half-price MetroCard pilot program, which has the support of the majority of the City Council. Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez has pledged to push for this during final negotiations in the coming weeks.

The council member "remains committed to getting funding for Fair Fares in the upcoming budget, as New Yorkers most in need cannot wait for relief," a spokesperson said.

Other budget highlights include:

  • $775,000 for lower-level boarding at the St. George Ferry Terminal on Staten Island during morning rush hour.
  • $300 million to renovate thirty existing homeless shelters as part of the mayor's latest plan to reduce the homeless population.

The executive budget is available online in its entirety here. The capital plan is here.