One day before Mayor Eric Adams is set to deliver his executive budget, leading members of the New York City Council continued to press for an additional $1.3 billion in spending to be added to next year’s spending plan.
Lawmakers have been pushing for investments in youth programs, hospitals and mental health programs, along with other social services. They argued the services are critical for the city’s most vulnerable residents amid the recovery from the pandemic, and should be included in the $99 billion spending plan that Adams first proposed in February.
“This is the most important budget for our city in a very, very long time,” said Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, during a Monday press conference on the steps of the City Hall where she was flanked by about a dozen Council members. “Because the stakes are high for our communities and for all New Yorkers.”
The mayor is scheduled to make a formal budget address at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn on Tuesday, which will double as an assessment of his first 100 days in office.
The executive budget is among the final steps in the city’s budget process. Prepared by the Office of Management and Budget, it is a response to the Council’s requests following a series of hearings that took place in March. The release of the executive budget kicks off another round of hearings, followed by more negotiations between the Council and the mayor’s office, before the budget is voted on by July 1.
In February, Mayor Adams proposed a preliminary budget of $98.5 billion that he said was “radically practical” while also directing more assistance for the poor, including a dramatic expansion of the city’s summer youth jobs program. While the budget fell under the current fiscal year's $103 billion budget approved under former Mayor Bill de Blasio, an analysis by the fiscal watchdog group Citizens Budget Commission found that Adams’ preliminary plan would in fact increase city spending by about 2.3%.
Projected tax revenues have bolstered the city’s finances, but the slow recovery and the drying up of federal stimulus funds have been a source of concern for fiscal watchdogs.
But the most targeted criticism against Adams has come from progressive lawmakers who have opposed his tough-on-crime approach. New York City has experienced a wave of violent crime that has shaken residents and threatened the city's recovery — most recently a Brooklyn subway shooting that injured dozens.
Citywide, major crimes are up nearly 43% compared to the same period last year, according to the latest NYPD statistics.
The mayor has increased policing in the subways and rolled out a new anti-gun unit, although he has said he would not increase the NYPD budget, which currently stands at $11 billion when including overtime and fringe benefits.
Over the weekend, Adams appeared to throw an olive branch to the Council. The mayor unveiled two additional proposals that were generally well-received. On Saturday, he announced a $900 million plan to build more bike and bus lanes. He followed that up on Sunday by pledging to spend an additional $171 million to fund safe havens — a low-barrier form of homeless shelters that the city says can reduce street homelessness.
Speaker Adams on Monday said she and other Councilmembers sought to ensure that the budget reflected a holistic approach to crime, a theme the mayor has often struck as well.
“Our communities are experiencing crises on many, many fronts and that fundamental reality has to be addressed if we're truly committed to having a safer city,” she said. “We know that strong communities are the safest, because when a community is well, it is a powerful, resilient force against crime.”
“And wellbeing means people are living in conditions that promote health and connectedness and they have the dignity and the resources to reach their full potential and thrive,” she added. “That needs to be our focus.”
Councilmembers on Monday took turns advocating for additional spending proposals in social services: $45 million to support hospitals in underserved neighborhoods, $12 million for coordinators dedicated to assisting homeless children, $73 million for mental health outreach, and $30 million to fund free meals for seniors.
Justin Brannan, a Councilmember from Brooklyn who chairs the finance committee, said the Council’s economists have said that the city can afford the additional spending. In addition to adding $1.3 billion in spending, the Council is also calling for the city to increase its contribution to the city’s so-called Rainy-Day-Fund to manage unexpected crises. The Council is also looking to boost retirees’ health benefit trust plan.
“What we're saying today is that we're not going to cut our way out of the recovery,” Brannan said. “You have to invest and the money is there.”
The city has until June 30th to approve a final budget.