De Blasio announces early budget agreement with City Council
Public hospitals, summer youth employment, Bushwick Inlet Park, reserves get boost; Board of Elections declines $20 million offer
Mayor Bill de Blasio has reached an agreement with the City Council on an $82.1 billion budget — the earliest budget agreement with the City Council since 2001.
The mayor announced the agreement at a press conference on Wednesday.
Public hospitals and health clinics, summer youth programs and the city’s reserve funds all received a boost in the budget for Fiscal Year 2017. Other increases will be going to the Department of Corrections and Rikers Island, schools and homeless shelters.
The Board of Elections, however, did not accept a $20 million offer that would require it to reform its sometimes-dysfunctional operations.
The mayor pointed to the collegiality he shares with the Council as being a major factor leading to the early handshake. De Blasio told reporters that he met with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito many times over the last weeks.
Mark-Viverito “kept coming back to the well and pushing us,” he said.
De Blasio credited the Council, and especially Brooklyn Councilmember Jumaane Williams, for pushing for more funds for summer youth employment programs.
“It was not one of our priorities. It just wasn’t,” de Blasio admitted. He added, “We started out not assuming it. The Speaker and the Council pushed very hard for us to think differently.”
Funded at $38.5 million, summer employment programs will serve 60,000 kids, and that number could grow, de Blasio said. He said that the city would make sure the jobs reach “the kids who need them the most.”
Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said the program would receive an extensive evaluation. (More on summer youth program funding here.)
Health and Hospitals
On funding for public hospitals, de Blasio said that the city has made “meaningful progress” in terms of the communications with labor partners.
“We have had very productive conversations in Washington, both in the executive branch and the Congress – notably with Senator Schumer who has shown a great deal of interest in helping us resolve some of the outstanding federal issues,” de Blasio said.
Speaker Mark-Viverito said the plan would receive city oversight. “And there’s a lot of work to be done in that area,” she added.
Money for Bushwick Inlet Park
The budget also allocates $100,000,000 for the acquisition of the CitiStorage parcels to complete Bushwick Inlet Park on the East River. The CitiStorage facility burned in a massive fire in 2015.
Councilmember Stephen Levin said in a release Thursday that the Williamsburg and Greenpoint communities “are beyond overjoyed” that the de Blasio administration has taken what he called a “historic step.”
“This decision will have an impact for generations to come, not only through expanding much needed public space, but also by setting a precedent for future administrations and their commitments made to the public,” Levin said. He added, “New Yorkers can look to this fair offer as evidence that, under the de Blasio administration, when the City makes an obligation to infrastructure improvements as part of the land use process — as it committed to Bushwick Inlet Park as part of the 2005 Williamsburg-Greenpoint Rezoning — the City keeps that promise.”
Board of Elections rejects city’s $20 million offer
The mayor told reporters that the city Board of Elections had turned down the city’s $20 million offer, and the funds were not listed in the budget. BOE would receive the money only if a series of reforms were undertaken.
“I wish I had full and total control of the Board of Elections – I’d take that tomorrow, and we could turn the place around,” he said. “But until either that is done or the action I’m talking about in Albany is done or the Board agrees voluntarily to make reforms, I think there’s going to still be a less than ideal [voting] experience, unfortunately.”
The Council had also pushed for the beefed up reserves, libraries and funds for district attorneys.
De Blasio said that district attorneys “want to focus more deeply on some areas that didn’t get enough attention in the past like domestic violence … [and] like the opioid crisis, which we all are going to have to put more attention and more resources into.”
Councilmember Julissa Ferreras-Copeland called the budget still a “skeleton” budget. “We are still continuing to meet with delegations … we still haven’t adopted this budget.”
Reserves and savings
The $82.1 billion budget will allow the city to add $250 million more to the Retiree Health Benefit Trust Fund in 2017, bringing the fund to $3.9 billion. It comes on top of the reserves already included in the Executive Budget – $1 billion for the general reserve and $500 million for the Capital Stabilization Reserve.
The mayor said that the budget included $440 million in savings spread over two years, with no layoffs.
Ending the conference on a cheerful note, the mayor announced that city beaches and pools would be receiving an extension this year, closing one week past Labor Day. The announcement drew cheers.
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