Parsing a $82 billion budget Op-Ed

| 28 Jun 2016 | 12:34

The budget for the City of New York is larger than nearly all the cities and states in the country. Only New York State, California, and Texas have larger budgets. With 8.5 million residents, we have the largest school district with 1.1 million students in over 1,800 schools, and the largest public housing system with over 400,000 residents in the U.S. NYC maintains 6,000 miles of streets and highways, over one million street signs, 12,700 signalized intersections, over 315,000 street lights, and 789 bridges and tunnels. The Fire Department of the City of New York is the largest Fire Department in the U.S. and responds to more than a million emergencies every year.

Two weeks ago, as is our responsibility, the City Council approved our city’s $82.1 billion budget for next fiscal year, starting July 1. Included in this new budget are notable big wins for the city as a whole as well as our specific district. As a member of the City Council’s small “Budget Negotiating Team,” I fought to enhance funding for our kids, libraries, schools, seniors, and social services.

Everyone will benefit from funding to keep our libraries open six days per week citywide. Given the number of homeless, we’ve funded “Emergency Food” programs and additional street teams to bring more people into shelter than permanent housing. Seniors who are waiting for case managers and home care will get them sooner. Public safety enhancements came in the form of $22 million for our District Attorneys to support Alternatives to Incarceration and reduce gun-related violence and $2.5 million for Vision Zero outreach programs to increase pedestrian and street safety.

We committed to our next generation with increased funding for youth employment and after school programs. Added funding includes $38.5 million to create 60,000 summer youth jobs, $16 million for 6,000 youth year-round jobs, $16 million to create 3,223 additional elementary afterschool slots, $17 million to create 26,000 middle school after school slots, and $5 million to create programs under the Young Women’s Initiative.

Each year Council Members citywide allocate funds to infrastructure projects and programs in their district. “Discretionary” funding, which brings dollars directly into our district (District 6), will fund programming and costs for community-based organizations, schools, gardens, and millions of dollars in capital funding has been allocated to our parks, schools and cultural institutions. One of my jobs is to figure out how to make that money best serve the needs of the community.

I funded programs like a hands-on mobile science lab and classes where kids can make everything from websites to solar-powered toys. Schools will see classes in visual arts, theater, and ballroom dance, and tickets for students to attend performances. I also put money towards a summer and winter community basketball league, free tennis classes, tutoring, and literacy programs at several schools.

Our local community centers do incredible work, and they will all receive funding to help run food pantries and deliver meals to our home-bound neighbors, offer health and mental health services, train residents with the skills they need to get job, and run toy drives. Seniors will receive a host of great programs through their local senior centers like art and movement classes, lectures and shows, help navigating Medicare, and access to social workers.

In addition to my monthly housing clinics, I funded several organizations that can provide free legal services to help residents navigate housing court, deal with a landlord who refuses to make essential repairs, and stay in their homes.

Capital funds were put towards schools, parks, and outdoor spaces. I funded an interior hydroponic lab at the MLK Jr High School Complex, a Green wall for WESS, an art room for M.S. 258, lighting for the P.S. 333 auditorium, and – voted on by Upper West Side residents during the Participatory Budget process – the creation of library space at P.S. 191.

I am very proud to fully fund the renovation of the Joan of Arc Island, which includes one of the only statues of women in our city. Riverside Park will also receive a plow and pick up for trash collection, which can serve as a snow plow for our local school yards in the winter; reconstruction of the 101st street basketball court and the stairs leading to the soccer field; and picnic tables, another PB project voted on by you.

While the city pays to plant the trees that line our streets, it does not maintain them. I allocated funding to maintain Dante Park (near Lincoln Center), the Broadway Malls, community gardens, and tree pits in the neighborhood. I also funded a free bike helmet giveaway and free concerts in the neighborhood, so we can enjoy our green spaces even more.

The capital needs of public housing buildings are immense and funded centrally, but there are smaller projects requested by residents that I was able to fund. A fully renovated basketball court for Wise Towers at 91st street, security cameras for Wise Rehab on 94th street, and renovation to the community room for the WSUR B building at 94th street

I will continue to work to bring needed funding to our community and fight for the priorities of all New Yorkers. You can see the full list of funded programs and infrastructure projects on my website, Let me know what you think by emailing me at

Helen Rosenthal represents the Upper West Side on the New York City Council