Progressive Caucus members sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio outlining fiscal priorities for this term under the eleven-point ADVANCEMENT agenda. With a steadfast commitment to a more equal and more just New York, the response to the FY16 Executive Budget announcement acknowledges some critical investments from the Administration and identifies some additional areas of need.
- Affordable Housing Improvements and Opportunities: We applaud the bold reforms to assist in the challenges facing NYCHA. Redirecting $506 million through 2019 from PILOT payments and community and senior center costs provides critical operating funds to ensure best in class services. The $300 million in capital funds over the next three years will also provide the Authority the capacity to makes necessary repairs especially in roofing. Unfortunately, other saving initiatives like rightsizing have created a need for additional resources to aid families relocating to smaller units. Our hope is that the Administration can create a fund similar to the Council’s Moving Allowance Program to support these individuals. In addition to the City’s role as landlord, we must act on many dilapidated structures putting New Yorkers at risk. An increase to HPD’s Alternative Enforcement Program, which responds to the most neglected buildings and later bills owners, would help protect families from dangerous housing conditions.
- Defend Workers’ Rights: The Caucus shares in the belief that a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. The FY16 policy to adjust nearly 35,000 contract workers’ income to more accurately reflect a living wage is a tremendous step in the right direction. Our goal is that this can be achieved for all 125,000 workers in the social service field currently employed though City contracts. We were disappointed at the absence of funding to provide additional oversight and protections against employer abuses, as addressed through the Council’s proposal for an Office of Labor Standards. We appreciate the increase to small business supports but encourage that these should apply to grow worker cooperatives since this democratic business model promotes equitable wages and upward class mobility.
- Vital Investments in Public Services: Members value the administration’s tremendous $78 million commitment to improving mental health services in clinics, schools and prisons. Another pertinent public health priority for members is the reduction of viral hepatitis cases. Coordination among healthcare providers is essential to prevent and diagnose these chronic diseases impacting 250,000 plus New Yorkers, increasingly from Asian communities.
- Addressing Employment Discrimination: With continuing efforts to expand the Human Rights Law, the Caucus extends appreciation for the $1.8 million increase to bolster the Commission on Human Rights. This investment will help to ensure all prospective employees, tenants and applicants can be free from illegal, discriminatory practices.
- Neighborhood Fair Share System: The Caucus is concerned with the disparities in school athletic opportunities, especially among young women and students of color. We ask that the Administration try and address this inequality by prioritizing sports training in schools through increases in the Public School Athletic League, Small School Athletic League or outside providers that cultivate physical health and wellness.
- Community Safety and Empowerment: We were glad public safety was highlighted in the Executive Budget with important improvements in prisons and technology, along with $1.6 million added to the Crisis Management System which supports full implementation of the Cure Violence/Anti-Gun model in all of our target neighborhoods. Violence in our city, particularly in communities of color must continue to be reduced considering their significant correlation to employment and economic outcomes.
- Expand and Modernize Democracy: IDNYC provides an enormous opportunity to improve the economic and civic life of city residents. Thank you for your continued dedication to the program’s success evident through this budget’s nearly $18.9 million allocation.
- Minimize Inequality: The Caucus commends the dynamic efforts in the Executive Budget to reduce homelessness including rental support and anti-eviction legal services. We were also pleased to see capital funding for libraries but would like to the enhance expense allocation to achieve our goal of 6-six day service in all library systems. Members will continue to fight against hunger occurring in our schools by advocating for true universal free lunch and breakfast in the classroom. We hope for additional support for LGBT youth and creation of an LGBT liaison in the Department of Education. Also, the Council is currently funding basic aging programs like the homecare waitlist, senior centers, NORCs, space costs, and transportation operations that we’d want to be funded by their corresponding agencies.
- Environmental Justice and Sustainability: Caucus members seek your partnership to make our city more resilient and reduce our environmental impact. The Executive Budget’s capital funds for building retrofits will work toward this goal but we see a gap in green education programs and workforce development trainings both of which are an important opportunity to lift up the un/underemployed.
- New Livable Streets Model: We hope that the Administration consider the benefits of outdoor, open space and restore $8.7 million for park maintenance employees as well as increase the Green Thumbs community gardens program by $1 million.
- Tenant Protection and Preservation: With preservation as a tenet of this Administration, we found the increase in funding for the Office of Special Enforcement (OSE), which combats multiple-dwelling violations, insufficient to prevent the tens of thousands of displaced residents from units now operating as illegal hotels. The Caucus called for a significant increase in funding for the OSE, and operational reforms for a more proactive and strategic approach to enforcement. The full City Council supported this effort by calling upon the Administration for an additional $2 million to hire 25 additional staff and bring the OSE’s total budget to $3.6 million. Furthermore, so that the City’s OSE budget is clear and complete OMB should create a budget code for OSE within each agency.
IN THE NEWS
Gotham Gazette, Progressive Caucus Responds to De Blasio’s Executive Budget