PHOTO: Mayor Bill de Blasio last Thursday said that the FY2017 Preliminary Budget “builds on the strong economic foundation we’ve created.” Photo Courtesy of Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Unit
By Michael V. Cusenza
Mayor Bill de Blasio last Thursday presented the City’s Preliminary Budget for Fiscal Year 2017, lauding the $82.1 billion plan as one that “recognizes a strong local economy,” maintains reserves “at unprecedented highs,” and makes “targeted investments.”
“This budget builds on the strong economic foundation we’ve created, reaffirming our commitment to responsible government that meets challenges head on,” de Blasio said. “We’re addressing the needs of New Yorkers through targeted investments in public safety, quality of life, vital social services, education, and more, while protecting the city against the many risks ahead.”
De Blasio touted the City’s local economy that added over 200,000 new jobs since January 2014, for a total of 4.2 million jobs; that development has been felt in Brooklyn (5.8 percent growth), Queens (3.9 percent), the Bronx (3.4 percent), and on Staten Island (2.9 percent growth).
“The economy is more diverse than ever; for example, 2014 saw a 10 percent growth in NYC’s tech sector. NYC’s population increased by over half a million people between 2000 and 2014, and the city saw an all-time high of 58.3 million visitors in 2015,” de Blasio said before noting that, even as the economy grows, many residents are still struggling, and major risks loom ahead.
De Blasio cited said risks as reasons boosting the City’s reserves to “unprecedented highs,” that are maintained in the Preliminary Budget, including: $1 billion each year in the General Reserve; $3.4 billion in the Retiree Health Benefit Trust; $500 million in the newly-created Capital Stabilization Reserve.
De Blasio also said that his two prior budgets have invested in priorities such as affordable housing units; full-day Pre-K; and moving nearly 2,000 additional NYPD officers onto the street.
The FY2017 Preliminary Budget builds on that foundation, de Blasio noted, through targeted investments, including:
$15 minimum wage for all City employees and contracted social service workers – impacting 50,000 New Yorkers – through $115 million when fully implemented.
An unprecedented effort to bring mental healthcare to the forefront through $62 million in FY17 for ThriveNYC, which includes the NYC Mental Health Corps and Mental Health First Aid training.
Continued investment in the Department of Correction’s 14-Point Anti-Violence Plan for Rikers Island ($41.3 million in FY17) and training, technology, and enhanced staffing ($58.3 million in FY17).
Expanded FDNY ambulance tours in Manhattan and Queens, and EMS pilot initiatives in the Bronx, to build on prior investments and improve response times, with $5.4 million in FY17.
A 30 percent increase in security in City parks, through 67 new Parks Enforcement Patrol Officers and 50 seasonal staff, with $5.3 million in FY17.
A continued expansion of Vision Zero and improved traffic flow and safety, through $128 million in capital (including $115 million for major improvements on school routes and key thoroughfares), $12.1 million in expense in FY17 for 327 new Traffic Enforcement Agents, $4.4 million in expense to maintain speed cameras and develop new street reconstruction projects, and $13 million for 100 new Select Bus Service cameras.
School overcrowding addressed with $868 million in the School Construction Authority’s Five Year Capital Plan. This will add 11,800 new seats (bringing the total for this plan to over 44,000 new seats).
Ending the AIDS Epidemic starting with $23 million a year in total funds in FY17 for prevention and health care to ultimately enable 200,000 people per year to receive services, as well as $44 million a year at full ramp up (starting with $26 million in FY17) for the City’s share of a commitment to HASA for All.