New York City Council members tailored their budget asks to Mayor Eric Adams on Monday, using language meant to appeal to the man that holds the most power in directing the city’s dollars.
“Especially given the discussion around public safety, our budget recognizes that mental health is upstream from public safety,” said Council Member Linda Lee, chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addictions. The focus on public safety – and the “upstream” metaphor – sounded just like the mayor’s distinctive way of speaking. And Lee knew it, saying the line twice for emphasis. “Better prevention and intervention will save money and lives in the long term,” she added, sounding like another appeal to Adams, who has emphasized efficiency.
Lee joined City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and more than a dozen other Council members on the steps of City Hall Monday morning to highlight the council’s budget response – which flew under the radar after initially being released on a Saturday morning. Mayor Adams is opting for a much higher profile release of information. He’s planning to release his executive budget Tuesday afternoon at the historic Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, combining the normally staid affair with a public address on his first 100 days in office.
Adams released a $98.5 billion preliminary budget for fiscal year 2023 in February, which will be the base for Tuesday’s executive budget. The final budget is due before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.
One of Mayor Adams’ oft-repeated lines is that “public safety is the prerequisite to prosperity.” In her remarks Monday, Speaker Adams seemed to suggest that prosperity is the key to public safety. “The conversation too often is incomplete, by failing to connect how the well being of our communities and our investment in that is intimately linked to our safety,” she said. Adrienne Adams later tied public safety to public health, saying “We know that strong communities are the safest, because when a community is well, it is a powerful, resilient force against crime.”
The Council has a laundry list of requests it hopes to see in the new budget, totaling some $1.3 billion in additional funding. That includes funding for the creation of “trauma recovery centers” for victims of violence, the CUNY Reconnect Initiative to get New Yorkers who have earned some college credits back into the classroom and working towards degrees and a new health care facility with a trauma center in Far Rockaway, Queens.
The Council’s Progressive Caucus was well represented at the press conference Monday, including some of the members who have tried to turn the word “defund” against the mayor, accusing him of taking away funding from key services such as sanitation.
The Council is gearing up for weeks of discussions with the mayor, and trying to present a united front, even though the mayor holds far more power in budget negotiations.
“The amounts that we’re asking for today? We’re not here with the expectations that the mayor can meet us at 20, 25, 30%,” Council Member Carlina Rivera said. “We’re here asking for full amounts, and to work closely with the mayor and the mayor’s office to get this done, to deliver a just and equitable recovery, which I know we are all in continued pursuit of.”
But the mayor has already shown a willingness to direct more funding to the Council’s priorities. On Sunday, he announced that he planned to direct an additional $171 million towards homeless shelters targeted to New Yorkers who were previously living on the street. That exceeded even the $115 million the Council demanded in its budget response.