BY COREY JOHNSON | A budget is more than just numbers. It is a reflection of values.
While the current White House administration is trying to kick 3.1 million people off food stamps, New York City is making unprecedented investments in programs that serve the most vulnerable, including those who are food insecure. While the federal Environmental Protection Agency is threatening budget cuts of nearly $1.4 billion in state environmental funding, we’re investing in our public parks and green spaces.
The city budget we recently passed, my second as Council speaker, will make a real difference in the lives of millions of New Yorkers. It includes more money to reopen community centers in New York City Housing Authority buildings, to add social workers in schools, to make sure more seniors are getting meals, and to provide more adult literacy classes for immigrants who want to learn English.
I’m particularly proud of all the investments this budget will make in the district I represent, Council District 3.
This budget includes $4.1 million for NYCHA Fulton and Elliot-Chelsea Houses for new water heaters, stairway and hallway lighting, and more. We allocated $100,000 to Encore Senior Center in Hell’s Kitchen for two new meal delivery vans. Another $85,000 will fund Greenwich House to provide more senior programming and case management, including at Westbeth and West Village Houses. And we designated $892,000 for new technology in schools across Council District 3 to give our young people the first-rate education they deserve. Additionally, we allocated $65,000 for state-of-the-art wastebaskets to clean up our streets.
One of my goals as councilmember is to fund the renovation of every park in my district, and to create new parks in neighborhoods underserved by green space. This budget includes $1.6 million for the creation of a new park in Hell’s Kitchen on a vacant lot on 10th Ave. at 49th St., as well as funding for the completion of Hudson River Park, Chelsea Waterside Park and more. Our public indoor recreation centers are equally important, so we’re purchasing new fitness equipment for both the Chelsea Recreation Center and the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center in the Village.
Greening our city is about more than just parks. Street trees absorb traffic noise, decrease pollution and create a mental and physical barrier between the sidewalk and the street. I have set out to fill every empty viable tree pit in the district with a new street tree before I leave office in 2021. To date, I have allocated more than $800,000 for new street trees and tree guards. And this winter, several hundred new trees are scheduled to arrive.
In this year’s budget we are funding a pilot program with the Horticultural Society of New York to plant shrubs or install raised flowerboxes in unviable tree pits. Often, these empty tree pits cannot be planted because they are sited above utilities or are under the canopy of another tree. The choice becomes pave over these tree pits or reutilize them. It was a clear choice for us: Greenery must be replaced with greenery. New York has enough concrete. Now these tree pits will continue to collect storm water runoff and add beauty and oxygen to our neighborhoods.
We want a city that works for all New Yorkers. A City that is clean, safe and affordable, with green space and good schools, and a city that supports our neighbors who are struggling with food insecurity, mental illness, lack of legal help and healthcare and other basic necessities.
I am proud of my colleagues in the Council for fighting for a budget that reflects the city we want to be, and I will keep fighting for budgets that make New York City work for District 3 and all New Yorkers.
Johnson is the speaker of the New York City Council and represents Council District 3 (Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Times Square, Hudson Square, West Soho, Flatiron and Garment District).