Following a City Council vote that wrapped up late Monday evening — and a handshake agreement with Mayor Eric Adams only a few days prior — the city’s FY 2023 budget negotiation process has come to a close. The final result: a record-high $101.1 billion budget, the first passed by Adams and the current City Council cohort.
Making headlines has been a $215 million drop in the city’s provisions for public schools, attributed by Speaker Adrienne Adams, Education Committee Chair Rita Joseph and Upper West Side Council Member Gale Brewer, chair of the Oversight and Investigations Committee, to decreased enrollment and the end of one-time federal stimulus funds. To lessen the impact, the City Council redirected over $700 million more in funding than in the current year’s budget to schools for FY 2023.
In Manhattan, council members have secured funds to benefit the outdoor cityscape, housing and, yes, schools. “There’s always a growing need,” Upper East Side Council Member Julie Menin told Our Town. “We have to make sure that we’re investing in our vulnerable communities — and that’s what this budget does.”
Perked-Up Parks, Cleaner Streets
On the Upper West Side, Riverside Park will be the recipient of some much-needed TLC. For a project to repair a Riverside Park staircase at West 91st Street, $1.5 million has been set aside; to repair Dinosaur Playground, at West 97th Street, a heftier $6.9 million. “It’s not sexy, of course, but it’s needed,” Brewer said of the staircase repairs. “Riverside Park is our neighborhood park.”
In the northeast corner of Central Park, renovations of the Harlem Meer Center will also be funded.
Across the park, on the Upper East Side, $4 million has been allocated for the construction of a “comfort station,” with a bathroom, in Ruppert Park at East 90th Street and Second Avenue, according to Menin. An additional $1 million will fund walkway repaving and play area renovations at John Jay Park, overlooking the East River between East 76th and East 78th Streets.
Citywide, the Department of Parks and Recreation is set to receive $44 million for its maintenance and summer workforce crews. A total of $22 million for the Department of Sanitation will allow the city to increase litter basket pickups to twice a day, six days a week. Though a curbside composting program will not be expanded to all neighborhoods, Brewer explained, over $9 million will fund the “School Organics Collection Program.”
“Not Enough Housing”
Funding allocated for housing will also be felt citywide. City FHEPS housing vouchers, which are available as rent supplements to qualifying families with children who are at risk of losing housing for a variety of reasons, will be fully funded by $237 million set aside in the FY 2023 budget.
Allocations have also been made to the West Side Federation for Senior Housing; to monthly housing legal clinics offered by Brewer’s office; and to Fountain House, a nonprofit in Hell’s Kitchen serving those suffering from mental illness, around 40 percent of whom also are experiencing homelessness when they first engage with the organization.
“It’s responsive,” Brewer said of the budget. “There’s still not enough housing for people who need affordable housing.”
On the Upper East Side, Menin fought to make funding for school projects a priority. After a decade of vying for its own gym space, which the school has long lacked, P.S. 290 will finally receive $5.5 million to build a much-needed “rooftop play space.”
“To have a school that has no gym is obviously not acceptable,” Menin said, “so I was thrilled to be able to provide the funding for that and to get the mayor to provide funding as well.”
Also for physical education on the Upper East Side, $3 million has been set aside for pool locker room upgrades and other projects at the Julia Richman Education Complex. M.S. 114 and P.S. 138 have been granted $400,000 to be spent on new schoolyard mats and $310,000 has been allocated to the Lower Lab School’s technology program for computer carts.
On the Upper West Side, in Council Member Shaun Abreu’s District 7, an extra $500,000 is slated to fund a renovation of Mott Hall II’s play yard.
Citywide, $277 million will go toward Summer Rising, a free academic program for kids. Plus, $46 million in funds has been earmarked to increase wages for special education pre-K and daycare providers, and an additional $10 million to cover undocumented children in plans for universal childcare, compared to an earlier budget draft.
Ensuring that schools’ needs are met will require efforts to continue beyond the budgeting process, especially in light of the overall decline in funding, according to Menin. “We never want to see any kind of cuts to education and those cuts are significant and very, very troubling,” she said. “So it’s going to be the council’s job to...go school by school to really analyze what these cuts are, what the impacts are going to be and how we can address them.”
“We have to make sure that we’re investing in our vulnerable communities — and that’s what this budget does.” Council Member Julie Menin