NYC Council’s Minority Caucus Touts Gains in New Budget

New York City Council Blac Caucus (Black Latino and Asian Caucus) released the following regarding last week's vote to adopt the
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Photo: NYC Council

New York City Council Blac Caucus (Black Latino and Asian Caucus) released the following regarding last week's vote to adopt the City's FY22 budget:

Last Wednesday, the members of the New York City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus (BLAC) voted overwhelmingly to adopt an FY22 budget that sets our historically underserved and coronavirus-ravaged communities of color on a path to renewal from the pandemic, and takes steps to address outstanding concerns about racial equity in key pillars of our society.

As some states and school boards pass measures that restrict and malign efforts to encourage student learning about the influence of African diaspora peoples and culture throughout the world as well as in the Americas, the City Council – led-by BLAC – is demonstrating leadership in promoting racial equity in public education.

In partnership with leading Black educators and advocates, BLAC secured $10 million for a new Education Equity Action Plan initiative that will pave the way for a landmark Black studies curriculum for our public schoolchildren K-12, which shall include a professional development program to facilitate its implementation.

This breakthrough coincides with the inclusion of $605 million in the budget for Fair Student Funding for every single public school in the city, and $81 million to ensure each school has a mental health professional on staff.

Like their fellow New Yorkers of color, Asian American and Pacific Islanders regularly encounter various obstacles to their advancement, but have essentially been omitted from our COVID-inspired conversation on how to achieve racial equity and eliminate disparities. BLAC’s advocacy on behalf of our aggrieved AAPI New Yorkers in the budget helped to enable the creation of a new $4 million AAPI Community Support initiative to provide mental health services as well as literacy programs through culturally and linguistically competent non-profit groups, and fund anti-racial bias and hate crime related programming.

Owning a home has long symbolized progress for working families, making it possible for them to build wealth and achieve the American dream, but the pandemic underscored existing racial disparities in homeownership as well as income inequality within our communities of color. In collaboration with the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, the Caucus secured a $1 million enhancement for the City Council’s Foreclosure Prevention Programs initiative that raises its overall fiscal year funding to $4.25 million.

This money will continue to support programs benefitting distressed homeowners and aid them in preserving their wealth, but also produce a series of new tools that will empower first-time homebuyers of color, better inform pre-purchase counselors about financing options, and help consumers avoid exploitive and predatory sub-prime lending products.

Since 2016, the City Council has supported the work of the many personnel employed at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, Dominican Studies Institute at City College, Haitian Studies Institute at Brooklyn College, and the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute at Lehman College through its CUNY Research Institutes initiative. Last year’s COVID-induced fiscal downturn prompted steep cuts to the initiative that constrained the ability of the institutes to conduct research. BLAC successfully won not only restorations but enhancements to their budgets that surpass pre-pandemic levels, which will fund all four of them equally at a total of $1 million each in FY22.

These resources will help the academies fulfill their primary function of connecting the native peoples, cultures and customs of the Caribbean, Afro-Caribbean, and Hispanic diaspora to their later generations living in ancillary, ethnic communities in New York City and throughout the Americas. They also will be able to continue essential research on public policy and societal issues, which undoubtedly will help us to understand the profound effects of this current public health phenomenon on our communities, as well as analyze the efficacy of the policies that preceded the crisis and those established in response to it.

Since last summer, BLAC has held an ongoing series of discussions with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, NYPD, and network of community-based Cure Violence organizations whose violence interrupters have been at the forefront of the City’s efforts to combat the rampant shootings that have plagued our neighborhoods. Those talks culminated in an FY22 budget that shores-up the City’s gun-violence prevention Crisis Management System with an additional $2.9 million in Council funding to go along with $27 million won in an earlier agreement with the De Blasio Administration, as part of its Executive Budget, to triple the Cure Violence workforce by next summer, expand CMS operations in the South Bronx, and increase youth employment.

Additionally, Caucus Members won a combined total of over $20 million in discretionary expense and capital funding for several local non-profit groups serving the needs of our communities of color.

The budget also restores vital funding to programs that serve our city’s most vulnerable populations as well as critical municipal services strained by unprecedented levels of demand at the height of COVID.

  • The City’s Department for the Aging will have a budget of nearly $500 million, which represents the largest amount of money ever made available to the agency in service of our seniors.
  • $65 million for initiatives in service of immigrant New Yorkers
  • $25 million for fresh food and community-based food pantries to prevent hunger
  • $19 million for sanitation services, and $11.1 million for additional litter basket collection as well as the purchase of 2,000 rat resistant baskets and new public waste containers
  • $25 million to restore 150 Park maintenance workers, hire 80 Park Enforcement Patrol Officers, and more than 60 other local NYC Parks personnel
  • $10.3 million to libraries and $30 million to cultural programs that were previously cut in FY21
  • The FY22 budget also reinforces our city’s social safety net, provides a backstop for ailing small businesses, and promotes excellence in higher education as well as fair and livable wages for workers of color.
  • New York City’s human services workforce of 82% women and 80% people of color saw a net job loss of over 40,000 jobs last year due to cuts. The budget includes $60 million to fully fund the Council’s initiative to right-size the indirect rates the City’s contracted human service providers receive
  • The successful Fair Futures program that has benefitted the lives of our city’s foster youth will receive an additional $9.2 million, raising its total funding to $12 million, which will be made permanent
  • $105 million for Council priorities providing a lifeline to recovering small businesses, including $5.2 million to restore the Commercial Lease Assistance Program
  • $1.7 million for the Remediation Program to help CUNY students quickly transition into credit-bearing courses
  • An additional $40.5 million to pay homeless shelter security workers a prevailing wage

Once again, the legislative, policy and budgetary advocacy of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus has yielded tremendous gains for racial equity, education, affordable homeownership, and community-led public safety solutions on behalf of our city’s more than five million New Yorkers of color, many whom are still reeling from the pandemic.

Gratitude for helping to achieve these victories is owed to our BLAC Budget Negotiation Team members, Caucus Co-Chairs I. Daneek Miller and Adrienne Adams, Speaker Johnson, as well as our government, public affairs, and community partners.

As this legislative session begins to draw to a close, BLAC will continue to further its work in those and other key areas, as well as lay out a blueprint for the next four years under a newly elected City government; one in which women and an even more diverse membership representing New Yorkers of various ethnicities and religions will constitute a majority within the City Council.

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