Participatory Budgeting Enters its Second Year in District 8

It seems like only yesterday when we were finishing up our first year implementing the Participatory Budgeting (PB) process. We had a fantastic turn-out – hundreds of local residents came out to vote for project ideas that were developed by the community, from a Meals-on-Wheels van for seniors to playground renovations for youth. We are excited to announce that we are entering our second year of the PB process. Last year was such a success, some even say “revolutionary,” that four more Council Members have signed on to bring the program to their communities. Through the PB process, community members will directly decide how to spend at least 1 million dollars in capital funds in each of the eight participating districts. Typically, this funding is distributed at the exclusive discretion of Council Members but this year 1.3 million residents of these eight districts will have an opportunity to brainstorm, shape and vote on capital projects in their district.

Have something you’re passionate about? Want to get involved? Our offices, along with PBNYC, will be hosting numerous neighborhood assemblies. Whether you simply want to learn more about the PB process or submit your ideas for projects that you’re passionate about and will make a difference in our community, the neighborhood assemblies are the venues to do so.

Come join us at a Neighborhood Assembly. We even have a specialized one just for seniors and one just for youth (14 to 24 years old). Food & Spanish translation will be provided at all assemblies.

Thursday, September 20th – 10 AM to 12 Noon
* Special Assembly for Seniors
SCAN La Guardia – 307 E. 116th St (@ 2nd Ave)

Tuesday, September 25th – 6:30 PM to 9 PM
Frederick Douglass Center – 885 Columbus Ave (@ 104th St)

Saturday, September 29th – 11 AM to 1:30 PM
Draper Hall – 1918 1st Ave (@ 99th St)

Thursday, October 4th – 6:30 PM to 9 PM
Millbrook Community Center – 201 St. Ann’s Ave (@ 137th St)

Thursday, October 11th – 6:30 PM to 9 PM
Red Oak Apartments – 135 W. 106th St (@ Columbus)

Tuesday, October 16th – 4:30 PM to 7 PM
* Special Assembly for Young People, Ages 14-24
Children’s Aid Society – 130 E. 101st St (@ Lexington)

Wednesday, October 17th – 6:30 PM to 9 PM
Harlem United El Faro Day Center – 179 East 116th St (btwn Lexington & 3rd)

Here is your chance to be heard and make a difference. See you there!

If you are interested in taking part or have any questions or suggestions, email us at mmvbudget@gmail.com. Click here for our PB Page that includes the outcomes from last year’s vote. General information about the citywide PB process is available at www.pbnyc.org and you can find their rulebook here.

The lead community partner in this project is El Barrio/East Harlem-based Community Voices Heard and the lead technical assistance partner is the Participatory Budgeting Project.

Fiscal Year 2013 Discretionary Funding Process

The application process for Fiscal Year 2013 discretionary funding is now available on the Budget section of our blog.  Please visit www.mmviverito.com/budget for the latest info on deadlines, application forms and other requirements. 

For more information please contact Joe at 212-788-6960 or jtaranto@council.nyc.gov.

It’s Time to Decide Where $1 Million is Spent in Our Communities

In less than two months, the participatory budgeting (PB) process will conclude with District 8 residents finally voting on how to spend at least $1 million on infrastructure projects to improve our community.  For more information on the process thus far, links to all the project ideas that were submitted, and more visit our PB in District 8 page.

Sunday, March 25th and Saturday, March 31st will be the official voting days for PB, with other mobile voting locations to be announced.  Times, locations and other details are coming soon.  But before the vote, we must begin by taking the time to inform ourselves about the options that will be available to us on the ballots.

Come and learn more at this month’s neighborhood assemblies. Please click here to RSVP!

Wednesday, February 15th at 6:30 PM
Children’s Aid Society
130 E. 101st Street

Thursday, February 16th at 6:30 PM
Youth Hostel
891 Amsterdam Avenue

Thursday, February 23rd at 6:30 PM
Betances Senior Center
401 St. Ann’s Avenue

Translation in Spanish will be available and refreshments will be served.

Community residents have been refining the ideas generated at the October-November public meetings into concrete proposals for the past three months.  You’ll be amazed by what they’ve come up with.  Make sure to join us!  For more information contact Max Cantarero at mmvbudget@gmail.com or (212) 828-9800.

You can also print out a flyer to show your neighbors.

New Year. More Progress.

Dear Friend:

I hope your holidays were both restful and full of cheer. As I looked back at our community’s many accomplishments in 2011, I couldn’t help but reflect on how hard we worked and how much it paid off.  In the coming year, I look forward to continuing to expand even further on the progress we are making in District 8.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions for our community?  Please leave them in the comments section below!

Last year, we engaged directly with local residents to help shape the future of our community.  The El Barrio/East Harlem Youth Violence Task Force, which was convened by my office, released its official platform, a plan to bring peace to our streets that was created in conjunction with our community’s youth.  Soon after the release of our platform, NYCHA finally opened the Johnson Center after over 10 years of community struggle.  Our community was also one of four in the city to take a major step towards democracy in 2011 as my office began implementing a Participatory Budgeting (PB) process in Council District 8. Through PB, community residents will decide how to allocate $1 million in discretionary funds towards capital projects of their choosing.

For our older residents, my office continued to make progress on developing El Barrio/East Harlem’s Age Improvement District, by working with the City to launch Senior Pool Hours at Jefferson Pool and to unveil several new benches on our sidewalks, which will provide a resting place for older adults as they walk outside.

And let’s not forget the citywide and national efforts to which we have contributed.  Like so many of you, I have became more motivated than ever to pursue economic and social justice in our community and our city. I marched alongside thousands of Occupy Wall Street protestors and was arrested for civil disobedience as a way of making a statement on the unconscionable level of economic inequality in our society. I was also proud to sponsor and see passed into law a bill that will help protect undocumented New York City residents from detention and deportation, which will help keep more families united.

Our accomplishments in 2011 have set the bar for a great 2012. We’re starting off on the right foot by celebrating Chinese New Year with our Chinese neighbors this month (more details to come). From there, the work continues. After another round of public meetings in February, we will hold the official Public Vote for the Participatory Budgeting process in late March.  And of course my office and the organizations that make up the Youth Violence Task Force will continue to lead the fight for safer streets, as we seek funding to implement the recommendations from our platform. In the coming months, I will also be fighting against City budget cuts and to bring more resources to our neighborhoods.

And as always, I will continue to be active on local issues of importance across our district.  Exciting and challenging times are ahead.

Please don’t forget to take a moment to share your New Year’s Resolutions for our community by leaving a comment below!

All the very best,
Melissa

The Governor’s Plan to Make Our State’s Tax Structure More Progressive

We all breathed a sigh of relief when Governor Cuomo announced NY State’s new progressive income tax last week. The State was facing a $3.5 billion budget deficit that endangered vital social services and would have led to more layoffs at a time when many New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet. Under the Governor’s proposal, which has now been passed by the State Senate 55-0, the budget deficit will become far more manageable.

Yet, we have more work to do. Governor Cuomo and the leaders of the Senate and Assembly deserve credit for putting aside their differences, working together and remembering that a more progressive tax system is critical to putting our state in a better financial position. But NY State will still face a $1.5 billion deficit next year, and we have received no indication that our schools, parks, hospitals, and public housing will be shielded from the cuts. These institutions, along with many others, are invaluable, especially in hard times like the ones we are facing now. We cannot allow resources to be driven away from these essential resources.

Send Governor Cuomo a message. Remind him that we still need revenues and that cuts to our vital services are not acceptable.

I had been very vocal in my criticism of the Governor when he came out against the extension of the Millionaire’s Tax, which in my view made New York fairer. Last week, I set my criticism aside and I am happy to say that I stand in support of this new plan to invest in our state’s economy. Yes, I would have rather seen the Millionaire’s Tax extended, but it is nevertheless gratifying to know that Governor Cuomo agrees that those who earn more ought to contribute more to our State in furtherance of a more just society. I am particularly encouraged by the commitment to invest in jobs for our youth, which are so desperately needed in communities like ours.

The Governor has come a long way in recognizing that New York’s tax system has been unfair for many years. I believe he can come a bit further.

Let’s push Governor Cuomo a little further to the left. Ask for more revenues and less cuts.

Sincerely,
Melissa

District 8 Participatory Budgeting Project Idea List Now Available Online

Young people generate project ideas at our Youth Assembly (Oct. 25, 2011).

Following seven neighborhood assemblies held during the month of October as well as a period of submissions through our online platform, we are pleased to share with you the final list of participatory budgeting (PB) project ideas from Council District 8.  This list will be made available to the dozens of budget delegates who have signed up to help formalize these project ideas into concrete proposals.

All of the ideas, sorted by committee, are available at http://tinyurl.com/pbideas8.  This list will be updated on a regular basis as we receive new updates from delegate committees.

Over 550 individual ideas were submitted as part of this brainstorming process.  As you will see, suggested projects range from new technology for schools to park renovations and security cameras for NYCHA developments, among many others.  While some of the suggested projects are not eligible under PB because they do not require capital funding, our office will look into these ideas to see if there are other mechanisms available to bring them to life.

Budget delegates will officially begin meeting next week and will start reviewing the project list.  If you are still interested in becoming a budget delegate, there may still be time to get up to speed.  Please reach out to mmvbudget@council.nyc.gov for more information.

Submit Project Ideas Online for Participatory Budgeting

Missed our Participatory Budgeting Neighborhood Assemblies? We are excited to announce that project ideas for the process can now be submitted online! On a webpage created by our partners at the Project for Public Spaces, you can suggest ideas which will appear on a map. You can also view others’ ideas and comment on them.  Because we are moving ahead quickly through the process, only those ideas that are submitted this week (before the end of the day on Sunday, November 20th) will be guaranteed to be presented to budget delegate committees.

Click here to visit the idea submission webpage.

Remember: Council Member Mark-Viverito has pledged $1 million in capital funds for the participatory budgeting process in our community. Project ideas should be for capital (infrastructure) projects in our district, and should serve the needs of members of our community.  For some examples of capital projects, click here.

We hope you will take advantage of this final opportunity to brainstorm ideas for inclusion in this process.  Budget delegates will soon be working hard to formulate these ideas into budget proposals for our community vote in March.

Please stay updated on the participatory budgeting process by visiting www.pbnyc.org.

Autumn Updates from the City Council’s Progressive Caucus

As you may know, Melissa serves as the Co-Chair of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus.  Read the latest on what the Caucus has been up to in the Autumn updates below.


The Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council is excited to report on the work that we’ve been doing and to spread the word about upcoming events. It’s been a busy autumn, and we have a lot of news to share!

Receive this update from a friend? Sign up for our e-mail list.

Want a daily dose of the Progressive Caucus? Follow us on Twitter (
@nycprogressives), like us on Facebook, or visit our website!


Updates on The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act

Save the Date: Many Voices, One Goal
The Progressive Caucus will be joining Living Wage NYC and faith, labor and community leaders to call for passage of the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act on Monday, November 21 at 6:30pm. Spread the word to your friends and neighbors and join us at Riverside Church!

Date Set for Public Hearing on the Living Wage
The City Council will be holding a public hearing on the revised living wage legislation on November 22 [10am at 49-51 Chambers Street]. The changes to the bill focus in on the main target of the legislation: large-scale retail developments. We’re looking forward to discussing the amended bill and taking the next step toward implementing this landmark legislation.

Supporting Occupy Wall Street
The Occupy Wall Street movement has captured the attention and imagination of our city and country. Members of the Progressive Caucus have joined the chorus of elected officials, labor leaders and our community allies in amplifying the call to action and invoking the right to freedom of speech and assembly. Read this recent op-ed in support of Occupy Wall Street by Councilmember Jumaane Williams.

Occupy for Education Election Day Rally
In response to overcrowded classrooms and cuts to vital programs, parents and educators are calling on the Governor to renew the millionaire’s tax and save our schools! On Election Day, members of the Progressive Caucus will be joining a rally organized by activist parents at Governor Cuomo’s New York City office (633 3rd Ave).  Come out on Tuesday, November 8th at 3:30pm to show your support!

In favor of a fair share tax, but can’t make it to the rally? E-mail Governor Cuomo today to say that you’re counting on him to do the right thing for New York’s working families!

Center for Working Families 2011 Policy Conference

The Progressive Caucus is a co-convener of this year’s Center for Working Families’ annual policy conference, which brings together advocates, organizers, policy makers and legislators to discuss progressive solutions to New York State’s most pressing problems. This year’s conference will feature a keynote address by Barbara Ehrenreich and discussions and workshops about green jobs, voter owned elections and progressive taxation. RSVP to join us on December 2nd!

City Council Holds Oversight Hearing on NYPD’s Intelligence Operations
The Progressive Caucus joined members of the Black, Latino & Asian Caucus, the Brennan Center for Justice, community groups, and civil rights advocates on October 6 to raise concerns about the New York Police Department’s infiltration of our local Muslim community and to call for more oversight of the NYPD’s intelligence operations. The Progressive Caucus actively participated in the City Council hearing that followed the joint press conference, and will continue to monitor this issue.

Rebuild the Dream

The Progressive Caucus has joined progressive organizations nation-wide in signing on as a partner to Rebuild the Dream, a hub for the emerging American Dream Movement. Rebuild the Dream recently worked with thousands of Americans to create the Contract for the American Dream, and supports many of the ongoing efforts to fulfill that dream here in New York. We’re excited to be a part of this movement.

Make the Road New York Marches Against Stop and Frisk

On October 13, members of the Progressive Caucus joined Make the Road New York in a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to call for an end to discriminatory policing, particularly stop and frisk. Councilmembers and advocates called for more accountability and transparency from the NYPD and an end to racially biased police practices.

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Contact the Progressive Caucus at nyccprogresscaucus@gmail.com

Tell Us What You Want to Build in Your Neighborhood – In a Video!

As part of our new Participatory Budgeting initiative, a contest has been launched where you can create a video to share how you would spend $1 million to improve our community.  All of those who create a video will be entered into a raffle to win a Flip video camera!  All contest details are below, as well as some tips for those who may be new to making videos.  Please read the instructions carefully and upload your submission before the November 21st deadline.

You have a chance to decide how to spend $1 million to improve your neighborhood. What do you want?

Tell us in a video.  Deadline November 21.

Participatory Budgeting is a new and different way to make decisions about publically funded infrastructure projects in your neighborhood.

If you or someone you know has ideas about how things could work better in these districts – make a video and let us know!  All eligible ideas submitted by November 21 will be considered. 

Here’s How You Can Participate

  • Read and follow the rules
  • Create a 30 second to 3 minute video about how you would spend $1 million to improve infrastructure in one of the four districts
  • Upload your video to YouTube and tag it pbnyc (very important to tag it!)
  • Send us an email at pb@artsanddemocracy.org with your contact info and the name of the video that you uploaded and tagged. Everyone who uploads a video will be entered into a raffle for a Flip video camera, so make sure to send us your info!
  • Submit your video by November 21

There is a Video Workshop to Help You Out

November 7 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at the Brooklyn Community Access TV (BCAT) studio 232 Third Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn at the Old American Can Factory. RSVP required rsvp@artsanddemocracy.org (space is limited, first come first served)

For more information

contact pb@artsanddemocracy.org

Rules

  • Videos should be no longer than 3 minutes – shorter is great!
  • Capital projects only: that’s money for physical improvements that benefit the public like rebuilding a street, renovating a park, installing benches or street lights, or trash cans, repairing buildings, or buying computers or equipment for a school or community center.
  • Any music used must have the permission of the artist or be available via a Creative Commons license (see https://creativecommons.org/legalmusicforvideos). Or create your own music!
  • By tagging your video pbnyc you agree to allow the Arts & Democracy Project, Participatory Budgeting Project, and the City Councilmembers to use your video for educational purposes and feature on their websites.
  • Projects need to be within the four City Council districts: District 8, Manhattan/Bronx, Districts 39 and 45 in Brooklyn and District 32 in Queens. Check http://pbnyc.org to see what neighborhoods are in these districts.
  • Videos need to be submitted by November 30 for your ideas to be considered this year.

Tips

  • Plan ahead. Even if your idea is simple, think through how you want to do it before you start recording. If your idea is more complex, write out a script or a storyboard.
  • Make sure you have enough light, especially if you are shooting indoors.
  • If you are recording sound with your camera mic, make sure there are no background noises and then make sure that the person speaking is loud and clear.
  • Make sure you can see everything/everyone in the shot before you start recording.

Resources

Thanks to the American Friends Service Committee & the National Priorities Project for sharing their resources and inspiring this project!

First Neighborhood Assembly Held Last Night, Six More to Go!

Over 120 District 8 community members joined us at our first participatory budgeting neighborhood assembly to begin the process of deciding how to allocate $1 million in funding for our district. There are six more of these assemblies to go! The next assembly will be at the Youth Hostel on Amsterdam Ave and 104th Street on Tuesday, October 11th at 6:30 pm. All dates and locations are available here.

After time for food and getting to know one another, participants learned more about what the participatory budgeting process entails and what types of projects are eligible. They were then broken up into small groups where the brainstorming process began. Project ideas included increasing lighting on our streets, installing larger and taller trash cans and painting new murals in the community.

More than 25 people signed up to be budget delegates, who will help us form the ideas generated throughout the process into concrete proposals that the community will vote on in March 2012.

Have a great idea for a project? Want to get involved and serve as a budget delegate? Join as at one of the six remaining assemblies this month. The dates and locations are below. We’re still looking for volunteers to help carry out this process as well (you can sign up to volunteer at http://tinyurl.com/pbvolunteer). 

A huge thanks to Yorkville Common Pantry for hosting last night’s assembly, and also to Community Board 11, Children’s Aid Society, Community Voices Heard, Violence Intervention Program, the Participatory Budgeting Project and everyone else from the District 8 Committee who was instrumental in making the event a success! And of course thanks to all who participated last night.

Please continue to spread the word so we can make sure to pack the house at all of the upcoming neighborhood assemblies.

Tuesday, October 11th – 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Youth Hostel
891 Amsterdam Ave @ 104th Street
English with Spanish Translation
 
Wednesday, October 12th – 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Crystal Ball Room at Taino Towers
2382 2nd Ave (btwn 2nd and 3rd Aves), 4th Floor
English with Spanish Translation
 
Wednesday, October 19th – 9:30 am to 12 noon
Union Settlement (237 E. 104th Street)
English with Spanish Translation
Note: This assembly will be geared toward seniors.
 
Thursday, October 20th – 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Children’s Aid Society Frederick Douglass Center
885 Columbus Ave (@ 104th Street)
English with Spanish Translation
 
Monday, October 24th – 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Millbrook Community Center
201 St. Ann’s Ave (@ 137th Street) – Bronx
English with Spanish Translation
 
Tuesday, October 25th – 4:30 pm to 7:00 pm
Children’s Aid Society
130 E. 101st Street (@ Lexington Ave)
English Only
Note: This assembly will be geared toward youth.

Dates Announced for Participatory Budgeting Neighborhood Assemblies

Last week, Melissa’s office announced an exciting new initiative coming to District 8, whereby residents will be able to directly determine how $1 million in capital funds is spent called participatory budgeting. The process officially begins next month when we will hold a series of neighborhood assemblies, brainstorming sessions open to the public during which ideas for community projects will be generated. At these assemblies, local residents will also have the opportunity to sign up as budget delegates, who will help transform the ideas that emerge at the assemblies into concrete proposals for a public vote in March.  We hope that you will be able join us at one or more of these events to ensure that your voice is heard! Please help us spread the word to all in our community.

A flyer for the event in English and Spanish is available for viewing and downloading by clicking here. We are also currently looking for volunteers and organizations to help us with this process. Please visit http://tinyurl.com/pbvolunteer for more info.

Below are the current dates and locations for the assemblies. Additional background information on the entire participatory budgeting process is available at http://www.mmviverito.com/pbnyc.

Food will be provided at all assemblies. Additionally, child care will be provided at evening assemblies.

October 6th – 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Yorkville Common Pantry
8 E. 109th Street (between Madison & Fifth Avenues)
English with Chinese Translation

October 11th – 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Youth Hostel
891 Amsterdam Ave (@ 104th Street)
English with Spanish Translation

October 12th – 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Benjamin Flores Senior Center
Crystal Ball Room, Taino Towers, 4th Floor
2383 2nd Ave (btwn 122nd & 123rd Streets)
English with Spanish Translation

October 19th – 9:30 am to 12 noon
SENIOR ASSEMBLY – Union Settlement
237 E. 104th Street
English with Spanish Translation
Note: This assembly will be geared toward seniors.

October 20th – 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Children’s Aid Society Frederick Douglass Center
885 Columbus Ave (@ 104th Street)|
English with Spanish Translation

October 24th – 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Millbrook Community Center
201 St. Ann’s Ave (@ 137th Street) – Bronx
English with Spanish Translation

October 25th – 4:30 pm to 7:00 pm
YOUTH ASSEMBLY – Children’s Aid Society
130 E. 101st Street (@ Lexington Ave)
English Only
Note: This assembly will be geared toward youth.

PS 109 Project One Step Closer to Being Realized

Last week, Artspace announced that it had recieved $1 million to advance the P.S. 109 project from a public-private partnership of funders, the National Endowment for the Arts and financial institutions.  This project, of which Melissa has been a strong supporter since her first term, aims to renovate the currently closed school located on East 99th street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues and convert it to 
90 units of affordable live/work space for artists and their families.   The renovated building will also offer over 10,000 square feet of community space, where performances, presentations and other activities will take place. The housing units will be priced between 40-60 percent of the area’s median income, and at least 50 percent are reserved for current community residents.  El Barrio’s Operation Fightback is the community partner on this project to ensure that local residents get the maximum benefit.

Several leaders and organizations have already expressed excitement about El Barrio’s Artspace. Mayor Bloomberg said that these programs would stimulate job growth and help to revitalize the community. Rocco Landesman, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, praised Artplaces approach and its recognition that the arts are vital drivers of community development. Melissa, who has committed over $2 million in discretionary capital funds to this project, had this to say:

PS 109 After Renovation

I have been an ardent supporter of Artspace’s PS109 project since day one. The incredibly generous grant from ArtPlace validates how significant and cutting edge this project is. . .[and it will help] solidify El Barrio/East Harlem’s place as a vibrant cultural community that welcomes and celebrates the contributions of local artists. I want to thank each of the foundations, agencies and organizations that comprise ArtPlace for making such a substantial investment in this exciting and innovative project. This is an exciting day for El Barrio/East Harlem!

El Barrio’s Artspace has an projected cost of $52.6 million. Thus, the contributions from private funders, including the Ford Foundation, ArtPlace, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Warhol Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Deutsche Bank, have been invaluable. The vast majority of the funds, however, will come from low-Income Housing Tax Credits, Historic Preservation Tax Credits, and other city, state and federal sources.  Construction is scheduled to start in December 2011 and be completed in December 2013.

Participatory Budgeting, a New Groundbreaking Democratic Process, Coming to District 8

Melissa speaks to community leaders about the participatory budgeting process.

Melissa joined three of her colleagues today in unveiling a new groundbreaking budgeting process called Participatory Budgeting. Through this process, community members will directly decide how to spend at least 1 million dollars in capital funds in each of the four participating districts.  Council Members Brad Lander, Eric Ulrich and Jumaane Williams are the other three members participating in this process.  Typically, this funding is distributed at the exclusive discretion of Council Members, but for the first time in New York City history, residents of these four districts will have an opportunity to brainstorm, shape and vote on capital projects in their district.

The NYC Participatory Budgeting (PB) initiative is the largest of its kind in the U.S.  Participatory budgeting has gained acceptance around the world as an innovative strategy for increasing civic participation and community engagement. But thus far in the United States, only one Chicago City Council ward has engaged in participatory budgeting.

How the Process Works
The PB initiative will take place in three stages, including a series of community meetings in each district, a process for finalizing proposals and a final public vote.  Throughout the month of October, we will hold a series of “neighborhood assemblies,” where the brainstorming process will begin.  All residents of District 8, as well as those who work and go to school in our district, will be invited to participate in these assemblies (Look out for the dates and locations coming soon!) and identify local priorities.  Out of those neighborhood assemblies, budget delegates will be chosen to refine and further develop the proposals that emerge.  After another set of neighborhood assemblies in the winter, a public vote will take place around March 2012.

We hope that everyone in District 8 will play an active role in this process.  Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Attend a Neighborhood Assembly
    Dates and locations will be available soon.  Check back to our new PB page (www.mmviverito.com/pbnyc) or join our e-mail list by clicking here.
  • Spread the Word to All of Your Neighbors and Friends
    Tell everyone you know in our district about this new initiative, especially once the dates and locations of the neighborhood assemblies are released. Talk to your neighbors and the other parents at your children’s school.  Announce it at your next tenant association meeting.  You get the idea!
  • Volunteer to Help Out with this Process
    You can help out at a neighborhood assembly by volunteering to provide translation or child care, or by helping us to do outreach in the community to ensure that we have lots of participation. E-mail mmvbudget@gmail.com for more information.
  • Sign Up to Be a Budget Delegate
    Budget delegates make a commitment to help transform projects from ideas into proposals that the community can vote on next March.  If you are interested in becoming a delegate, you can begin by attending one or more of our neighborhood assemblies.  Please contact mmvbudget@gmail.com for more information.

Melissa Releases Report on Discretionary Funds Coming to Our District in the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget

Melissa reviews budget documents prior to voting yesterday.

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito released a report today on discretionary expense and capital funds that she has helped secure for organizations and schools in our district in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget.  The budget was adopted by the City Council yesterday.  The report, which can be found below, also provides information on the restorations to the Mayor’s proposed budget made by the City Council, as well as Council initiatives.

The adopted FY 2012 budget included critical restorations of cuts proposed by the Mayor to the city’s safety net, in areas ranging from education, parks, libraries and senior centers to HIV/AIDS services, fire engine companies and child protective services workers.  Most notably, thanks to the Council’s negotiations with the Mayor and the UFT, the 4,000 plus teachers proposed to be laid off will remain in the classroom.  Unfortunately, not all programs could be kept whole in this challenging fiscal environment.  Melissa and many of her colleagues continue to push for the need for fair share tax reform and alternative revenue options to avoid further cuts in the future.

Please take a moment to review the report, which is embedded below.  You can also download it in PDF format by clicking here.

Progressive Caucus Calls on Mayor Bloomberg to Accept Offer from Municipal Labor Council

Criticizes Mayor from Blocking Plan to Save Essential Services

The New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus calls on the Bloomberg Administration to accept the constructive and responsible offer from the Municipal Labor Council – to avoid teacher lay-offs and massive class size increases, the closing of fire companies that put communities at risk, the elimination of thousands of day care slots, of neighborhood libraries, and many other essential services.

Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg is more interested in posturing than in the needs of millions of New Yorkers. He apparently is more concerned with “looking tough on labor” than in the best interests of our city. Mr. Mayor, this is not a competition with Governor Walker, Governor Christie, or Governor Cuomo to wring out the most concessions or look the toughest. This is not a game.

The offer from our city’s public sector labor unions is an extremely generous one. They are willing to contribute more than $260 million that was designated to be used for the health care of their members to the City, in order to keep class sizes low, save fire companies, workers who protect at-risk kids, day care slots, libraries, and cultural institutions. This is not public money, but funds from hard working union members who keep this city going and who are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. At the same time, the union proposal would use less than half that amount from the Health Insurance Stabilization Fund to contribute to union welfare funds, with narrow uses allowed, specifically for health insurance uses. This offer is not only appropriate and reasonable – it is incredibly generous. The Mayor should respect the good faith proposal made by the city’s unions.

Mr. Bloomberg is supposed to be the dollars and cents mayor, but his rejection of the MLC’s offer doesn’t make finacial sense. Mayor Bloomberg has consistently rejected a fair, balanced, and compassionate approach to this year’s budget. Despite the City Time scandal in which his Administration has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars, he has rejected reasonable proposals from Speaker Quinn and others to trim out-of-control consultant spending. Despite continued profits on Wall Street, his policies will give millionaires a tax break that will cost the City billions.

Mayor Bloomberg, this is not a time for posturing. Please reverse course, accept the offer from our city’s unions, agree to cuts in contract spending, and help achieve a responsible, balanced, “fair share” budget that does not jeopardize our future.

Progressive Caucus members are: co-chairs Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) and Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan/Bronx); Annabel Palma, from the Bronx; Letitia James and Jumaane D. Williams, from Brooklyn; Margaret Chin, from Manhattan; Daniel Dromm, Julissa Ferreras, James Sanders Jr., and Jimmy Van Bramer, from Queens; and Deborah Rose, from Staten Island.

Melissa Joins Rally Against NYPD’s Marijuana Arrest Practices

Melissa joined a rally held by VOCAL-NY near Mayor Bloomberg’s home to criticize the NYPD’s aggressive marijuana arrest practices, which disproportionately target communities of color and cost the City at least $75 million per year.  Watch the video above for Melissa’s remarks at the rally.

Photo by Angel Franco/The New York Times

In the 25th Precinct (East Harlem), there were 1,069 low-level marijuana arrests in 2010, compared to just 34 in the 19th Precinct where the Mayor lives.  Melissa is currently drafting a City Council resolution in support of bipartisan legislation introduced in the State Legislature that would de-criminalize displaying marijuana in public view.  Currently, possession of small amounts of marijuana is already de-criminalized under State law.  However, when police perform stop and frisks, they routinely ask that individuals empty their pockets.  If they take out marijuana, it is considered to be in public view and can be punished by arrest.

Click here to read more background information in the full press release.  Below are links to the press coverage from the event:

Upper Manhattan Electeds and Families Rally Against Proposed Cuts to Child Care

Yesterday evening, Council Members from Upper Manhattan stood in unity with parents, children and day care providers in protesting the proposed cuts to City-funded child care.  Footage from the rally and Melissa’s remarks are included in the video above.  The communities of Upper Manhattan are disproportionately impacted by the proposed cuts as nearly 80% of the scheduled slot reductions in the borough of Manhattan occur in these council districts.

For additional photos, courtesy of DNA Info, click here.

Though the Mayor recently announced a plan that he said would restore the funding for child care, there is still deep concern that thousands of families will find themselves without access to these vital services.  Only $40 million of the $91 million in proposed cuts have been restored, saving 4,400 of the 16,000 slots on the chopping block in the Fiscal Year 2012 Preliminary Budget.  The Mayor’s current plan hinges on offering 10,500 school-age children the option of enrolling in DYCD’s Out-of-School Time (OST) afterschool program, which itself has experienced severe cuts in recent years and does not address the needs of those working parents that require child care during traditional working hours.

The communities of Upper Manhattan are disproportionately impacted by the proposed cuts as nearly 80% of the scheduled slot reductions in the borough of Manhattan are set to occur in these council districts. Day care services represent a critical investment in our young people’s future, as it increases access to early childhood education.  It also helps boost our local economies, by enabling parents to remain employed.  According to the Emergency Coalition to Save Childcare, every dollar cut from child care leads to a $1.86 loss for the community.

Council Members Viverito, Dickens, Jackson and Rodriguez all pledged to make a restoration of child care centers a priority heading into budget negotiations, but called on the community to urge Mayor Bloomberg, who controls the overwhelming majority of the City’s budget, to come up with the funds for a full restoration.

This Thursday: Upper Manhattan Unity Rally Against Cuts to the City’s Child Care Centers

Upper Manhattan Council Members, parents, children, day care providers and advocates will rally this Thursday at 6:00 p.m. against the proposed cuts to the City’s child care centers at Colonel Young Park on 143rd Street between 5th and Lenox Avenues.

Though the Mayor recently announced a plan that he said would restore the funding for child care, there is still deep concern that thousands of families will find themselves without access to these vital services.  The Mayor’s plan hinges on offering 10,500 school-age children the option of enrolling in DYCD’s Out-of-School Time (OST) afterschool program, which itself has experienced severe cuts in recent years and does not address the needs of those working parents that require child care during traditional working hours.

We hope you can join us this Thursday as we unite to urge the administration to develop a real plan to save child care slots, hundreds of which are currently on the chopping block in Upper Manhattan alone.

Progressive Caucus: Austerity Budget is Fine for the Rich but Bad for the Rest of Us

Today, Mayor Bloomberg released his Fiscal Year 2012 Executive Budget.  The proposal includes layoffs of over 6,000 teachers and the closure of 20 firehouses, and other massive cuts to municipal and social services.  The Executive Budget will now come before the City Council, which will hold a series of hearings throughout this month, followed by more extensive negotiations with the administration in June.

Next Thursday, May 12th, members from dozens of community groups and unions are coming together to tell the Mayor “No More Cuts – It’s Time for the Big Banks and Millionaires to Pay Their Fair Share!”  Thousands of New Yorkers are scheduled to gather at assembly sites throughout lower Manhattan for teach-ins on the important service areas being cut, after which they will converge on Wall Street.  For more information on May 12th, visit www.OnMay12.org or join the Facebook group.

For now, the Progressive Caucus has released the following statement in response to the Mayor’s budget:

Austerity Budget is Fine for the Rich but Bad for the Rest of Us

Mayor Bloomberg’s austerity budget demands sacrifice from children, parents, seniors, women,  the sick, the at-risk, working families, the unemployed, the underemployed … in short, from everyone except the wealthy.  Year after year, Mayor Bloomberg has balanced the budget on the backs of New York families by cutting vital services. Meanwhile, the rich and powerful (including those on Wall Street who caused the economic crisis) are not only exempted from sharing the sacrifice, but even get special treatment through tax breaks and real estate loopholes.

Although the Mayor is right to place blame on Albany for the budget deficit, the fact is that he lobbied against the extension of the Millionaire’s Tax – which will cost the city billions – while we and busloads of our constituents asked for this fair share solution.

There are still many ways the City can achieve a FY 2012 budget that better serves New Yorkers.  We can extend the millionaire’s tax and eliminate tax loopholes for hedge-fund managers, which amount to an estimated $570 million. We can cut subsidies, tax credits, and special deals with big banks that cost New Yorkers around $250 million.  We can put a break on rapidly growing spending on expensive and out-of-control consultants.  If necessary, we can dip into the City’s “rainy day fund” (while still leaving plenty for the future).

We were glad to see restoration of capital funding for the marine transfer stations that make possible a “fair share” approach to solid waste.  And restoring $40 million of the $91 million cut to childcare will be a good first step if the Mayor works with the Council to achieve a full restoration.

It’s time to have real conversations about eliminating loopholes and increasing revenue, instead of coddling the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. We must consider new revenue options or we will continue to have this problem.

Some painful cuts will be indeed necessary, but not the brutal cuts the Mayor is proposing to schools, child care, libraries, firehouses, neighborhoods, and working families.

Next Thursday, May 12th, we will join thousands of new Yorkers to call on Mayor Bloomberg to support fair taxation, end Wall Street tax breaks, and put an end to harmful practices that cost New York City money and hurt our economy.  In the coming weeks, we will be asking New Yorkers to weigh in on what they would like to see in the City’s budget, as the Council prepares to negotiate with him before the budget deadline on June 30th.

Melissa Chairs Hearing on the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) Program

New York City Parks Enforcement patch

Image via Wikipedia

Melissa chaired a hearing on the City Council’s Parks & Recreation Committee on Wednesday regarding the Parks Enforcement Patrol (PEP) program.  The hearing focused on the disparities in the allocation of PEP officers among different parks and communities as well as workplace issues faced by the officers.

PEP officers are unarmed peace officers, who enforce the rules of our parks and are empowered to issue summonses for quality of life offenses, as well as disorderly conduct and unlawful possession of weapons.  They also review park facilities for health and safety issues.  There are currently 92 PEP officers to cover over 28,000 acres of parkland, with an additional 83 officers that are contracted by conservancies and other private entities to work in specific parks.  There are often just a few at-large officers on duty at any given time for the entire borough of the Bronx, whereas in a single park in communities of greater means, there might be a dozen.

Melissa and other members of the committee stressed the need for more resources for the PEP program so that these officers can cover more parks, particularly at a time when the City is seeing an increase in crimes committed on parkland.  Melissa also highlighted that the practice of contracting with private entities that are able to purchase increased security from the department while the majority of other parks go unsupervised sets up a two-tiered system in our public parks.

The hearing also focused on the issues that PEP officers face as a workforce. Several officers came to testify about the difficult and dangerous jobs they do, including doing car stops and removing homeless individuals from parks, without the help of the NYPD or the Department of Homeless Services. They asked for greater numbers of PEP officers and more support to help make our parks safer.

In the coming months, the Committee plans to hold another hearing jointly with the Public Safety Committee on crime in parks, which will continue to examine these issues.

Coverage of Wednesday’s hearing:

Join Us This Sunday for a Unity Rally in Support of a Progressive State Budget and the Strengthening of Rent Stabilization Laws


The New York City Council

Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus

jointly with the

Progressive Caucus

Invites you to

A RALLY FOR A PROGRESSIVE STATE BUDGET

Sunday, March 27th at 1pm

City Hall Steps

JOIN US To Call For A State Budget That:

*** STRENTHENS the Rent Laws & REPEALS Vacancy Destabilization

*** RESTORES the Continuation of the Millionaires Tax

*** SAVES our children from devastating education cuts

 

Coordinated with Alliance for Quality Education, New York Communities for Change, the Real Rent Reform Campaign, Right to the City, VOCAL New York and the Coalition for Educational Justice

For more information, contact:

  • Mary Tek, Real Rent Reform Campaign, 212-608-4320 x 616 or mtek@tandn.org
  • Jonathan Wstin, New York Communities for Change, 917-637-9501 or jwestin@nycommunities.org
  • Francine Streich, Alliance for Quality Education, 917-439-9602 or francine.laurie@gmail.com

Melissa Questions NYPD Commissioner on Rampant Marijuana Arrests

At a City Council hearing this week, Melissa questioned NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly regarding the huge increase in low-level marijuana arrests in the City, which are estimated to cost over $75 million per year, according to a report by the Drug Policy Alliance.  Last year, over 50,000 people (84% of which were Black and Latino) were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana, even though it was decriminalized in 1977.  In 2010, more people were arrested for marijuana possession than in the entire period spanning 1978 to 1996.

Click image to open video.

While possession of small amounts of marijuana was previously decriminalized by the State legislature, those who are arrested are typically caught with marijuana “in public view.”  However, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that, during stop and frisks, individuals are asked to take out what is in their pockets, thereby exposing what was previously concealed marijuana.

“As the City asks agencies providing vital services to New Yorkers to cut back, it is unacceptable that the NYPD is using $75 million in taxpayer dollars to enforce low-level marijuana offenses,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The disparities in the number of marijuana arrests is just as startling and brings attention to how our criminal justice policies disproportionately target people of color, and in particular our young people, who are too often introduced to the criminal justice system because of these low-level offenses. This funding could surely be better utilized in this time of economic need.”

Last year, the 25th Precinct, which covers El Barrio/East Harlem currently ranked number 14 out of 75 in the number of marijuana arrests, according to an analysis by the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform & Alternatives and the Drug Policy Alliance.  94% of those arrested are people of color.  The 23rd Precinct on the West Side of our district ranked number 31 and the 40th Precinct, which covers Mott Haven, ranked number 26.

Click the image above to open video from NY1.  Here is some additional media coverage from the hearing:

 

Progressive Caucus Responds to Mayor’s 2011 State of the City Address

Caucus calls for living-wage jobs, more contracts for minority- and women-owned businesses, and a fair tax structure

Watch a video of the statement, read by Council Members Debi Rose, Brad Lander and Melissa Mark-Viverito below:

NEW YORK, NY – The tragic shooting in Arizona earlier this month has caused us all to reflect on the plague of gun violence in our society, and the need for greater civility in our political discourse. We laud the Mayor for his longstanding leadership and tireless efforts to get illegal guns off of our streets, and to reduce gun violence.

But we are disappointed that Mayor Bloomberg spoke about the need to “face reality” in his State of the City Speech today (Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011) without outlining a real plan of action to address the economic realities facing most New Yorkers at a time when our city remains in a severe economic crisis.

Residents of outer boroughs may appreciate the chance to hail a livery cab … but too many can’t even afford the ride. Especially when a recent report shows that income inequality is greater in New York than in any other large American city.  The top 1% of New York households, just 90,000 people, earn the same amount in one day as the 900,000 New Yorkers in deep poverty earn in a whole year.

Most New York City workers and their families have experienced very little real income or wage growth over the past two decades and high unemployment continues to plague our city. Unemployment remains at an official rate of 9%, but nearly double that when you factor in discouraged people who have dropped out of the labor force, and the rate is much higher among African-Americans, Latinos and residents of low-income neighborhoods.

The Mayor spoke to the need to attract tourists, college graduates and white-collar entrepreneurs, but we heard nothing about how we can create living-wage jobs for New Yorkers who are struggling to make a living here. The jobs that are being created in our city tend to pay low wages, often without benefits or even the ability to take a day off when you’re sick. And homelessness remains near its all-time high. 37,363 people slept in City shelters last Thursday night, of which more than 16,000 were children.

On jobs – our city’s most pressing issue – the Mayor’s speech, like his recent performance, was disappointing.

  • The Bloomberg administration has not launched a single new major jobs initiative for low-income New Yorkers. Community service jobs and wage subsidy programs are scheduled for further cuts.
  • Despite giving his recent “jobs speech” at the Brooklyn Navy Yard – where innovation is thriving in new industrial niches – the mayor has dramatically reduced his policy commitment to the manufacturing sector, and presided over a steep decline in blue-collar jobs.
  • City contracting with minority- and women-owned businesses (M/WBEs) is embarrassingly below goals set in 2005. While the Mayor acknowledged a need to improve in this area, a recent report showed that only 1 out of 15 major City agencies met even half of the M/WBE goals.
  • The Mayor has opposed and stalled consideration of living-wage job creation requirements, even when the City is providing millions in subsidies to for-profit corporations and real estate developers.

These challenging economic times do require fiscal discipline, and the City Council – under the leadership of Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Finance Chair Domenic Recchia – has worked with the Mayor to make difficult decisions and choose painful spending cuts. But we need a fair approach that keeps our city strong and asks for shared sacrifice, rather than balancing the budget primarily on the backs of the poor and the middle class.

Mayor Bloomberg said no today to any new taxes – but our current tax structure is unfair and regressive. That’s why the Progressive Caucus has proposed a temporary income tax surcharge on household incomes over $250,000 – to recapture the windfall that Congressional Republicans won for the wealthiest 2% of households. Mayor Bloomberg has been the chief defender of these very households – he’s opposed regulatory reform of Wall Street despite the fact that it was Wall Street speculation that cost us millions of jobs in the first place.

The Mayor today asked nothing of Wall Street or the wealthiest New Yorkers, and for sacrifice only from public school teachers, police officers, librarians, and the working- and middle-class New Yorkers they serve.

While the Mayor has often said that the rich pay more than their share, the opposite is true. The wealthiest 1% of New Yorkers earned 45% of the city’s total income, but they only paid 34% of city taxes. Our plan would make our tax structure more fair, raise $8 billion dollars to address State and City deficits, help us save core services like education and public safety, and allow us to create the jobs we so desperately need.

In response to the Administration’s failures to address the recent blizzard, the City Council held hearings, led by Speaker Quinn and the Progressive Caucus’ own Letitia James and Jumaane Williams. At those hearings, the Bloomberg Administration acknowledged its mistakes, announced significant policy changes, and pledged to do better in the future.

We need the same kind of commitment to do better to create well-paying jobs and advance economic security for struggling low-income, working, and middle-class families in neighborhoods across the five boroughs. We also need policy changes to ensure affordable housing for our residents and policies that make sure our children get the kind of education they need and deserve.

The Progressive Caucus calls for a real plan of action to move New York City out of this economic crisis and appeals to Mayor Bloomberg to work with us in our shared vision of a better New York City.

Major Mid-Year Budget Cuts Avoided in Deal Negotiated by the City Council

The City Council has negotiated a deal with the Bloomberg administration to avoid mid-year budget cuts to core services, from case management for seniors to shelter beds for homeless youth, as well as to defer increases in recreation center fees and parking meter rates.  This deal only applies to the current fiscal year, which ends in June.

 

Melissa questions the FDNY Commissioner at a Council budget hearing (Photo by William Alatriste).

 

By proposing alternative cuts, such as a reduction in the Department of Education’s private contracting budget, the Council was able to:

  • Defer proposed nighttime fire company closures
  • Restore funding for nearly 200 ACS staff positions in the areas of child welfare and child protective services
  • Fully restore case management services for seniors
  • Fully restore runaway and homeless youth programs and preserve the number of available slots in other afterschool programs
  • Defer parking meters increases above 86th Street and outside of Manhattan
  • Defer the doubling of recreation center membership fees

The City still faces a $2.4 billion deficit for the next Fiscal Year and the  Bloomberg administration is already proposing over a billion dollars in cuts for Fiscal Year 2012 (which begins in July).  Melissa strongly maintains her position that the only way to fully address these recurring budget deficits is to ask the wealthiest New Yorkers to put in their fair share through progressive taxation.

Community Leaders Stage Citizen’s Arrest on Wall Street in Response to $143 Billion in Bonuses

Community leaders recently gathered outside of the New York Stock Exchange to protest a projected $143 million in bonuses for Wall Street executives, while the local and national economy continues to struggle.  That same day, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) joined a coalition of groups in releasing a report detailing some of the ways in which these millions of dollars in bonuses could be reinvested to help revitalize our economy.

The report, entitled Big Banks, Bonus Bonanza, reveals that banks received $17 trillion in bailouts and other forms of assistance from American taxpayers.  Its authors argue that if Wall Street reinvested the $143 billion back into the economy, it could create 3.6 million new jobs, or fill the deficits of all 50 states combined.  Click here for more on the report.

 

Photo courtesy of Showdown in America.

According to a recent poll, 70% of Americans support banning Wall Street bonuses, in a context of high unemployment and budget cuts to social services at the local and state levels.  Even among Republicans, whose party leaders typically oppose regulation on business, 76% support a bonus ban.  One in six respondents also support a 50% tax on bonuses over $400,000.

Meanwhile, a recent New York Times editorial endorsed a proposal for states to tax wealthy residents on the windfall they will earn as a result of the Congress’ failure to roll back the Bush-era tax cuts.  The Progressive Caucus has been promoting a similar proposal at the New York State and City levels.

This coming year, our office and the Progressive Caucus will redouble our efforts to begin to reverse the tide of inequality which is only becoming greater in New York City and beyond, by continuing to advocate for fair share tax reforms, while fighting the crippling budget cuts being proposed by the Bloomberg administration.

What do you think of the record bonuses being taken in by Wall Street executives?

Melissa Joins Rally Against Cuts to Shelter Beds for Homeless and Runaway Youth

This afternoon Melissa joined nearly a dozen other council members, and over 100 young people and advocates on the steps of City Hall to voice opposition to a proposed cut in funding for shelter bed services for runaway and homeless youth, many of whom are members of the LGBT community.

Photo by William Alatriste.

On November 26th, the Bloomberg Administration, via the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, informed grantees across the city that Runaway and Homeless Youth Services expenditures would be cut by nearly $1 million in the current fiscal year and by another $700,000 in the upcoming year.

According to statements issued by Council Member Lew Fidler and the Ali Forney Center, there is an average of 3,800 homeless children in New York City without their families on our streets every night and a dearth of available shelter beds for them. Cuts would only serve to worsen an already bleak situation.

Photo by William Alatriste.

 

Adding remarks to the litany of speakers, Melissa, who is a member of the Council’s Youth Services Committee, offered her utter disdain for the budget cuts which will result in more homeless youth on our streets. Speakers called upon the Bloomberg administration to rescind the proposed cuts. If these cuts are enacted, organizations will have to cut services beginning January 1, 2011. The press conference culminated with Melissa and the other participants lying down on the steps of City Hall to symbolize the impact these proposed cuts will have on homeless youth in our city.

 

Attendees laid down on the steps of City Hall to symbolize the impact these cuts will have on homeless youth.

 

Progressive Caucus Calls for New York Surcharge on Bush-era Tax Breaks for the Wealthy to Restore Services, Address Deficits, Revitalize Economy

Temporary surcharge on income over $250,000 would generate $8 billion, to be shared by New York State and City

New York, NY – On the heels of the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, members of the New York City Council Progressive Caucus today issued a plan for an income tax surcharge on households earning over $250,000.  The surcharge would be set at the same amount as the additional income tax break the wealthiest households will receive under the tax cut plan.  The Caucus plan would generate $8.1 billion, and use this revenue to restore vital services now proposed for deep cuts, stimulate the New York economy, and address severe deficits facing New York City and State.

The extension of the Bush-era tax breaks for the top 2% of American households comes as New York City and State (like other cities and state around the country) are facing dire cuts and gaping deficits.  Mayor Bloomberg is proposing to lay off 4,000 teachers, reduce the NYPD and FDNY through attrition, cut home-care services for seniors and child care for families.  Yet despite these proposed cuts, as well as new fees for FDNY emergency service, a large deficit would remain.  And the budget gap New York State is facing is even bigger.  The Progressive Caucus proposal would narrow these gaps, prevent harmful cuts, and help revitalize New York’s economy.

Income concentration is growing in New York, but the top 1% of households do not pay their fair share.  According to a recent report from the Fiscal Policy Institute, the wealthiest 1% increased their share of income from 19.6% in 1990 to a staggering 44% in 2007.  Yet they only pay 34% of the City’s income, property, and sales taxes.

Under the proposal offered today by the Progressive Caucus:

  • Households earning under $250,000 (or individuals under $200,000) will receive the full tax relief under the federal package. A married couple with two kids earning $50,000 will continue to receive about $2,000 in tax relief.
  • Households earning over $250,000 would still receive tax relief on the first $250,000.  A surcharge would be placed on income over $250,000, per President Obama’s original proposal. A married couple with no kids, earning $500,000 per year, would still receive $7,000 in tax relief, but would no longer receive the extra $3,000 provided by the federal extension.
  • This income tax surcharge will be repealed when Congress and the President repeal the tax breaks for the wealthiest households.

The proposal would generate approximately $8.1 billion. The Caucus also proposed a revenue sharing formula, to share the new revenue between New York State, New York City, and other municipalities.

With this plan, New York City would prevent 4,000 teacher layoffs, maintain police and fire services at current levels, keep libraries and child care centers open, and substantially reduce its deficit.

The plan would need to be adopted by the New York State Legislature, as the City of New York does not have the power to raise income taxes.  The Caucus called on Governor-elect Cuomo, state legislators, and Mayor Bloomberg to support the proposal. Continue reading

Council Holds Hearing on Proposed Mid-Year Budget Cuts

The City Council held a hearing today to discuss the mid-year budget cuts that have been proposed by the Bloomberg administration.  The City is currently facing a $2.4 billion deficit going into the Fiscal Year 2012, and is proposing $585 million in cuts for the current fiscal year, including everything from reductions in case management services for the elderly, layoffs for Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) employees, and cuts to the runaway and homeless youth program.

Melissa questioning Office of Management and Budget Director Mark Page (Photo by William Alatriste).

Melissa focused her questioning on a few key areas, including why the New York Police Department (NYPD) did not meet its own budget reduction targets, while nearly all other agencies did, and whether the City is looking actively into reducing its reliance on private contractors, which have been found to cause the City to spend more.

Melissa tells OMB Director Page that "we cannot continue nickling and diming our way to solvency." (Photo by William Alatriste).

Melissa also expressed her extreme concern regarding cuts to the already strapped Department for the Aging (DFTA).  After the adoption of the Fiscal Year 2011 budget, a number of senior centers were closed down, in addition to several other cuts.  Now the administration has proposed an additional $3.3 million in budget reductions specifically to case management, which will cause some of our most frail seniors to lose services.

The Council will fight for restorations to key areas, and has proposed alternative cuts that could preserve some of these essential services.

Progressive Caucus Releases Statements on Mayor’s Support of Bush Tax Cuts & Tuesday’s State Budget Agreement

The Progressive Caucus of the NYC Council released two joint statements this evening, one regarding Mayor Bloomberg’s support of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and the other responding to Tuesday’s New York State budget agreement.  Both statements can be viewed below:

STATEMENT BY PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS ON MAYOR BLOOMBERG’S SUPPORT OF EXTENDING BUSH TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY

New York, NY – “We are deeply disappointed with Mayor Bloomberg’s recent comments in support of extending George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.  We find this position irresponsible and urge the Mayor to reconsider his position and join with President Obama and the Progressive Caucus in calling on Congress to let these unfair and unnecessary tax cuts expire this year.

Mayor Bloomberg’s arguments for the tax cuts represent both an ideologically driven view of how the economy works, and a deeply unfair perspective on who should bear the responsibility for supporting the services all Americans rely on.

Mayor Bloomberg claims that extending these tax cuts would be an excellent way to help revive the economy. However, the Congressional Budget Office has reported that, measured by the resulting growth in GDP, extending the Bush tax cuts is actually the least effective way to boost economic growth. Instead, they recommend tools like extending unemployment benefits, expanding temporary aid to states and localities, and providing job-creating tax credits that put money in the hands of middle and low income Americans who are more likely to spend it. Far from hampering economic growth, higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans have also been correlated with the fastest period of growth in a generation: the 1990s. Continue reading

City Announces Plan to Address Section 8 Voucher Crisis

Last week, the City announced a plan to address the Section 8 voucher crisis, protecting 6,500 families from losing their vouchers.  A solution to this crisis has been one of the principal agenda items of the Progressive Caucus, and the subject of several hearings and rallies at City Hall.

The $32 million plan announced last Thursday will solve NYCHA’s budget shortfall that had put 4,000 families at risk of losing their vouchers and also reinstate subsidies for the roughly 2,500 families  whose vouchers had been revoked last December.  The plan utilizes federal dollars, including budget reserves from the Section 8 program administered by NYC’s Housing Preservation and Development’s (HPD), and funding from the City Council. Continue reading

Learn More About This Year’s City Budget and Its Impact on Our District

Yesterday, the City Council adopted the budget for Fiscal Year 2011. Our office has prepared a report for our constituents on this year’s budget, particularly regarding the resources Melissa has secured for District 8 and the restorations and initiatives she helped fight for during this process. We hope you will take a moment to read the report.

We have also launched a new section of the blog that will house budget-related information.  It can be accessed by clicking the ‘Budget’ tab at the top of the page.

If you cannot see the report below, click here to download it in PDF format.

The Mayor and the Speaker Have Announced a Budget Agreement

Last night at around 10:30 p.m., Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn held their traditional “handshake” on the City’s budget. While many of the specifics are still being negotiated, the Mayor and the Council have agreed on the major framework of the budget. Some important restorations were announced last night:

  • All fire engine companies will remain open.
  • All four public swimming pools that had been slated for closure will now be open, and all pools will be open for the entire season, rather than the proposal to close them two weeks early.
  • Libraries will be kept at an average of five day service, after cuts threatened to reduce some branches down to two days per week.
  • Senior centers will receive a partial restoration, keeping a number of centers open (to be determined), but closing some others.
  • 72 childcare classrooms, 3,000 preventive services slots, and 200 Administration for Child Services (ACS) staff positions were also restored.

Still, hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts will be announced in the coming days.  The budget is expected to be adopted early next week, after which more details will become available. We will also be preparing a brief report for constituents on this year’s budget, including information on discretionary funding that Melissa has secured for District 8.  The report will be available here on the blog and will be sent out over our listserv.

If you haven’t already, please make sure to subscribe to our blog (a space to enter your e-mail address is provided at the top of the right-hand column) for the most up-to-date info. You can also subscribe to our listserv by completing the form at http://tinyurl.com/mmvsubscribe.

Council Members & Advocates Call for Restoration of Immigrant Opportunities Initiative

Council Members and advocates gathered on the steps of City Hall today to call for the restoration of $5 million in funding for the Immigrant Opportunities Initiative (IOI).

Melissa speaking at today's press conference (Photo by William Alatriste).

IOI provides essential funding for community groups around the city to offer affordable legal services and adult literacy programming for immigrant communities throughout New York City.

Budget negotiations between the Bloomberg administration and the City Council are currently ongoing.  By law, the City’s budget must be passed by the end of June.

Check back to the blog after budget adoption for updates and a report on Council restorations and discretionary funding for Fiscal Year 2011.

New Op-Ed on Revenue Options Published Today on Gotham Gazette Website

Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Melissa Mark-Viverito and Brad Lander published an op-ed today on the Gotham Gazette news website, which again lays out the argument for new sources of revenue to address the city’s budget deficit.

Here is an excerpt from the op-ed:

Even as working New Yorkers are bracing themselves for these cuts, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration have refused to consider taking a more balanced approach by enacting new revenue-generating options that would reduce cuts by asking Wall Street and the wealthiest city residents to put in their fair share. The current economic crisis has only made already longstanding inequities in our city much worse. In taking revenue options completely off the table, the administration is failing to demonstrate the leadership that the majority of New Yorkers needs in order to bring more fairness to the current budget and to secure a stable future for all residents of our city.

With an even bleaker outlook for next year, the city simply cannot wait any longer to ask the wealthiest for their fair share. This coming year, thousands of low and moderate-income families could find themselves hit by budget cuts on multiple levels and across generations — in just one low-income area in Brooklyn, two child-care centers, a senior center, a health clinic and a public pool are all on the chopping block. Meanwhile, the safety and quality of life of our communities as a whole could be compromised by the closure of fire companies, the reduction of public health services and decreased maintenance in our parks.  Read the rest of the piece on the Gotham Gazette website.

Watch Four of Melissa’s Progressive Caucus Colleagues on NY1’s ‘Inside City Hall’

Council Members Danny Dromm, Ydanis Rodriguez, Debi Rose and Jumaane Williams appeared on last night’s ‘Inside City Hall’ on NY1 to discuss the formation of the Progressive Caucus and the need for the consideration of new revenue options in our City.

The video can be opened by clicking on the image below:

Progressive Caucus Releases Budget Survey Results as Thousands Rally Against Cuts Outside City Hall

An aerial photo of the huge crowd outside City Hall Park (Courtesy of the United Federation of Teachers)

This afternoon, the Council’s Progressive Caucus released the results of its budget survey just before thousands gathered at the “Save Our City” Rally outside City Hall to demand that the Mayor find alternative solutions to budget cuts.

Melissa and other members of the Progressive Caucus joined advocates and social service providers on the steps of City Hall today to announce the results and again renew the call for the consideration of new revenue options.

Among the nearly 2,000 New Yorkers that responded, 89% supported protecting vital services by asking those who can afford to pay to put in their fair share.  The survey indicated that New Yorkers support a number of new, progressive revenue options, including closing a tax loophole for hedge fund and private equity managers and fair share reforms to our tax structure.

More detailed results can be viewed in the report below.  A press release on the survey results can be found here.

We would like to thank all of those who took part in the survey!

Below are the official results.  If you are unable to view this document, click here to download it in PDF.

Tomorrow: Save Our City Rally at City Hall

Tomorrow, June 16th at 4:00 p.m., unions, community groups and elected officials will unite at a huge rally outside City Hall to call on the Mayor to find alternative solutions to the over $1 billion in budget cuts proposed by his administration.

Since the Executive Budget was released, the Progressive Caucus has pushed for the implementation of new revenue options that would help the City close this budget gap by asking Wall Street and the wealthiest New Yorkers to put in their fair share.

Stay tuned to the blog tomorrow for updates on this rally, and please feel free to join us at City Hall!

Parks Update: Budget Hearing & Bill Signing

Yesterday, Melissa chaired the Parks Committee’s Executive Budget Hearing. The Department is proposing deep cuts of nearly $41 million, including a headcount reduction and hiring freeze on employees, including those responsible for the maintenance of our city’s parks.

Melissa Questioning Parks Commissioner Benepe at Budget Hearing (Photo by William Alatriste)

Melissa and others at the hearing questioned how the conditions of our parks will be impacted by the loss of so many maintenance staff members. The Department argues that their volunteers as well as anti-litter initiatives will be enough to help our parks remain clean and well-maintained in spite of these cuts.

The Parks Department also announced the locations of the four pools slated to be closed, one of which, Wagner Swimming Pool, is in East Harlem.

Mayor Bloomberg Handing Out Pens He Used to Sign Local Law 19 (Photo by William Alatriste)

Yesterday afternoon, Mayor Bloomberg signed Intro 123-A, Melissa’s Parks Surface Material Advisory Committee legislation. It is now known as Local Law 19 of 2010, and will be implemented the next time the Department uses a new surface material on playgrounds or athletic fields in New York City.

Rally for Section 8 Vouchers Held This Morning

This morning, members of New York Communities for Change rallied outside of 250 Broadway, where NYCHA, the City Council and the State Legislature has offices, to call for the restoration of Section 8 vouchers.

Melissa and her colleagues Council Members Lander and Williams joined the rally to show their support.

In December of last year, 2,600 New Yorkers who had received Section 8 vouchers, but had not yet used them, had those vouchers revoked due to a budget shortfall.

While NYCHA did subsequently receive some extra funding from the federal government, there is still a $19 million deficit.  Currently, the Authority is still considering reducing the subsidy level for its current vouchers, putting additional financial burdens on thousands of New Yorkers.  They have also considered revoking even more Section 8 vouchers to address the budget shortfall.

Melissa Pushes Prevailing Wage Bill at DMI’s Marketplace of Ideas Event

Melissa spoke yesterday at an event held by the Drum Major Institute (DMI), a progressive think tank, called the Marketplace of Ideas, which looks at policies enacted by cities around the world, and why New York City should follow their lead.

Yesterday’s event focused on tying wage standards to city subsidies, the spirit behind legislation Melissa introduced in February that would require that all building service workers would be paid a prevailing wage in those buildings where the City rents space or where the City has provided financial assistance.

Melissa served on the panel, which also included Pittsburgh Council Member Douglas Shields who spoke about his experience enacting legislation on this topic in his home city, as well as Peter Colavito of SEIU 32BJ and Ava Farkas of the RWDSU.  Comptroller John Liu delivered opening remarks.

Click below to view a video clip from the panel, where Melissa speaks about the importance of having a standard prevailing wage policy, as well as the need to consider revenue options in light of the recent budget cuts and forecasts that next year’s budget will likely be even worse.

The event was covered in today’s Daily News.

Melissa Discusses Budget Cuts and Revenue on ‘Pura Politica’

This weekend, Melissa appeared on another installment of ‘Pura Politica’ on NY1 Noticias, where she and Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez discussed the Mayor’s proposed budget cuts and the need for an open discussion of revenue options.
Take a look at the video by clicking below:

Click the above image to open this video.

UPDATE: The link has been fixed.

Progressive Caucus Pushes Need for New Revenue Sources to Avoid Budget Cuts

Yesterday, the Mayor presented his executive budget, which includes 11,000 layoffs of City workers, including more than 6,000 teachers.  It also proposes closing dozens of senior centers throughout the City as well as 16 day care centers.

The Progressive Caucus, which Melissa co-chairs, released a statement yesterday regarding the critical need for new sources of revenue, including asking the wealthiest New Yorkers and Wall Street to contribute their fair share.

Click below to listen to an interview with Melissa on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show this morning, where she responds to the Executive Budget and discusses revenue options that should be on the table:

Preliminary results from the Caucus’ online budget survey have shown that nearly 90% of respondents favor asking a greater contribution from those who can afford to pay over cutting critical services.  If you have not yet filled out the survey, please do so by visiting www.surveymonkey.com/nycbudget08.  The survey is also now available in Spanish at www.surveymonkey.com/presupuesto.

In the coming weeks, the Caucus will release a more specific vision for revenue options that the City and State should implement in order to avoid cuts that are primarily affecting our City’s most vulnerable populations.

Have Thoughts on the City’s Budget? Please Complete the Progressive Caucus Budget Survey

Photo by William Alatriste.

We all know that this is a tough time financially for our city and our state. This year’s budget is likely to be one of the leanest in recent memory, with many services and institutions on the line for potential cuts. At the same time, it is our responsibility to explore options for increasing revenue to maintain essential services and a strong city.

The City Council plays a role in negotiating the City’s final budget, and before we take on that task, my colleagues in the Council’s Progressive Caucus and I would like to hear what you have to say. Follow this link http://www.surveymonkey.com/nycbudget08 to make your voice heard on the choices the city should make in these tough economic times.

Your input can be a valuable part of this process – and we want you to weigh in on the options we have for making cuts and raising revenue. I hope you will join up with interested New Yorkers from around the city to fill out this survey http://www.surveymonkey.com/nycbudget08.  And once you are done, please forward the link to your friends.

Thanks for your participation, and look out for a report back on what we learn from this survey in a few weeks.

Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito

Take Action Against MTA Service Cuts & the Phasing Out of Student MetroCards

The MTA has proposed a number of serious cuts and service reductions on buses, trains and Access-A-Rides throughout the city, as well as the phasing out of free MetroCards for NYC students.

These service reductions will lead to an increase in waiting times and crowding on our subway and bus lines, and the cuts to student MetroCards will only further increase the financial hardship already weighing so heavily on our city’s families. Meanwhile, cuts to Access-A-Ride service and eligibility will gravely impact the city’s disabled and senior populations.

We must take action against these cuts. Click here to sign the City Council’s online petition, calling on the MTA to look for alternate solutions to resolving their budget deficit, such as using capital and stimulus funding to avoid service and MetroCard cuts.

You can also voice your opposition at one of the MTA’s public hearings on this matter, which will be held during the first week of March. See the document below for more information on what you can do to fight these cuts.

Click here for a detailed list of service cuts from the MTA.