The Mayor’s Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2019 was just released, starting the next phase of negotiations between the Mayor’s Administration and City Council on the final budget. The New York League of Conservation Voters strongly supports budget priorities that will advance New York City’s sustainability agenda and make our people, our neighborhoods and our economy healthier and more resilient. With ambitious goals set under OneNYC in the energy, buildings, transportation, and waste sectors, it is imperative that the city’s budget reflects a concerted effort at realizing its goals. In order to do so, we recommend the following changes to the FY19 Budget:
Access to Healthy Food
Access to local, healthy food improves our environment, public health, and overall quality of life. New York State has had great success with the Healthy Food Healthy Communities Fund, which enabled 20 new food markets to open in areas with limited access to healthy food. The State no longer funds the HFHCF, but the City can replicate its successful model by investing $10 million in a healthy food financing program to expand and improve food retail establishments in neighborhoods with insufficient access to fresh produce.
Affordability is the other roadblock to accessing healthy food. SNAP incentive programs like Health Bucks is a successful food financing program that has already led to the purchase of over $2 million in fresh produce, and we support an investment of $15 million to expand SNAP incentive programs to serve more New Yorkers.
In addition, the Administration should support healthy corner store initiatives in FY19 with an additional $3 million to increase the amount of healthy food offered in corner stores in low- and moderate- income neighborhoods around the City.
Parks and Open Space
With soaring population growth, and over 100 million visitors each year, park use in New York City is surging to record levels. It is imperative the budget for our Parks Department keeps pace with these trends. Yet the Department of Parks and Recreation Fiscal 2019 Preliminary Budget totals just $501.9 million, less than 0.6% of the City’s total Budget.
Sufficient resources to properly care for our parks is critical. Park maintenance should not be seen as seasonal as parks are utilized year-round. However, the FY19 Preliminary Budget failed to provide funding for 100 City Parks Workers and 50 Gardeners who care for parks across the city. In FY19, the City must include $9.6 million for these 150 workers and funding for their positions should be baselined in the Mayor’s budget.
Beyond park maintenance, protection of our city’s natural areas is an integral part of the City’s Parks budget. Urban greenery is our city’s most valuable environmental asset; the canopy mitigates climate change, provides clean air and habitats for native wildlife, and contributes to the well-being of our residents and our economy. A comprehensive long-term management plan is essential to ensure proper restoration and sustainability of our city’s forests.
In the FY19-22 four year Capital Plan, the Administration should prioritize restoration and protection of NYC’s urban forest with the following allocation:
● FY19 – $3.5 million (secured)
● FY20 – $3.5 million (secured)
● FY21 – $5.751 million (requested)
● FY22 – $6.711 million (requested)
Since 2012, NYC’s Department of Transportation has worked with the MTA to implement Transit Signal Priority (TSP) on 7 corridors in the city, with excellent results. On average, TSP has reduced bus travel times by 14 percent during weekday rush hours.
In a report released in 2017, DOT committed to accelerating the implementation of TSP to 10 routes by the end of 2020. Simply put, this is not enough. DOT needs to drastically increase the pace of TSP rollout to 20 routes by the end of FY19, and commit to a timeline of 10 new routes per year moving forward. We urge the Administration to allocate an additional $6.5 million to NYC’s DOT in the FY19 budget for an accelerated rollout of Transit Signal Priority.
Sanitation and Waste
In the Preliminary Budget, the Department of Sanitation’s budget for waste prevention, reuse, and recycling was $60.3 million, or about 3.5% of the Department’s overall budget. DSNY’s waste prevention budget should reflect a more aggressive attempt to achieve the City’s stated goal of Zero Waste to landfills by 2030 (0x30).
If we are to reach our goal of Zero Waste to landfills by 2030, the City should invest $5 million in public engagement around the organic waste and recycling programs available to residents. It is imperative that New Yorkers know not only the options available to them but also the environmental significance of participation and instructions on proper disposal of organic waste and recyclable materials.
Under Mayor de Blasio’s One City: Built to Last, the Administration committed to an ambitious timeline on the adoption of renewable energy. The plan called for retrofits to all city-owned property with significant energy use and installation of 100 megawatts of renewable power on City-owned buildings by 2025. As of March 2018, only 10 megawatts have been installed. NYLCV joins the New York City Council in calling for the allocation of $789 million in the DCAS capital budget to accelerate the pace of solar installations on City buildings.
You can read the full budget memo here.