Did NYC Prioritize the Environment in the FY22 Budget?

Led by Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Council Finance Chair Daniel Dromm, the City Council agreed upon New York City’s budget for the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). Approved on June 30, the Recovery Budget represents the City’s largest spreadsheet ever, including $14 billion in federal aid and a $10.5 billion increase from the economic challenges of FY21. As we carefully exit the COVID-19 pandemic, reaffirming our climate commitment through the FY22 budget is essential.

In conversations ahead of the ultimate passage of this year’s budget, NYLCV has campaigned for environmental, transportation, and public health priorities. Curbside composting and electrifying the city’s school bus fleet are two of our strongest initiatives to clean our streets and improve our dedication to communities discriminated against through environmental racism. Throughout this process, our hope is climate funding can be baselined as a part of the City’s budget. Only with proven, committed reserves can our climate goals build on a year-to-year basis and more aggressively pursue city preservation.

NYLCV and the Play Fair for Parks Coalition have stringently fought in defense of parks and greenspace assets throughout the city. Parks fulfill vital environmental roles for climate resiliency, with regard to urban air quality, canopy cover, carbon emissions, and more. Last year, the Department of Parks and Recreation suffered from an $84 million cut–without the proper funding, park cleanliness and health were overlooked despite their increased dependence as an outdoor refuge during the pandemic. As a result, we requested $78.9 million in restoration for the FY22 Parks budget:

  • Baseline $10M to make permanent 100 City Park Workers and 50 Gardeners, and create secure, stable jobs. $10M was secured, funded equally by the council and with stimulus money. However, these jobs were not baselined, thus not permanent.
  • $30M to restore the critical Seasonal staff budget for maintenance and operations workers citywide. $30M restored. 
  • $3M to restore the Parks Opportunity Program and provide a pathway to full-time employment. $3M restored with stimulus money, spring of 2022 funding is still not clear.
  • $4.5M for NYC’s natural forests, wetlands, and trails to receive the proactive care and maintenance they need to remain healthy and resilient in our changing climate, and as they receive unprecedented use by New Yorkers. $4.5M funded.
  • $15M to restore critical parks forestry contracts for tree pruning, stump removal and sidewalk repair, and invasive species control. Stump removals funded, other asks shifted to the FY22 capital budget.
  • $4M to restore the Parks Equity Initiative, and support park stewardship organizations citywide. $4.7M funded.
  • $3.4M to restore 15 GreenThumb staff, and expand access to plant materials, resources and tools for community gardeners citywide. $3.4M funded.
  • $3M to hire 50 Urban Park Rangers to connect New Yorkers with the nature that surrounds us, and help ensure our parks remain safe and accessible for all. $3M restored.
  • $6M to restore 80 Parks Enforcement Patrol officers citywide to make sure our parks are safe. $6M restored.

In recap, all of our Play Fair asks are funded through the fiscal year. This is a huge victory! The Parks budget in FY22 totals to $618M, up from FY19’s $587M which can be attributed to the increase in stimulus funding. However, none of the positions were baselined, making our goal of Parks funding to reach 1% of budget funding more difficult. Dependence on stimulus money may stem issues in the following years including the loss of 2600+ parks employee jobs in December, as well as appropriate concern for FY23 funding.

On the sanitation front, NYLCV supports the $3.96M provided for commercial waste zones. Commercial waste zones will help to mitigate environmental, health, and safety issues for waste haulers operating on commercial properties. Past disorganization has led to inefficient routes and traffic congestion, which when corrected, can yield greenhouse gas reductions up to 65% and traffic congestion by 70%. Commercial waste zones thus can effectively organize private waste collection businesses.

Additionally, the revival of the city’s organics program brings back curbside composting that was halted due to pandemic cuts. $30.5M for curbside, school, and yard collection, and civilian positions should provide for an optimistic pilot that allows residents to opt-in starting this October. However, NYLCV will continue pushing for an expansion of composting programs until it reaches a citywide program.