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Fri. May 17th, 2024

For over two years, cities across the country have struggled to respond to the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In New York City, slowing tax revenue growth combined with low office occupancy rates, and the expiration of temporary federal stimulus dollars have put a strain on our city’s budget. At the same time, as we all know only too well, the pandemic exposed cracks in education, health care, and housing that urgently need to be addressed, and we faced costs related to settling long-expired labor contracts with our dedicated municipal workforce. And in the midst of all these challenges, we have been tasked with managing a substantial influx of individuals and families seeking asylum.

New York City saw the warning signs early. We saw that if we didn’t take fast and decisive action, a perfect storm resulting in a multi-billion-dollar budget gap would be very difficult to navigate out of. We knew we had to make tough decisions and that our choices would not always be popular, but that they would be the right thing to do. That is because we understood that not making these hard choices would be worse for working-class New Yorkers and the long-term stability of our city.

So we did what we needed to do to manage our way out of the storm. We implemented policies to reduce the costs of asylum seeker care while maintaining critical services, instituted agency savings, and more.

As a result of our strong fiscal management and decisive action, as well as stronger-than-expected tax revenues, our city’s financial outlook has stabilized. We balanced the budget, as required by law, without major service disruptions, layoffs, or a single cent in tax hikes.

Alongside being fiscally responsible, we also have achieved major wins for working-class people. We supported cost-of-living-adjustments for 80,000 human services workers — primarily women and women of color — so that they can raise a family in New York City. We recently launched Jobs NYC, a whole-of-government approach to bring job and career training opportunities to long-overlooked communities by holding hiring halls and launching an online job search portal that are connecting job seekers with prospective employers.

And we have been able to protect over half-a-billion dollars in critical, permanent education programs that had been funded by federal stimulus dollars. These include ongoing support for our students’ mental health by keeping nearly 500 mental health professionals in our schools. It also means increasing resources for special education Pre-K programs by expanding occupational, speech, and physical therapy for our most vulnerable young New Yorkers; maintaining vital arts programs; and our popular bilingual programs. Additionally, we are conducting more outreach so that parents and caregivers know about seats for 3-K and Pre-K programs. Further, many of these educational programs are now funded with recurring dollars, so they are protected year after year.

We have enhanced public safety and doubled down on our efforts to continue to bring down shootings by homicides by putting 1,200 more police officers on the streets and in our subways with two additional NYPD classes. And all academy classes are now fully funded in 2024, which put us on the path to having a total of 35,000 uniformed officers protecting New Yorkers in the coming years. The safest big city in America is getting even safer.

This all puts us back on track to economic and social prosperity — which is no small accomplishment given the magnitude of the challenges we faced, and the severity of the crisis we would have had to address had we failed to act decisively and with an eye for what is best for the city in the long term.

I am proud to report that, as a result of all our good work, not only have shootings and homicides continued to drop by double digits across the city, but overall crime is down in our city year to date, with month after month decreases.

And our work with so many of our local businesses has helped our city not only recover all of the private-sector jobs we lost during the pandemic, a year earlier than projected, but with over 300,000 new jobs created under this administration, we now have more total jobs than ever before in our city’s history.

We are also tackling major quality of life issues by containerizing business and residential trash, and reducing the amount of time garbage is allowed to sit on the curb. Additionally, we have financed the most newly constructed affordable housing in a single year in our city’s history, won approval of the historic Willets Point Transformation to build the largest 100 percent affordable housing project in 40 years, and our “City of Yes” plan to update decades-old zoning laws before the City Council will make it easier to build the housing our city urgently needs. Further, Albany recently passed all of our affordable housing initiatives in the state budget — putting us one step closer to our moonshot goal of building a half a million new affordable homes for New Yorkers.

While we still face challenges, because we put ourselves in a more stable fiscal position, we can continue to invest in the needs of everyday New Yorkers. As New York City moves toward the future, our core values will continue to guide us. We will continue to build a safer, more equitable, and more prosperous city for all New Yorkers.

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