Four Brooklyn councilmembers vote against ‘unconscionable’ $101 billion city budget

Councilmember Charles Barron announces his vote against the city budget in the City Council chambers on June 13, 2022.
William Alatriste/NYC Council Media Unit

The New York City Council overwhelmingly voted to approve a $101 billion city budget for the coming fiscal year late on Monday night, but six members voted against its adoption ⁠— four of them from Brooklyn.

Councilmembers Alexa Avilés (D – Sunset Park, Red Hook), Charles Barron (D – East New York), Sandy Nurse (D – Bushwick, East New York), and Chi Ossé (D – Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights) all gave a thumbs down to the budget negotiated by Mayor Eric Adams and Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, arguing that it had maintained bloated NYPD funding while shorting needs like education, housing, and sanitation.

“You blew a golden opportunity to do 10 times more. And you’re not gonna get it too often,” Barron told his colleagues at City Hall Monday night. “This is not a people’s budget, this is the Adams family budget.”

chi ossé with bullhorn at rally. ossé voted against city budget
City Councilmember Chi Ossé speaking at a tenants’ rights rally in April 2022. The young councilmember was one of four Brooklyn electeds to vote “no” on the city’s new budget on Monday night. File Photo by Ben Brachfeld

The four dissenters were joined by non-Brooklynite lawmakers Tiffany Cabán (D – Astoria) and Kristin Richardson Jordan (D – Harlem). 

What is and isn’t included in the new city budget

Areas of contention included the approximately $215 million in cuts to public schools that the mayor has defended as based on shifts in enrollment, as well as a failure to devote 1% of the budget to parks and comparatively small investments in rent relief and affordable housing construction, all while keeping NYPD funding at about the same rate as before.

The dissenters decried the fact that many agencies saw cuts to their operating budgets despite the city still being flush with federal stimulus cash, having higher-than-expected tax revenues, and with record amounts of cash in the reserves. Some argued that the budget’s early adoption — it wasn’t due for another two weeks — wasted that could have been spent negotiating a better deal.

“It is unconscionable to cut school budgets right now while we sit on unspent federal funds,” Avilés said. “How we spend money matters.”

Ossé said that the budget shows the city’s priorities as being out-of-whack: he noted that the overwhelming majority of constituent calls his office receives are about housing security, but the budget treats it as an afterthought.

“As a legislator with a say in this budget, I know that we are depriving ourselves of billions of dollars that could be invested in our schools, parks, and housing,” Ossé said. “Areas where increased government spending has a proven correlation to public safety.”

Dissenting councilmembers have discretionary funds cut

The renegades appear to have been punished by council leadership for their nays: City & State reported Monday that all six dissenters, plus Councilmember Kalman Yeger (D – Borough Park, Kensington), a conservative Democrat, were cut out of discretionary funding from the “Speaker’s Initiative to Address Citywide Needs” that members get to spend on pet projects in their districts.

sandy nurse budget conference
Councilmember Sandy Nurse speaking at a police accountability rally at City Hall in March 2022. Nurse and her colleagues who voted against the city’s new budget had funding for their districts slashed by council speaker Adrienne Adams. File Photo by Ben Brachfeld

Though the number of formal dissents was small, many other Brooklyn councilmembers expressed disappointment with the budget’s shortcomings while voting for it anyway, citing its corresponding strengths. Progressive councilmembers praised measures to increase the NYPD’s budget transparency, provide childcare to undocumented families, and prevent the hiring of over 500 new corrections officers. Despite their vote in the affirmative, those progressive councilmembers expressed significant reservations about the document they were advancing, particularly regarding its commitment to education and housing.

“A budget is a statement of values, and this budget signals we still have much work to deliver for marginalized New Yorkers,” said a statement from the Council’s Progressive Caucus. “It contains some meaningful wins for our communities that we fought hard to secure throughout the budget process; however, it also demonstrates how far we still have to go to fully fund the programs and services New Yorkers need during this moment of crisis for the city.”

The statement was signed by caucus co-chairs and Brooklyn pols Lincoln Restler (D – Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Downtown Brooklyn, and Brooklyn Heights), Jennifer Gutierrez (D – Williamsburg, Bushwick), and Shahana Hanif (D – Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Windsor Terrace, Kensington), plus Upper Manhattan Councilmember Carmen De La Rosa. All voted in favor of the budget but are generally aligned with the Council’s left flank.