Various Community Board leaders met Tuesday to unanimously approve a package of budget priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz chaired the session located at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens. She was joined by city officials including Council Member Robert Holden (D-Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodside, Woodhaven) and Council Member Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills, Forest Park, Kew Gardens, Rego Park, Richmond Hill).
The board reviewed the city’s budget allocation for Queens that was discussed earlier this month on the Mayor’s budget. Budget Director Richard Lee explained certain changes coming to Queens that would affect issues such as education and housing.
The Fiscal Year 2019 budget will be nearly $89 billion for the entire city. Lee elaborated that several programs would be expanded or cut. However, this was not final as the budget would face more obstacles before approval.
The city would allocate more for funding schools with $1.27 billion. Yet Lee highlighted how Queens suffered from overcapacity in schools with three out of the top four most overcrowded districts in New York located in Queens. Moreover, the city spends the least per pupil for Queens students.
City Council Member Barry Grodenchik (D-Bayside, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Oakland Gardens) noted he discussed with DOE officials about addressing overcapacity and underfunding in Queens.
“Many of the schools in my district do not receive 100 percent of student funding,” Grodenchik said.
The city would allocate about $45 million less for arts programs throughout the five boroughs. He noted that Queens receives the least for the arts relative to all five boroughs.
Katz added that, as more tourists visited Queens, the city needed to offer more funding to help sustain the borough’s entertainment programs.
“The answer [from the city] has consistently been, ‘Well, Manhattan brings in tourists and bring in economic development,’” she said. “It’s no longer just that as Queens is part of the growth of tourism in New York.”
Lee spoke about Department of Housing Preservation & Development, which would $274 million less under the proposed plan. He did note that the recent GOP tax bill could affect this figure more.
Vincent Arcuri, Jr., chair of Community Board 5, asked Lee whether the city’s affordable housing units included senior housing. Lee responded that it was difficult to find out what housing would qualify as senior without the data from the city.
Community Board leaders also discussing policing, which would receive more funding under the proposed budget. There was a suggestion to amend the plan to create a mobile station at Flushing Meadows – Corona Park with a permanent structure. Katz said they may invite NYPD offices to discuss more on their plans for the borough.
With no Community Board opposition to the Mayor’s budget and suggestions in the minds of City Councilmembers present, the City Council will begin reviewing the Mayor’s budget starting in March and April before approval in the summer.