By: Benyamin Davidsons
Council Speaker Corey Johnson may have doled out payback via decreased funding for NYC districts in which Council members voted against this year’s budget. As reported by the NY Daily News, the 17 votes against the budget each got an average of seven times less discretionary and capital funding from Johnson compared to the 30 supportive votes. The ‘no’ votes were mainly a result of activists who criticized the budget for failing to act forcefully enough on police reform.
There is over $300 million in funds which get allocated to a flexible array of causes including local nonprofits and youth programs. The speaker has the leeway to use these funds as a way to reward supporters and discipline his adversaries.
At the end of June, when the contentious budget has passed, Johnson had expressed his own remorse that he could not do more to respond to the calls of Black Lives Matters which were ignited by the tragic death of George Floyd under police custody. “To everyone who is disappointed that we did not go farther … I am disappointed, as well,” he said. “But this budget process involves the mayor, who was not budging more than what we got, and 49 other Council members currently, many of whom were not open or supportive to the kind of cuts that I was pushing for.”
Then when it came time to dole out the cash, Johnson gave the largest handouts to the members who voted in support of the budget, as per the Daily News. Supporters included Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Queens) who received $21,697,000, Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn) who was given $18,395,000, and Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo (D-Brooklyn) who got $16,025,000. By contrast his opponents got much less. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens) received $736,000. Councilwomen Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan) and Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) got just $225,000 each. Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn) got merely $125,000, and most potently Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn) got nothing at all.
“There’s no way to come away from that and not feel that it’s punitive and absolutely related to my vote against the budget, because the NYPD piece was a sham,” said Van Bramer. Johnson allocated $11,153,000 less for Van Bramer’s spending this year compared to last year. “That cut doesn’t hurt me,” said Van Bramer, referring to the programs he chooses to fund including arts education in schools. “It hurts the children of color who had the ability to paint and express themselves. It’s unconscionable.”
Johnson rejected the notion that the payments were used as payback. “Tough decisions had to be made all around,” said his spokeswoman Jennifer Fermino in a statement. “All decisions on the budget were based on what was best for the districts and what was possible.” She said the deficiency of some funding was due to losses in tax revenue caused by the pandemic. “The Speaker didn’t ‘punish’ anyone, and to imply that’s the reason funding was cut in a budget with a $9 billion revenue shortfall ignores the facts,” Fermino added.