2018-06-20 / Front Page

Constantinides Announces FY19 Budget Victories for Western Queens

The New York City Council voted last week to pass a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which stretches from July 1 of this year to June 30, 2019. The budget includes funding for public spaces like schools, hospitals, and parks.

Council Member Costa Constantinides said, “I am honored to help pass this comprehensive and balanced budget. We are proud to invest in our infrastructure, our public spaces, and our most vulnerable populations. This budget will make our neighborhoods more sustainable, improve health care, give students the resources they need in our public schools and libraries, and begin to repair our vital transit infrastructure. Thank you to Speaker Corey Johnson, my council colleagues, and Borough President Katz for their support in western Queens and across our city. I look forward to working with community stakeholders as these projects continue to implementation.”

The budget includes:

Making Our Transit System Better and More Equitable

The Council secured $106 million in the budget to start a Fair Fares pilot program. Under this program, New Yorkers whose household income is at or below the federal poverty line will be eligible for half-price MetroCards. Additionally, the Council will be making a one-time expenditure of $418 million to support the Subway Action Plan, which will support signal repairs and other infrastructure upgrades.

Fiscal Responsibility

The Council and the Administration agreed to include $225 million for the city’s budget and retiree health fund reserves. While New York City has had the benefit of a sustained economic expansion over the last several years, we also know that a downturn can strike at any point and that the city must be ready for it. This allocation brings the city’s general reserves, which can be used to forestall budget cuts in the event of a recession,  to $9.9 billion. 

Making Astoria Greener and More Sustainable

Through discretionary funding, the council has made a large investment in solar panels. PS 171 and other schools throughout the neighborhood will have solar panels installed, further reducing our reliance on dirty fossil fuel plants that pollute our communities. Students will also have an opportunity to learn about renewable technology up close.

The council also expanded the Greener NYC Initiative by $510,000. Each council member will now have $70,000 to help provide environmental education programs, green job training, and sustainability planning throughout the city, ensuring the young people of our city will be able to meet the environmental challenges of the 21st century.

Constantinides also fought to secure over $108 million in additional funding to fix broken sewers and clean up our waterways. Most of New York City has a combined sewer system, where raw sewage and stormwater runoff are taken to wastewater treatment facilities in the same sewer mains. During heavy rains, these combined sewers are often at capacity, causing the excess to drain directly into our rivers and waterways via combined sewer outfalls. This funding will be used to build additional capacity and treatment infrastructure around the city, reducing the amount of pollutants and harmful bacteria in New York City’s ecosystem.

Protecting Immigrant Communities

In Astoria, Council Member Constantinides was able to secure over $70,000 in funding for the Ansob Center for Refugees and Immigrants to help continue providing services to new Astorians such as English language classes and citizenship classes.

The council also boosted funding to the CUNY Citizenship Now program by $500,000. This program provides each Council office with an attorney trained in immigration affairs. The program has already helped scores of immigrants here in Astoria. If you would like to make an appointment for advice, please call the Council Member’s office at 718-274-4500.

Investing In Our Children

The council and the mayor agreed to add $125 million for Fair Student Funding. Under this program, spending authority is given directly to school principals, giving our local schools the ability to determine their own needs. Fourteen schools in our district will receive, on average, around $115,000 per school depending on enrollment factors for the coming school year.

Constantinides also allocated over $1 million to public schools. As part of his ongoing investments to improve science learning spaces in our public schools, six schools received hydroponic and STEM labs.  Long Island City HS, PS 171, PS 85, Q300, and the Young Women’s Leadership School will all receive funding for hydroponic science labs where plants and equipment will be installed in classrooms that use water and other mediums for plant growth. These labs provide hands-on education to students in many subjects including biology, agriculture, technology, and nutrition. IS 141 will receive a new STEM lab to educate students in science, technology, engineering and math. These schools join PS 122, PS 70, IS 126, and PS 84 that have received funding in previous years. Since Constantinides took office, 11 schools in District 22 have received funding under this program.

This year, thanks to support from the Trust for Public Land, PS 84 will be receiving a newly-renovated schoolyard. In partnership with the Borough President, the City Council allocated almost $1 million in funding to reimagine the play space behind the PS 84 building so that countless future generations will have a safe and meaningful place to play.

The council was also able to enhance the Cultural After School Adventures Initiative over $2 million. These CASA programs provide students with meaningful after-school enrichment theater programs.

Additionally, the council allocated $1 million to a pilot program to bring halal and kosher foods to city schools. This investment will ensure that no child will have to choose between adhering to their religious beliefs and receiving a meal. 

Every year since taking office, Constantinides has secured funding for technology upgrades in all District 22 schools. This year, he invested over $800,000 in funding that western Queens schools can use to upgrade their computers, laptops, SMART Boards, or other pieces of technology.

Keeping Astoria Clean

For the third year in a row, the council expanded its successful NYC Cleanup initiative by $2.4 million citywide. Constantinides will again allocate over $250,000 for sidewalk cleaning and graffiti removal services using funding from this initiative and from his discretionary budget. Workers will continue to sweep sidewalks on major thoroughfares and remove graffiti throughout the district.

Caring For Our Seniors

New York has a population that is rapidly aging in place, and rising inflation and housing costs threaten to displace our seniors from their homes. That’s why the council has invested $500 million for senior affordable housing. Additionally, the council has enhanced our senior music and dance programs and healthy living consultation at local senior centers. The council has also enhanced the budget for our Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, or NORCs, that help provide services to local senior citizens and allow them to stay in the neighborhood they’ve called home for so long.

Improving Healthcare in Queens

Constantinides and the Queens Delegation secured $450,000 for three ultrasound units and cardiac monitoring systems at Mt. Sinai Queens Hospital. This brings the total council investment over five years to over $7.5 million to ensure that the Queens community has world-class health care and that residents do not have to leave the borough to receive the care that they need.

Continuing Investment on the Hallets Cove Peninsula

Working together with Speaker Corey Johnson, Constantinides secured an additional $3.25 million for the Astoria Library. This brings the total investment at this library to over $7 million.  Once renovated, the library will have new elevators, ADA compliance, new children’s areas, electronic drop-off and new technology. Constantinides also allocated $150,000 for new lighting at the Astoria Houses Community Center and $100,000 for additional security cameras there. This brings the total city investments on the peninsula to over $25 million over the past five years.

Council Member Costa Constantinides represents the New York City Council's 22nd District, which includes his native Astoria along with parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. He serves as the chair of the City Council's Environmental Protection Committee and sits on the For-Hire Vehicles, Land Use, Parks, and Transportation Committees and the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee. For more information, visit council.nyc.gov/costa.

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