I hope everyone continues to stay healthy and safe during these difficult times.
I want to provide a recap of the last few weeks and include my testimony from this week’s FY21 Budget negotiations and City Council Stated Meeting.
This past week reflected a very painful deficit from a continuing pandemic and financial collapse, as well as a worldwide call for overdue social justice that overtook this city as well as our nation. Every NYC agency was forced to make significant cuts to their previous annual budgets. Advocates from every side swarmed City Hall with demands, including the dismantling and defunding of our entire police force. However, leadership demands fairness for all, especially the voices of those who fight to be heard. As someone who fully understands this grounding principle and the need for public safety, this budget did not come easy. I fought, as I always have, for every officer that goes to work not knowing if they will return to their family and still wears their uniform proudly, keeping us safe, even during the hardest of times. In the end, the call to dismantle our police force, led by certain other Members, did not occur. I fought to make sure that every employed officer still has their job, we will see a graduating Academy class later this year, and our city will rise to the edict that policy change must happen now.
The emotional anguish felt by all after the murder of George Floyd fundamentally changed how we look at policing. Many of us had to look deep within ourselves to admit progress must be made and the time was undeniably now. The last two Stated Meetings of the City Council addressed needed and historic policy changes regarding policing in our city. Debates were held and we heard from New Yorkers, protesters, and advocates from all sides. Compromises led to historic policy changes, including banning chokeholds, increasing officer accountability, and further transparency, transforming how we police in New York City. As I learned from my father, the greatest of all Council Members, there is a time to listen and to always, always do the right thing. As I stated at previous hearings, leadership by its very nature means leading all. Tough decisions were made. These conversations were heartfelt, shaped by our individual experiences and allowed each of us to listen and learn, something that is missing in today’s politics. For that, I am forever grateful to my fellow Council Members, who shared their personal and emotional stories for all to listen and learn.
My statement from this week’s vote on the budget can be viewed here and by playing from the 2:36:00 mark.
In the coming weeks, I will share the tremendous victories we secured for Northeast Queens in this year’s budget. Long time wishes and projects, forgotten and discarded, will now be completed and fulfilled. Of the proposed capital projects from our Participatory Budgeting process, which was unfortunately cut short and cancelled due to the pandemic, we still managed to fund a record 11 projects! These include funds to create a new dream playground for PS 184, restore the ecology at Powells Cove Park, develop a reading garden at Auburndale Library, add NYPD security cameras to our busiest intersections, and more. We also secured funding for two major Parks projects in Bayside and College Point – details to come! These record financial victories for our communities are promises kept and legacies that will carry into future generations.
Finally, I want to wish every one of us a blessed, safe, and happy 4th of July!
Thank you and stay well,
Council Member Paul Vallone