The City Budget Lets Down Vulnerable New Yorkers

TakeRoot Justice strongly condemns the fiscal year 2021 budget passed by the New York City Council this week, which utterly fails to live up to this historic moment for Black lives and the demands of New Yorkers. Although the mayor and many elected officials claimed to cut 1 billion dollars from the New York Police Department, the final budget barely scratches the NYPD’s 10 billion in funding. Through misleading accounting and shifting of police around different departments, the amount of actual cuts barely passes 300 million and leaves entirely intact one of the most over-bloated municipal police infrastructures in the world.  

While failing to cut 1 billion from policing, the budget does actually cut one billion from public schools at a time that schools struggle to adjust to remote education. The budget does cut another billion from non-police city jobs amid depression-level unemployment. The budget does delay critical spending on affordable housing units just as New Yorkers face the prospect of mass evictions. The budget does fail to put any additional funds toward public health programs or disease control and epidemiology units, despite the largest pandemic in recent history. This budget lays bare the prioritization of police over the needs and dignity of Black lives and other vulnerable New Yorkers. It attempts to pay fake lip service to the movement for Black lives while protecting police over teachers, counselors, and public health staff. As an organization that serves community-based and grassroots organizations across the city and member of Communities United for Police Reform (CPR), we are extremely disheartened by the failures of this budget. 

However, we are immensely grateful to everyone in the community who joined our fight for budget justice- who used their time, their voices, their passion and their privilege to amplify the message that Black Lives Matter and fought to have that reflected in the FY21 budget. Thank you to City Council members Barron, Kallos, Lander, Menchaca, Reynoso, Richards, Rivera, Rosenthal, and Van Bramer who voted no on a budget that believes that Black and Brown communities should be surveilled and policed more than they should be housed and educated. Thank you to our fellow coalition members at CPR who worked tirelessly to lift up the voices of the community and prevent Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker Corey Johnson from co-opting our demands for justice. Thank you to our partners who work with us every day to protect our communities from the socio-economic and emotional toils of over-policing.  

Despite the failures of this budget, our fight for justice doesn’t end now. We will still fight to abolish police and prisons. Abolishing police is about redirecting funds currently used to terrorize, surveil, and control toward investment in the health and flourishing of those communities most affected by structural inequality. Abolition, through decarceration and decriminalization of Black, Brown, and poor people, lays the seeds for true public safety by addressing the underlying causes of harm 

TakeRoot Justice has been committed to abolition for many years. In 2017, we created Holistic Abolition of Police and Prisons Everywhere Now (HAPPEN), an interdisciplinary working group comprised of staff from different practice areas and teams at TakeRoot Justice.  This working group builds on our existing work with organizers around the city and the intersecting oppressions we have witnessed through our work with clients. We created HAPPEN to support Black-led movements for transformative justice around policing and mass incarceration, and further our organizational mission to dismantle racial, economic and social oppression.   

HAPPEN believes we must abolish the police and prison industrial complex to cocreate a society where its institutions and norms center care and accountability. That includes divestment from policingvaluing people over profitand centering the voices of Black and Brown communitiesWe look forward to working towards a city budget that reflects these values.