Gotham Gazette

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Stated Meeting: Budget Cuts and E-Waste

Following the Bloomberg administration's lead, the City Council approved a 4.3 percent cut in its operating budget for fiscal year 2009 in response to a looming budget deficit and trying fiscal times.

At its stated meeting Wednesday, the council also approved legislation requiring the parks department to prune trees that block intersections and a bill that requires the transportation department identify and work to improve the city's most dangerous intersections.

And in response to a veto threat from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the council reintroduced legislation requiring manufacturers recycle certain electronics, dividing the bill into two separate pieces of legislation so the mayor could sign elements he agrees with.

Bringing Down the Budget

In just a handful of months, the Bloomberg administration has called for the city's departments and agencies to slash at their budgets not once, but twice. At the end of 2007, the mayor directed agencies to cut 2.7 percent from this fiscal year's budget and another 4.4 percent from next year's, which begins in July.

Earlier this month, he requested all city department's cut another 3 percent to address revenue shortfalls and a reduction in aid from the state. Now, as promised in her State of the City address, Council Speaker Christine Quinn is requiring the council reduce its operating budget by similar proportions.

The council's operating budget -- which covers its day-to-day costs including staffing for its central and district offices -- has been reduced by $2.3 million. The reduction is the most significant in the history of the modern City Council, said city officials. The budget was approved unanimously by a vote of 46 to 0.

The reductions, said Quinn, will be divided approximately between personnel services and other services. Staffing reductions are from attrition, she said.

"It would be wrong if we in the City Council didn't lead by example," said Quinn. "We are saying if we have to look at agencies in the eyes and tell nurses and teachers and social workers that they have to do more with less, we to the penny will do more with less."

Quinn said the cuts would not affect members' district offices, but instead its central staff, which is primarily the speaker's office. The City Council is the only city entity, which passes its budget before the administration comes out with its executive budget.

Cutting Down on Crashes

The City Council also unanimously approved legislation that requires the Department of Transportation identify and study locations with the mot traffic accidents and take action to remedy their conditions. The legislation was unanimously approved by a vote of 46 to 0.

The legislation (Intro 567), which was introduced by Councilmember Vincent Gentile, requires the department conduct annual safety audits of crash locations involving pedestrians, including those areas with the highest crash volumes or locations that have acquired a pattern of incidents. The analysis would be based on state data.

If found necessary following the analysis, the city would make appropriate traffic safety fixes within a 180-day period.

Pruning Trees

When Councilmember Jessica Lappin got into a minor car accident last summer, it was because a tree was blocking a traffic light. In response, the councilmember introduced legislation (Intro 674) that requires the Department of Parks and Recreation inspect and prune vegetation that blocks traffic signals or signs. The bill was approved unanimously.

"Drivers can't obey traffic signs and signals if they can't see them," said Lappin.

Tree pruning and replacement is the number one 311 call within the purview of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said Lappin.

Under the legislation, the department will have to inspect a site within four days of a complaint. If pruning or cutting is needed, the department must trim a tree within 10 days if it blocks stop, yield or do not enter signs as well as traffic signals. For other signs, the department will have 20 days.


To compromise with the administration, the City Council rescinded its previous e-waste legislation approved earlier this year and reintroduced two separate bills. The new measure splits the initial proposal in half - one bill (Intro 728) the administration favors, while the other (Intro 729) it opposes.(For more on electron recycling, play our Garbage Game.)

Quinn said this way the city could move forward and begin to implement part of the initial legislation, which mandates manufacturers come up with their own recycling plans.

"My administration and the council share the same goal of ensuring that thousands of tons of electronic waste are recycled instead of thrown into landfills, and we largely agree on how to achieve it," said Bloomberg in a prepared statement. "We are separating the issue into two bills so we can move forward on the broad areas where we have reached consensus, instead of letting our differences stop all progress."

The second bill, which is destined for the mayor's veto, has specific requirements, including benchmark percentages the manufacturers would have to meet and a fee structure. The standards would increase incrementally, eventually requiring a manufacture recycle 65 percent of its electronic merchandise, by weight, by 2018.

Bloomberg opposes the measure and says it is unconstitutional to require a manufacturer recycle when it is a wholesaler that sells it to the public. He has said he would not enforce the measure.

Quinn said she and the council would continue to work with the administration to see that the second bill would move forward. She would not say whether the council would take legal action against the administration to enforce it.  

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