Antonio Reynoso Announces Diversion of Funds as Rumors of a Potential Mayoral Campaign Swirl

By Oona Milliken | [email protected]

In the historic walls of Brooklyn’s Borough Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 27, Borough President Antonio Reynoso, the first Latino to be elected to the position, announced that his office would be redirecting funds toward aiding his constituents with support services rather than social events and large gatherings. The decision came at a time when Mayor Eric Adams announced this month that all city agencies must cut their budgets by 15 percent by April 2024. According to Reynoso, this is a necessary measure for dealing with a lack of funds across the city. 

“Right now, there’s a lot of need in Brooklyn. As of today, I am announcing that moving forward, my office will direct Borough Hall funding and resources toward delivering aid to New Yorkers and alleviating the strain on city services,” Reynoso said. “I cannot in good conscience host parties and celebrations when so many Brooklynites are struggling. I’m committed to using the platform and resources that I have to deliver on behalf of those who need the most help because it’s the right thing to do.” 

The Borough President did not go into the specifics of how the funding would be allocated but firmly stated that parties and celebrations at Borough Hall would come to an end as more than 110,000 migrants have come to the city and New Yorkers, both native and new, are fighting to make ends meet. In a recorded speech on Sept. 9, Adams said the city-wide cuts were in response to New York’s continuing migrant crisis. His statement came days after he was recorded saying that the migrant crisis will destroy New York City. 

“As you know, we’re in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, a crisis that will cost our city $12 billion dollars over three fiscal years,” Adams said. “While I have worked closely with city agencies to reduce the impact that these cuts may have on New Yorkers who rely on our services, the truth is that longtime New Yorkers and asylum seekers will feel these potential cuts, and they will hurt.” 

On Wednesday, Reynoso said that the mayor’s management report shows that the city is struggling to meet the basic needs of New Yorkers, and pointed to a decline in the quality of city services such as SNAP, cash assistance and NYCHA public housing. 

“Homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression. The city’s rate for processing food stamps is the lowest it’s been since 2006. In fact, less than 40 percent of SNAP benefits were processed on time, down from 91.9 percent when Adams took office,” Reynoso said. “Not to mention that the average timeline for repairing a single vacant NYCHA unit has surged to 370 days. It takes one year to repair a single vacant NYCHA unit, and it is up from around 161 days the year before, nearly five times longer than it took to make repairs in 2019.” 

Reynoso said that his announcement was not a retort against Adams, but a nod to the Mayor’s intention of cutting back costs. Despite this remark, Reynoso came out hard against the Mayor’s proposed budget cuts during the New York City Council Progressive Caucus rally on Sept. 19, also outside of Brooklyn Borough Hall. Members of the Caucus, which include representatives.

Lincoln Restler, Shahana Hanif, Jennifer Gutierrez and Carmen de la Rosa, proposed higher taxes on the rich, rather than cuts of social services, to cover the cost of dealing with the new influx of migrants. In a speech, Reynoso said he was disappointed with how the mayor’s office has dealt with the migrant crisis. 

“It’s the first time a mayor has stood up and said ‘I give up. I throw my hands up.’ Who does that? Not in New York,” Reynoso said during the rally. 

Hector Gonzalez, a Vietnam Veteran and an attendee of the event on Wednesday, said he was pleased that Reynoso was cutting back social gatherings in order to spread out city resources, especially as an immigrant from Puerto Rico. 

“We learned that today is going to be the last time they’re going to get together because of the crisis that is going on. He wants to take advantage of the crisis to address what is really needed. I believe that’s a plus for everyone,” Gonzalez said. “This is the time that we have to contribute, in every sense, to try to better our society. The other thing that people forget is that 100 years ago, more than they, we also have immigrants, and they went through the same thing that is happening nowadays.” 

As the 2025 Mayoral election creeps closer, there are rumors of who will challenge Adams. According to reporting by Politico, Reynoso’s name has been floated, but it is unsure if he will make a run for it. According to Gonzalez, Reynoso should focus on his constituents in Brooklyn before he makes the jump to another position. 

“I believe that’s a little bit far nowadays, because he has so much work on his hands, and he wants to concentrate on what those needs are,” Gonzalez said. “When you start in one position, and you think of all the other ones and you don’t take care of what you’re doing, that is not proper. I believe the people have to be supported for what they voted, and when the time comes, then a decision could be made.” 

Brooklyn State of the Borough returns

By Matthew Fischetti

[email protected]

The State of the Borough is back in Kings County.

After a decade of not having one, elected officials and members of the public attended Brooklyn Beep Antonio Reynoso’s first State of the Borough last week at the New York College of Technology.

Maternal Health Care

One of the main focuses of Reynoso’s first term as Borough President has centered around improving the maternal health conditions in Brooklyn. A 2021 report from the city found that a third of all New York City pregnancy deaths occur in Kings County.

“One in every three pregnancy-related deaths in New York City are happening here, in our borough.Right here in Brooklyn, Black women are dying at 9.4 times the rate of their White counterparts because of pregnancy-related complications.It’s one of the greatest inequities, greatest injustices that we’re bearing witness to,” Reynoso said in his speech.

In order to tackle the issue, Reynoso has allocated the entirety of his 2023 funding, which totals $45 million, to funding maternal healthcare improvements across the borough’s three public hospitals. Reynoso also instituted a maternal task force back in April made up of eight black women OBGYNs, mental health workers, doulas and other experts to inform policy. 

The Borough President’s office has also spent $250,000 on a public health messaging campaign this year to connect at-risk residents with a resource guide influenced by the task force’s recommendations. Most recently,  Reynoso was able to help provide 500 free baby boxes that contained baby materials as well as post-partum resources after giving a $100k grant to  

Comprehensive Planning 

One of the other major accomplishments Reynoso highlighted in his speech was the launching of the borough’s comprehensive planning effort. Reynoso criticized the status quo of New York not having one, unlike many major metro areas.

“Yet, despite being the most populous city in the country, New York City is noticeably lacking a plan like this–and instead of planning, we have a piecemeal zoning approval process that we all know isn’t getting the job done,” Reynoso said.

Reynoso emphasized that his comprehensive planning will center around public health and housing outcomes.

“The key to comprehensive planning is to have a clear objective, and our focus is set squarely on the intersection of housing and public health. Because of decades of racist city planning and a long legacy of segregation, our communities of color are clustered in the areas with the poorest housing conditions, the least access to resources, and the worst health outcomes,” Reynoso said.

In his speech, Reynoso also emphasized that building wouldn’t be limited to nabes that have seen development in recent years – like Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg or East New York – but would also focus on areas that have not had rezonings in decades.

“It’s no coincidence that 90 percent of childhood lead poisoning cases involve children of color,or that our neighbors in eastern Brooklyn are dying sooner, with the highest rates of premature mortality in the entire borough,” he added.

Looking forward

Reynoso outlined four major policies for the upcoming year, including: providing permanent houses for nonprofits, increasing Black-owned business in Brownsville, Community Board Reform, and a “solar saving plan”.

In terms of providing permanent homes for nonprofits, Reynoso said the move was so that the organizations could eliminate wasted time on finding facilities or negotiating with landlords, and focus more on providing their services.

“Because listen, the people of Brooklyn can’t keep building a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities when their money is all caught up in just surviving. And that applies just as much to our nonprofits as it does to our low-income tenants,” he said.

Reynoso said in his speech that he would be working with the Central Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation to help spurn new business. Of the first groups selected in the program, a smaller group will be selected to receive free space on underused commercial corridors in Brownsville.

“Black unemployment in New York City stands at 9.7 percent compared to 5.5 percent of their White counterparts. At the neighborhood level, Brownsville alone has an exceptionally high black unemployment rate of 11.2 percent,” Reynoso said in his speech.

Reynoso’s solar plan focuses on providing a “large-scale” central solar plant to help lower-income New Yorkers who cannot take advantage of roof solarization. A 2019 report from the Mayor’s office found that 32 percent of Brooklyn families in 2017 were “utility burdened,” spending more than 6 percent of their income on utilities – prior to recent rate increases. 

The last major policy Reynoso said he looks to work on this year is related to community board reform. Reynoso stated that he wants to reform the unclear responsibilities divided between mayoral agencies and the borough president’s office. The new guidance from the Beep’s office would  Reynoso also emphasized that his office wants to provide greater diversity, in all aspects of the word.

“I’m not just talking race and ethnicity. I’m talking about interests, education, or ability status. Do you drive a car or take public transportation? Do you own a home or are you a renter? Are you a single parent? Are you a NYCHA resident?Nearly one-quarter of Brooklyn is 18 years old or younger, but most applicants and appointees to community boards last year were ages 45-64. So, we’re also talking about age,” he said.

Reynoso also noted that he is specifically looking to place two members between 16 and 18 years old on each of the borough’s 18 community boards. Applications for the community board are open until February 14.

 

 

Murals honor Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘life after death’

Jumaane Williams speaks at the dedication ceremony for the Biggie Smalls mural (Credit: Public Advocate’s office).

By Daniel Offner

[email protected]

 

The memory of Brooklyn’s own Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace remains very much alive in Bed-Stuy.

Wallace, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, was gunned down at the age of 24 by an unknown assailant on March 9, 1997, following a performance in Los Angeles, Calif. celebrating the upcoming release of his second and final album, “Life After Death.” His murder still remains unsolved.

Shortly after his death, the Brooklyn community came out in record numbers to honor the career of one of the greatest names in hip-hop, with a funeral procession on March 18, 1997. Thousands showed up as more than a dozen stretch limousines made the trip through downtown Brooklyn towards his childhood home, at the corner of Fulton Street and St. James Place.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of this tragic event, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso held a press conference on March 9, to unveil two new murals located at 981 Fulton Street, paying homage to the hip-hop icon.

During the unveiling, Williams also highlighted the need for prevention against gun violence in the city.

“Biggie lost his life to gun violence,” Williams said on Twitter. “A quarter century later, we still continue the fight to end that epidemic.” According to data provided by the NYPD, the crime rate in New York has risen by 58.7 percent in February compared to the same time last year.

BP Antonio Reynoso and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams pose with muralists.

The artwork consists of two murals, one depicting Wallace as a child, and the other presenting a colorful depiction of Biggie dressed in his signature coogie sweater. The murals were painted by street artists Eli Salome-Diaz, Carlo Niece, and Benny Guerra, in less than a week in order to have them done in time for the unveiling.

Leroy McCarthy, who led the petition to officially co-name the intersection of Fulton and St. James in honor of Biggie, was also in attendance for the unveiling along with Lil Cease, a former member of the group, Junior M.A.F.I.A.

The new murals are just some of many works of art decorating the storefronts surrounding the corner where The Notorious B.I.G. once resided. Located on the corner is a profile of Biggie Smalls painted by Vincent Ballentine in 1999. There are numerous other works that can be seen along the block, including an enormous mural dubbed “Commandate Biggie,” located at the intersection with Lafayette Ave.

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