Photo Courtesy: Brooklyn Brough President Office
BROOKLYN, NY (January 10, 2023) – Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso tonight delivered Brooklyn’s first State of the Borough address in nearly ten years at New York City College of Technology. The Borough President was joined by Brooklyn’s own Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who also gave remarks, Mayor Eric Adams, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, his fellow Borough Presidents, and many other city, state, and federal elected officials. The event honored Reynoso’s ‘year of firsts’ that included history-making maternal health investments and the launch of Brooklyn’s ‘Planning for Public Health’ comprehensive planning effort, as well as the return and revamping of Brooklyn cultural traditions like the Wingate concert. Borough President Reynoso also previewed four new initiatives his Administration will be pursuing in 2023: funding for nonprofits to purchase permanent space; a solarization project for low-income tenants; a small business incubator for Black entrepreneurs in Brownsville; and a community board reform effort. The Office of the Brooklyn Borough President teamed up with BRIC Arts Media as the exclusive media partner handling the livestream and broadcasting of tonight’s speech.
“In 2022, Borough Hall made history and set a new standard for big, bold action on behalf of the people of Brooklyn. In my second year, I’m not going to stop until we outdo our first,” said Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso. “I’m not here to do a thousand things halfway, I’m here to do the five or six or seven things that will make a real difference in people’s lives. Brooklyn needs major changes, and I’m going to do right by my people. This role isn’t just ceremonial, we’re going to prove what we can do and show Brooklyn the difference a Borough President can make.”
A Year of Firsts
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso made history before he even set foot in Borough Hall. Reynoso is the first Latino Brooklyn Borough President and the first Dominican Borough President citywide. He is also the youngest Borough President ever elected to a full term.
A History-Making Maternal Health Agenda
Black women are 9.4 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than their White counterparts, and one-third of all pregnancy-related deaths in NYC happen in Brooklyn. In response to what the Borough President calls “one of the greatest inequities of our time,” Reynoso launched a historic maternal health agenda:
- Maternal Health Taskforce: In April 2022, Borough President Reynoso formed his Maternal Health Taskforce of eight Black women OBGYNs, nurses, midwives, mental health advocates, nonprofit and other community leaders to guide efforts to improve pregnancy outcomes for Black and Brown people in Brooklyn.
- $45M for Public Hospitals: Over the summer, Reynoso made history when he allocated the entirety of his FY2023 capital funding – a total of $45 million – to Brooklyn’s three public hospitals for maternal healthcare improvements. This marked the first time a Borough President has ever allocated an entire fiscal year’s capital funding to one cause, and within one city organization.
- NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County received $15.625M to renovate the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) and mother-baby units.
- NYC Health + Hospitals/South Brooklyn Health received $18.5M to renovate the outpatient care center, labor and delivery rooms, post-partum recovery rooms, and NICU.
- NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull received $11M to build a state-of-the-art birthing center.
- ‘Born in Brooklyn’ Baby Boxes: In November, a total of 500 post-partum families receiving care at select Brooklyn hospitals and clinics received “Born in Brooklyn” baby boxes with free baby supplies and post-partum resources for new parents through a $100,000 grant from the Borough President to Met Council.
- ‘Healthy Pregnancy’ Public Education Campaign: A few weeks later, Borough President Reynoso launched a $250,000 multimedia public education campaign connecting Brooklynites with a resource guide for a healthy pregnancy informed by the Borough President’s Maternal Health Taskforce. The multicultural campaign included English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole informational ads in bus and train stations in key Brooklyn neighborhoods and across digital platforms to reach Black and Brown communities facing crisis-level maternal mortality rates.
Planning for Public Health: Brooklyn’s First-Ever Comprehensive Plan
Overseeing the largest and fastest-growing borough, Borough President Reynoso launched in February 2022 Brooklyn’s own comprehensive planning effort – the first ever at the borough level – to respond to the deepening housing crisis and establish guidelines and recommendations for equitable development in Brooklyn through the lens of public health. New York City is unlike major cities like London and Mexico City in that it lacks a long-term “comprehensive plan” to guide the city’s growth and development. Comprehensive plans recognize that all urban policy, budget, and land use decisions are inherently interrelated and therefore need a shared vision to guide them.
In December, the Reynoso Administration released for public input and hosted a town hall discussing a draft Existing Conditions Report detailing robust data and research into Brooklyn’s demographics, health, economic and job trends, housing, transportation, and more. Following the end of this initial public engagement period on January 31, 2023, the Existing Conditions Report will be finalized and then used to inform the next phase of comprehensive planning: developing draft land use guidance and recommendations grounded in health equity and a commitment to affordable, dignified housing for all. This draft comprehensive plan will then undergo another round of public review before the comprehensive plan is finalized and released Summer/Fall 2023. All future development in Brooklyn under Borough President Reynoso will be weighed using this comprehensive plan.
PREVIEWING YEAR TWO
Borough President Antonio Reynoso announced tonight four major steps his administration will take to advance a Brooklyn for all in the new year:
Permanent Homes for Nonprofits
The Borough President will allocate a portion of his FY2024 capital budget toward assisting Brooklyn nonprofits in purchasing permanent spaces, so that they can spend less time negotiating with landlords and more time serving our neighbors. The initiative will create jobs, boost Black ownership, and ensure the organizations that are lifeboats for our neighborhoods can focus on service delivery and advancing their missions.
Saving Through Solarization
Borough President Reynoso is undertaking a large-scale solarization project to alleviate monthly utility costs for low-income tenants and encourage Brooklyn’s transition to renewable energy. According to a 2019 report by the Mayor’s Office, 32 percent of Brooklyn families in 2017 were “utility burdened,” spending more than 6 percent of their income on utilities – and this was before costs went up about 11 to 12 percent per year in the last 3 years.
Kickstarting Black-Owned Business in Brownsville
The Borough President is partnering with the Central Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation and JobsFirstNYC to incubate Black-owned businesses in Brownsville, the neighborhood with one of the highest Black unemployment rates in the city at 11.2 percent. After a working period during which the Borough President and partners will support each entrepreneur’s development of a robust business plan, the Reynoso Administration will identify the strongest proposals and provide them with free space on underutilized commercial corridors in Brownsville to kickstart the success of these small businesses. The project will create economic opportunity for our Black entrepreneurs while revitalizing local retail and improving the range of amenities in this historic neighborhood.
Community Board Reform
Borough President Reynoso’s vision of a Brooklyn built for and by the people requires that community boards – the grassroots of our local government – are fully funded, fully resourced, and as diverse as the people of this borough. Changes to the City Charter and decades of under-resourcing, however, have made it impossible for Brooklyn’s 18 community boards to deliver on their charter-mandated responsibilities and advocate for the needs of their community district.
As agency head, Borough President Reynoso is issuing guidance to facilitate community boards’ access to the funding and resources they need to effectively perform their charter-mandated functions. This new guidance will interpret and bring clarity to the 1989 City Charter that failed to properly outline how the responsibility for supporting community boards would be divided between Borough Hall and Mayoral agencies. This effort will formalize channels for community boards to acquire resources, funding, and services, ensuring our City agencies step up for our community boards so they can truly fulfill their role as our most grassroots level of government.