Council Member Daniel Dromm represents Jackson Heights and Elmhurst.  He chairs the Council's Finance Committee and its LGBT Caucus.

OPINION: A New Budget with Big Wins for LGBTQ New Yorkers

By Daniel Dromm

New York City has a new budget for Fiscal Year 2019!  Working closely together, NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Mayor Bill de Blasio and I produced a progressive budget of $89.2 billion which contains many amazing victories for our city.  As a long-time LGBTQ activist and the Council’s first openly-gay Finance Chair, I am particularly thrilled that the budget delivers for the many LGBTQ people who call NYC home.

There is much to celebrate in this budget, but I will take this opportunity to highlight just a few of the major wins that are of particular importance to me, my colleagues and our constituents.

This budget significantly increases resources for our city’s underserved, particularly to those living outside of Manhattan.  While Manhattan is home to our city’s famous “gayborhoods,” namely, the East Village and Greenwich Village, thousands of LGBTQ New Yorkers live in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island.  Sadly, these communities have not always received their fair share of public dollars. With this in mind, Speaker Johnson and I worked hard to secure $2 million for LGBT Community Services.  These dollars will increase and improve delivery of health and human services for LGBTQ people and families, particularly in the outer boroughs.

Transgender New Yorkers are among the most vulnerable and undeserved in our city.  In order to address this longstanding disparity, the Council has allocated nearly $1.8 million to the Trans Equity Programs initiative.  This dynamic initiative empowers the transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) community by providing them with education programs, employment services, workforce development, healthcare navigation, legal guidance, community outreach and more.  This multifaceted effort will provide transgender people in our city with the resources they need to live life to the fullest.

Seniors are the backbone of our society, but have not received the resources they need and deserve.  My colleagues and I fought to eliminate that disparity by adding $1.5 million to the LGBT Senior Services in Every Borough initiative.  These dollars provide culturally competent LGBT services for seniors across the city through two programs known as Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) and the Queens Center for Gay Seniors located in Jackson Heights.

All LGBTQ youth should have access to quality mental health and support services in a safe and inclusive environment.  As a founder of Queens’ first LGBTQ social service organizations, this has long been a top priority for me. By including $1.2 million for LGBTQ Youth All-Borough Mental Health, the Council is ensuring access to comprehensive mental health services for vulnerable LGBTQ youth.  Youth of color, youth in immigrant families, homeless youth, and those in need of legal services will especially benefit from these dollars.

The Council’s LGBTQ Inclusive Curriculum initiative, funded at $660,000, supports the NYC Department of Education’s effort to meet the needs of LGBTQ youth and address the intersectionality of race, sexual orientation and gender identity through the DOE’s general curriculum.  It will also provide professional development for public school teachers and integrate LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum into literacy and history classes. As a former NYC public school teacher, and one of the first openly-gay teachers in New York state, I am proud of the advancements we have made in this arena.

These new and expanded initiatives, in combination with increased discretionary funding for LGBTQ programs by individual Council Members demonstrate our commitment to the fight for equality and justice.  Though there is more work to do, I am proud of the progress this budget represents today.

Daniel Dromm is a NYC Council Member representing Jackson Heights and Elmhurst.  He chairs the Council’s Finance Committee and its LGBT Caucus.

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