New York City’s Proposed 2016 Capital Budget Looks Strong

The City’s Preliminary Fiscal Year 2016 Capital Budget proposes robust investment in public infrastructure, while meeting key priorities of the de Blasio Administration.

The budget includes $41 billion in capital priorities for Fiscal Years 2015 through 2018, up from $39 billion forecast in November, and the highest four-year figure since the Fiscal Year 2010 budget.  

Even though commitments to future projects are up, the City is actually expected to spend slightly less over the next four years than was forecast last year.  The four-year spending figure drops to $35.7 billion for 2015-2018, down 2% from November 2014 estimates.  It is important to note that the City is actually spending $2 billion more of its own money compared to last year’s budget, which suggests the City expects State and federal aid to New York City to decline significantly during this period.

The City also released the preliminary version of its biennial Ten-Year Capital Strategy, a document the City uses to establish longer-term priorities.  At $67.7 billion, the ten-year piece is $14 billion – or 26% – greater than the last version released in 2013.  The City’s contribution to this Plan increases a striking 51%, or $20.3 billion, while non-City contributions are down a troubling 44%.

Despite the sizable increase in its contribution, the City forecasts that its debt burden will increase slowly in the short term, because of strategic debt refinancings, and extending some larger projects into later years of the plan.  In the longer term, without additional State and federal assistance, the City's annual debt load is forecast to increase from $8.3 billion to $9.3 billion per year by 2025.

Three agencies receive the bulk of funding in both documents:

  • The Department of Education/School Construction Authority receives $11.0 billion over four years, nearly a third of the City’s commitments. 
  • The City commits $8.2 billion to the Department of Environmental Protection over four years.
  • The Department of Transportation expects $5.9 billion in new commitments (excluding the City’s contributions to the MTA).

In the Ten-Year Strategy:

  • Schools get nearly $25 billion in capital funding commitments.
  • DEP receives $12.8 billion.
  • DOT will see $8.9 billion in new commitments (excluding MTA contributions).

The Mayor addresses his plan to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next ten years by committing an unprecedented $7.3 billion to housing, compared to $2.9 billion in the prior Ten-Year Strategy.

Finally, the City's Health and Hospitals Corporation is committing $1.2 billion in federal aid it received to strengthen facilities following Superstorm Sandy.  In total, the City will commit $1.3 billion over four years and $2.3 over ten years to HHC.  This represents a growth of $585 million compared to the prior four-year plan, and a $1.4 billion increase over the prior Ten-Year Strategy.

One area of concern is the City’s commitment to the MTA capital program, which is currently facing a $15 billion budget gap in its latest five-year capital proposal.  The Ten-Year Strategy shows only a $40 million annual contribution to the MTA starting next year.  Although the City has made additional contributions to support the #7 subway extension and other construction over the past decade, the longer-term trend appears to show a decline in support. 

Building Congress President Richard T. Anderson said, “Overall, Mayor de Blasio’s capital budget proposal is a promising signal that this Administration understands the importance of infrastructure in assuring the quality of life for all New Yorkers.”

Anderson cautioned, “However, the City must do more for the MTA capital budget, which needs substantial support and which is essential for so many New Yorkers.  Moreover, the State and federal governments must increase their support for the City.  The health of the City and its economy is vital to the well-being of both.”

    The New York Building Congress is a membership coalition of business, labor, association and government organizations promoting the design, construction
and real estate industry in New York City.