“Too many nonprofits are waiting on money owed by the same city that tells nonprofits to prepare to do more with less, again and again.”

John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

A budget-related rally last year.

If you’re only reading headlines and press releases from the Mayor’s Office, you might feel relieved that the city’s budget challenges have been overcome. Maybe you’ve also read that the Independent Budget Office, the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget, and City Council have all projected a surplus in the fiscal year 2024 budget rather than a deficit. And in January, you may remember Mayor Eric Adams talked about restorations and canceling cuts that had been scheduled for April.

That all sounds good—but unfortunately it’s not the whole story. Instead of feeling relief, nonprofits across the sector are deeply anxious on behalf of their staff and the people they serve —hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who engage with city-funded programs. The recent 3 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) announced for human services workers is a great start and win, but our work is not over.

As a city councilmember and as Nonprofit New York’s vice president of policy, we constantly hear from our constituents about the precarious position they are in due to the Adams Administration’s budget dance. These nonprofits range from preschool and afterschool providers, to organizations that operate food pantries or older adult centers; from nonprofits that care for our parks to those creating opportunities in the arts. They are all struggling in this environment.

A remarkable lack of transparency around the numbers and rationales for cuts means these organizations cannot plan. This has real consequences on the people they serve. Our communities have faced unnecessary, severe service disruptions when the city asks organizations to develop and implement plans with unacceptably limited information.

To make matters worse, many of these nonprofits are still waiting for long-overdue payments from the city, compounding the financial distress that threatens their missions. For those that can, they take out loans to make payroll and rent. Those that can’t brace for operation pauses and prepare painful remarks about not being able to make payroll within weeks. Too many nonprofits are waiting on money owed by the same city that tells nonprofits to prepare to do more with less, again and again.

We have been disappointed to see how messaging from the Adams administration glosses over deep and harmful cuts made in November and January to nonprofit services, which have not been restored. Even worse, at the City Council’s budget hearing on March 4, the administration again suggested further cuts may be coming.

Here’s what we know so far: in September, Mayor Adams announced the city budget would be cut by 15 percent across the board, and the nonprofit sector anxiously waited for information about what this would mean for current and future contracts. In November and January, the city released budget documents that provided some more information, but little clarity or certainty.

The November documents included immediate programmatic cuts to services that are important to huge swaths of New Yorkers. These include: language access and legal services ($600K); environmental protection ($4M); Department of Education after school community programs ($10M); library services ($23.6M); cultural development and cultural institutions ($8.6M); as well as the popular participatory budget program, racial equity initiatives, and civic engagement efforts ($643K total), among other services.

The November release also included a significant cut to the Department of Youth and Community Development, which funds programs that families rely on for youth services, educational enrichment, and more. The organizations that run these programs include many culturally specific, BIPOC-led organizations. The $4 million cut for this year was followed by news of an additional cut of $32.5 million for the next fiscal year.

In January, the city’s budget documents included more devastating news. Three major parks programs were cut by $10.9 million in fiscal year 2025; arts and cultural institutions were hit again, with a cut of $11.6 million. The Department of Probation’s Impact program was eliminated, and older adult centers were cut by $18.8 million.

Those numbers seem at odds with the administration’s messaging. During the January budget address and the State of the City, Mayor Adams made it a point to acknowledge the importance of the nonprofit sector. He recognized the critical work nonprofits do to make New York City all that it is. These words are welcomed, and we are very encouraged human services workers will finally receive a COLA, but nonprofits and New Yorkers need this recognition to be backed up with action.

New York City’s nonprofits need the restoration of the November and January budget cuts. We need meaningful, substantive partnership with the administration and city agencies that rely on nonprofits to provide critical services, and increased transparency in the budgeting process. We need structural changes that finally fix the pattern of years-long contract delays, not just temporarily clearing a backlog.

The city relies on nonprofits to provide essential services, care for our communities, and make us a cultural capital. Nonprofits, and the New Yorkers they represent, should be able to rely on the city.

Councilmember Shekar Krishnan represents the 25th District in Queens. Chai Jindasurat-Yasui is the vice president of policy at Nonprofit New York.