Governor Hochul’s 2024 Executive Budget proposal sets a record for New York State spending yet fails the vulnerable New Yorkers we serve every day at Queens Defenders through our free legal defense services and housing assistance programs.

A budget proposal is a plan of action and an opportunity to address inequity. Unfortunately, this spending plan ignores our State’s low-income residents, further criminalizes poverty, and instead favors prosecutors, law enforcement, landlords, and real estate developers.

Bail Reform

The Governor’s budget appears to be more influenced by sensational headlines than what the data tells us – that there is no clear connection between recent crime increases and bail reform laws.  Eliminating the “least restrictive means” standard will remove safeguards on arbitrary bail decisions in favor of ensuring a low-level offender shows up in court.  What the citizens of New York will get with the Governor’s proposal is more pre-trial detention, more disruption to their lives, and with little to no impact on public safety.


Since the implementation of bail reform laws, rearrests within 180 days have only marginally increased, from 19% in 2019 to 21% in 2021.  An estimate from an Albany Times Union’s analysis suggests that as many as 80,000 New Yorkers may have avoided incarceration and went on to pose no recorded threat to public safety as a result of bail reforms.  We implore the Governor’s office to analyze how many people were able to keep their jobs and provide for their families because of these laws and consider that when making policy recommendations.

Funding for Prosecution vs. Defense

The Governor’s Executive budget proposal allocates $40 million in additional funding to hire new prosecutors and supplement changes to discovery laws.  Public Defender and legal services organization had hoped to see an equal increase to address our staffing and operational needs, but we are left out of this budget.  Further, only providing funding to district attorneys to address changes to discovery puts public defenders and most importantly our clients at a distinct disadvantage.


What we have painfully learned over the last several years is that discovery is not a one-way street from the district attorney’s office to our case files.  We must receive gigabytes of data, documents, video, recordings, and other media, organize it, view it, and then mount an effective defense of the clients we represent.  The Governor’s budget cuts public defenders out of the process, and leaves us at the whim of district attorney’s offices to develop their own systems and processes, leaving us only to react in whatever way our operating budgets allow.


This ultimately harms justice-involved low-income New Yorkers when their attorneys can’t rely on efficient and standardized systems for receiving discovery materials, as we will be constantly working from behind to respond to the systems impressed upon us by prosecutors.  In order to ensure true, equitable implementation of discovery changes, public defender and legal services organizations must have access to equal funding.


The Governor’s Executive Budget proposal addresses “affordable housing” largely through tax breaks for developers to build new units over the next decade.  What we are missing is an answer for the families living in the shelter system right now with a voucher on the verge of expiring, and a local real estate market that continues finding creative ways to keep them out of available units.


The national average for Emergency Housing Vouchers (EHV) that have been used to acquire affordable housing is 48.7%, while New York State lags at 27.5% and New York City at an abysmal 17%. Thousands of New Yorkers are literally waiting in shelters for a space to call home.  This budget does not offer solutions for closing this gap and helping New York residents acquire stable housing.


The Governor needs to include strategies and funding to address staffing problems at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and create protections for voucher participants to ensure they have equal access to stable housing and landlords are not discriminating against them in favor of market rate renters. New Yorkers languishing in shelters deserve action on this today, not in ten years.