New York City officials agreed Tuesday on a grim coronavirus-era budget that will dramatically cut city services, impose a hiring freeze, and, in a move to tamp down calls to disburse police, change $ 1,000. million from the Police Department.
The $ 88.1 billion budget reflected the economic shutdown that followed the outbreak, causing a $ 9 billion revenue shortfall that forced the city to make drastic cuts in general spending.
But the virus was not the only external factor that affected the budget.
Protests that followed the George Floyd police murder in Minneapolis led to calls to remove police across the country, including New York City, where protesters have rallied at City Hall since last Tuesday and have staged protests outside from the houses of the members of the City Council. .
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson agreed in principle to cut $ 1 billion from the Police Department’s $ 6 billion operating budget, but to do so successfully, especially when crime and shooting are on the rise, it would be a complicated “balancing act”. “The mayor said Tuesday.
Indeed, the details did not please anyone.
The city decided to cancel its July-planned police cadet class, which Mayor Bill de Blasio said would reduce the number of police by approximately 1,160 officers after the wear and tear, and remove surveillance of illegal sales, homeless people in the streets and school safety. policeman.
Several members of the City Council said they would vote against the budget on Tuesday night; it was still expected to happen.
Proponents of reviewing the Police Department argued that the cuts did not go far enough. The members of the city council were divided; some agreed, while others argued that police funds should not be reduced when crime increases.
“Black people want to be safe like everyone else, we just want to be respected,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller, co-chair of the Council’s Black, Latin and Asian Board, who opposed reducing the size of the Department of Policeman. “We cannot allow people from outside our community to give us lectures on the lives of blacks and what we need in our communities.”
Johnson said during a virtual press conference that he felt caught between the demands of the conflicting groups, restricted from doing what he had set out to do.
“For everyone who is disappointed that we have not gone any further, I want to be very honest and sincere: I am also disappointed,” Johnson said.
As it stands now, Mr. de Blasio may have agreed to drop the incoming July officer class, but another officer class is still ready to start training in October. The rest of the city’s workforce, except for those in health and safety functions, such as firefighters and paramedics, will remain in a hiring freeze for the next year.
“If we have a hiring freeze for every city agency, that should include the New York City police,” Jumaane Williams, the city’s public defender, said during an appearance Tuesday morning.
Mr. Williams promised to use the power he has to obstruct the tax plan, unless the City Council imposed a true hiring freeze on the Police Department.
Others described the $ 1 billion police cuts as nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Critics ranged from prominent black activists, elected officials of color like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and longtime mayoral allies like actress and former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon.
“Definancing the police means defining the police,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “It doesn’t mean budget tricks or fun math.”
The congresswoman and others noted, for example, the City Council’s assertion that the transfer of school security officers to the Police Department’s Education Department amounted to a $ 400 million change in police resources. The Department of Education already funds the school safety program, sending about $ 300 million a year to the Police Department, according to the New York City Independent Budget Office.
The move simply means that the Department of Education will now operate a program it has already been subscribing to.
“If you are not spending the money at that agency, if the money that that agency planned to spend is no longer in your budget, that is savings by any measure,” argued Mr. de Blasio, during a press conference Tuesday by the late.
The Mayor and Mr. Johnson are also projecting that the Police Department will be able to reduce its overtime costs by $ 350 million, but it is unclear what basis it is using for that projection, especially when officers are monitoring frequent protests and the crime increases.
“He’s really moving money and he’s not really meeting the campaign demand,” said Anthonine Pierre, deputy director of the Brooklyn Movement Center, who joined protesters in front of City Hall to demand cuts from the Police Department. On Tuesday morning, those protests became more conflictive, which Pierre said underscored the need for more radical change.
Mr. de Blasio said New Yorkers should have faith in the Police Department’s ability to control overtime because the department is well managed.
“Good management, and now we have very good management in the New York Police Department, find ways to use overtime when absolutely necessary, but not overuse it,” said Mr. de Blasio.
Mr. Williams, a prominent New York City progressive who some activists want to recruit for mayor next year, is not convinced.
On Tuesday, he noted a dark provision in the City Charter that requires the public defender to sign an order authorizing the collection of property taxes, which support the city’s budget. He said he would not sign that order unless the city eliminates the next class of police officers.
No public defender has refused to sign the order, and it is unclear whether his threatened action would actually prevent the city from collecting taxes. New York University law professor Roderick Hills described Mr. William’s analysis of the City Charter provision as “completely absurd.”
The budget itself is carried out in unprecedented times. New York City has had to close a huge $ 9 billion budget gap caused by the near cessation of economic activity during the pandemic. The city is just slowly reopening and its economic future remains bleak.
The budget includes $ 1 billion in job savings that Mr. de Blasio has yet to figure out how to achieve. He warned that the city may have to lay off 22,000 employees in October, in the event it fails to achieve work efficiency in other ways. It also continues to ask the federal government and the state for help in obtaining an additional lending authority.
To close the gap, for the first time he had to draw on financial reserves. It removed the city’s popular composting program and on Tuesday confirmed it would cut $ 65 million in funding for Fair Fares, which subsidizes public transportation fares for low-income New Yorkers.
On Tuesday, Mr. de Blasio was asked about those critics who argue that the Police Department’s budget cuts are just a trick.
“Some people are never happy,” said Mr. de Blasio.