The city’s toughest budget negotiations over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s term are ending for the lame Mayor, as he was forced to propose $ 1 billion in cuts to New York police in the midst of a national protest by the police brutality.
De Blasio and the City Council, led by President Corey Johnson, reached an agreement on Sunday night that would significantly reduce the budget for the police department, weeks after the mayor resisted calls for cuts of this magnitude. , according to four officials involved in the talks.
The $ 87 billion budget, which would take effect on July 1 after a Council vote, falls short of the mayor’s proposal of $ 95.3 billion in January. It is the first time in his mandate of more than six years that he has had to substantially reduce spending on municipal programs: the inevitable conclusion of a trio of crises: the coronavirus pandemic, the financial consequences, and the national movement for police reform.
De Blasio’s team on Saturday proposed a series of cutbacks in the New York police force that largely reflected a plan the Council unveiled a few weeks ago. School security officers, who are unarmed but wear police uniforms, would be transferred to the Department of Education; According to sources, a class of approximately 1,100 recruits would be canceled in July and certain homeless outreach operations would move away from police control.
A city council official said the NYPD’s capital budget, which covers long-term construction projects, would keep more cuts.
“The mayor got there because he put together a plan that keeps New Yorkers safe. That was the most important thing for him. Once he had a way to maintain patrol strength, youth programming was funded and funds were fairly examined, ”the official said.
Calls to downsize the New York police, an institution historically revered by elected officials, have forced de Blasio, and to a lesser extent Johnson, into a politically difficult position. On the one hand, there is a growing contingent of left-wing New Yorkers who see it as a game that will not significantly reform the criminal justice system. They are largely aligned with the Democratic Socialists of America, an organization that is gaining ground in local electoral politics.
On the other hand, the more conservative Democrats are concerned about a possible increase in crime and the consequent slide in quality of life problems.
Complicating matters for Johnson and de Blasio is that the Council’s black, Latino, and Asian Caucus is not aligned with the DSA and has been discussing the nature and size of the police cuts with some of the left-wing Democratic body members. in private negotiations in recent years. weeks, several people have told POLITICO.
On Friday, the caucus released a statement criticizing the DSA after some of its members appeared outside the homes of two council members.
“We reject the efforts of those who seek to appropriate our message and gentrify our movement with their ideologies, rather than our realities, and denounce their attempts to threaten a black mother and baby, and intimidate an ally and community leader threatening to break into your home, “the caucus tweeted on Friday.
“When others withdraw to their privilege, our black, Latino and Asian communities will have to contend with budget cuts, police brutality and recovery from the devastation of COVID-19, and it will continue to be our responsibility to light the way forward for our movement,” the statement continued.
Activists who have been asking for cuts of at least $ 1 billion from the NYPD camped outside City Hall for the past week to demand more substantial reforms.
“Transferring school security officers from the New York Police Department to the DOE is a bureaucratic reorganization of the parade as a real reform,” said Amberliz Linares, Urban Youth Collaborative member and 15-year-old student of the School of Justice, in a prepared statement. Brooklyn Social. “A police officer is still a police officer, no matter who supervises them. All we want to do is learn. “
This reaction was anticipated by some members of the Council, in case the current agreement was finalized.
“New Yorkers marching on our streets for #BlackLivesMatter #DefundNYPD You will NOT be satisfied when transferring New York Police security officers to @NYCschools budget, “Council member Ben Kallos said in a tweet Sunday.
Meanwhile, the mayor and Johnson have big problems waiting for them.
De Blasio, whose mandate is being consumed by a crisis, was rejected by state lawmakers in his request that he be allowed to borrow $ 5 billion to manage the financial consequences of Covid-19.
The practice was banned after the fiscal crisis of the 1970s and, therefore, would require the approval of the Legislature and the Governor.
“Mayor de Blasio has made it clear that we have several months before drastic measures such as layoffs occur and other city leaders have sent confusing signals about the wisdom and effectiveness of the current request,” said the leader of most of the Senate Andrea Stewart-Cousins in a statement Saturday. .
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, through a spokesman, simply said he is reviewing the request.
Johnson, who is considering his own mayoral bid, should calm council members who disagree with the City Council over his own budget. Lawmakers last year received nearly $ 800 million to spend on social programs, split between nonprofits in their districts, and contribute to city agencies. This year they are demanding $ 750 million and De Blasio fiercely resists that call, sources said.