In a plan presented to the city council Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed to shift around $1 billion in funding from the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to social programs. The proposal is set to remove a major obstacle in the city’s budget negotiations after City Council Speaker Corey Johnson insisted on cutting that amount from the NYPD’s budget.
According to de Blasio, the fiscal crisis spawned by the economic shutdown – and the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests – have presented New York City with “an unprecedented opportunity to change some things.”
Under the proposal, the NYPD’s budget will drop to about $5 billion down from $6 billion.
Budget cuts needed after coronavirus devastated the city’s economy
During a press conference on Monday, de Blasio only provided a few details about the proposed reduction as he and the council were still in the middle of negotiations. However, people familiar with the matter said that part of the changes would involve shrinking the NYPD’s headcount, as well as transferring control of school safety agents and crossing guards from the police to the New York City Department of Education.
In addition, De Blasio proposed to shift another $500 million out of the police department’s capital budget. That money, which is separate from the $1 billion shifted from the department’s operating expenses, would go toward public housing and the improvement of youth centers.
New York City faces a deficit of around $9 billion over the next two years because of a decline revenue after the Wuhan coronavirus devastated the economy. This has forced the mayor and city council to identify cost-saving measures and consider layoffs. (Related: New York’s response to the coronavirus made the pandemic worse.)
De Blasio first proposed a $95 billion municipal budget last January. This was later reduced to $89.3 billion in April following the economic shutdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The latest budget has been pared down to about $87 billion.
“We’re in a whole different situation, in fact, than New York City’s ever faced in our history, a health-care crisis, an economic crisis, a disparity crisis, a budget crisis all wrapped into one and on a massive, massive scale,” de Blasio told reporters during the press conference.
NYPD budget cut is also a response to protests
The proposed cuts to the NYPD’s budget are a response to weeks of protests all over the country over the May 25 death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. Protesters, including those in New York City, have demanded changes to policing and to defund police departments.
In response, some members of the city council have vowed not to vote for a budget that didn’t cut the NYPD’s funding by at least $1 billion. Meanwhile, activists have also decried the shifting of some of the department’s responsibilities to other agencies, saying that further cuts to the NYPD’s budget are needed.
The proposed budget cuts were denounced by Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, which represents rank and file officers. Lynch accused the mayor and city council of having “surrendered to lawlessness.”
Meanwhile, the activist group Communities United for Police Reform also attacked the plan. The group said that the city’s leaders were simply resorting to “budget tricks that are protecting and giving special treatment” to the NYPD.
Cuts to other agency’s budgets also forthcoming
As the June 30 budget deadline approaches, de Blasio has warned about further cuts across all agencies, on top of layoffs and furloughs of up to 22,000 city employees by October 1 should New York City not get more help. In addition, the mayor is also looking to find savings within the city’s labor unions.
The city’s Education Department told school principals earlier this month to plan for an estimated 3 percent reduction in their school’s budgets for 2021. Department officials, however, stated that not all schools would see such a cut and that they were aiming to minimize the impact of these cuts on the most vulnerable communities.
Even with the cuts, de Blasio is still hoping that the city would get federal assistance and that the New York state Legislature would grant the city the authority to borrow up to $5 billion. On Monday, the mayor said that the state Assembly supported the plan, but that its Senate did not.
In a statement, a spokesman for the state Senate majority leader said that state senators were concerned about the annual increases in city spending under de Blasio’s administration.
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