This year’s city budget will have something for nearly everyone to hate.
After weeks of demands that City Hall make significant cuts to the NYPD’s budget, Mayor de Blasio on Monday touted reductions reaching $1.5 billion but said NYC could still be forced to lay off municipal workers as early as October.
He outlined $1 billion in cuts to the NYPD’s operating budget and promised another $500 million in capital funding would be reallocated from police projects to youth and public housing programs.
The changes come on top of $8 billion de Blasio had already cut from his proposed budget — which now stands around $86 billion — and in the wake of huge tax revenue shortfalls due to the coronavirus outbreak. City Hall’s executive office and NYC Council remained embroiled in budget negotiations Monday, one day before the legally-mandated deadline to hammer out an agreement.
The mayor said the cuts to the NYPD were not intended to punish the department in the wake of criticism over its use of force during anti-police brutality protests.
“We want to shift resources more and more into young people in particular, into youth centers. We want to shift resources more and more into public housing,” de Blasio said at a Monday morning press conference. “We’re going to take that capital money and shift it into creating youth recreation centers.”
The city is also poised to cancel the next two police academy classes — a savings of about $50 million — and transfer school safety officers from the Police to Education Departments, sources told the Daily News, a move trimming about $450 from the NYPD budget.
A source familiar with the talks said the change in who oversees school safety officers may seem superficial, but could transform how students are policed.
The move could entail “stronger guidelines and checks and balances on what school safety can do,” the source said.
The school safety officer program, initiated in the Giuliani administration, has long been accused of disproportionately targeting students of color.
The new NYPD cuts also include transferring homeless outreach programs to the Department of Homeless Services, in an attempt to address criticism that cops are the wrong city workers to get the homeless off of streets.
The home stretch of budget talks comes after de Blasio proposed cutting the city’s popular Summer Youth Employment Program, drawing outrage from pols and activists who said kids need the extra income more than ever.
The Council drew concessions from the mayor over the weekend, according to sources who say summer jobs programs will come back, albeit in reduced form. Details were not immediately known.
Both the mayor and Council Speaker Corey Johnson are likely to tout the NYPD changes and revival of summer youth employment as major wins — but the budget seems sure to leave activists angry.
“It tinkers here and tinkers there, but it does not represent the sea change that people had been demanding and camping out for,” a source familiar with the budget talks said of the NYPD changes.
“You’re going to get a number of ‘Nos’ on the left and you’re going to get a number of ‘Nos’ on the right, but they’ll have the votes to pass the budget,” that person added.
In recent weeks, de Blasio threatened to fire as many as 22,000 city workers as he sought authority from Albany to take on debt to cover operating expenses, a move Gov. Cuomo opposes.
In spite of the dire threat, widespread layoffs were off the table for now, sources said. A small number of positions such as park rangers and park enforcement patrols, who are charged with enforcing social-distancing rules, might be cut in the short term, though.
The cuts come as the federal government has failed to act on an additional stimulus package and because the state Senate has rebuffed the mayor’s requests to expand the city’s borrowing capacity.
With the end of a state-mandated eviction moratorium on the horizon, de Blasio said he worries the results could be “devastating” for New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet.
“We need to go back to this eviction issue. If someone cannot pay the rent, they should not be evicted. They should be given the right to go on a payment plan,” he said. “We just can’t see evictions if people can’t pay.”
On one issue near and dear to Council members’ hearts — discretionary spending — lawmakers were bracing for pain on Monday.
The Council and mayor agreed over the weekend to reduce that kind of spending, which members use to fund pet projects, from $1.1 billion to $750 million, sources said.
That issue, and not NYPD cuts, took up most of the time during Council members’ budget discussions over the weekend.
“This budget is a lose-lose,” a source said.
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