Emma G. Fitzsimmons, New York Times, November 16, 2023
Mayor Eric Adams announced painful budget cuts to New York City services on Thursday that would freeze police hiring and close libraries on Sunday and warned that more cuts would be necessary without additional federal funding to manage the migrant crisis.
The budget cuts would bring the number of Police Department officers below 30,000 for the first time since the 1980s, slash the Education Department budget by $1 billion over two years and delay the rollout of composting in the Bronx and Staten Island — one of the mayor’s signature initiatives to address rats and climate change. The cuts would also weaken two popular programs: summer school and universal prekindergarten.
Mr. Adams said in a statement that he had to make cuts across city agencies in response to the rising costs of the migrant crisis, slowing tax revenues and the ending of federal pandemic aid.
“No city should be left to handle a national humanitarian crisis largely on its own, and without the significant and timely support we need from Washington, D.C., today’s budget will be only the beginning,” he said.
Mr. Adams, a Democrat in his second year in office, had warned at a news conference on Tuesday that the budget cuts would be “extremely painful for New Yorkers.”
Progressive Democrats immediately criticized the mayor’s cuts and said they would hurt working-class families. Lincoln Restler, a chair of the City Council’s progressive caucus, said his group would not cooperate with the cuts.
Mr. Adams said that the cost of the migrant crisis was growing and expected to cost nearly $11 billion over two years and that next year’s budget had a major $7 billion gap. The cuts go into effect immediately, city officials said, and the mayor can implement hiring freezes on his own.
The City Council has a role in approving certain budget changes, including when funding is shifted among agencies or increased. It can approve budget modifications or vote them down. But the Council is more likely to fight the mayor’s cuts by negotiating the budget for the next fiscal year, which is due in June and requires Council approval.
The Council speaker, Adrienne Adams, said in a statement that some essential programs like libraries and the City University of New York should be spared from deep cuts. She said the city should explore approving new revenues and shift migrant services to nonprofits.
“The administration’s response in providing services for asylum seekers has relied far too much on expensive emergency contracts with for-profit companies that cost the city billions of dollars,” she said.
The police union president, Patrick Hendry, said that the police hiring freeze — which city officials said involved postponing five classes of new officers — would make New Yorkers less safe. The last time the city had fewer than 30,000 officers was in 1984, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office.
“This is truly a disaster for every New Yorker who cares about safe streets,” he said. “Cops are already stretched to our breaking point, and these cuts will return us to staffing levels we haven’t seen since the crime epidemic of the ’80s and ’90s. We cannot go back there.”
Mr. Adams had said on Tuesday that eliminating a new class of 250 school safety agents would mean that schools would be “leaning into parents and parent groups to do some volunteerism.” He said that he would do everything he could to keep schools safe with fewer resources.