New York City lawmakers were poised Tuesday to pass an $87 billion budget crafted in response to the defining problems of the time: economic fallout from coronavirus and widespread demands for police reform.
Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson were expected to tout NYPD budget changes as a win for police reform, though liberal lawmakers and activists dismissed the moves as smoke and mirrors.
The budget included transferring school safety officers from the police to the education department’s purview, trimming about $422.1 million from the NYPD budget. Next month’s Police Academy class of 1,163 cadets was set to be canceled, saving $81.1 million. The budget also counts on reducing police overtime by $310 million, though similar efforts have failed in the past.
Factoring in smaller cuts such as $5 million in canceled spending on new vehicles, lawmakers said they slashed about $1 billion from the NYPD budget — responding to one of the main demands to spring from nationwide protests sparked by the May 25 death of black Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer.
But activists rejected the measures even before the budget vote, with grassroots group VOCAL-NY stating, “It is a total betrayal of a movement, led primarily by young Black people, that has swept across the country landing directly in front of City Hall.”
Police clashed with activists camped at City Hall early Tuesday. Video posted online showed officers in riot gear moving barricades and pulling people to the ground. At least three people were arrested at the protest, billed as an “Occupy City Hall” protest in the fashion of Occupy Wall Street more than a decade ago.
The budget comes as the city faces a staggering $9 billion shortfall in tax revenue, according to de Blasio’s office.
Earlier this year, he slashed his proposed $95 billion budget to $87 billion, and threatened as many as 22,000 layoffs as the federal government rejected requests for cash bailouts and Albany balked at granting the city borrowing authority.
Firings appeared to be off the table as lawmakers continued behind-the-scenes talks on Tuesday morning.
But the budget included reductions to services provided by many city agencies, from the Sanitation Department’s composting program to tree pruning by the Parks Department.
The budget includes about $100 million for summer jobs programs for youths, which de Blasio previously proposed canceling outright. His stance drew an outcry from lawmakers who said the income and productive activity were more important for youngsters than ever, and they were poised to declare a big win Tuesday.