Mayor Eric Adams has unveiled a stringent fiscal plan for the upcoming year that involves substantial budget cuts across various sectors to mitigate a significant financial shortfall.
The budget cuts will affect every agency, with sanitation and education facing significant reductions in funding; however, the most dramatic will be on public safety and the police department.
The austerity measures include the cancellation of the next five police academy classes, a decision estimated to reduce the NYPD’s numbers from 33,000 to approximately 29,000 within two years.
This marks the lowest police number since 1990.
Discussing the budget cuts and hiring freeze, Adams stated, “This is the most painful exercise I’ve ever done in my professional life.”
He added, “I believe New Yorkers like plain talk, we’re in some financial trouble right now.”
The fiscal strain is evident as the anticipated budget gap has surged from $5 billion in June to over $7 billion in November.
This increase is primarily caused by the migrant crisis and the reduction of federal aid for COVID-19, which has necessitated a halt in the hiring of police officers for the foreseeable future.
The Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Henry expressed grave concerns, stating the cuts could undo 30 years of progress in public safety programs.
He said, “This is truly a disaster for every New Yorker who cares about safe streets. 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.”
The specifics of all budget reductions have remained elusive, partly because the city’s officials provided limited information during a virtual briefing, with no detailed budget documents being made available for scrutiny.
Mayor Adams emphasized the city’s efforts to maintain services, saying, “To balance the budget as the law requires, every city agency dug into their own budget to find savings, with minimal disruption to services. And while we pulled it off this time, make no mistake: Migrant costs are going up, tax revenue growth is slowing, and COVID stimulus funding is drying up.”
He warned, “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.”
The administration’s budget also foresees a $1 billion cutback in educational spending, with after-school programs expected to be scaled down.
The teachers’ union noted that the cuts will affect over 650 city schools, with 43% of the school system set to be impacted by the budget reductions.
The Department of Education announced a $120 million cut to Pre-K and 3-K programs, and 37,000 vacant slots would be left unfilled.
The Adams administration has also recently canceled a new class of 250 School Safety Agents due to financial strain.
This decision has been met with strong criticism from elected officials and parent groups, who have asked for the reinstatement of the class to address youth violence and concerns about terrorism while the conflict between Hamas and Israel continues in the Middle East.
The budget for School Safety Agents also comes from the Education Department.
The city has implemented a hiring freeze since earlier this fall, although it has not been applied to teaching positions.
However, following the announcement of the new budget cuts, it is not immediately clear whether teaching positions will continue to be exempt from the hiring freeze.
The budget cut for sanitation is $5 million, with further reductions to programs that clean pedestrian areas, greenways, and empty lots.
Responding to the cuts, City Comptroller Brad Lander warned, “The budget cuts proposed today risk doing harm to the wellbeing of all New Yorkers, especially our most vulnerable,” urging City Hall to refrain from framing asylum seekers as the primary reason for the stringent budget measures.
Furthermore, the city’s public libraries, including the New York, Brooklyn, and Queens Public Libraries, have been asked to consider discontinuing Sunday operations.
In response, the libraries stated, “Without sufficient funding, we cannot sustain our current levels of service, and any further cuts to the Libraries’ budgets will, unfortunately, result in deeper service impacts.”
Brooklyn’s Democratic Councilman Justin Brannan, who heads the council’s finance committee, said lawmakers need to find a way to roll back the cuts.
Brannan remarked, “The city council is not going to allow the mayor to make cuts to essential city services that New Yorkers rely on.”
He continued, “Whether that’s keeping our streets safe, whether that’s keeping our streets clean, or whether it’s making sure that people’s food stamps get processed. These are lifelines we are not going to allow to be cut.”
Due to the major budget gap, this budget cut is the first; the city announced another 5% cut in January.
There is also the possibility of an additional 5% cut in May if the city fails to receive any federal aid.