New York City’s budget discussions have become strained, with the City Council challenging Mayor Eric Adams’ administration over their claim that the financial burden of accommodating migrants is necessitating widespread cuts in city services.
The debate intensified during Monday’s oversight hearing, focusing on the mayor’s proposed 2024 financial plan.
City Budget Director Jacques Jiha defended the administration’s position on the 2024 financial plan unveiled last month, stating that the increased costs associated with housing asylum seekers have significantly impacted the city’s finances.
In contrast, Council members argued that the proposed cuts are not justified, citing projections indicating that New York City is set to collect approximately $1.2 billion more in taxes than initially anticipated for the fiscal year 2024.
Brooklyn Councilman Lincoln Restler criticized the administration’s strategy, accusing it of using dramatic service reductions as a tactic to obtain more state and federal aid for the migrant crisis.
He expressed his disappointment, saying, “We all know what you’re doing. We wish, instead, you’d work with us responsibly instead of imposing these deeply harmful cuts undermining the health, safety, and well-being of our communities. The cuts are not necessary.”
In response, Jiha expressed his displeasure at the personal nature of the attacks on his credibility.
Jiha said, “I did not come here to be insulted. If you have a question, ask a question, but the minute you attack my credibility, it’s personal.”
Representatives from major unions also entered the fray, challenging the administration’s portrayal of the costs of migrant care.
Michael Mulgrew from the United Federation of Teachers pointed out, “We have record reserves, we’re running a massive surplus for this year and we are still here discussing cuts.”
The mayor’s updated financial plan, which initially called for a 5% spending reduction across all agencies to address the city’s projected $7.1 billion deficit, has been a subject of widespread criticism.
However, the City Council contends that higher tax revenue projections could mitigate the need for such drastic cuts.
Council Speaker Adrienne Adams argued against indiscriminate budget reductions, emphasizing the need to prioritize protecting vital services for New Yorkers.
Adams also countered the administration’s claim that the financial difficulties faced by the city were primarily due to migrants.
She asserted, “Many factors are contributing to the gaps of our city’s out-year budgets, and asylum seekers are not to blame,” highlighting other reasons, such as the slowing economy and the end of COVID-related funding.
The Council’s economic report highlighted stronger tax growth areas, including personal income, property, business, and sales taxes, as key drivers for the revised projections.
Despite exemptions for critical departments like the NYPD, FDNY, and Sanitation Department from further cuts, concerns remain over the impact on other essential services.
For instance, Shekar Krishnan, Parks Committee chairman, raised concerns about drastic cutbacks in the Parks Department, which could reduce cleaning services across the city’s parks as well as public safety.
As the budget discussions continue, further cuts are expected, and agencies have been instructed to prepare for an additional 5% reduction in spending.