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New Yorkers will endure immediate reductions to library and sanitation services, have access to less preschool spots and see fewer cops on patrol in the coming months, according to city officials’ summary of budget cuts they have said are necessitated by spending on the migrant crisis and decreases in funding sources.
The Adams administration, obliged to contend with what it called “unprecedented” deficits, has instituted 5 percent across the board cuts from every municipal department, with likely more to come.
Budget officials said there would be no layoffs through this round of cuts but that a significant fiscal challenge, which must be overcome by January, remained.
Although Mayor Eric Adams announced the “programs to eliminate the gap,” or PEGs, a few weeks ago, what they would entail for residents only became clear Nov. 16 with the release of an updated fiscal year financial plan. Unlike recent PEGs, those announced cover every city agency.
The NYPD, already contending with fewer cops than at any time since 1990, will see its uniformed ranks further depleted with the cancellation of five academy classes. City budget officials, who conducted an “on-background” remote briefing on the cuts for reporters, said that as a consequence and given attrition, the department’s uniformed headcount would be reduced by about 13.5 percent, to about 29,000 officers from the current 33,541.
The president of the Police Benevolent Association, Patrick Hendry, responded to the announcement by saying that the cuts would severely undermine the NYPD’s capacity to respond to crime.
“This is truly a disaster for every New Yorker who cares about safe streets,” Hendry said in a statement. “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. We need every level of government to work together to find a way to support police officers and protect New York City’s thirty years of public safety progress.”
Paul DiGiacomo, the president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, sounded an equally ominous note. “The proposed budget cuts will bring staffing at the NYPD to the unsafe levels seen in the 1980s, and you can bet that the out of control crime of those days will follow. We are calling on politicians at every level of government to end the dysfunction and put public safety — and the New Yorkers we all serve — first,” he said in a statement.
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment on the cuts. Adams, though, insisted the cuts would not compromise residents’ safety, which he has said on numerous occasions is “a prerequisite to prosperity.”
“I am not going to do anything that's going to impact public safety in this city,” he said during an interview with CBS2 News last week. “I'm going to stay laser-focused on keeping the city safe.”
At the FDNY, mandated cuts have already taken effect, union leaders said. “The department is cutting overtime across the board,” said Vincent Variale, the president of District Council 37’s Local 3621, which represents EMS officers. “But there’s really not much you can cut in EMS because we’re very understaffed and already cut to the bone.”
He added that some EMS personnel already work their ambulance tours on overtime and that further trims would effectively cut EMS services in certain areas. “There’s going to be no one to drive ambulances and they’ll just be parked,” Variale said.
The department is also planning to cut civilian overtime, terminate some uniformed staff who have been working on light duty, reduce overtime spending for “non-field” staff, reduce the cost of training and remove a firefighter from the 20 engine companies across the city that have five firefighters.
Cuts at the Department of Sanitation include a reduction in the number of litter baskets on city streets, although budget officials said the frequency of collections will remain the same. The department will end its Job Training Participants street-cleaning program, and reduce some of its Get Stuff Clean initiatives. Altogether, the cuts will provide $31.9 million in savings in FY 2024.
Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association, called for increased federal aid. “This city is getting hit more so than any other city,” he told The Chief during a phone interview prior to the briefing. “All the mayor can do is cut services, which I disagree with. What’s the public going to do with their garbage if we’re not picking it up?”
Public education, from pre-kindergarten programs through graduate school, will also have to do with less.
The Department of Education will see $190 million in cuts to its early childhood education programs, 3K and Pre-K for All, while its Summer Rising program, which provides academic and enrichment programs, will have reduced hours, ending at 4 p.m. instead of 6 p.m. The DOE is looking to save $626 million through FY 2027 by cutting fringe benefits, and $120 million by reducing vacancies.
However, $109 million in savings will come directly from schools, many of which will see reduced budgets due to lower enrollment, according to the United Federation of Teachers. The union estimated that 653 schools will have their budgets slashed, with the average school seeing a $167,000 cut, which drew condemnation from UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
“These are unnecessary budget cuts to our public schools. They are driven by City Hall's false political narrative that New York City is about to fall off a fiscal cliff. Revenues are higher than expected, investment from Albany is up, and reserves are at a near-record high,” he said, referring to the city’s $8 billion budget reserve.
The union leader feared class sizes will rise, at a time when the city is facing a state mandate signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul in September 2022 that will require city public schools to shrink class sizes.
The City University of New York, the nation’s largest urban public-university system, will see a nearly $1 million reduction to its CUNY ASAP program, which provides academic and financial assistance for students who face barriers to graduating, in Fiscal Year 2024. CUNY will also lose $16 million in fringe benefits. And $5.9 million in unused funds from previous savings initiatives will also be trimmed from its budget.
James Davis, president of the Professional Staff Congress, which represents about 30,000 faculty, adjuncts and other staffers at CUNY, criticized the cuts, noting that enrollment at CUNY is on the rise this year after dropping every year since 2020. Freshman enrollment is up 4 percent this fall semester, while CUNY’s overall student body has increased 2 percent, which Davis attributed to CUNY Reconnect, a program aimed at re-enrolling former college students.
“It’s confounding to see Mayor Adams, a two-time CUNY graduate who calls himself ‘the CUNY Mayor,’ take a hatchet to the CUNY budget again with this 5 percent mid-year cut,” Davis continued. “I guess no one should be surprised because since he took office, Mayor Adams has undermined CUNY at every opportunity, eliminating nearly 300 faculty lines due to attrition for our nationally renowned University system since his first budget, leaving the community colleges short of faculty and staff, and students without the support they need to succeed.”
Widespread trims at FDNY
Cuts in the FDNY’s budget will total $74 million in this fiscal year, $104 million in FY 2025, and about $93 million in each of FY 2026 and FY 2027.
“The City’s fiscal crisis is significant and the FDNY is not exempt from having to put pause on important programs. These are painful choices, but we must make them to ensure our core mission — to protect life and property — is intact,” department spokesperson Amanda Farinacci said in a statement following the briefing.
But although budget officials said no FDNY academy classes would be cut, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, Andy Ansbro, said the FDNY told him that there would be trims to firefighter recruitment and mentoring programs, firefighter training and the department’s ceremonial unit.
“Any time they cut staff will result in a detriment to New York City firefighters and the public,” Ansbro said.
He argued that terminating members who’ve been on light duty would disproportionately affect older members of the department who have served the FDNY and city for years or even decades and have become too ill or injured through their service.
“People want to be in charge of when they end their career,” the union president continued. “Our longtime members deserve more than just being used as a line item on a budget that can be discarded.”
Ambulance response times increased by more than 20 seconds in FY2023, according to the Mayor’s Management Report, and Variale, the EMS officer union president, said they will only get worse if the FDNY continues to cut overtime.
Administration officials, in a statement released before the briefing, said the agency reductions balanced the budget “with minimum disruption to services and without raising taxes on working-class New Yorkers — despite having received limited state and federal aid.” Adams on Wednesday nonetheless said the budget trims represent “one of the most painful areas in my public life.”
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