The blowback on Mayor Eric Adams’ proposed 2024 New York City budget cuts was immediate and loud as hundreds of protesters descended on City Hall Park on Nov. 17—less than 24 hours after the controversial plan had been released. Among its many objectionable points were massive cuts to police, fire, education, libraries, the city’s free summer school and camp programs and hiring freezes across a slew of city agencies, including the Parks Department.
Adams proposed plan calls for axing the next five NYPD academy classes as he works to cut $132 million from NYPD’s $5.6 billion budget.
Swim safety classes, which have been scheduled to become available to public school students under a bill passed earlier this year, will now be cut, saving another $5.3 million. The biggest hit, $547 million will be cut from the department of education budget, which will see its budget slashed by $1 billion over two years. The department of social services will be cut $322 million, the FDNY will be hit with $74 million in cuts.
The cuts are expected to drop the number of police officers to 29,000, its lowest number since the 1980s. Cultural institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History will be hit with a $5.83 million cut from the city’s Cultural Institutions Group.
“In all my time in government, this is probably one of the most painful exercises I’ve gone through,” Mayor Adams had said days before releasing the proposed budget.
The City Council had approved a $110 billion city budget in June but rising costs to handle the more than 100,000 migrants who have arrived in the city blew a hole in that budget.
Aside from rising costs tied to the migrant crisis, Adams pointed to slowing tax revenue and dwindling pandemic relief funds.
“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,” Adams said in a statement on November 16th
On the subject of reduced spending on the city’s ongoing “migrant crisis,” opinion at the city hall rally Nov. 17 was more divided. Some observers believed such reductions were long overdue, and that New York City should never have assumed the burden of being a “Sanctuary City” with a “right to shelter.” In this line of thinking, immigration policy, even for “asylum seekers,” is a federal problem that demands federal solution— and ample federal funding if it’s to continue.
Others, including Comptroller Brad Lander, asserted that while the cost of migrant services has been substantial— and largely unchecked—they reflect only a part of the city’s budget shortfall. Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, was also critical of Mayor Adams, writing “His administration put together a budget in June, mere months ago, that appears to have been a complete fantasy. To double estimates on migrant spending between June and now shows they have not the slightest idea how to budget.”
As for Adams’ proposed reduction in the police force, including the cancelation of five upcoming NYPD academy classes, reaction was equally contentious. Among those who have made “Defund The Police” a political slogan, even these cuts are insufficient. For others, the idea of reducing the city’s current force and jeopardizing the quality of its future one by cancelling Academy classes was an outrage.
“Cops are already stretched to our breaking point,” PBA President Patrick Hendry told the New York Post. “These cuts will return us to staffing levels we haven’t seen since the crime epidemic of the ‘80s and ‘90s.”
The cancellation of an upcoming School Safety Agents academy class, which the Adams administration announced last week, had already been widely denounced by parents and politicians.
FDNY will also face a reduction in force, with firefighters who are injured or sick and currently on “long-term light duties,” forced back to active duty and alse be forced to take early retirement. Said FDNY union president, Andrew Asbro, “Our job being dangerous, we have a lot of members who getting physical injured... They are cutting back on people who really help the safety of FDNY and residents of New York City,”
That there would be outrage was evident even before Thursday’s afternoon virtual presentation. First, there had been numerous leaks and suggestions about the “pain” to come. Second, journalists and other observers wanted to know, why was this being done online, and not in person, where reporters could ask follow up questions? Whatever Adams reasoning, by mid-afternoon, a protest flyer was designed and posted and reposted across X mostly, if not entirely, by entities aligned with “progressive” causes.
If the speakers at The People’s Plan rally addressed all these issues, at least in passing, their perspective was largely coming from the far left. If sometimes lacking in nuance, there were also occasions for sardonic humor—all of it at Hizzoner’s expense, including the nightlife loving Mayor’s taste for what one speaker called “fake bougie clubs... He’s a fraud on account.”
Emceeing the event was Jawanza Williams of the activist VOCAL NY. An energetic and engaging host who, he announced, uses the pronouns he and him. Williams was also among the morning’s most outspoken voices, as when he said of Adams budget, “The only good news is the NYPD hiring freeze... Defund the police, fund our community!”
Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers, whose sign carrying members were conspicuous among the days protestors, was similarly forceful. Asserting that Adams’ reasons for budget cuts were “fabricated,” with “no evidence” supporting them, Mulgrew also claimed that, with the city’s tax revenues up and with $8 billion in reserves, any cuts in education funding were unjustified.
On the other side of the performative spectrum was Lauren Bradley, of Urban Librarians Unite, who made a calm, but passionate, statement on the immense importance of libraries to the city, and to culture in general. Wayne Ho of the Chinese-American Planning Council was another moderate voice, speaking of the importance of the city continuing to welcome our “newest neighbors,” the migrants.
State Senator Jessica Ramos of Queens, the daughter of Colombian immigrants, was a notably animated, and effective speaker, first in English and then in Spanish. Addressing the issue of Adams claims that the city can’t afford the level of migrant services, it’s been providing, she criticized Adams for failing to secure adequate funding from state and federal resources
Two Jewish speakers captured the event’s range of rhetoric. Speaking for the Jews For Economic Justice, one of the group’s spokeswoman took the opportunity to decry the United States funding of “genocide”—obviously referring to Israel’ war against Hamas—before veering back to the topic of providing adequate services for all NewYorkers.
City Comptroller Brad Lander, by comparison, was a model of measured rhetoric. While he couldn’t resist giving the fist bump of solidarity with one the organizers, he gave a measured, politically savvy presentation on the realities of city finances, and invited those present to examine his office’s reports and charts.
A former #DefundThePolice supporter who has since erased that phrase from his political biography, Lander avoiced the cops issue altogether, while quickly noting that FDNY cuts might affect emergency response times.
Lincoln Restler, a chair of the City Council’s progressive caucus, told the New York Times his group would not cooperate with the cuts.
“Mayor Adams’s unnecessary, dangerous and draconian budget cuts will only worsen New York’s affordability crisis and delay our city’s economic recovery by cutting funding for the schools, child care, food assistance and more that help New Yorkers live and raise families in this city,”