On the eve of a budget showdown, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the City is prepared to meet the demands of protesters by cutting $1 billion from the New York City Police Department.
Negotiations are expected up to the last minute on a highly scrutinized budget forced to respond to the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic and weeks of protests by New Yorkers calling to defund the police.
Mayor Bill de Blasio would not detail a breakdown of the where in the department's budget the $1 billion would come from, citing ongoing negotiations with council members, but said "overtime is always an area where we want to do better."
The budget proposal has shrunk by $8 billion since February, before the pandemic hit, de Blasio said.
"My office presented to the City Council a plan that would achieve a billion dollars in savings for the NYPD and shift resources to young people, to communities in a way that would help address a lot of the underlying issues that we know are the cause of so many problems in our society," de Blasio said.
The budget proposal achieves "real reform, real redistribution" while keeping the city safe, the mayor said. A percentage of the funding redistributed from the police department will go toward youth recreation centers and NYCHA.
De Blasio says the help is missing to make up for the budget deficit created by the pandemic. The federal government, he says, "has been MIA." The mayor wants to pursue long-term borrowing, but says the State Senate has not be willing to approve the City's request.
"The State Assembly was there with us every step of the way, I want to think Speaker Carl Heastie and members of the Assembly. They were ready to come to the aid of New York City in our hour of need, the Senate was not," de Blasio said.
President Patrick Lynch of the NYPD's police union hinted the department's headcount is threatened by the proposed budget cut and claimed the current officer count is not enough to meet the demand of the city.
"Mayor de Blasio's message to New Yorkers today was clear: you will have fewer cops on your streets. Shootings more than doubled again last week. Even right now, the NYPD doesn't have enough manpower to shift cops to one neighborhood without making another neighborhood less safe," Lynch said in a statement.
New York City shootings over the last seven days skyrocketed by more than 127% compared with the same time period in 2019, from just 26 last year to 59 in 2020, according to NYPD data obtained by News 4.
Police reform advocates have called for the city's nearly $6 billion police budget needs to be significantly slashed and reinvested into housing, health care, other social services and communities impacted by police misconduct.
After hundreds of demonstrators marched across the city again for hours on Tuesday, dozens of them stayed behind and slept on benches and in sleeping bags on the grassy area outside of City Hall. The group has varied in size, but hundreds have been camped out every day since.
The police department's budget has ballooned from about $3 billion in 2000 to nearly $5.7 billion in the current fiscal year.
Some of that increase has come from taking over policing functions from other agencies. In the mid-1990s, the department absorbed the city's then-separate housing and transit police departments. In 1998 it took over school safety functions from the Education Department.
The Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks led to increased spending on special NYPD units, including counterterrorism and intelligence.