Under pressure from protesters, elected officials and even members of his own staff, Mayor de Blasio announced an unspecified funding cut to the NYPD on Sunday.
The statement came as the city was reeling from more than a week of heated protests, though de Blasio said the city had calmed down enough by Sunday morning to end a controversial curfew a day earlier than previously scheduled.
“We are committed to shifting resources to ensure that the focus is on our young people,” the mayor said at a press conference. “We will only do it in a way that we are certain continues to ensure that this city will be safe.”
He declined to state which part of the NYPD’s colossal $6 billion yearly budget will be targeted, or specify which youth and social programs will get funds.
The announcement grew out of talks between de Blasio and members of the City Council’s Black, Latino and Hispanic Caucus.
For weeks, members of the group objected to the mayor’s revised budget, which inflicted steep cuts on the popular Summer Youth Employment Program and Department of Education while keeping the NYPD’s budget mostly intact.
But the past week’s protests over the death of George Floyd, in which Black Lives Matters activists and elected officials called for “defunding” the NYPD, led de Blasio to revise his previous opposition to cutting funding for the force.
Ahead of the June 30 deadline for the city budget, Council members and the mayor’s office will take a “deep dive” to identify cuts, said Councilman Daneek Miller (D-Queens), who co-chairs the caucus.
He said he’ll eye areas like mental health services that other agencies could conduct, along with overtime pay and what he described as “militarized equipment” as lines that could be cut from the NYPD budget.
The budget discussion amounts to a look at the very purpose of the NYPD, Miller said.
“What does it cost and is it really necessary?” he said of budget line items. “Is that model of policing consistent with this Council and this progressive city that we live in?”
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Queens) has called for $50 million in NYPD cuts, saying this year’s Police Academy class should be canceled, among other steps.
“This is a historic moment where we can actually restructure the NYPD,” he said. “We want them to get back to the community policing model, but it doesn’t mean they have to be heavily involved in social issues that communities need to resolve.”
In light of years of Council hearings in which NYPD officials were reluctant to share details of their opaque budget, both Miller and Richards said they have a tough road ahead.
“Power does not relinquish power without struggle,” Miller said. “But based on the discourse and the current events, we’re looking at the world a lot differently.”
Along with the budget cut, de Blasio said he would remove the NYPD from enforcing street vendor rules.
“For so many people of color, for so many immigrants, street vending is their opportunity to move forward,” he said. “They should not have to engage the NYPD as they’re trying to make their livelihoods.”
He did not specify which agencies would be responsible for street vendors. A de Blasio spokeswoman said the issue would be finalized during the budget process.
Asked why he was focusing on street vendors — who have long complained of unfair enforcement but were not mentioned during recent protests voicing outrage over violent policing of communities of color — de Blasio suggested he was trying to focus on the big picture.
“If anyone thinks the issues that we are addressing in the city are only those that were brought up in the last week, I think they are missing the life of over eight million people,” he said.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a Democrat, dismissed Sunday’s proposals as “low-hanging fruit.”
“I haven’t seen for a while the progressive mayor that campaigned a few years ago,” he said at a press conference. “These are the softest of the proposals that he could put forward.”
On the other end of the political spectrum, Councilman Joe Borelli (R-S.I.) voiced skepticism of the new approach to the NYPD’s budget.
“If you approach cuts with a scalpel, someone like me would applaud that,” he said. “But we’re talking very big numbers that will affect the primary function of the agency.
“If you live in a precinct where there are a lot of 911 calls, you should be very concerned,” he added.
Since the start of the protests, de Blasio has come under withering criticism for strongly defending the NYPD in spite of widely documented instances of aggressive enforcement. Last week, more than 200 of his current and former staffers published a letter excoriating that stance — the latest, they said, in a long series of disappointments on criminal justice reform.
“I am absolutely a progressive and we’re going to make profound change and we have made profound change,” he insisted. “I’m also the steward of this city.”
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