By Shlomie Katash
Mayor Eric Adams announced impending budget cuts for various New York City services on Nov. 16 that would only accelerate and expand if the federal government does not provide the city with the necessary funds to address its growing migrant crisis.
While every city agency was notified that at least five percent of their budget would be slashed in September, some have been hurt more than expected in the latest update.
The Education Department, in particular, must cut $1 billion from its budget over the next two years, potentially forcing the city to eliminate some of its 37,000 vacant slots in its universal pre-K program. Additionally, the city’s “Summer Rising” program, which provides summer recreational activities, will significantly scale back its middle school services, impacting around 30,000 middle schoolers.
Public libraries will also have to curtail operations, closing the “vast majority” of their branches on Sundays starting in December. “Without sufficient funding, we cannot sustain our current levels of service, and any further cuts to the Libraries’ budgets will, unfortunately, result in deeper service impacts,” said the leaders of the Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library, and Queens Public Library in a joint statement.
Adams also announced a unilateral freeze on new police hirings, which, when combined with the budget cuts, will reduce the number of police officers to below 30,000 for the first time since 1984, according to The New York Times.
Some progressive members of the City Council, which has the power to approve or reject some of the budget changes, have vowed to fight against Adams’ reductions. “Mayor Adams’ unnecessary, dangerous, and draconian budget cuts will only worsen New York’s affordability crisis and delay our city’s economic recovery,” said Lincoln Restler, a chair of the City Council’s progressive caucus.
However, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams has not yet indicated where she would oppose the cuts beyond arguing that some programs like libraries and CUNY should be left intact. Other leading Democrats have criticized Adams, though, arguing for a different approach to addressing the budgetary implications of the migrant crisis.
Additionally, some, like City Comptroller Brad Lander, have said that Adams should “stop suggesting that asylum seekers are the reason for imposing severe cuts when they are only contributing to a portion of these budget gaps, much of which already existed.”
Despite that, Adams has maintained blame on migrants and Washington, D.C., arguing that there is nothing his administration can do to shelter the migrants without additional federal support.
“I tell people all the time when they stop me on the subway system, ‘Don’t yell at me, yell at D.C.,’” Adams said. “We deserve better as a city.”
Adams has also justified the cuts by pointing to the $7.1 billion deficit in the New York City budget as being in flagrant violation of the law requiring a balanced budget, forcing him to act to close the gap.