New York City lawmakers voted Tuesday on budget changes that shifted $1 billion from the New York Police Department to programs that assist in youth and community development, a number that fell short of what many protesters in the city have demanded.
The City Council said in a statement that the city’s 2021 budget will include $837 million in cuts and transfers to the New York Police Department (NYPD) expense budget, which removes $1 billion from the NYPD’s spending when combined with associated costs.
The amount is far less than what some protesters demanded. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said earlier that $1.5 billion in cuts would not be enough. “Defunding police means defunding police. It does not mean budget tricks or funny math,” she said. One Twitter user wrote, “This is like putting the NYPD budget in Groucho Marx glasses and calling it a day.”
Corey Johnson, the city council speaker, said, “The Council fought hard to get where we are, but I know this is just a starting point, not an ending point. We need to go farther.” He added the budget agreement “was negotiated with a focus on police reform, youth services, and achieving equity, particularly for low-income communities of color.”
New York City Council Minority Whip Joseph Borelli voted no against the budget cuts and said, “know what we’re doing will create a more violent city.”
Borelli added that there were “72 shootings last week alone, and not one shot by [a] NYPD officer.”
“We must always have safety and we will in this city, but we are also going to amplify both safety and fairness by reaching our young people more deeply than ever before,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said speaking from a press conference Tuesday. “And that’s what this budget is all about.” Many demonstrators feel the budget changes weren’t enough, and some plan on staying camped outside City Hall indefinitely.
“We are being gaslit,” said activist Jawanza James Williams. “This movement is about so much more than the $1 billion, and this means they don’t understand what we’re saying.” City lawmakers agreed to shift the funds away from the NYPD, but police reform activists are worried these funds will be moved around in a manner that still benefits the police department.
“To the thousands of New Yorkers who so admirably fought for budget justice over the past several weeks: we heard you and we stand with you,” Johnson said Tuesday. “We recognize that the city must move away from failed racist policing policies of the past.”
An encampment of protesters have set up outside City Hall since last week to demand the city “defund the police” — a movement demonstrators have been calling for across the country, since the death of George Floyd in police custody in late May.
Several other cases of police brutality and alleged systemic racism sparked the nationwide conversation by U.S. lawmakers attempting to implement police reforms. Demonstrators calling to “defund the police” want taxpayer funds diverted from policing systems to support initiatives that focus on community and youth programs. Activists say the move would help prevent racial injustices by providing opportunities for underprivileged communities.
Under the new plan described by de Blasio, a 1,200-person recruiting course set for next month has been canceled, school safety, crossing guards and homeless outreach will no longer be the responsibility of the NYPD, and overtime spending will also be curtailed. “We must always have safety and we will in this city, but we are also going to amplify both safety and fairness by reaching our young people more deeply than ever before,” de Blasio said. “And that’s what this budget is all about.”
The funds will instead be diverted to aid communities hardest hit by the coronavirus, as well as summer youth programs that will assist 100,000 youth in the city.
“We’re acting on that call for justice,” de Blasio told reporters. “I believe it is our mission to redistribute resources to those who need them the most.”
“It was a challenge…to figure out the priorities, it’s not easy,” de Blasio said referring to the massive costs incurred by the coronavirus and in reconfiguring the new annual city budget.
“Nine-billion dollars evaporated, just gone in the course of just a few months” the Democratic mayor told reporters, describing the devastating financial effects of the coronavirus.
De Blasio noted that the city would make adjustments to the allotted funds in the event of a catastrophe, but that the new budget aims to cut day-to-day costs such as overtime expenditures from police officers attending court or completing paperwork. The overtime costs alone incurred from the recent George Floyd protests amounted to $115 million. The budget agreed upon Tuesday amounts to $88 billion, which is $7 billion less than what de Blasio had previously proposed prior to the coronavirus outbreak, and $5 billion less than the allotted budget for 2020.