Standing on the steps of City Hall, a coalition of 12 New York City-based organizations and elected officials rallied today to oppose a proposed $2.5 billion cut to New York City’s 2023 and 2024 budgets.
“We’re here today to show the mayor and city council members that we want them to lead New York City with care and not cuts,” said James Inniss, a Criminal Justice Organizer for New York Communities for Change (NYCC), one of the organizations present.
In mid-November, Mayor Eric Adams shared a financial plan for 2023 and 2024 that would make cuts to every city agency except for the Fire Department, the Department of Sanitation and the Police Department. The November announcement is part of the mayor’s ongoing push to reduce city spending. It came on the heels of an edict in September that required each agency to find ways to slash spending by 3% in 2023 and 4.75% in 2024 and 2025.
Over the past few months, Adams has cited warnings of impending economic downturn from the State Comptroller’s office, which forecasts a $10 billion city deficit by 2026, to justify his fiscal austerity.
“The city faces significant economic headwinds that pose real threats to our fiscal stability, including growing pension contributions, expiring labor contracts and rising health care expenses — and we are taking decisive actions in the administration’s first November Financial Plan to meet those challenges,” Adams said.
But Councilmember Chi Ossé (D-Crown Heights) was not concerned with potential disasters in the years to come.
“We live in a city where the administration thinks it’s easy to make cuts to schools because we have to save money for a rainy day fund,” Ossé said. “But the emergency in the city is happening right now.”
This rang true for Lupe Hernandez, the mother of two young children, who attended the rally because she has struggled to find affordable childcare for her three-year-old son amidst a $370 million cut to the city’s education budget, and is concerned things will only get more difficult.
“I have a neighbor that’s watching my two-year-old son so that I could be here today,” Hernandez told The Indypendent at the rally. Earlier this month she was told that there were no free seats left at the 3-K centers in the school district where she lives. The only other alternative is paying $20,000 a year for three days of care a week.
The November plan would shrink the expansion of free preschool programs for three-year-olds across the city in order to save $284 million in fiscal years 2025 and 2026.
“I’m devastated, we don’t know what we’re going to do,” Hernandez said.
Though the coalition in attendance represented a broad range of interests, public safety was a central concern. Speakers railed against the mayor for leaving the police budget untouched while targeting almost all other agencies.
“What is public safety is affordable healthcare, what is public safety is fully funded education and after school programs,” Inniss of NYCC said. “Cutting budgets combined with the high rates of vacancies in special programs and social programs in this city is hurting New Yorkers, and is not what public safety is.”
Last month in a press conference, Adams defended his decision to preserve the police budget, stating that public safety was “one thing we cannot ever compromise on.”
But Patrick Stephens, a Youth Services Leadership Fellow at the Center for Community Alternatives, said that Adams’ proposed cuts run counter to his purported commitment to public safety. With state and city funding, Stephens offers counseling and trauma-informed care to young men at risk of committing violent crimes.
“When you make some of these budget cuts to CCA, which has a lot of government contracts, a lot of those services that we want to build out can’t happen, we have to start making cuts internally,” said Stephens. “It means less opportunity to address the trauma that is driving the violence in the community.”
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