Councilmember Brad Lander released the following statement on June 30 ahead of the New York City Council vote on the FY 2021 city budget:
“I approached this year’s budget with simple principles in mind: Divest at least $1 billion from policing to preserve as much investment as we possibly can in education, youth, and social services. Prioritize public health to get us through the pandemic. Invest in a just recovery. And take a smart, long-term approach to our city’s economic and fiscal health.
“The budget that the City Council is being asked to approve today does not meet those principles. So I will be voting no.
“Reducing police spending is BOTH a first step to transforming our approach to public safety AND a fiscal necessity this year. According to new data released by the Vera Institute, New York City spends far more on policing than other American cities. We have 1 NYPD officer for every 162 people. Los Angeles only has 1 officer for every 308 people, Houston every 360, and Phoenix every 380.
“Over the last month, an unprecedented movement for racial justice has taken to the streets, pushing for fundamental change in how we approach public safety. A clear demand emerged from longtime police accountability advocates, led by Communities United for Police Reform, to shrink the NYPD’s budget by at least $1 billion and prioritize investments in communities of color who have endured abusive policing, historic disinvestment, and a disproportionate toll of the coronavirus health and economic crisis.
“This budget does not meaningfully shrink the NYPD budget. The budget we are voting on today does not extend the City’s across-the-board hiring freeze on the NYPD. Instead, the City will hire 1,100 new officers next year (replacing 1 for every 2 who retire), even as we hire no new teachers.
“Most of the so-called $1 billion in cuts to the NYPD are suspect, more budget-dancing than meaningful reductions. There is no good reason to believe that the NYPD will abide by the $350 million on overtime reductions. More than $300 million is achieved simply by proposing to move school safety agents from the NYPD to the DOE, which will generate no savings or reinvestment. The proposal even counts the $134 million we will continue to spend on the fringe benefits of those school safety agents’ fringe benefits, and which won’t be cut or even moved at all. And somehow, it counts as a “cut” $42 million in new revenue achieved by writing more parking tickets.
“Put simply: we are not making the kinds of cuts needed to reduce the footprint of abusive policing, to better protect public health and our social safety net, or to balance our budget.
“We aren’t going to transform our approach to public safety overnight. But we should follow the lead of the Minneapolis City Council, who voted on Friday to replace their police department with a new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. We urgently need to get away from having policing as the primary response for every problem, from homelessness to mental health to domestic violence.
“I do want to acknowledge the work of Speaker Corey Johnson, Finance Chair Danny Dromm, and the Council’s Budget Negotiating Team for winning some important budget restorations. We are making big restorations ($136 million) to the Summer Youth Employment Program and other summer youth programs, which Mayor de Blasio had proposed to eliminate entirely. The Council won the restoration of $100 million in “Fair Student Funding” to our schools, as well as restoration of the CUNY ASAP program.
“But the budget has other problems as well. It does not do enough to surge our public health capacity (like creating a NYC Public Health Corps to support social distancing and other critical public health measures). It does not do enough to protect workers (we still don’t have an Essential Workers Bill of Rights).
“And by needlessly cutting $2.3 billion from the capital budget for affordable housing, job creation, and infrastructure, totally contrary to what Keynesian economics teaches us to do during an economic and fiscal crisis, it does not invest smartly in our city’s economic recovery.
“I’m deeply disappointed with this budget, but I’m not despairing. In fact, I’m energized by the extraordinarily diverse energy across our city to build something better. Working together in our neighborhoods to overcome the COVID-19 crisis. And marching together in our streets to insist that Black lives matter.
“So my vote today is not only a no vote on the budget. It is also a promise to fight harder to win a real transformation in public safety, to prioritize public health and the social safety net, and to invest in a just, sound, and vibrant recovery for our city.”