The budget axe is swinging at the NYPD.
During a budget hearing Wednesday, police officials told the City Council they will eliminate 130 traffic enforcement agent positions in the fiscal year that begins July 1. They say the positions already are vacant, eliminating the need for layoffs.
The job cuts are planned even though Mayor de Blasio has made eliminating traffic deaths under his Vision Zero program a priority. Still, officials maintained safety would not be compromised.
"We’ve come to a conclusion that headcount of adding 70, and permanently subtracting the 130, that’s the headcount we believe works to implement all those programs," said NYPD financial analyst Nevin Singh.
The NYPD says 237 jobs in all are being eliminated to save nearly $11 million a year in its $5.59 billion budget, fulfilling de Blasio's directive to agencies to find savings where possible. About 100 of those jobs are civilian positions that will not be filled. The uniformed force has been spared, except for five desk jobs on the Juvenile Crime desk.
Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit, criticized the elimination of some traffic enforcement agents, telling NY1, "Enforcement agents could help address bike lane blocking, sidewalk parking and placard abuse. It's unfortunate that addressing these problems isn't a priority for Mayor de Blasio."
Although traffic deaths are up 20% this year compared to the same period last year, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan told the Council's Public Safety and Finance Committee that pedestrian safety is a priority.
Last year, the city had 202 traffic deaths, the lowest number in years.
"Our reductions in traffic fatalities with a population of 8.6 million people, over 2 million vehicles, is phenomenal," said Chan.
The department, he added, will implement new strategies to reduce collisions, including an education campaign on the hazards of left turns and additional outreach to senior citizens. The city also plans to hire nearly 70 additional school crossing guards.
"We think we can get a reduction, again we don't want fatalities, we don't want injuries, but we are heading in that direction," he said.