As the City Council on Tuesday night passed an $88.2 billion city budget, “Occupy City Hall” protesters voiced their displeasure and argued it will not cut $1 billion from the NYPD.
Although full details of the budget were not confirmed as of this writing, we do know there will be no July class of NYPD recruits (about 1,200 officers), there will be a massive reduction in overtime spending, and a reduction in non-personnel spending. The overtime budget for the NYPD was budgeted for $523 million. That was cut by $296 million.
The deal would shift school safety agents from the purview of the NYPD to the city education department. The city will also transfer crossing guards and homeless outreach out of the NYPD. There will still be a police class for new recruits in October.
While slashing the NYPD, the mayor and Council agreed to redirect some funding to youth services — $115 million for summer youth programing, $116 million for education, and $134 million for family and social services. As of Tuesday, details were slim on those items as well.
About $537 million will be shifted away from the NYPD in the capital budget as well — $450 million will go to NYCHA and to youth recreation centers.
But the budget has left many protesters — who watched the debate and vote on a computer screen in the park — dissatisfied. Reformers accused lawmakers of using budgetary tricks and failing to make actual structural changes to the department.
For his part, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson disputes Mayor Bill de Blasio’s assertion that the budget will cut $1 billion from the police department. The speaker said the cut to the NYPD is above $800 million but does not reach $1 billion.
Since the mayor announced on Monday he would agree to cut $1 billion to the NYPD, activists and critics have questioned the mayor’s math. The speaker too said the numbers don’t add up.
"I am disappointed as well,” the speaker said. "I wanted us to go deeper. I wanted larger headcount reductions. I wanted a real hiring freeze."
There is a question of whether the mayor is including health care and other fringe benefit savings in his $1 billion figure. NY1 has asked City Hall for a detailed breakdown of the cuts and have yet to receive it.
The speaker said he had wanted all NYPD academy classes canceled for the next year. The July class is canceled, but an October class is included in the budget. Johnson said he also unsuccessfully fought for a police hiring freeze.
In response to the budget, protests continued for the eighth straight day outside City Hall, spilling onto Chambers Street and blocking traffic.
One organizer, Eliel Cruz, told NY1’s Shannan Ferry the numbers just don’t add up.
“The City Council and the mayor think that we don’t know how to work a budget, so they’re just moving around the numbers,” Cruz said. “They’re not actually committing to a cut of $1 billion for the NYPD and anything less than $1 billion is not something the people are going to accept.”
Asked if the city’s plans, like canceling the upcoming class of NYPD cadets and cutting overtime, were hopeful signs, Cruz said no.
“They’re smoke and mirrors,” he said. “The NYPD is not changing the actual overall budget. They’re just moving around numbers. It’s not changing. What is changing is cuts to social funding for a lot of community-based organizations.”
“Obviously they tried to pull a bait-and-switch on us by not doing what we were asking them to do. They’re trying to divert money to the Department of Education so they can continue to keep officers in the schools, which is not what we want,” another protester said. “That’s why we’re out here, because they say one thing and do another, and we want them to see us and our anger.”
Demonstrators took over the intersection of Chambers and Centre Streets, preventing cars from moving through the area, and said they were preparing for the possibility that police may try to force them to leave the area.
Still, the park has taken on a bazaar-like atmosphere, with tables full of art supplies for poster-making. along with donated food and water and even a Spider-Man sighting.
Many of the protesters said they enjoyed the time they spent making their voices heard, regardless of the budget outcome.
“Everyone comes out here and really just supports each other,” one protester said, “even for a lifestyle the many not truly understand. It’s just a lot of love I didn’t think New York City had, and it’s a great sight to see.”
This follows a Tuesday morning of tension between the NYPD and protesters who marched to One Police Plaza. The Surrogate Courthouse across the street from City Hall was vandalized, marked with graffiti that said “Black Lives Matter,” “I can’t breathe,” and “we need the whole damn $6 billion,” referring to the 2019-2020 NYPD budget.
Meanwhile, earlier Tuesday, there was a confrontation between pro-police and Black Lives Matter protesters in the Morris Park section of the Bronx.
About a dozen pro-police protesters held a rally in a local park when a group showed up holding Black Lives Matter signs, leading to some heated words before things calmed down.
One organizer of the pro-police rally told NY1’s Ruschell Boone they came to show support for the NYPD, who they felt was unfairly vilified.
“The message is we cannot crucify all police officers across the country for one, two, whatever the number is, bad ones,” she said. “There are some bad ones, nobody disagrees. There is not one person that said what happened to George Floyd should have happened. The media took it and spun it and said we’re gonna use this to polarize the country. We’re gonna make it black and white because we can, because it’s an election.”
Before the vote, “Occupy City Hall” protesters said they were waiting for the outcome of the vote before deciding what their next steps will be, but many said they will continue to take to the streets until their demands are met.
“People are gonna continue to express their opinions and use their constitutional rights to freely assemble and protest until we get what we want,” one protester said, “and that is to defund the NYPD by $1 billion, not transitioning it to the DOE for school safety. That’s nonsense. We have a school-to-prison pipeline that very much endangers millions of Black and brown communities, and that’s not what we asked for. We asked for a complete defunding of $1 billion.”