Most of New York City’s public libraries won’t stay open on Sundays anymore. The city’s universal pre-K program is getting curtailed. There will be fewer sidewalk trash bins and less street cleaning across the five boroughs. Various services for newly arrived migrants will be phased out, and the NYPD is on track to have less than 30,000 cops for the first time in decades.
Those are just some of the results of drastic spending cuts contained in Mayor Adams’ November budget modification released Thursday for the 2024 fiscal year, which runs through June 30.
In a written statement, Adams — who did not hold a briefing to take reporters’ questions on the budget update — said the steep belt-tightening is necessary to offset the more than $12 billion his administration projects the city will spend by mid-2025 on sheltering and providing services for the tens of thousands of migrants who have arrived since last year. The mayor said the fiscal chaos is being fueled by a slowdown in tax revenues and the expiration of federal stimulus funding the city received during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And he warned even more cuts could be on the table early next year unless the federal government provides more financial and logistical aid to accommodate the migrants.
“No city should be left to handle a national humanitarian crisis largely on its own, and without the significant and timely support we need from Washington, D.C., today’s budget will be only the beginning,” the mayor’s missive said.
In a virtual briefing with reporters, Adams administration officials said the reason even more spending reductions could be enacted early next year is because, despite the November plan’s deep cuts, there’s a $7.1 billion budget deficit looming for the 2025 fiscal year, which begins July 1. As the city needs to balance its budget by law, the officials said the Adams administration must figure out a way to fill that $7.1 billion gap by mid-January.
Since the mayor’s not considering raising taxes, that fiscal hole must be addressed by reducing spending, and while there’s currently no plan for it, the officials did not rule out that layoffs may be necessary to bridge the gap should no more help come from the feds.
A more immediate new step the administration plans to take to further rein in spending is implementing a Program to Eliminate the Gap, or PEG, that will mandate a 20% reduction in spending on housing and providing services for migrants, a source familiar with the matter told the Daily News. That translates to the Adams administration having to cut its migrant crisis price-tag by more than $1 billion for this fiscal year alone under such a PEG.
A City Hall official who spoke at the briefing confirmed the administration plans to issue “guidance sometime next week” to municipal agencies about the decrease in migrant spending, but would not elaborate on how the 20% savings target will be met or whether it could involve shutting down emergency shelters housing new arrivals.
The City Council will have to greenlight most of the cuts sought by Adams.
Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Council Finance Chairman Justin Brannan, the chamber’s lead Democratic negotiators on budgetary issues, did not immediately say whether they will attempt to block the mayor’s modification.
But they reiterated concerns that the Adams administration is overspending on the migrant crisis by relying on “expensive emergency contracts with for-profit companies” rather than shifting to a nonprofit model.
“The administration’s approach of reducing budgets of all agencies broadly through additional cuts and a hiring freeze, along with inflicting cuts on our libraries, CUNY, and cultural institutions, is too blunt and not the prudent or sole choice,” Speaker Adams and Brannan said. “With clear evidence that city agencies are lagging in their ability to provide New Yorkers with necessary benefits and services at historic levels, the administration must prioritize real exemptions from cuts to turn around city agency performance issues.”
The Council’s Progressive Caucus, made up of 19 left-leaning Democrats who’ll still be members next year, said in a statement they are ready to fight the mayor’s “unnecessary, dangerous and draconian budget cuts.”
“We refuse to cooperate with across-the-board cuts on the backs of working- and middle-class children and families,” their statement said.
Budget documents released by City Hall show no agencies were spared as part of the latest round of cuts, which are part of a 5% city government-wide spending reduction first ordered by Adams in September. Since then, agencies have developed spending reduction plans Adams said Wednesday have been “extremely painful” to draft.
Some agencies are being hit harder than others, including the Department of Education, which is seeing its budget slashed by more than $500 million in just this fiscal year under Adams’ plan. That will result in major cuts to the city’s universal pre-K program, with at least some of the 37,000 current vacancies in the initiative expected to be eliminated permanently.
The city’s Summer Rising program, which provides city kids with recreational activities during the summer months, will scale back its middle school component dramatically. That will impact some 30,000 kids, officials added.
As first reported by The News on Wednesday, the modification plan will also freeze hiring of any new police officers for the foreseeable future, a major concession for Adams who campaigned in 2021 on beefing up the NYPD and has in past rounds of budget cuts avoided hampering the department in which he used to serve as a captain.
There are currently more than 33,500 NYPD officers. In Thursday’s briefing, City Hall officials said that due to that hiring freeze, the NYPD is on track to only have 29,000 cops by mid-2026, taking into account projected retirements and other departures.
“This is the lowest it has been since the mid-1990s,” a City Hall official on the briefing said of the projected police staffing levels.
That means some $131 million in funding for the NYPD is being slashed due to Adams’ modification, budget documents show.
The Police Benevolent Association, the NYPD’s largest union, which to date has had a positive relationship with Adams, blasted his police downsizing.
“Cops are already stretched to our breaking point, and these cuts will return us to staffing levels we haven’t seen since the crime epidemic of the ’80s and ’90s,” PBA President Patrick Hendry said. “We cannot go back there. We need every level of government to work together to find a way to support police officers and protect New York City’s 30 years of public safety progress.”
Another significant sector that’s getting soaked by the budget modification is the city’s public library systems.
In a joint statement, the heads of the New York, Brooklyn and Queens Public Library systems, which service all five boroughs, said they will have to by mid-December end “Sunday service at the vast majority of branches that currently offer it” due to the mayor’s cuts. In total, Adams’ modification is reducing funding for the libraries by about $23.6 million, records show.
While making the city cleaner was a big priority for Adams on the 2021 campaign trail, his budget modification is cutting $32 million for the Sanitation Department this fiscal year, a shave that will result in a reduction of litter baskets across the city, including in parks, officials said. The department will also eliminate city funding for a community composting program, and restrict alternate side parking cleaning in some neighborhoods because of the trims, according to budget documents. It was not immediately clear how sweeping such street cleaning rollbacks will be.
The mayor’s argument that the migrant influx is largely to blame for the Big Apple’s dire fiscal outlook — even at one point saying the crisis will “destroy” the city — has for months rubbed some asylum-seeker advocates the wrong way.
Murad Awawdeh, director of the New York Immigration Coalition, which has helped service migrants since the crisis started in spring 2022, said after Thursday’s budget modification unveil that he remains troubled by Adams’ rhetoric on the crisis.
“It’s unfortunate and incredibly disingenuous that this administration continues to scapegoat immigrants for their bad investments that they’ve made,” Awawdeh said. “Instead of continuing on those bad investments, they need to be making sure that we’re supporting people and getting them on their own feet very quickly.”
With Michael Gartland and Josephine Stratman