Back in early May, Mayor de Blasio was squaring off with police Commissioner Bill Bratton over a proposal to hire 1,000 new cops as part of the budget for the coming fiscal year. Bratton was for it, and de Blasio was against it. At the time, an NYPD spokesman said Bratton was "confident" there would be a staffing increase, and we wondered how this public pissing contest would end.
Now, the executive budget has been finalized, and Bratton didn't just win by a dribble—he got 300 extra officers out of the deal. How? Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Vivierito has consistently pushed for the hiring spree, but we knew that back in May. Since then, murders have spiked to the point that there have now been 24 more in the city than there were this time last year [PDF], a fact the New York Post didn't hesitate to ring the alarm about (rapes are up, too). But the Post is always ringing the alarm about something happening on de Blasio's watch. So why the change of heart?
As Russell Simmons noted last week in his now-recanted rant against de Blasio's spinelessness in dealing with the Police Department, "You can’t call a New York Post attack on a progressive mayor 'tremendous pressure.'" Yet, as Simmons said further, albeit in more blunt language, the mayor has yet to come out of a face-off with the NYPD on top, and so last night he and Mark-Viverito sealed the executive budget with a handshake and a hug, according to CBS2.
"There have been long conversations particularly over the last few weeks on what was the right thing to do," de Blasio said at a press conference yesterday evening, according to the Times. "We came to a plan that allows us to strengthen our police force while encouraging a deepening of reform, while finding key reforms on the fiscal front.”
Three hundred of the new officers will be assigned to counterterrorism duties, specifically, according to the Times, "to patrol areas of the city perceived as high risk, like Times Square." More are supposed to be part of an as-yet-undefined community policing program, which is what Mark-Viverito has said is the point all along.
"By expanding community policing and bringing police and communities they serve closer together, we can continue to bridge the divide while also making our city safer," she said.
Given Bratton's zeal for Broken Windows policing to fill the void in discriminatory policing left by the drawing-down of stop and frisk, it is probably a safe bet that many of the new officers will be out writing open container and in-the-park-after-dark summonses in a poor neighborhood near you by next year. Robert Gangi, director of the Police Reform Organizing Project, an avid foe of the tactic, is dismayed by the latest development.
"The activities that people of color get arrested or ticketed for daily have been virtually decriminalized in white communities," Gangi said. "How can the so-called progressive leaders of our city justify effectively strengthening an agency that consistently inflicts serious harm and hardship on New York's most vulnerable citizens?"
The move doesn't sit well with fiscal conservatives either, as it is supposed to cost taxpayers an additional $100 million, which will echo down the line.
"The problem is what happens when they've been there awhile and then, really acutely, when they start to retire," Nicole Gelinas, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, told the Times. "We can only afford to add more cops now because Wall Street is booming and we're probably in the throes of another real estate bubble. What happens when that goes away?"
The new budget also includes the following items, summarized in a Mayor's Office press release:
- $39 million for universal six-day library service, extended hours, and other improvements.
- Significant new investments in Renewal Schools, including $12.7 million for extended learning time, and $2.2 million for school-based health centers in FY17.
- $17.9 million to phase-in breakfast in the classroom at 530 elementary schools, serving 339,000 students by FY18.
- $6.6 million for the Department of Education to hire 50 additional physical education teachers and conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to address barriers and move schools toward full physical education compliance.
- $1.8 million to expand the Emergency Food Assistance Program (EFAP) to serve New Yorkers in need.
- $1.5 million in new staff and resources to meet the Mayor’s goal of ending veteran homelessness, and $335,000 to fund a team of Veterans Service Officers that will be deployed in communities throughout the five boroughs.
- $4.3 million to eliminate waitlists for the Department for the Aging’s homecare program, and $2 million to expand elder abuse prevention.
- $750,000 - growing in the out years - to fund support services through the Seniors in Affordable Rental Apartments (SARA) Program; 30 percent of those units are set aside for homeless seniors.
- $21 million for FY2016 only to ensure there are no gaps in service as the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene establishes a more effective RFP process for service providers.
- $1.14 million to fund 80 additional school crossing guards.
- $687,000 to fund an extension of beach season for one week past Labor Day.
- $5 million to dedicate additional resources to inspection and remediation of substandard conditions at boarding homes (known as “Three-quarter Houses”) and to relocate tenants.
- $2.4 million - growing in the out years - to expand CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), with a goal of increasing the community college three-year associate degree graduation rate from 12 percent to 34 percent.
- $1.3 million to expand resources for the Special Narcotics Prosecutor to address drug-related violence.
The budget goes up for a vote before the City Council this week, but is expected to pass without much fuss.