NYC mayor's budget aims to create affordable housing, doesn't heed calls to hire more police

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday unveiled his $78.3 billion executive budget, a sweeping proposal that devotes more money to fighting homelessness, bolstering struggling schools and creating affordable housing but does not include funding to hire 1,000 additional police officers.

The plan — bigger than the budgets of all but five U.S. states — reflects New York City’s relatively strong economy and would represent a 4.4 per cent increase over the adopted budget for the current fiscal year while not slashing city services or laying off municipal workers. It falls in line with de Blasio’s view of an active, liberal government, though the mayor also deemed it fiscally responsible, touting the creation of a $1 billion general reserve fund and the decision to stow $2.6 billion in a retiree health care fund to cover expenses in any future economic downturn.

“It is the basis for a city that will be economically stronger, economically more inclusive, more competitive both nationally and globally,” de Blasio said. “In my line of work, it’s a lot easier to spend money than to save money, but we believe it’s necessary to save money at this point.”

He opted not to fulfil the City Council’s top budget request — to hire 1,000 police officers. The council made a similar request a year ago, and it was also rejected by de Blasio, a first-term Democrat.

The mayor — mere months after facing an open revolt by police union leaders and some officers — said investments in reforms, training and technology would let the New York Police Department do “even more” with its current headcount.

“My central point is that I’m very confident with the resources we have right now,” said de Blasio, praising the work of the NYPD that led to record low crime in 2014.

De Blasio’s stance put him at odds with his police commissioner, William Bratton, who expressed support for the City Council proposal, which has been championed by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Mark-Viverito, normally a staunch ally of the mayor, said the council would not abandon its hope to hire more officers.

“The City Council is disappointed that the Executive Budget does not contain funding for new Police Officers who will help give Commissioner Bratton the tools he needs to continue to keep crime low while also improving police-community relations,” Mark-Viverito said in a statement.

De Blasio allowed that negotiations on the new officers would continue in the month ahead — “We will certainly have an open process with the council,” he said — and many observers believe a compromise will be struck that will lead to the hiring of a few hundred officers.

By law, the budget must be adopted by June 30.

De Blasio released a litany of spending increases to social services, which included an extra $100 million to combat the city’s surging homelessness population, offering rental assistance for thousands of families seeking to escape shelters.

The budget also contains an extra $33.6 million for struggling schools, an additional $13 million for the city’s child-welfare agency and $36.4 million for Correction Department reforms at Rikers Island. The mayor also will seek a waiver of a $30 million payment due from the city’s crumbling public housing program and devote $125 million to the capital program of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Additionally, de Blasio released his update to the city’s 10-year capital spending plan, earmarking $83.8 billion for improvements to the city’s roads, bridges and sewer system, including $7.5 billion to his ambitious plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years. The mayor has also called for the State Legislature to revamp many of its rent regulations and toughen requirements on developers to set aside affordable housing units.