Mayor Eric Adams said he would restore roughly $37 million in cuts to the city’s police and fire departments, allowing them to retain uniformed officers and reversing a tiny slice of nearly $4 billion in total cuts that have spurred sharp criticism from the City Council.
The restored funding comes as Adams struggles with abysmal approval ratings tied in part to budget cuts that have affected critical services, including those by libraries, schools and parks. The cuts to public safety had struck many as particularly at odds with the mayor’s priorities.
On Wednesday, Adams said the restorations would allow the NYPD to resume its original plan of having 600 police academy recruits join its ranks in April, and 20 fire engine companies will be able to keep a fifth firefighter position. The city will also retain 190 firefighters who are unable to return to full-time status, the mayor said.
But when asked by reporters, Adams offered no assurances that he would restore painful cuts to libraries, schools, parks and other areas.
His announcement comes days before he is expected to reveal another round of cuts to close next year’s $7 billion budget gap. New York City is facing a fiscal crisis due to the expiration of federal pandemic aid, the migrant crisis and costly union contracts.
The mayor, who was joined by the police and fire officials at City Hall on Wednesday, said he made the decision after accounting for better-than-expected revenues and after budget officials implemented a 20% cut to migrant expenses that should save the city around $2 billion.
Nevertheless, the mayor still reiterated his calls for help from the state and federal government.
“We’re not out of the woods,” Adams said.
The mayor’s about-face on the police and fire cuts prompted cynicism from some councilmembers who have accused Adams of making deeper cuts than necessary.
The Council last month was forecasting more than $1 billion in additional revenue than city budget officials. Justin Brannan, the Council’s finance chairman, said in an email to Gothamist that he knew the cuts would be “magically restored” once the administration acknowledged the extra revenue.
“The mayor is doing a budget dance with himself, and his rhetoric is out of step with the math,” Brannan later added in a statement. “All of a sudden, the mayor has found money, with irrationally shifting explanations and numbers, cutting into the credibility of his narrative that the City has an insurmountable budget gap that demands overly broad cuts.”
He added, “This is not sound governance or budget management, and it should leave New Yorkers with more questions than answers.”
In explaining the restored cuts on Wednesday, the mayor said he and others reexamined the budget to see what funding could be restored after the initial cuts were made in November. .
“Instead of using a butcher’s knife, use a scalpel,” Adams said, using similar language used in a November statement from Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, which called for a “surgical” approach to finding savings.