Libraries, summer school, police and composting face cuts amid NYC budget crisis

The Gothamist, Elizabeth Kim, Nov 16, 2023

Mayor Eric Adams’ office on Thursday announced a wide array of cuts that would significantly erode essential services for many New Yorkers, including libraries, summer school, policing and sanitation.

The news did not come as a surprise. Adams has spent months bracing taxpayers for deep cuts that he says are necessary to bridge a gaping deficit driven by the city’s migrant care spending and the expiration of federal pandemic aid. In September, he ordered all city agencies to slash their spending by 5%, and said that further cuts would be coming.

“Migrant costs are going up, tax revenue growth is slowing, and COVID stimulus funding is drying up,” Adams said in a statement. “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.”

Adjusting for additional revenue, the city’s total budget for 2024 is now $111 billion. Looking ahead, the city is projecting a $7 billion deficit in 2025.

On Thursday, the consequences of the latest round of cuts became more clear.

Libraries announced that they would soon be forced to end Sunday services at every branch except one. Beginning in 2024, only the Kew Gardens library in Queens will have Sunday hours.

In a move that could affect the mayor’s priority on public safety, the NYPD is set to freeze hiring and suspend the next five police academy classes, according to budget officials. The number of police officers is set to fall below 30,000 by 2025, the lowest headcount in decades.

The city’s youngest residents will also face diminished services. Summer Rising, the city’s free camp and academic enrichment program, will cancel Friday sessions and reduce hours of service for middle school students. Their day will now end at 4 p.m. rather than 6 p.m. City officials said the cuts would affect around 30,000 students, or fewer than 30% of those enrolled in the program.

A significant number of seats for universal pre-K, former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature initiative, could also be eliminated. City officials have argued the program has a large number of unfilled seats that suggest insufficient demand in certain neighborhoods.

All told, the city’s education department stands to lose $547 million this fiscal year and $600 million in 2025 out of an approximate $38 billion annual budget.

In a blow to recycling advocates, Adams’ highly touted planned composting expansion will be delayed by six months on Staten Island and in the Bronx. The sanitation department now anticipates starting the rollout in October 2025 for those two boroughs.

The cuts could also affect the city’s level of cleanliness, a timeworn complaint among residents. Budget officials said the sanitation department would reduce the number of cleaning services, including the number of litter baskets.

Read More: The Gothamist