Mayor Eric Adams announced painful budget cuts to New York City services on Thursday that would freeze police hiring and close libraries on Sunday and warned that more cuts would be necessary without additional federal funding to manage the migrant crisis.
The budget cuts would bring the number of Police Department officers below 30,000, slash the Education Department budget by $1 billion over two years and delay the rollout of composting in the Bronx and Staten Island — one of the mayor’s signature initiatives to address rats and climate change. The cuts would also weaken two popular programs: summer school and universal prekindergarten.
Mr. Adams said in a statement that he had to make cuts across city agencies in response to the rising costs of the migrant crisis, slowing tax revenues and the ending of federal pandemic aid.
“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,” he said.
The cuts to New York City’s $110 billion budget come as Mr. Adams is facing two crises that could come to define his mayoralty and his chances at winning a second term — an influx of migrants from the southern border that he has said could destroy the city, and a federal investigation into his campaign’s fund-raising.
Mr. Adams, a Democrat in his second year in office, had warned at a news conference on Tuesday that the budget cuts would be “extremely painful for New Yorkers.”
“In all my time in government, this is probably one of the most painful exercises I’ve gone through,” he said.
Progressive Democrats immediately criticized the mayor’s cuts and said they would hurt working-class families. Lincoln Restler, a chair of the City Council’s progressive caucus, said his group would not cooperate with the cuts.
“Mayor Adams’s unnecessary, dangerous and draconian budget cuts will only worsen New York’s affordability crisis and delay our city’s economic recovery by cutting funding for the schools, child care, food assistance and more that help New Yorkers live and raise families in this city,” Mr. Restler said.
Mr. Adams said that the cost of the migrant crisis was growing and expected to cost nearly $11 billion over two years and that next year’s budget had a major $7 billion gap. The cuts go into effect immediately, city officials said, though the City Council has a role in approving certain budget changes.
The Council speaker, Adrienne Adams, said in a statement that some essential programs like libraries and the City University of New York should be spared from deep cuts. She said the city should explore new revenues to avoid making cuts and shift migrant services to nonprofits.
“The administration’s response in providing services for asylum seekers has relied far too much on expensive emergency contracts with for-profit companies that cost the city billions of dollars,” she said.
The police union president, Patrick Hendry, said that the police hiring freeze — which city officials said involved postponing five classes of new officers — would make New Yorkers less safe.
“This is truly a disaster for every New Yorker who cares about safe streets,” he said. “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. We cannot go back there.”
Mr. Adams had said on Tuesday that eliminating a new class of 250 school safety agents would mean that schools would be “leaning into parents and parent groups to do some volunteerism.” He said that he would do everything he could to keep schools safe with fewer resources.
“We are going to be straining at a very high level to get this done correctly,” he said.
Library leaders announced that the budget cuts would force them to close branches on Sunday starting in December.
“Without sufficient funding, we cannot sustain our current levels of service, and any further cuts to the libraries’ budgets will, unfortunately, result in deeper service impacts,” the leaders of the Brooklyn, Queens and New York Public Library said in a statement.
Nonprofit leaders have criticized the cuts and said they would hurt essential services, including food pantries, domestic violence shelters, after-school programs and legal services. Michelle Jackson, executive director of the Human Services Council, which represents dozens of nonprofits, had asked the city to spare those services, arguing that the cuts would “make our city less fair, less safe, and less stable for years to come.”
Leaders of the left-leaning Working Families Party said that Mr. Adams was unfairly blaming migrants for the cuts when he should shoulder the blame.
“Mayor Adams is pursuing an agenda of death by a thousand cuts,” the group said. “As any teacher, librarian, or health care worker will tell you: There’s nothing left to cut.”
The city comptroller, Brad Lander, said that the city had to continue to push for more state and federal funding, but called on Mr. Adams to “stop suggesting that asylum seekers are the reason for imposing severe cuts when they are only contributing to a portion of these budget gaps, much of which already existed.”
Only a day earlier, Mr. Adams had celebrated the first increase in student enrollment at New York City public schools in eight years — due largely to an influx of migrants from the southern border. For the current school year, enrollment increased about 1 percent — or roughly 8,000 students — bringing the total number of students to 915,000.
Now city schools will be making cuts at a moment when educators say they need more resources to help the new students and also continue academic recovery following pandemic school closures. City officials said that the Education Department would be cut by $547 million this fiscal year and $600 million next year. In addition to making cuts to the Summer Rising summer program for middle school students and eliminating thousands of spots for universal prekindergarten for 3-year-olds, community schools are being cut by $10 million in the current fiscal year.
Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said that 653 schools would be forced to make midyear budget cuts — roughly 43 percent of the school system.
“Class sizes will rise, and school communities will be needlessly damaged,” he said.
Mr. Adams, a former police captain who ran for mayor as a working-class hero, acknowledged on Tuesday that some of his key policy priorities would be harmed by the budget cuts.
“It is more than painful for New Yorkers — it’s painful for us,” Mr. Adams said. “I’ve seen a great deal of just personal pain from the members of my team. These are initiatives that we fought hard for.”