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People Over Police - New York City Needs Budget Equity

June 4, 2020

ANHD Analysis Reimagines How We Can Invest in Communities

The murders in recent weeks of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and other Black Americans at the hands of the police have galvanized the country against the systemic violence toward Black people that since 1619 has been the foundation of the American economy and social order. As cities struggle to deal with the health and economic fallout of the global health pandemic, people around the nation are calling for a divestment in policing and a reallocation of public funds toward community needs. Cities must reallocate local resources from police departments back to communities, and nowhere is this reallocation more urgent than in New York City.

New York’s social safety net is crumbling as the city reels from COVID-19, and in particular the disproportionate deaths of Black New Yorkers. Unemployment has risen to 14 percent and basic needs like food and housing are precarious for many more residents than under pre-pandemic conditions. The City faces a $9 billion budget shortfall this year, and social services that might address the increase in need are slated for deep cuts. Despite the urgent need for resources, the Mayor’s Office has proposed an executive budget that prioritizes its police department at the expense of its people. At a time of unprecedented need coupled with a historic uprising against white supremacy and police violence, it is unconscionable for the City to continue to prioritize funding for the NYPD over its communities.

The Mayor’s Executive Budget proposes sweeping cuts to the Summer Youth Employment Program, a 40 percent cut to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) capital budget, and a total elimination of the Commercial Lease Assistance Program. While the narrative of austerity has been peddled to New Yorkers demanding access to safe and affordable housing, equitable development, and economic justice, the NYPD budget remains bloated.

The NYPD is the largest police force in the country with an annual budget of $6 billion: that is three times more than the budgets of the LAPD or Chicago Police Department. Its budget is bigger than that of the Departments of Health, Homeless Services, Housing Preservation and Development, and Youth and Community Development combined. This bloated city funding has purchased the body armor, helicopters, and assault rifles that make the NYPD a militarized force deployed to hyper police New York’s communities of color and, as we’ve seen in recent weeks, to turn these weapons on those who protest this legacy of systemic violence.

Policing, gentrification, and real estate speculation have been the three prongs that have made New York unlivable for working people and deadly for Black New Yorkers. In his tenure as mayor, Bill de Blasio committed to ending broken window policing. But as New York City police reform advocates like Change the NYPD and VOCAL have noted, failed reform has not ended the NYPD’s oversized presence in New York neighborhoods - the department has seen a $1 billion increase since Mayor de Blasio took office, crowning a period of explosion in spending of nearly 100 percent from 2001 to 2019.

The answer to the constant refrain of “How will we pay for it?” in response to community demands is clear: we need to reimagine who our city is for, what our city can look like, and prioritize people and communities.

With the amount of money allocated to one year of the NYPD budget, New York City could do any of the following:

  • Pay for the rent of all New York renters earning less than 80% Area Median Income (AMI) - or $61,250 - for 5 months1
  • Cover the 5-year citywide capital needs for electrical, mechanical, and elevator work in all NYCHA developments2
  • Cover half of 5-year citywide capital needs for apartments, including covering all needed work for bathroom and kitchens in all NYCHA developments
  • Match federal aid for all undocumented, excluded New Yorkers and mixed status households 6 times over
  • Finance 130,000 new units of affordable housing3
  • Triple services for industrial business service providers and commercial tenants in perpetuity
  • Expand the city’s emergency food assistance program by 24 times its current budget, funding 228 million meals for hungry New Yorkers
  • Cover the immediate capital repair and maintenance needs for New York City’s public hospital system, parks, public schools, CUNY community colleges, and all three library systems - with over $1 billion leftover
  • Cover the cost of Small Business Services (SBS) COVID-19 grants for all Black owned businesses in New York City 10 times over4

There are countless other needs that can be met with the amount of money that has been budgeted for the NYPD; the point is - the things that communities have been told time and time again are impossible to finance are not. New York has a long and ugly legacy of systemic violence and disenfranchisement of Black communities, a legacy that has been used as a blueprint for marginalization in other communities of color. It’s time to address that legacy beyond platitudes and empty promises. The City Council has the opportunity to make real, actionable change. A radical reimagining of what’s possible with city financing is urgently needed, and this is the moment for that reimagining to take place. We urge the New York City Council to take leadership and work with your communities to reallocate NYPD funds toward community needs.


1All total rent estimates account for the national average rate of rent collection, 90%. Based on a New York statewide 80% AMI threshold of $61,250
2Based on the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) 2017 Physical Needs Assessment report. https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nycha/downloads/pdf/PNA%202017.pdf
3Solely New York City contributions to financing, based on individual unit subsidy of $46,000
4Based on registration of Black owned businesses by Minority and Women Business Enterprise certification filings as reported to the Department of Small Business Services http://mtprawvwsbswtp1-1.nyc.gov/

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