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As City Reopens, De Blasio’s ‘Better Buses’ Plan Stuck in Traffic

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Mayor de Blasio on the bus (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)

Early in June, when New York City was just entering phase one of its economic “reopening” and the city still had daily triple-digit coronavirus death counts, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an ambitious plan, the Better Bus Restart Initiative, to add 20 more miles of bus lanes and five new busways by October, in addition to making the 14th Street busway permanent. While this plan, offered during a unique opportunity to rethink city street use, did not go as far as many public officials and advocates would have liked, it was a significant move by a mayor who has paid limited attention to the city’s buses, ridden by about 388,000 people, mostly low-income people of color, each weekday before the pandemic hit.

Now, just over three months later, only four of the nine announced bus projects -- five busways and four extended bus lanes -- have been completed. The Jay Street busway opened behind schedule earlier this week in Downtown Brooklyn, and several others delayed, most notably the Main Street Flushing busway that de Blasio said launch in June. Busways offer city buses near-exclusive use of their routes, with limited additional vehicular traffic allowed, and thus faster mass transit speed for riders.

The Department of Transportation estimates that “more than 45,000 daily bus riders on seven routes” are benefiting from faster service as a result of the completed projects, and described the previous situation on Jay Street as “a bottleneck for buses.”

A DOT spokesperson says it is “still planning to complete implementation this summer and fall” on the Better Buses program. The Jay Street busway was originally planned to start in August. We are working closely with community advisory boards on the remaining bus projects,” said a DOT spokesperson.

The three other completed bus projects in the Better Buses program are bus lanes on East 14th Street, 149th Street, and Malcolm X Boulevard. DOT says that they've completed 4.4 miles of the planned 20 miles of new bus lanes under this initiative so far. On the horizon, a bus lane on the E.L. Grant Highway is currently under construction in the Bronx.

Along with Main Street Flushing, two of the other announced busways are also already behind schedule. Busways on Jamaica Avenue in Queens and 5th Avenue in Manhattan were expected to be operational by July, per de Blasio’s initial announcement, which he said on June 8 was not getting sufficient press attention. The final remaining busway, on 181st Street in Manhattan, was announced to start in October.

On the Main Street busway specificially, DOT is taking more time to continue community outreach, according to a spokesperson, who noted the department recently gave a presentation to the project’s Community Advisory Board. It has also scheduled two information sessions, via Zoom, for local residents, on September 10 in English and Chinese and September 14 in English, Korean, and Spanish.

The DOT spokesperson also noted the other infrastructural improvements the department has made in recent months, including activating Transit Signal Priority at 285 intersections, installing Real Time Passenger Information at Bus Time Signs at 40 stops, adding bus lane cameras to several new routes, and constructing bike lanes to accompany the Jay Street busway.

This hasn’t satisfied many transportation advocates.

“It’s become clear that we’re headed towards a crisis,” according to a spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit advocacy group. The group has begun calling the looming crisis “Carmageddon.” According to Transportation Alternative’s recent report by that name, in August, bridge and tunnel car crossings were less than 20% off pre-pandemic levels, while bus ridership was still down 35% and subway and rail ridership down nearly 75% from pre-pandemic levels. Road traffic overall was only off 9% from 2019 levels, despite many New Yorkers continuing to work from home.

The report surmises, “As more commuters opt to drive, and little accommodation is made for the safety and efficiency of those who do not, New York could soon see a gridlocked, exhaust-choked, and crash-laden ‘Carmageddon.’”

“The City must act quickly to avoid this impending catastrophe,” a Transportation Alternatives spokesperson said. “The only way to stem car traffic and its repercussions is to invest in a citywide network of bus and bike lanes, and more forward quickly with congestion pricing. The future of our streets is at stake.”

Earlier this month, Transportation Alternatives’ executive director, Danny Harris, was one of 12 members of Mayor de Blasio’s Surface Transportation Advisory Council, convened in June to advise the mayor on the city’s transportation needs during its recovery from the pandemic shutdown, who criticized the mayor’s handling of transit amid the city’s reopening process and his failure to more fully consider and move on the advisory council’s recommendations. They cited problems including rising traffic fatalities and rising car ownership rates that the mayor is not, in their opinion, properly addressing.

The open letter was signed by leaders from Transportation Alternatives, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, AAA of New York State, the Community Service Society of New York, Via, Riders Alliance, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the NYC BID Association, the Brown Bike Girl, and the Regional Plan Association, as well as Sam Schwartz, a former city traffic commissioner, and Quemel Arroyo, a disability transit advocate.

These members of the mayor’s Surface Transportation Advisory Council simultaneously released its numerous suggestions, highlighting several in the 12 members’ letter, with public transportation as top priority. The council members called for at least 40 miles of emergency bus lanes to be implemented this summer. They also want to see a connected bike network, expanded sidewalks, and repurposed street and parking spaces for restaurants, retails, cultural institutions, and open space.

Additionally, they declared these “improvements must prioritize communities of color, neighborhoods without adequate transportation and public space infrastructure, and streets most impacted by traffic crashes and pollution.”

“It is not enough to tell New Yorkers not to buy a car. We need the City to actively promote and restore public confidence in alternative modes of transportation, including taxis, for-hire vehicles, and pooled rides,” the letter reads.

If traffic congestion surges further, the group advocates a “contingency plan for vehicular restriction into the Manhattan Central Business District,” including HOV2+ restriction during peak periods and continued work towards congestion pricing

According to the letter, “Recovering from COVID-19 requires us to reimagine our city, especially our streets, for the better. Without your decisive and immediate action, we may lose New York City’s future to growing congestion, pollution, inequality, and traffic violence.”

On September 2, when the open letter was publicized, de Blasio was asked if he had done enough on transportation and to respond to the critiques from his own appointees. He responded, “If folks are disgruntled and they don’t want to acknowledge what’s really happening, well, I can't do much about that. I can only tell you what’s happening.” He then cited the Open Streets initiative, the 14th Street busway, expanded bike lanes, the Citi Bike program, the NYC Ferry, and expanded Select Bus Service, saying “that sounds like a lot to me.” He did not answer whether or not he would implement the group’s call for 40 miles of emergency bus lanes or other suggestions.

by Andrew Millman, Gotham Gazette

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Promising 'Leadership at City Hall,' Scott Stringer Officially Launches 2021 Mayoral Campaign

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Scott Stringer launches his 2021 mayoral campaign

Comptroller Scott Stringer, a term-limited Democrat, officially launched his campaign to run for mayor on Tuesday, seeking to replace outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio in what is expected to be a hard-fought contest that has drawn more than a dozen exploring or declared candidates so far.  

Stringer, a Manhattanite serving his second term as the city’s top fiscal officer, pledged to “bring leadership back to City Hall” and centered his campaign pitch on fighting inequality, much like de Blasio had done when he won his first term in 2013. But Stringer presented himself as a contrast to the two-term mayor, taking direct aim at de Blasio’s failings and what Stringer depicted as his inability to make good on his promise to create a more equitable city.  

“We never closed the book on the tale of two cities,” Stringer said, evoking the message that got de Blasio elected. “If anything over the last eight years, we've written more chapters.”

Speaking near Inwood Hill Park in Upper Manhattan, close to his childhood home, Stringer addressed long-standing and new crises assailing the city and its most vulnerable communities, borne of the decisions of successive administrations and dramatically worsened by the coronavirus pandemic. He noted that that the neighborhood he stood in and grew up in was among the hardest hit by COVID-19 and is also home to many of the New Yorkers of color who have been considered essential workers throughout the pandemic.

Accompanied by his wife, Elyse Buxbaum, and two young children, and surrounded by a diverse group of state legislators from four boroughs announcing their endorsements of his mayoral bid, Stringer went through a variety of key issues during his remarks, centering affordability, especially affordable housing, child care, racial justice, climate resiliency, and more.

At the same time, he spoke in deeply personal terms of how it has affected him and his family, including the death of his mother from the virus. “It's because we love the city, that we must acknowledge that we have a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and a social justice crisis raging all at once,” he said, “and I believe we can overcome them all.”

The Democratic mayoral primary, which will be held in June 2021, will likely decide who becomes the next mayor because of the party’s overwhelming seven-to-one voter enrollment advantage over Republicans (there are more party-unaffiliated registered voters than Republicans in the city). It will also be the first citywide primary that employs ranked-choice voting, requiring candidates to appeal to a broader swathe of voters than they may otherwise.

Besides Stringer, several candidates have declared or are exploring a mayoral bid including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, former Counsel to the Mayor Maya Wiley, former Obama and Bloomberg commissioner Shaun Donovan, former Commissioner of the City Department of Veterans Services Loree Sutton, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, and others. 

Stringer made a long list of promises to tackle the many problems that de Blasio too had sought to fix but on which the mayor has shown insufficient progress, sure to make him a punching bag throughout the race. Repeatedly contrasting himself with a mayor seen as aloof and ineffective, Stringer vowed to "manage the hell out of this city."

He said he would fill the city’s expected $4.2 billion budget gap for the next fiscal year by cutting wasteful agency spending, curtailing outside contracts, and measuring spending by performance. He also said he would push for increasing taxes on the wealthy, a step that would require state legislative action and that stymied de Blasio for years. Stringer touted his plan for rebuilding the city’s economy, which has been decimated by the pandemic, and investing in small businesses, and businesses run by women, people of color, and immigrants. 

Taking aim at the mayor’s housing plan, which critics say has failed to build sufficient amounts of low-income housing while encouraging real estate speculation, Stringer referred to his own plan in promising a stronger approach. He reiterated his legally-dubious proposal for “universal affordable housing” that would mandate 25% of units in any new development be made permanently affordable. He also said he would triple new affordable housing for homeless families and create the city’s first land bank.

“When I'm mayor, we're going to end the crushing cycle of speculation, eviction, and displacement,” he said. “No more giving away the store to developers. No more unaffordable ‘affordable housing.’ We will put an end to the gentrification industrial complex, and end policies that perpetuate a cycle of segregation in our neighborhoods.”

How Stringer would ensure new housing is built or that neighborhoods become more integrated remain open questions. As he did again on Tuesday, he has repeatedly railed against the neighborhood rezonings de Blasio has ushered through, all in low-income communities of color, to add more housing density, including rent-capped units, but he did not offer a vision for areas of the city he believes should see significantly more housing development.

Referencing others among the many policy plans he’s offered as comptroller, Stringer vowed to triple the number of children receiving city-funded childcare and a “full-court press” on climate change, in part through resiliency projects and forbidding fossil fuel infrastructure. He also pledged to take on school segregation, but did not say how.

Some of Stringer’s harshest criticism for de Blasio came on the mayor’s approach to police brutality and accountability. De Blasio came into office promising to hold the NYPD to account but has since disappointed his supporters and others by regularly capitulating to the police department, taking a conservative approach to transparency, and making mostly modest reforms around accountability. Stringer pointed to the recent mass protests sparked by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the NYPD’s often violent response against protesters. “The mayor and the police commissioner repeatedly excused the inexcusable, defended the indefensible, and failed to take responsibility for violence against New Yorkers. That ends the day I'm sworn in as mayor,” he said. “As mayor, I'm going to say to the NYPD what Bill de Blasio has not. ‘You work for the people of the city and you're not an independent agency. You work for us.’”

Stringer added that he would make sure the NYPD knows it is not an independent agency and that its officers, whom he offered some praise, work for the people. 

Stringer also made assurances that his administration would be more transparent, with a less-than-oblique reference to Mayor de Blasio’s ill-fated attempt to shield his communications with several outside advisers that his administration termed ‘agents of the city’ when blocking Freedom of Information requests  a move later overturned in court when NY1 and the New York Post sued for access.

“There will be no ‘agents of the city’ in a Stringer administration,” he said, in a jab that could also double as critique of Wiley, who came up with that tenuous legal formulation when she was the mayor’s counsel.

Stringer’s mayoral campaign is a culmination of years of preparation. A career elected offiicial, he first won office in 1992, securing a state Assembly seat. He became Manhattan Borough President from 2006 through 2013, and he briefly ran for mayor in 2012 before dropping down to the comptroller’s race, where he cleared the Democratic field until former Governor Eliot Spitzer decided to run. Stringer impressed many in the political world, as well as voters, in the campaign against the far-better known though scandal-plagued Spitzer, in part by calling on long-standing connections within the Democratic establishment and labor unions, especially his close ties with the teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers. He also had the support of the Working Families Party and major local newspaper editorial boards, among others, and exceeded expectations in their debates.

In 2017, Stringer again eyed a mayoral run as de Blasio faced the risk of legal entanglements or even prosecution from one state and one federal investigation into his fundraising activity. When prosecutors did not indict the mayor nor any of his close associates, Stringer demurred from challenging him.

In recent years Stringer has made a concerted effort to court the left, progressive wing of the party, building significant political capital with some while raising questions about where he stands ideologically and whether he’s playing cynical political games in the interest of his own ambitions. Similar questions have been raised as he’s shifted from a more developer-friendly borough president to a mayoral candidate disavowing campaign contributions from major real estate players.

Like Johnson and Donovan, Stringer is facing questions about being a white man running for mayor in an increasingly diverse city, and running against at least two, if not three candidates of color, two of whom are women. New York has never elected a woman as mayor and has not elected a person of color since David Dinkins became the city’s first Black mayor in 1990. Asked after the announcement about whether the city may want to see a person of color elected next year, Stringer insisted that he can build a broad base of support and will represent the interests of communities of color as he has throughout his career. “I've assembled what I think is the beginning of a multiracial, intergenerational group of supporters. And I'm going to go to every community...and I'm going to make my case,” Stringer said. “I believe people vote for the mayor who best represents the hopes and dreams of every diverse community...I ask people to vote on the basis of how we bring the city back economically for communities of color. Who's the best person who has the track record and experience and the social justice credibility from a government lens to get this done.”

In state elections over the last few cycles, Stringer endorsed a lengthy list of progressives, including a number of women of color, some of whom were challengers who successfully ousted Democratic incumbents and helped shift the balance of the state Legislature to give Democrats full control. Several of those he endorsed introduced him on Tuesday, reciprocating the support, including State Senators Allessandra Biaggi, Robert Jackson, Jessica Ramos, and Julia Salazar, and Assemblymembers Catalina Cruz and Yuh-Line Niou. Other elected officials also joined in support, including State Senator Brian Kavanagh, Assemblymembers Al Taylor, Linda Rosenthal, and Robert Carroll, and state Assembly candidate Amanda Septimo. The initial wave of endorsers represents parts of four boroughs other than Staten Island and a large group of the state’s younger, more diverse vanguard of progressive leadership.

Stringer has also in recent cycles endorsed the far-left candidacies of Jamaal Bowman, who successfully ousted Rep. Eliot Engel, and Tiffany Cabán, who narrowly lost in the 2019 Democratic Primary for Queens District Attorney. Both Bowman and Cabán, like Salazar, are members of the New York City Democratic Socialists of America.

Asked on Tuesday about seeking the DSA endorsement for mayor, Stringer demurred, saying he would be pursuing support from many groups and he did not want to get into a specific list at today’s announcement.

by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette

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Ben Max contributed to this story.

Is It Really Layoffs or Loans? De Blasio's Other Options to Find $1 Billion

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Mayor de Blasio at a budget presentation (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

Mayor Bill de Blasio finds himself in a tricky fiscal situation as the city needs to find $1 billion by the end of the month to balance its budget. Federal aid is nowhere in sight, Albany has so far refused to allow the city to borrow the funds, and state budget cuts are also on the horizon. At the end of his rope, the mayor says he may have to lay off 22,000 municipal workers. But that nuclear option may not be necessary, and there are ways de Blasio could achieve the $1 billion goal that was baked into the city’s new budget without firing thousands of employees during a pandemic-caused recession.

[Read: Where De Blasio's Push to Borrow Billions Stands]

The $88.2 billion fiscal year 2021 New York City budget, passed July 1, was meant to be balanced on a guarantee that the administration could negotiate with labor unions to find $1 billion in recurring savings or resort to layoffs. One-time cuts will not be sufficient as that budget hole is expected to carry forward into the next fiscal year, when the total budget gap will grow to about $4.2 billion. Without those savings, the city will have to implement layoffs, preparations for which have already been made.

The mayor announced on August 31 that layoff notices would be delayed, and that he and union leaders were working to convince the state Legislature and Governor Cuomo to approve legislation allowing the city the ability to borrow $5 billion to balance the current year’s and next year’s budgets. City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Council Speaker Corey Johnson have also come around to the idea of borrowing, but only with controls on spending, lending important voices to de Blasio’s push. Without that borrowing authority, the layoff process will resume, de Blasio said.

However, a variety of fiscal watchdogs say the mayor has alternative paths he could take to get to $1 billion, without risking people’s livelihoods or adding to the city’s already significant debt obligations by borrowing against the future.

Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit group, released a report on September 2 that identified more than a dozen viable measures that could substitute for layoffs and borrowing and altogether save more than $1 billion. “The Mayor presents New Yorkers with a false choice: either borrow to fund operations or lay off 22,000 municipal employees,” said CBC President Andrew Rein in a statement. “Neither currently is necessary and both have far reaching negative impacts.”

As CBC also noted, the adopted budget eliminates funds set aside in the city’s labor reserves for future wage increases. “Eliminating the funds essentially means the City’s starting position for negotiations will be a two-year wage freeze,” the CBC report reads, adding that a wage freeze is an “appropriate” step to take, though de Blasio has thus far downplayed the idea. 

Among CBC’s recommendations is a reduction of the city’s headcount – which stands at more than 325,000 full-time and full time-equivalent employees – through attrition. CBC estimated that about 23,000 employees, roughly 7.1%, retire or resign to take other jobs every year. Those employees are also paid more than the most junior workers who would be the first to be let go if layoffs are executed. However, attrition does give the administration less control over which workers leave city employment. CBC also notes that the city could provide early retirement incentives (ERI), though the savings from those are not as high as attrition or layoffs. In 2010, the report points out,14,371 state and local employees agreed to an ERI program, resulting in a net benefit of $681 million over two years.

The best method for finding new and recurring savings would be to make changes to health insurance costs, CBC recommends, particularly by requiring municipal workers to contribute to health care premiums, which could save between $531 million and $1.1 billion annually depending on the level of contribution required. Employees currently pay nothing into those premiums. “The generosity of this benefit also exceeds that of other state and local governments,” the report notes. It also calls for premium sharing for pre-Medicare retirees, and eliminating a reimbursement for certain Medicare benefits which could save $400 million each year, among other reforms.

CBC recommends several changes to union work rules to create more productivity savings, including extending a civilian overtime cap to skilled trades and uniformed workers and standardizing work hours.

The Independent Budget Office, a nonpartisan city agency, does not make judgements on the administration’s proposed plans but it has recently highlighted a series of its prior reports from December 2018 that cover a myriad of savings options the city could employ. Though, many of those numbers are estimates based on the costs of specific programs that are likely affected by the larger budget crisis.

IBO makes many of the same recommendations as CBC on cutting wage and benefits costs, particularly for health care. It estimated that the city could save $590 million from requiring health insurance contributions by current employees and retirees.

Among other steps, the city could cut down on subsidies, including by diverting paratransit trips to taxis, eliminating $70 million in annual city funding for nonpublic schools, and by ending the Department of Education’s role as a sponsor for the Fashion Institute of Technology, a SUNY community college, which costs $58 million each year.

Certain programs could be eliminated or amended, such as assessing only half of school buildings every year rather than all of them, which would save $7 million and still meet state requirements, saving $29 million each year by using open source software instead of licensed software, and raising $17 million annually by requiring landlords to get operating permits for rental buildings similar to restaurant permits.

IBO also offers that the city could also change staffing and work rules. Consolidating building, fire, environmental protection, and housing inspections would save $25 million each year. Eliminating paid union release time (where the city pays union workers for their time spent on union activity) would save $30 million in the first year. The administration could also increase the workweek for about 76,200 nonmanagerial, nonschool based, full-time civilian employees from 35 or 37.5 hours to 40 hours a week, and thereby reduce the city’s overall headcount since it would need 12.5% fewer workers to cover the same number of hours. That change could lead to $234 million in savings in the first year, growing to $767 million over three years, though it would require collective bargaining.

There are reimbursements the city could demand from the state for temporarily housing technical parole violators in city jails and for holding pretrial detainees in local jails for more than one year.

James Parrott, an economist at The New School's Center for New York City Affairs, said in a phone interview that an early retirement package may be the “single most essential thing” that the mayor could provide to avoid layoffs or loans, though it may not bring in the entire $1 billion. “The mayor and the unions really need to double down on that,” Parrott said.

Parrott did propose a few other ideas, though the mayor does not have unilateral power to implement them. Chiefly, he said the city and state should reconsider large property tax exemptions that have been provided to developments like Hudson Yards. The Hudson Yards exemptions, in particular, he said, are “really hard to defend” given the city’s fiscal crunch and the fact that it serves the types of industries that have been relatively unscathed during the pandemic compared to the larger economy.

“Those were not necessary when it was developed. They're certainly not necessary now,” he said of the tax exemptions. “There's nothing to prevent the city from trying to get the Hudson Yards developers to agree to that. They can't dictate it. They'd have to get their acceptance of that. But I think they need to start turning up the pressure on that.

Parrott questioned whether long-standing properties like Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, and Citi Field should continue to get similar property tax breaks. “All of those entities are owned by billionaire owners who should be contributing to the city's plight at this time,” he  said.

He did defend the mayor when it came to the city’s massively increased budget and headcount, which he said have not grown beyond what should be expected or necessary when the economy grew at such a substantial pace at the same time. “More economic activity in New York City means greater need for public services,” he said.

Nicole Gelinas, senior fellow at the think tank the Manhattan Institute, has said the city needs to both institute a wage freeze as well as cancel $1.5 billion in back pay for teachers which it is expected to pay out in October.

“No public sector employee should expect a private sector tax base that has now lost more than 900,000 jobs in New York City to support wage increases for the public sector workforce,” she said at a virtual discussion hosted by the Manhattan Institute in May. At the time, she called on the administration to enact furloughs to preempt more harmful layoffs come Fall. She also called for a pay cap, including for nonunion workers, such as top city agency staff who make well into the six figures. “Forcing public servants to live temporarily within a salary that is comfortable even for New York City — especially since many households have more than one earner — isn’t just symbolic,” she wrote in the New York Post on July 5. “It would save $200 million a year, ­according to an analysis of raw data provided by SeeThroughNY. That’s a whole fifth of the $1 billion in draconian cuts the mayor warns he will have to make.”

Some elected officials have also floated ideas that could cut city spending without terminating workers or affecting services. For instance, City Council Member Ben Kallos, who chairs the contracts committee, proposed in June that the city could save $15 billion by eliminating tax exemptions for real estate developers and by eliminating waste in city contracts, according to a Daily News report.

Prior to the passage of the new city budget, the City Council had called on the mayor to institute between 5-7% in cuts at all city agencies. To balance the budget, the administration found only about $2.8 billion in cuts through a Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG) and citywide savings, which the Council found insufficient.

At the time, Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Members Daniel Dromm and Vanessa Gibson, chairs of the Committee on Finance and Subcommittee on Capital Budget, respectively, warned the mayor in a May 30 letter that without savings, the city would have to rely on incurring costly debt. “[W]e must search agency budgets for more savings to ensure that we have done everything we can to balance the budget without resorting to borrowing that will have significant long-term implications for New York City’s future,” they wrote.

Comptroller Scott Stringer similarly noted that most of those savings were one-time reductions instead of recurring savings that could help offset budget gaps in the future. In his May 21 testimony to the City Council on the mayor’s executive budget, he had called for a 4% reduction in agency spending that would save almost $1 billion a year. “Not only do these one-time cuts leave our City’s youth high and dry this summer – they also don’t translate into longer-term savings,” he said at the time. “In fact, recurring savings are only a small fraction of agency budgets — because the Mayor simply didn’t ask most agencies for recurring savings at all.  Too much agency spending is simply on auto-pilot.  But it’s no longer possible to do business as usual.”

Stringer has also proposed cuts in other places, including spending on outside consultants, street homeless outreach, and the ThriveNYC mental health initiative, according to a City & State report.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, in June, proposed a recovery plan for the city that dealt with varying levels of budget deficits while also addressing a growing call for diverting funds from the NYPD’s $6 billion annual operating budget. Among the proposals he put forward included civilianizing over-staffed NYPD units, cuts to overtime, and forensic audits of the department’s notoriously opaque spending. Adams also recommended eliminating political appointees who serve in advisory or administrative roles, expanding the role of franchises that can build infrastructure and receive multi-year service contracts in exchange, among a series of other suggestions.

And in order to bring in new revenue, a discussion mostly happening at the state level around added taxes on the highest earners or certain financial transactions, Adams is working with State Senator Andrew Gounardes on a set of proposals for new data sales taxes on multi-billion-dollar tech companies that sell private data.

by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette

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