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De Blasio: Threat of 22,000 layoffs is 'painfully real'

POLITICO logo POLITICO 8/13/2020 By Erin Durkin
Bill de Blasio smiling for the camera: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. © Frank Franklin II/AP Photo New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is moving forward with “painfully real” plans to lay off 22,000 public workers on Oct. 1 unless another source of cash comes through.

De Blasio confirmed the layoff plans are progressing after POLITICO first reported Tuesday that agencies have been ordered to come up with a list of employees being considered for job cuts by the end of next week.

“The overwhelming cost of local government is personnel. Where we put our money is into the people who provide services to New Yorkers, whether they’re first responders, health care workers, sanitation workers, educators, you name it,” de Blasio told reporters Wednesday.

“If you’re going to keep cutting and keep cutting, it has to at some point reach personnel. It’s just pure logic of budgets, and it’s very sad logic. I don’t like it one bit, and I want to avert this at all costs. So that 22,000 number is painfully real," he said.

De Blasio has been hoping for a multi-billion dollar federal aid package to bail out the city after the coronavirus pandemic decimated its bottom line. But he acknowledged Wednesday that “appears to be dead now.”

The mayor has also asked state legislators for authority to borrow money to pay expenses, but Albany lawmakers have so far balked.

And the city is in talks with municipal labor unions on other cuts that could save $1 billion in labor costs, a number required by the city budget passed at the end of June.

If none of those three options comes through, de Blasio said layoffs will happen — on a scale not seen since the 1970s fiscal crisis.

“It’s a massive, painful number. It resembles the kind of things we had to do decades ago. But the job here is to try and avert it if we can,” he said.

De Blasio’s budget team has reached out to high-ranking officials within city departments to instruct them on how much of their individual budgets must be slashed through shrinking the workforce, according to several people involved in the calls.

They said the NYPD — whose nearly $6 billion budget was the source of tremendous controversy amid anti-police-brutality protests in recent months — is being given different orders and will not be asked to do layoffs, though they will have to cut in other areas.

De Blasio did not deny that police would be spared from layoffs when asked about it Wednesday.

“Every agency has to come back with a lot of savings, every single agency. There’s more than one way of doing it,” he said. “Every single agency will experience cuts, every single agency will have to save a lot of money, and generally it will take the form of layoffs.”

The mayor also said he would oppose requiring NYPD officers to live in the five boroughs, as most other city workers are required to do, because of the high cost of housing.

A slight majority of cops live outside the city. The NYPD’s civilian employees, however, are covered by residency requirements and 94 percent of them live in the five boroughs, according to data obtained by Streetsblog.

“It’s really apples and oranges,” de Blasio said, adding he would support incentives for cops to live in the city but not a mandate. “To be a police officer in this city is a very high calling, and we are trying to find the very best talent from the city, from the surrounding area, and also a lot of people who want to, need to in their view, live in a place where they can afford more especially if they have a family.”

The mayor has faced protests from his own staff in recent months over his handling of policing, and his comments did not sit well with some city workers, especially with the threat of layoffs looming.

“The mayor, my boss, openly stating cops deserve greater comfort and quality of life than I do,” tweeted Aaron Ghitelman, who works in the city’s census office.


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