Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during visit at food pantry by The Campaign Against Hunger amid COVID-19 pandemic in Brooklyn: New York, NY – April 14, 2020 (Shutterstock)
By Julia Marsh, NY Post
City leaders slammed Mayor Bill de Blasio Wednesday for his willingness to sacrifice the jobs of city cops, doctors and teachers before cutting the fat from his $89.3 billion spending plan — including the embattled $1 billion mental health program headed by his wife.
“At a time when city workers are on the frontline of the pandemic, the mayor should not threaten their livelihoods in this way,” City Comptroller Scott Stringer told The Post.
On CNN Wednesday de Blasio said he was planning to furlough or lay off essential municipal employees if the city doesn’t receive federal stimulus funds to fill budget gaps caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“From ballooning contracts to runaway spending without results, I have said repeatedly that agencies can find greater savings without harming our workers,” Stringer said.
On Tuesday, Stringer pointed to billions spent on homelessness without reducing the number of homeless in the city, the $1 billion ThriveNYC mental health plan, unnecessary Department of Education contracts, and overhead.
Asked about the cuts during his daily coronavirus briefing, de Blasio refused to provide specifics about potential layoffs, saying he was focused on securing a federal bailout.
Pat Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, blasted the mayor for the proposal.
“New York City absolutely cannot balance its budget on the backs of its workers, especially police officers,” Lynch said.
“Before this pandemic, crime was spiraling out of control. Now our entire social fabric is under tremendous strain, and police officers are already stretched thin trying to maintain order. If we cut cops, there will be chaos instead of a recovery,” he added.
Several City Council members also ripped Hizzoner’s priorities during a budget hearing Wednesday, saying the mayor should slash his wife Chirlane McCray’s controversial $1 billion mental health plan ThriveNYC, bloated contracts and consultants before putting essential workers on the chopping block.
“We can cut $1 billion from the failed NYC Thrive program that is not serving New Yorkers, not yielding the results for that kind of money,” Bronx Democrat Mark Gjonaj said at the hearing.
Queens Councilwoman Adrienne Adams, another Democrat, urged the city’s budget director Melanie Herzog to “please take a closer look at ThriveNYC” after learning that the program will only receive about $20 million in cuts over two years.
“I understand it’s a pet project, but there needs to be equity across the system,” Adams said.
Fellow Queens Democrat Robert Holden and Brooklyn Democrat Mark Treyger also grilled the mayor’s budget directors about ThriveNYC.
“Thrive consultants who cannot provide any direct services to our children, do you consider [them] … to be essential services for the DOE’s budget?” Treyger asked.
“We’re very concerned even more so now about mental health especially regarding our students who have been through a sort of traumatic once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Deputy Budget Director Kenneth Godiner replied.
“Can we cut our bloated contracts?” Manhattan Democrat Ben Kallos asked Godiner.
Godiner promised to look at the issue.
De Blasio defended ThriveNYC during his press briefing, saying he disagreed with Stringer’s assessment that it wasn’t making an impact.
“Anything that’s about health and safety is a priority whether it’s about physical health or mental health,” he said.
A mayoral spokeswoman defended ThriveNYC’s annual budget of about $250 million a year for four years, and instead detailed planned cuts to mental health consultants in schools as well as delays to mobile treatment teams and crisis response teams.
Siobhan Dingwall, a spokeswoman for McCray, said ThriveNYC is more vital than ever.
“Facing an unprecedented crisis, it’s impossible to look at the data and not see the need for these services now more than ever.
“Thrive’s programs have helped reduce psychiatric hospitalizations for people receiving mobile treatment, improved depression symptoms for seniors, and connected low-income New Yorkers to care. These programs are clearly working for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who depend on them every year,” she said.