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NYC council passes budget with nearly $1B cuts to police, critics say it falls short

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The New York City Council voted to pass the 2021 budget on Tuesday night with cuts to police funding after weeks of fraught negotiations with Mayor Bill de Blasio, but some lawmakers complained it fell short of a $1 billion cut they and protesters demanded.

The austere, coronavirus-era budget tightens spending across city agencies, including a cut of nearly $484 million from the New York Police Department’s $6 billion operating budget if the department can adhere to new overtime limits, the council said.

Another $354 million of police funding will be transferred to other city agencies, most prominently in the mayor’s agreeing to shift oversight of school safety officers from the NYPD to the Department of Education, the council said.

After many hours of delays, a majority of 32 lawmakers voted via teleconference to pass the budget minutes shy of the midnight deadline, and 17 voted against it. Outside an empty City Hall, more than 1,000 protesters demanding the shrinking of a police department they decry as violent and racist continued a week-old encampment.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson disputed de Blasio’s characterization that $1 billion was being “shifted away” from the NYPD budget, saying the mayor and some council members refused to agree to a police hiring freeze.

“I know that there are many who are disappointed,” he said before the vote. “I am disappointed as well. I wanted us to go deeper.”

He nonetheless urged members to pass the budget: “Today’s budget agreement is one of necessity,” he said.

The budget negotiations were shaped by two crises that have shaken the city.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 23,000 city residents and created a $9 billion shortfall in revenue, leading to deep cuts across city agencies, with the mayor warning he may have to lay off 22,000 municipal workers.

And a month of nationwide protests against police violence gave new political heft to calls to defund police departments, forcing de Blasio to shift from his original April proposal of cutting NYPD funding by less than 1% while slashing youth services.

In May, George Floyd, a Black man, was killed when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck while arresting him on suspicion of spending a fake $20 bill, sparking one of the largest protest movements seen in the country in decades.

“It’s time to do the work of reform, to think deeply about where our police have to be in the future,” de Blasio told reporters earlier on Tuesday.

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