On June 24 the NY Times reported that Mayor de Blasio, while referring to the City’s current economic condition, stated “We are running out of options” … “That’s the blunt truth.” Yet as early as last year de Blasio asserted several times, “There’s plenty of money in this city, it’s just in the wrong hands.”
De Blasio has again changed this narrative as he once more threatened to lay off 22,000 city workers unless NYC receives hundreds of millions in federal aid. That’s about 7% of the workforce with 22 thousand families in imminent hardship and 8 million residents concerned about an uncertain future.
The mayor routinely blames NYC’s economic crisis on the coronavirus pandemic and lack of aid from the federal government. However, although they are legitimate obstacles, it’s fair to ask if that is the actual cause of NYC’s new-found budgetary crisis or if it is the wasteful spending, bad fiscal decisions and the awarding of unnecessary top management jobs as political favors that has taken a substantial bite of the Big Apple’s budget?
Are we running out of options as the Mayor claims or is he preparing to throw union workers under a city bus?
Here are three options the mayor and city council can consider:
1) Recover the hundreds of millions of unaccounted-for taxpayer dollars from mayoral wife Chirlane McCray’s 2015 one billion dollar “Thrive NYC” program. This program has garnered much criticism and has had very little success in solving the City’s mental health crisis.
2) Cancel the plans to spend ten billion dollars to build new borough jails. It is totally unnecessary, especially in these precarious economic times. Presently, there are several relatively new jails and others that can be renovated to safely house NYC’s inmate population.
3) Cut nonessential senior management positions in all city agencies.
As a retired NYC Assistant Deputy Warden and former union official with almost 29 years of service with NYC, I can personally speak about the Correction Department.
With the imminent closing of the Manhattan jail, DOC is left with six open jails. Currently, there are 4,000 inmates in custody with a workforce of about 8000 Correction Officers.
According to the NYC DOC website, senior management is comprised of one Commissioner, 11 Deputy Commissioners, five uniformed Chiefs and a civilian Chief of Staff. In addition, there are several Assistant Commissioner positions.
In 1987 DOC held 22,000 inmates in custody with a uniformed force of about 13,000. At that time, one jail alone (Anna M. Kross Center) housed more than 3,500 inmates under the command of a single Warden. That’s about the same as the entire inmate population today. Further, during non-business hours Assistant Deputy Wardens were responsible for managing the 3,500 inmates.
At that time with 11 jails open, the number of Commissioners and Chiefs was virtually the same as what we have today although today, they manage five fewer jails, 18,000 fewer inmates and a 30% smaller uniformed workforce.
You can easily slash two Chief, seven Deputy Commissioner and a few Assistant Commissioner positions from the DOC’s senior management. That alone would save the city more than three million dollars a year including the perks.And some remaining senior management positions can be replaced with uniformed Deputy Wardens or civilian Directors for additional savings.
If these managerial cuts are enacted in all city agencies and we consider adding each manager’s staff, city vehicle and other incidentals, I venture to say that two hundred million dollars would be saved.
The Mayor may not like these suggestions, but they are viable options. Eliminating the waste and abuse of “pet project” programs, not spending billions on new jails and removing unnecessary senior managers in top-heavy agencies would save the jobs of thousands of ordinary New Yorkers who will suffer severe consequences if laid off.
In the wake of anti-police sentiment, rapidly increasing crime, the breakdown of law and order in our communities and jails, threats of layoffs and New Yorkers fleeing the city, de Blasio’s failures continue to pile up. Is the current state of NYC due to the coronavirus and lack of federal aid or is it the kakistocracy of the de Blasio administration?