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It’s Tuesday, And We Hope You’re Enjoying NYC’s Customer Experience

An edict for budget cuts from the Adams Administration brings us back to the austerity mindset, and other fun links to start your day.

10:11 AM EDT on September 13, 2022

A local entrepreneur in the Rockaways. (Hell Gate)

During the de Blasio administration, city budgets, as well as city employee headcount, soared—a reflection of the boom times helping fill the tax coffers of the city. Now, the market has fallen a bit from its record-high, and there’s a new administration in City Hall, one that’s signaled a much greater interest in slashing city payroll, cratering worker headcount, and just generally making city government smaller, while increasing the city’s reliance on private partnerships to do vital public work. 

On Monday, Politico broke the story that the Adams administration announced what would amount to the largest municipal budget cuts in over a decade, asking each city department to cut 3 percent of their budget by June 30th, and then 4.75 percent for each of the next three years following that. (Strangely, the budget passed by Adams and the City Council this past June ultimately increased city spending—with the NYPD getting a hefty haul, and NYC students receiving a devastating cut). 

A letter sent by Budget Director Jacques Jiha to every city agency instructed that the cuts can’t impact city services or be used to lay anyone off. But until the agency identifies the budget cuts, and has them approved by City Hall, that agency can’t hire any new employees. That means agencies that have seen a staggering exodus under the Adams administration, like the Department of Homeless Services, and are struggling to fill positions already, will be treated the same as larger agencies, where the citywide hiring freeze has been less acute. 

Jiha’s memo pointed to a worsening stock market, inflation, and upcoming union contract negotiations as motivating the cuts, as well as, strangely enough, the arrival of asylum-seekers to New York City (homeless services being one of the agencies already operating well-below capacity). Jiha writes that the cuts will "advance the Mayor’s commitment to building a more efficient, effective, and customer-centric government." 

Perhaps predictably, Adams began Monday by making another desperate plea for private-sector workers to fully return to the office, something his own administration has mandated since the spring. Many city workers have cited his return-to-office policy as a reason for leaving employment with the city. Hell Gate has previously covered how that mandate also includes workers with underlying conditions, like cancer. 

Right now, the cuts have drawn support from the city’s budget watchdogs, as well as the city’s comptroller, Brad Lander, while unions, in addition to the City Council president, oppose them. The reductions will apparently apply to every city agency, including the NYPD. Although as with budget constraints in the past, we’re doubtful the NYPD will actually abide by this (or that the Adams administration would deign to hold them to it). 

Despite the austerity-mindset taking hold in the city, Hell Gate will not skimp with the links this morning:

    • More fallout from the New York Times investigation into hasidic Yeshivas in New York, in some of which the Times found are only teaching rudimentary English, and no science or history classes. Leaders of New York’s congressional delegation called on state standards to be enforced in the schools, while Governor Kathy Hochul sidestepped the issue entirely, saying, “People understand that this is outside the purview of the governor.’ The Mayor also declined to take much of a stance, saying he was “not concerned” about the reporting. Meanwhile, the New York State Board of Regents is set to pass new rules today, which would strengthen oversight and raise standards at parochial schools, like the Yeshivas. 
    • A bill to ban solitary confinement on Rikers Island is set to pass the city council, despite opposition from Mayor Adams, after it got support from the city council’s speaker, Adrienne Adams. Although you might recall that the Department of Correction pledged to no longer use solitary confinement last year, the Adams administration put that change on hold when it took office, and the practice is still widely used.
    • One more way the mass exodus of city workers is hollowing out city government's ability to perform its functions: The City doesn't have enough lawyers. Now, instead of solving this staffing problem, City Hall wants to fill some of those positions with junior lawyers from the private sector, on loan from white shoe law firms.
    • Former governor Andrew Cuomo is spending unused campaign cash to try to salvage his public image, spending over $60,000 on Facebook ads to say his resignation was a case “of #metoo excess.” The ads are targeting people who are also fans of Black celebrities like Chris Rock and Whoopi Goldberg.
    • And finally, here’s a video shot by Jean-Luc Godard on the streets of New York City in 1968, as Jefferson Airplane played an impromptu show atop the Hotel Schuyler. RIP.
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