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NYC Mayor Holds Three Separate Press Conferences to Announce He’s Restoring a Tiny Fraction of the Cuts He Announced in November

And for these restorations, you can thank the administration's tough love with asylum seekers.

3:56 PM EST on January 12, 2024

Mayor Adams speaks from the podium at City Hall.

(Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

Three separate times this week, Mayor Eric Adams summoned reporters to City Hall to share some good news.

The mayor had found a way to preserve new jobs at the NYPD and FDNY! 

The mayor had found a way to collect trash from litter baskets and keep parks clean!

The mayor had found a way to fully fund a popular summer school program!

How did the mayor manage to do all this, given that just two months ago he declared all these cuts necessary and slashed the City budget by 5 percent across the board?

According to Adams, this was done in large part by restricting how many days asylum seekers can live in the City's shelter system, part of his larger argument that the arrival of more than 160,000 migrants would spell doom for New York.

"Smart planning and smart actions, from the 30-day announcements we made with single adults, and the 60-day plan with intense services to those that are in our care with the migrant asylum seekers," Adams explained on Friday afternoon. "These smart decisions are gonna allow us to navigate ourselves through the crisis we are facing." All of the families sleeping on floors and in drafty tents in a floodplain, the men waiting out in the cold to attempt to secure a spot in another temporary shelter, the pregnant women served with eviction notices—all of Adams's tough love, was worth it. 

Except, not really. 

While the restoration of these programs is significant—especially to the kids who rely on the popular Summer Rising program the mayor restored funding for on Friday—they represent less than 3 percent of the massive $7 billion budget gap the Adams administration insists the City is facing. 

The mayor's Office of Management and Budget Director, Jacques Jiha, was blunt with reporters during a briefing on Friday that these restorations were essentially cosmetic, and New Yorkers should not get the impression that the financial picture is looking rosier.

"This is not moving in a different direction, it has nothing to do with [budget] forecasts," Jiha said of the restorations. "It is the priority of the mayor."

So if these restorations are not restorations at all, why spend the better part of a week pumping them up? Especially if the administration is poised to announce a whole new round of cuts on Tuesday with its updated budget forecast? 

Hell Gate asked the mayor if his strategy was disingenuous, or if he was literally waking up every day this week and realizing he could restore more of the things he initially said had to go.

"It's not that we're trying to stall," Adams replied. "We are being briefed daily. We're meeting, we're continuing to make sure we're making the right decisions based on forecasts based on the numbers based on all of the various outcomes that are feeding into these decisions."

The mayor noted that despite being in office for two years, he was still surprised by how many education programs were being propped up with federal money, including universal pre-K, arts funding, social workers, and bilingual programs.

"When I was briefed by the chancellor the other day, I had no clue of the extent of how many programs were being funded by stimulus dollars until he sat down and did a complete briefing and he said, 'Here's a list of programs that stimulus dollars are running out and we got to find funding,'" Adams said.

Would the City still guarantee a spot for every child who applies for a pre-K and 3-K slot, like the mayor pledged earlier this year?

"That's our desire," Adams said of the promise he made. "And now the desire must be actualized with what we have in front of us."

On Friday, the City Council's Budget Committee Chair Justin Brannan and Nathan Gusdorf, the executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, wrote an op/ed in the Daily News that essentially staked out the council's positions: The mayor is wildly overestimating the gaps, and by cutting things like pre-K and Sunday library service, he's needlessly hurting New Yorkers.

"OMB is predicting a budget gap for 2025 of $7.1 billion," the op-ed states. "Yet, when we account for their history of conservative revenue estimates, and reallocate the $2.4 billion of the $2.9 billion in budgeted reserves (which by law must be spent within the fiscal year this and next year) FY25’s actual shortfall is likely closer to $3 billion." Combined with better-than-expected tax revenues and the use of reserves, Brannan and his colleagues argue that the gap is not existential, but fairly routine.

Adams was asked about Brannan's stance during Friday's press conference, and suggested that he councilmember wasn't pitching in enough because there was no shelter for asylum seekers in his district.

"What I need the councilperson to do is make sure that we're not sending the wrong message to New Yorkers that we're manufacturing a crisis," Adams said. "We're gonna ask him to do more, like we're getting ready to announce a shelter we're gonna have to open in his district, because he doesn't have any, around the migrant asylum seeker issue."

Later, City Hall sources clarified that this wasn't true—the shelter they were opening in Bay Ridge is for homeless veterans.

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