New York City lawmakers voted Tuesday on budget changes that shifted $1 billion from the New York Police Department to programs that assist in youth and community development, a number that fell short of what many protesters in the city have demanded.
The City Council said in a statement that the city’s 2021 budget will include $837 million in cuts and transfers to the New York Police Department (NYPD) expense budget, which removes $1 billion from the NYPD’s spending when combined with associated costs.
The amount was far less than what some protesters demanded. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said earlier that $1.5 billion in cuts would not be enough.
“Defunding police means defunding police. It does not mean budget tricks or funny math,” she said. One Twitter user wrote, “This is like putting the NYPD budget in Groucho Marx glasses and calling it a day.”
Corey Johnson, the city council speaker, said, “The Council fought hard to get where we are, but I know this is just a starting point, not an ending point. We need to go farther.”
He added the budget agreement “was negotiated with a focus on police reform, youth services, and achieving equity, particularly for low-income communities of color.”
New York City Council Minority Whip Joseph Borelli voted no against the budget cuts and said, “know what we’re doing will create a more violent city.”
Borelli added that there were “72 shootings last week alone, and not one shot by [a] NYPD officer.”
“We must always have safety and we will in this city, but we are also going to amplify both safety and fairness by reaching our young people more deeply than ever before,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said speaking from a press conference Tuesday. “And that’s what this budget is all about.”
Many demonstrators feel the budget changes weren’t enough, and some plan on staying camped outside City Hall indefinitely.
“We are being gaslit,” said activist Jawanza James Williams. “This movement is about so much more than the $1 billion, and this means they don’t understand what we’re saying.”
City lawmakers agreed to shift the funds away from the NYPD, but police reform activists are worried these funds will be moved around in a manner that still benefits the police department.
“To the thousands of New Yorkers who so admirably fought for budget justice over the past several weeks: we heard you and we stand with you,” Johnson said Tuesday. “We recognize that the City must move away from failed racist policing policies of the past.”