NYC Deal: 1,300 More Cops as Part of $78.5B Budget

NEW YORK (AP) -

New York City is set to hire nearly 1,300 new police officers as part of its $78.5 billion budget agreement, honoring — and even exceeding — a proposal put forth by the City Council over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s initial objections.

The new officers, who were announced amid a headline-grabbing surge in crime in certain neighborhoods, will cost the city $170 million. The costs will be offset by $70 million in savings, largely by creating a cap on department overtime. About 300 of the new officers will be assigned to counterterrorism.

The hires will join a force of about 35,000 uniformed officers, the nation’s largest.

“It is the right thing to do,” said de Blasio. “Through a lot of work, we came to a plan that allows us to strengthen our police force while encouraging deepening of reform and finding key reforms on the fiscal front.”

The deal was made public by de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, both Democrats, at City Hall late Monday night.

Additionally, the budget authorizes the hiring of 400 administrative aides to take over desk jobs currently filled by police officers. Those officers will then be freed up to be deployed on the street for increased community policing.

A year ago, de Blasio flatly denied Mark-Viverito’s call to hire 1,000 new officers, pointing to record low crime rates and suggesting that the resources would be better used elsewhere to fulfill the mayor’s vision of a liberal, activist government that would better the lives of the less fortunate.

For much of the past year, City Hall stuck to that script. But police Commissioner William Bratton began intermittently advocating for the new hires, Mark-Viverito continued to push the plan as a way to improve outreach in neighborhoods often suspicious of police and pockets of the city suffered a surge in shooting and homicides in recent weeks.

Though overall crime is down 6.7 percent from this time a year ago, shootings and murders are up. Murders have risen from 138 to 154, 11 percent, through Sunday, while shootings have gone up from 488 to 515.

The entire Fiscal Year 2016 budget will go to a vote before the full council later this week. The vote is expected to largely be a formality.

The budget deal was a clear win for Mark-Viverito, who has largely shaken off an early reputation that she would not challenge her ally de Blasio. Several of her other proposals were adopted, including the creation of a $1.4 million bail fund for those charged with low level offenses yet stuck in the city’s jails.

“It’s a budget that is going to make a difference for every neighborhood in our city,” said Mark-Viverito. “It’s a budget that defends the vulnerable who keep the economy on track and prioritizes public safety.”

The budget, up from $75 billion a year ago, also includes $39 million to keep city libraries open six days a week, nearly $12 million to bolster struggling schools and $17.9 million to begin phasing-in free breakfast at all city elementary schools, which would serve 339,000 students by 2018.

Other new investments include $21 million for mental health programs, a pet project of First Lady Chirlane McCray, more money for programs benefiting powerless populations like the elderly, homeless and veterans and, in a sure winner, money to keep the city beaches open for a week past Labor Day.