Mayor Eric Adams’ dire take on the city’s migrants is continuing. Over the weekend, he announced a major belt tightening plan for all city agencies: cutting budgets by 5%.
“By law we are required to balance our budget in this context and to secure our city’s financial future unless the economy performs better than expected, we are forced to consider significant cost-saving measures,” Adams said on Saturday during his announcement of the new Program to Eliminate the Gap.
The letter sent Saturday also calls for all agencies to prepare for successive rounds of similar cuts in January and April. For a potential decrease of 15% by next spring.
The administration will also impose a hiring freeze, limit contractual spending and reduce overtime spending in uniform agencies like the police and fire departments. The letter blamed a lack of federal and state aid for the cuts.
“The amount of aid we have received from the federal government and the state has been grossly inadequate and there has been no progress on a statewide or national decompression strategy. The city can no longer continue to shoulder these skyrocketing costs and balance the budget without making very difficult choices,” read the letter sent by the city’s Budget Director Jacques Jiha to all city agencies.
The city has spent less than $2 billion on feeding and housing migrants. Adams has placed the total costs on the migrant crisis at $12 billion over the next three fiscal years. So far, the city has received more than $250 million from the state and an additional $140 million from the federal government in aid.
Gov. Kathy Hochul has previously said she believes the way out of the crisis is through a national solution from the White House. She said in early August she is hoping to secure another $1 billion commitment from Albany next year.
Although Adams likes to place blame on the influx of migrants for the city’s budget woes, financial experts say the city was already facing problems due to overspending and labor contacts.
“The city had a budget gap before the migrant crisis. Because it has the fiscal cliffs, meaning it was spending our money on recurring programs, federal COVID aid and one time city aid,” Andrew Rein, President of the Citizens Budget Commission, said.
The mayor could pull from reserves built into the budget that are estimated at $1.5 billion, but it would only help briefly.
“Using those reserves is one time, you’re not solving the long-term problem,” added Rein, who compared the mayor using the reserves to finding a $100 bill on the floor one day and getting a bigger apartment, only to not be able to pay it off the next month.
Adams, in a Sunday interview, said he is looking at all options for housing migrants.
“We’re going to have to eventually move women and children into congregate settings. Some migrants may have to move out into just outside tents,” he said in an interview with Pix 11.
Placing women and children in large-scale shelters would be a violation of the city’s right to shelter law. The consent decree related to the right to shelter stipulates that children and families must get a separate room with a kitchen.
“It’s not safe for children. It’s not safe for their parents. It’s just not an appropriate way to take care of people and the Mayor should reconsider that,” Josh Goldfein, staff attorney with The Legal Aid Society, said.