A couple of years ago, a resident summed up for Our Time Press his “problem” with local politics and local politicians: “we don’t see them in our neighborhoods and we don’t see the change happening they promised after they’re elected.
“What we need is some real creative thinking behind a plan of action!”
Well, we have some action coming from the Borough President’s office. Yesterday, BP Eric Adams released a plan reflecting “smart, forward-thinking policy solutions” for communities here at home and nationwide.
His “Real Recovery NYC” is an official blueprint for change illustrating “concrete steps for managing intersecting crises in our communities, from racial injustice and policing to public health and the economic recession.” And it appears to work!
The Plan calls for a recovery that prioritizes fairness and equality, so that low-income areas and communities of color do not bear the brunt of future crises. “The crises we have been faced with over the past few months have not put other crises in our city on hold,” Adams said in a press release. “If anything, they have exacerbated them. The demand for basic necessities like affordable housing, access to health care, jobs with decent wages, a law enforcement apparatus that protects and serves on an equitable basis, and so much more is even greater now, and vulnerable communities are disproportionately those with the greatest level of need.”
“REAL RECOVERY NYC”
BP ADAMS’ PLAN FOR
STABILITY AND REFORM
REFORMING THE NYPD
In the past few weeks, protests have rippled across the nation in response to the police killing of George Floyd, including here in New York. Protesters have demanded systemic reforms to the way their cities are policed, focusing on the significant racial disparities that continue to plague our criminal justice system. Their calls have ranged from reforms such as banning chokeholds (some of which have since been passed into law by New York State) to outright defunding of the police department.
Borough President Adams, a former NYPD captain, believes the City can rein in wasteful spending within the department while achieving meaningful reform and maintaining public safety, through the following steps:
Civilianization: Civilian titles are not only less costly to the City — they largely tend to be held by Black and Brown public servants who live within the five boroughs and thereby contribute more directly to the local economy. By some estimates, strategic civilianization could save the City up to $200 million.
Overtime: Transferring officers to enforcement-related duties and digitizing time-consuming processes such as filling out routine paperwork and appearing at administrative court proceedings will drastically reduce the amount of overtime officers collect. According to the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO), overtime accounted for $730 million in Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19), more than 10 percent of the NYPD’s overall budget.
Forensic auditing: The Mayor and NYPD Commissioner should commit to transparent reporting of costs by OMB. Greater restrictions should also be placed on funding the NYPD receives from the Federal government.
COVID-19 deepened inequities in an already-unequal city. Many lost their livelihoods or were forced to close their businesses due to the economic recession that resulted from the pandemic. Communities of color, which, on average, are less wealthy than predominantly White communities, were disproportionately impacted by the economic slowdown. A recent report indicated that half of the city’s low-income immigrants had lost their jobs since the pandemic began. In addition, the pandemic laid bare the stark health care disparities in our city. Early data showed that Black and Latino New Yorkers were dying of COVID-19 at twice the rate of White and Asian New Yorkers. These inequities mapped onto broader geographic disparities in access to health care, the availability of healthy food, the prevalence of pre-existing conditions, and more.
Borough President Adams’ lays out a suite of proposals aimed at closing the widening gulf between these communities in our city, building a more equitable economy and health care system that works for all New Yorkers, paid for with savings from his proposed NYPD cuts and cost efficiencies in other departments. Among these proposals are the following*:
Heroes’ Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): The City currently provides a match of five percent to the Federal government’s supplement to individuals and families that qualify for the Federal EITC. By increasing it to 30 percent of the Federal return on a one-time basis and allowing individuals who make up to $100,000 and families who earn up to $150,000 to benefit, the City can put more money into the pockets of New Yorkers who have been working on the front lines during this pandemic.
Data sales tax: The State should impose a data sales tax on multi-billion-dollar technology companies that profit off our personal data. The revenue would go toward efforts that address inequality, such as direct health care and financial services, as well as jobs training.
“Healthy NY” tax credit: Some of the leading co-morbidities associated with COVID-19 have been diet-related, such as diabetes and obesity. In order to incentivize healthy behavior, Borough President Adams proposes a “Healthy NY” tax credit, which would allow any New Yorker who qualifies for the EITC to get an additional $500 return on their City income taxes by achieving a number of health milestones throughout the year.
Please note: The above list is not exhaustive. The full list of proposals can be accessed in the full report.
FIGHTING THE DEFICIT
New York City currently faces a $9 billion deficit in the upcoming fiscal year, which will require the City to make difficult budgetary choices. Many have called for additional help from the Federal government, but it remains unclear what help — if any — will materialize. Borough President Adams’ plan calls for closing the gap without cutting programs, such as the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), upon which struggling communities rely. He identifies savings and potential revenue raisers at different tiers, depending on how significant the City’s financial difficulties are going forward. Each successive tier includes the cost savings identified in previous tiers:
Deficit = $1-3B
Immediately engage in a robust agency-by-agency budgetary review to identify tiers of savings, from five to 10 percent.
Create a committee of IBO leadership and fiscal experts from outside government to submit a report to the Mayor and the City Council by the end of the second quarter of FY21, and then for at least the next two fiscal years thereafter, as a standing Program to Eliminate the Gap (PEG). The Council should then be required to vote on the suggestions each year. There should be a documented diversity mandate for this committee’s membership.
Identify City employees who can work from home flexibly, starting with those working in an administrative and/or clerical capacity, and develop a plan for exiting unnecessary City leases for office space. The City should also evaluate office space within the DCAS portfolio and the capacity for conversions to 100 percent affordable housing use.
Reform our contracting rules and processes to better monitor vendor performance in real-time.
Deficit = $3-6B
Reduce the overall City workforce through attrition by not replacing workers for at least one year.
Eliminate positions filled by political appointees who serve in advisory or administrative functions.
Expand the role of franchises in the city to handle capital costs on infrastructure in return for multi-year service contracts.
Deficit = $6-9B
Temporarily furlough City workers who would qualify for unemployment benefits that make them whole. The CARES Act fully covers workers who make up to $60,000, and they will not lose any income. The City would also continue to provide benefits.
Increase agency cost savings by an additional three percent by eliminating positions based on an analysis that identifies positions most- and least-necessary to the health and safety of the most vulnerable New Yorkers.
Deficit = $9B+
Establish an Ultra-Millionaire’s Tax by creating a new top City income tax rate tier for New York City residents who earn $10 million a year or more.
Establish a Pied-à-Terre Tax surcharge on luxury homes and apartments in New York City worth more than $5 million that are not a primary residence, escalating gradually up to $25 million in value.
Adams notes that underlying inequities that existed prior to the onset of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) have been laid bare — not only by the ongoing pandemic, but also the economic fallout that has resulted and the protests that have gripped the city in recent weeks over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as well as the broader racial injustices that have plagued cities across America for decades. “Our plan provides a roadmap for how we can recover the right way, centering justice and equality, and beginning to undo historical wrongs that have plagued our city since long before coronavirus arrived on our shores.
“The months and years ahead will be challenging for our city, but by adopting smart, forward-thinking policy solutions, we can rebuild New York stronger, fairer, and more just for all.”
(Editor: Bernice Elizabeth Green)