The Necessity of New York City Budget Justice

June 12, 2020 | by Leo Ferguson & Anthonine Pierre

Like other major cities reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, New York is facing a serious budget deficit and we have to make difficult choices about where to cut funding and where to redirect resources. This crisis has exposed the agonizing holes in our city’s social safety net like a raw nerve. We’ve been bombarded with news of the massive inequities faced by essential workers and low-income New Yorkers most at risk from the virus, the horrifying racial disparities in COVID-19 deaths, and our anemic personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpiles for frontline workers.

In recent weeks, we saw black New Yorkers’ rage over these inequities combust with cumulative trauma about the racist, violent over-policing we have endured for decades. Our over-investment in policing is directly related to our under-investment in our most vulnerable communities. The question is not whether we have to make difficult choices, it’s "are we going to make the same bad choices that got us into this situation, again?"

Elected officials have long used NYPD initiatives as a cosmetic fix to gloss over much deeper problems, not acknowledging that racist and abusive policing is one of those deeper problems. Instead of housing the homelessness or triaging and mending our broken mental health treatment system, our leaders used Rikers Island and other city jails as a depository for mentally ill or homeless New Yorkers. Instead of dealing with the profound damage done to communities by segregation, displacement, hyper-gentrification, and widening inequality, they stopped-and-frisked an entire generation of black and Latino New Yorkers into submission.

Mayor de Blasio avoided grappling with these gaps in the city’s social service infrastructure, instead taking the easier route of placating right-wing police unions and letting our police force grow and operate virtually unchecked. And then the coronavirus hit, and the gaps in our underfunded social services widened into an abyss.

We scrambled to house people who should have been housed already. We watched COVID-19 spread through our jails, killing people who should have been freed already. We watched it decimate nursing homes, which were undermined by bad policies and left unprepared for the looming disaster. We mourned the preventable deaths of thousands of low-income, mostly black and Latino New Yorkers with inadequate access to healthcare, housing, and other resources. And all of the billions we have invested in the NYPD — their bulletproof SUVs, bulked-up “Hercules teams,” underwater drones, and bizarre surveillance gear — haven’t saved a single life because you can't arrest your way out of a pandemic. ... [CONTINUED Read the rest at Gotham Gazette]

Inspired by this article? Take action today! We have until June 30th to get the New York City Council to #DefundTheNYPD and invest in our communities! So don't wait. Use our simple form and pre-written script to call council members and demand that they cut $1 billion dollars from the NYPD this year and restore the critical programs that Mayor de Blasio wants to cut.