CIVIC CENTER — The City Council is pushing back against Mayor Bill de Blasio's insistence that the NYPD can "get the job done" with existing staffing levels — asking the mayor to include funds to hire 1,000 new police officers as part of his final budget.
“As we continue to move forward as a city that continues to grow, in wanting to keep our crime rates low, in wanting true community partnership between the police and the communities, we need to grow our [police] force,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said Wednesday during a press conference at City Hall, in which she listed the council's requests.
Hiring a thousand new officers next year would cost the city $94.3 million, according to documents provided by council staff. That would average out to about 13 new officers per precinct.
De Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton have both been cool on the idea of hiring more officers.
On Wednesday, Bratton continued to say he could do the job of keeping crime at near-historic lows with the 35,000 officers at his disposal.
“I’ll work with what I have,” he said after an unrelated press conference outside of City Hall.
Bratton said the initial budget offered by de Blasio offers substantial overtime, which will continue to help offset the effects of losing more than 5,000 police officers since 9/11.
“As I testified at the council, like every police chief in America, if offered more and given more [officers], I certainly will use them,” Bratton said.
During a press conference in Albany with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday, de Blasio also downplayed the likelihood of the proposal.
“The resources we have now are getting the job done. And we’re in a structural [budget] deficit. So I am not in the business of adding to that deficit when I believe we can get the job done with the resources and personnel we have now,” he said.
Among the other requests made Wednesday by the council is a plan to make school lunches free for all students throughout the city regardless of income.
Currently, 75 percent of students qualify for free lunches, according to council staff. By increasing its spending by $20 million to $24 million, for a total of nearly $60 million, the city could make the lunches free to 100 percent of students, on condition that the federal government spend an equal amount, according to the council.
Public Advocate Letitia James, a proponent of the plan, praised the council for taking up the issue.
“Together, we can pass Universal School Lunch and make sure the stigma of poverty doesn’t keep kids from eating lunch and being better students,” James said in a statement.
De Blasio said Wednesday that the free lunches “goal is the right one,” but said the process of funding it is difficult.
“It’s a good thing to invest in, but it’s a major expenditure,” de Blasio said.
Among the other items included in the council’s response to the mayor’s budget was a plan to charge people who live in affordable housing, but who earn more than the eligibility threshold for that housing, a fee that would go to help create additional affordable housing.
The council also called for increased funding for veterans, which they said would boost services and mental health outreach for New Yorkers who served in the military.
The mayor’s executive budget is expected to be released by May 8.