Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s agreement to allow a small NYPD academy class next year is a step in the right direction, but not enough to protect this city adequately, city legislators said this week.
“It’s a meager amount,” Bay Ridge City Councilmember Vincent Gentile said of the proposal to have an academy class of 250 in January 2009. Another class of 250 is slated for July 2009. “Split them across the five boroughs and you are still going to end up with the lowest head count the NYPD has ever had in more than a decade.”
In early November, the mayor suggested that cancelling the police academy’s January class would save the city $36 million – which he said would go a long way in his plans to fill the $4 billion deficit the city is facing in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
If he had gone through with his plans, he would have been the first mayor in recent history to cancel an entire academy class, which was planned to put 1,100 new cops on the street by the summer. Other mayors facing tough economic times delayed the class for a few months, but never cancelled it outright.
City legislators immediately balked at the idea, claiming that Bloomberg was playing a dangerous game with the public.
The mayor’s new plan for a mini class proves that he knew the public wasn’t going to agree to canceling the 2009 class, as well as the 2010 class.
“That was going to be the next announcement,” said Mill Basin/Bergen Beach City Councilmember Lew Fidler. “Everyone knew that he was going to cancel the second class as well — probably in July. But he did the simple math and acknowledged that he could have smaller classes and that’s a very important and positive step. We don’t want to go back to the dirty and unsafe city we had in the 1970s because of that fiscal crisis. We learned that lesson, that’s why we advocated for the academy class right away.”
During last week’s 60th Precinct Community Council meeting, Coney Island City Councilmember Domenic Recchia hailed the Mayor’s decision for a mini class.
“Something’s better than nothing,” he said. “We fought to get the cops and we got the class restored. It couldn’t have been at a better time, because crime is starting to go up.”
Fort Greene City Councilwoman Letitia James said that she was “adamantly opposed” to the cancellation of the NYPD academy class,.
“I believe we can stave off the cuts until next year, when we could get some relief from the Obama administration,” she said. “In all likelihood the economy could get better.”
Although he bent a little in regards to the academy class, Mayor Bloomberg held fast to the spirit of the plan, which he explained would have helped the city weather the fiscal storm it’s facing.
“It’s never popular to phase out a tax cut or reduce agency spending, but they are the right choices to avoid far greater and longer lasting pain,” he said in a statement. “We will not repeat the mistakes of the 1970s, which crippled the city’s finances and nearly destroyed our quality of life.”