New York 1 News

April 16, 2003

Rally at Ground Zero    

As Budget Ax Falls On NYPD, Kelly Says Safety Won't Be Compromised

The budget ax will fall hard on the NYPD, especially if Albany lawmakers don't make good on their promise to help. NY1’s Rita Nissan has more on what this will mean to the city and what can be done to solve the problem.

Operation Atlas is in full effect. And even though the national terror alert level has been reduced, and even though the city faces a mammoth budget deficit, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the department will continue its $13 million a week program.

“The reality is New York City has been targeted four times in the last decade,” Kelly said. “We've done a lot to make the city safe from terrorism and safe from crime.”

But Commissioner Kelly may have fewer officers to get the job done. Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to slash the NYPD's budget by $60 million. Much of the savings will come through attrition, not layoffs. Even with a smaller force, Kelly said safety will not be compromised.

“We will do everything we can to make certain New York remains the safest big city in America,” Kelly said.

But the mayor's so-called “doomsday” plan has many people worried. If state lawmakers don't come through with an infusion of cash, the NYPD will go from 36,000 to 32,000 officers by June of next year; that would be it’s lowest level since 1990.

“We’re here to stop the decimation of the New York City Police Department,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. at a rally Wednesday.

The City Council and the police union said the Mayor's contingency budget will mean more crime and will make the city more vulnerable to terrorists.

“Even if Albany continues to tell the city to drop dead, we’re here to tell the mayor, we need to set priorities,” Vallone said, “and the priority has to be the safety of our public.”

“You cannot over estimate the safety factor,” said PBA President Pat Lynch. “And we’re on the verge of losing that, and we cannot allow this to happen.”

The governor, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Speaker all say they want to help but they haven't said how.

The mayor's commuter tax has been shot down by the governor and Senate Republicans, and Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau's public safety tax is getting a cool reception. The tax would by paid by commuters and city residents to fund police, firefighters and health services.

“It is necessary. It is logical. It is fair,” said Tom Reppetto of the Citizens Crime Commission. “There are heavy responsibilities placed on Police and in addition to Police, because of terrorism, Fire, and health services, and other criminal justice agencies. And we need to fund those.”

The mayor and City Council rest the future of the NYPD on lawmakers in Albany, who will either get the blame for taking the city back to the days of high crime or the praise for coming to the city's rescue.

City Hall is waiting to hear which it'll be.

--Rita Nissan