Citing costs of migrant care, Adams calls for more budget cuts
By Hurubie Meko
Days after saying that an influx of more than 110,000 asylum-seekers was destroying New York City, Mayor Eric Adams on Saturday directed every city agency to submit plans to reduce spending by up to 15%, while renewing his calls for state and federal help to manage the migrant crisis.
In a recorded speech, Adams cited slowing revenue growth and the financial strain caused by housing and caring for the migrants, which officials have estimated will cost the city more than $12 billion over three fiscal years.
“While our compassion is limitless, our resources are not,” he said. “We have not received substantial support from the federal or state governments to handle those costs or change the course of this crisis.”
This is the fourth time Adams has asked agencies to find cost savings since he took office last year, said Ana Champeny, vice president for research at the nonpartisan Citizens Budget Commission. In April, he ordered 4% spending reductions to nearly every agency.
Agency leaders are now being asked to find 5% of their city-funded budgets to trim in each of three upcoming budget plans, the first of which will be made public in the Office of Management and Budget’s fiscal update in November. The next rounds of cuts would come in January and April.
While the City Council could reject the budget modification this fall, the mayor is legally allowed to slow down spending at will and its vote would be largely symbolic. The council will be able to exert more leverage next summer, when the mayor seeks its approval to roll over the accrued savings into that fiscal year’s budget, which is expected to face major gaps.
Adams’ early announcement will give agencies time to think creatively about how to reduce spending without cutting core services right away, Champeny said. But she added that the proposed cuts would be “a bigger lift” than earlier savings efforts.
In a news release Saturday, Adams said there would be no layoffs as a result of his directive. And an infusion of federal and state funding could remove the need for cuts, he said, stating that “the die is not yet cast.”
“We need Washington and Albany to finally do their part by paying their fair share,” he said.
An estimated 10,000 migrants are arriving in New York each month, overwhelming the city’s homeless shelters, which now house more than 112,300 people. The city, which is required to provide shelter to anyone who asks for it, has opened more than 200 emergency sites to house migrants.
The crisis has created political friction between Adams, a Democrat, and leaders of his party, as his pleas for a “decompression strategy” and expedited work permits have increasingly turned into criticism of Gov. Kathy Hochul and President Joe Biden.
Last month, a lawyer representing Hochul sent a letter faulting Adams’ management of the humanitarian crisis. In separate letters to city and state officials, Biden’s Homeland Security secretary questioned the city’s migrant response and offered about two dozen recommendations.
In a joint statement Saturday, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (who is not related to the mayor) and Justin Brannan, the council’s finance chair, echoed Adams’ call for assistance, saying the city could not be expected to handle the migrant crisis alone.
“Tens of thousands of people seeking asylum are arriving in our city at a time when we are already confronting a housing crisis, record homelessness and the sunset of federal COVID stimulus funds,” they said.
Brad Lander, the city comptroller, said in a statement Saturday that in addition to help from leaders in Washington and Albany, the city needed a “real long-term” savings plan.
“While our office will review these proposed cuts, one thing is immediately clear: Scapegoating asylum-seekers will not improve education, public safety, housing affordability or quality of life for New Yorkers,” Lander said.