The Mayor of the City of New York clutched his retractable pointer and began buggy-whipping a long series of huge management charts in front of his fawning commissioners and the yawning press.
“I think this shows the responsibility of our administration,” Rudolph Giuliani lectured, soothed by the reassuring drumbeat of his steel against the compliant, taxpayer-financed placard.
But by the time his special events staff brought around the seventh pile of charts, a reporter in the first row of City Hall pews moaned loudly enough to be heard by the mayor's right-hand man, Randy Mastro. “Good lord, not another stack.” The smile that had been fixed to Mastro's lips throughout the briefing was instantly drained of its good will. But the mayor was cheerfully oblivious and prodded forward, the head of his pointer thwacking away.
“Okay,” he added, “this next graph shows….”
For Giuliani, the arcane city budget and agency performance charts were tools of self-validation, proof of his sobriety as a city manager and, ultimately, his fitness to be mayor again.
“The thing that he wants to project is the sense that he's ushered in a more responsible era of fiscal management,” says Glenn Passanen, a budget analyst for the City Project, which has often criticized the mayor's cuts to social services.
What the record really shows is considerably more complex. The bare truth of Giuliani's budgets is that they reveal a more consistent record of his
priorities than any of his recent predecessors. He's spent an increasing proportion of the city's strained resources on cops, firemen and child protective services. He hasn't placed much of a premium on housing, education, child care, hospital care for the poor, recycling or welfare. True to his word, he has all but dismantled the agencies that provide for those needs.
What follows is a summary of the mayor's money decisions and their impact on the city's neighborhoods.
By Glenn Thrush
The mid-'90s have been the Great Leap Backwards in the city's commitment to developing and preserving its low-income housing stock.
It's not totally Giuliani's fault; he just delivered the coup de grace. The hemorrhagic cuts to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which began in the last, troubled year of the Dinkins Administration, have grown ever deeper each year of Giuliani's reign.
The administration has tried to shift funding to reduce city contributions and maximize the use of federal dollars. But the city's overall housing capital budget has plummeted from $372 million in 1993 to $261 million last year.
Capital funding levels will hold steady for next year, but in the Fiscal Year 1997 budget Giuliani slashed a third of HPD's bricks and mortar, wiping out nearly $53 million worth of apartment rehabs and new construction for low-income tenants. Only $10 million of that decrease was replaced by new federal money.
While the cuts have devastated the agency, the administration has moved aggressively to divest itself of its in rem stock, turning over nearly 10,500 apartments in 758 buildings to private landlords, nonprofit groups and tenant-owned cooperatives–while at the same time placing a ban on the city's takeover of any new tax-arreared buildings. The agency's shrinking management burden has freed up millions, but that money was pumped into the city's general coffers to cover the budget deficit instead of being put into HPD's stalled anti-abandonment program.
What's the impact of the budget carnage? A veritable shutdown of new low-income housing initiatives and a sharp drop-off in the repairs and services the city used to provide–“the virtual elimination of the agency,” according to housing advocate Jay Small.
The most important single indicator of HPD's mission is the number of rehab jobs started in any given year. In 1991, at the apex of HPD's capital funding boom, the city started 19,000 moderate and major rehab projects on apartment buildings. This year, the city embarked on only around 8,000 rehabs.
Even more dramatic is the agency's abandonment of programs that have provided permanent housing for the homeless. In 1991, HPD created 4,173 apartments for the city's most desperate residents. This year the agency will be lucky to churn out 1,200 new apartments–even as scores of families spend night after night sleeping on the floors of the city's homeless intake unit. And despite former Commissioner Lilliam Barrios-Paoli's promise last year that HPD would once again focus on homeless housing, the agency plans to construct only 230 units next year.
In the meantime, most of the worst-maintained privately-owned apartments in the city are going uninspected by HPD code-violation teams. In 1991, the city issued 569,000 violations to negligent landlords; Last year, the number of tickets plummeted to 129,000. At the height of the city's commitment to housing inspections in the early 1970s, the city fielded some 693 inspectors. That number is down to about 250 today, largely because the city has never allocated replacement dollars for the $8 million drop in state funding in the early 1990s–despite repeated promises early in the Giuliani administration to shift federal dollars into the program.
By Kierna Mayo
Every major poll predicts that Rudolph Giuliani will be re-elected on the merits of his crime-fighting record. The logic is simple. The number of murders in the city per year has dipped below 1,000. The crime rates in seven major felony categories are as low as they have been in 27 years.
But if he gets the good publicity, he should bear some of the responsibility for the apparent rise in reports of police misconduct–abetted, some experts say, by Giuliani's attempts to cut off funding to the four-year-old agency charged with investigating bad-cop allegations.
Since he was elected, Giuliani has attacked the budget of the Civilian Complaint Review Board. In Fiscal Year 1998, the board will likely see a $628,000 cut from its $5.2 million budget, which will result in the layoff of 24 investigators, effectively crippling the agency's capacity to attack its massive case backlog. This occurs at a time when the CCRB has seen a steady rise in complaints–including a 19 percent jump this year alone to around 5,700.
“I'm not advocating throwing money at problems, but [the administration] has to have a sincere interest in investigating the problem at hand,” says Detective Terrance Wansley, vice-president of the Guardians, an association of black police officers.
By James Bradley
For the kids in New York City's public schools, there's nothing quite like an election year. After three years of wrenching spending cuts–more than $1.6 billion worth–Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has suddenly discovered the value of public education, securing some $160 million in new funds for the Board of Education in his Fiscal Year 1998 budget.
The most ambitious initiative in the mayor's new budget is Project Read, a $125 million early grade literacy program for students with reading problems. Other items slated for spending include 40,000 computers ($22.7 million), six new schools for students with anti-social problems ($2.7 million), and arts programs ($2.5 million, with another $22 million possible down the road).
Last November, after the unexpected upsurge in tax revenues, Mayor Giuliani announced there would be $70 million in funding for new textbooks in addition to $605 million in new capital funds over the next three years–including $88 million for mobile trailer school rooms, $16 million to rehabilitate existing space and $392 million on modular classroom units that can be attached as wings to existing schools.
That's the good news. But education activists are quick to point out that these spending initiatives restore only 10 percent of the $1.6 billion cut from public schools in the mayor's first three budgets. “It's too little, too late,” says Noreen Connell, executive director of Educational Priorities Panel. “They do not reverse the impact of the previous cuts.”
Connell adds that the new funds for textbooks are committed for only two years. Currently, the city spends about $36 per student on text books, compared to as much as $120 per student in many suburban districts. “We can't have one or two years of additional money–and that's it,” she says.
The recent upsurge in capital expenditures seems a pittance in light of the mayor's three previous budgets. A five-year, $7 billion school construction plan that began in the Dinkins administration was slashed to $2.3 billion when Giuliani became mayor, and later restored to $2.9 billion. Last year, the mayor and the City Council, to great fanfare, agreed on a four-year, $1.4 billion plan to rebuild deteriorating public schools. But Giuliani and Council Speaker Peter Vallone have made only a non-binding commitment to fund the plan over the next few years and they, not the Board of Education, get to determine how the money is spent.
So far, none of the money has been spent, although $200 million is budgeted for this fiscal year, officials say.
Some of the new spending initiatives are welcome, activists say, but there is still no coherent plan to deal with chronic overcrowding and other daunting problems currently facing the system. According to John Fager, executive director of the Parents Coalition, a public school advocacy group, there could be as many as 120,000 students without adequate classroom space by the next school year.
By Robin Epstein
Mayor Giuliani seems to be trying to tie a toe tag onto the Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs the city's 11 municipal hospitals and has a mandate to serve poor New Yorkers.
In the mayor's first three budgets, HHC received some of Giuliani's most extreme amputations. And if the mayor's proposed 1998 budget goes through, the administration will have cut its subsidy to the city hospitals by nearly 85 percent since the final year of the Dinkins administration. Before Rudy, city hospitals got $350 million in city funding. Next year they'll see barely $55 million. And with privatization of three municipal hospitals his priority, Giuliani has not made any capital investment in HHC. Instead the corporation has floated bonds on its own.
Beyond the mandatory 25 cents the city must contribute to every Medicaid dollar spent, Giuliani has basically stripped the city's financial commitment to HHC down to paying the corporation for three services–emergency care for uniformed workers, in-patient care for inmates and management of the city morgue.
Advocates say the mayor's budget ignores the city's responsibility to care for uninsured patients who will be locked out of Medicaid when federal welfare and immigration reforms take effect. They say the state pool that reimburses hospitals for the cost of caring for uninsured patients won't be large enough to cover the post-welfare reform crisis, and that Giuliani needs to fill the gap.
Even before welfare reform, the number of uninsured patients was rising rapidly, from 1.3 million in 1994, to 1.6 million in 1995, according to Judy Wessler of the Commission on the Public's Health System.
The administration's previous cuts have already taken a significant toll. Between 1994 and the present, Giuliani has forced a 25 percent staff reduction at HHC, which now has 10,000 fewer employees–of all kinds–than it had when the mayor got elected. And sources within HHC tell City Limits more layoffs are in the offing. During the mayor's tenure, the city has eliminated 1,500 general-care hospital beds, a move the mayor says is essential to streamline HHC's operations in the era of managed care.
Governor George Pataki's proposal to cut Medicaid means there's more trouble ahead. The mayor estimates that Pataki's plan–which he supported because it also cuts the city's matching-fund contributions–will translate into a $79 million reduction in the Medicaid contribution the city will owe HHC. It may save the city taxpayers some money, but HHC officials estimate the governor's plans would mean an overall decrease of $600 million for city hospitals.
The influx of uninsured patients coupled with shrinking Medicaid reimbursements mean the city's private non-profit hospitals known as “voluntaries” won't be able to pick up the slack, says Community Service Society President David Jones, an HHC board member.
By Scott Klein
The outcry following the beating death of young Elisa Izquierdo, which led to the creation of the city's new Administration for Children's Services in January 1996, has dominated the Giuliani-era child welfare debate.
Largely in response to the incident, funding for child welfare has remained steady during the Giuliani years and the mayor has compiled an impressive record on protective services. He has increased the number of protective caseworkers from 712 to 915 and created a team to target responsibility in children's deaths and abuse. He has also dedicated $30 million for child support enforcement.
But while those areas of the budget have thrived, the administration has left important preventative services exposed to severe state budget cuts. And those programs, say advocates, are the most potent resources for keeping children in stable homes–and out of foster care.
In 1995, Governor Pataki passed along a $131 million child welfare cut to the city that has had a disproportionately damaging impact on several preventative programs. The Family Rehabilitation Program, a nationally-recognized intensive program that targets drug-addicted mothers, suffered a $1.6 million cut in 1995 and another $1.1 million cut in 1996, resulting in the elimination of its drug treatment component. The result: some of FRP's 300 drug-addicted parents have been referred to state caseworkers who handle five times as many cases; others haven't been transferred to alternative programs. What percentage of their children have gone into foster care is as yet unclear, providers say.
Giuliani also eliminated a program that provided on-site counseling services for children in city-run day care centers. And the administration crippled a program which assigns caseworkers to visit mothers and children in their homes and help them deal with acute medical problems or chronic and abusive emotional problems, slashing its budget by $1.7 million. Because no other program provides similar services, the impact of the cuts are hard to gauge.
The administration has also taken a bite out of key juvenile justice programs designed to prevent at-risk kids from committing crimes or becoming repeat offenders. Family Ties, an intensive alternative-to-jail program recognized by the state comptroller's office for its 82 percent success rate, was eliminated in Fiscal Year 1997, resulting in the layoff of 12 staffers who provided intense in-home mediation between parents and kids along with supervision of troubled youth.
Aftercare, another much lauded program, has found its staff and caseload cut roughly in half under Giuliani. The program, which helps young veterans of the Spofford juvenile lock-up re-adjust to life back in their home communities, has been the most successful approach to keeping kids from becoming repeat offenders, according to City Comptroller Alan Hevesi.
Still, no segment of the city's youth budget has suffered nearly as harsh a fate as The Agency Formerly Known As The Department of Youth Services. After three years of deep cuts, a succession of three commissioners in three years, a rash of contracting scandals and lawsuits over funds that were eventually impounded by the mayor, the agency was consolidated within the Community Development Agency.
The youth department's overall budget was cut from $74 million in the last year of the Dinkins administration to $54.7 million last year–a 30 percent slash that has forced the total shutdown of 100 groups that provided after school sports leagues, homework help and tutoring, mentoring programs and arts instruction, according to the City Project.
Other programs have been unable to plan for their future or preserve organizational stability in the face of the Giuliani administration's perpetual assault on their survival: Teen mothering classes, crisis nurseries and juvenile prostitution diversion programs have all been targeted for elimination by the mayor, only to be completely re-funded by the City Council in both 1995 and 1996.
This year, for the first time under the current mayor, youth programs have been left largely untouched.
Parks And Recycling
By Robin Epstein
Last year when the mayor gouged nearly $30 million out of the recycling budget, he cut collection from weekly to twice monthly in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and five Manhattan community boards, making it likely that millions more bottles and cans are being tossed in the regular trash.
In 1996, the City Council had been able to restore some of Giuliani's $23 million in recycling cuts, but last year they used their restoration funds to cover other gaps–and filed a lawsuit instead. Perhaps the most damaging long-term part of the cut was the zeroing out of education and outreach programs, which experts say is essential to helping residents understand the bewildering separation and bundling regulations they must follow.
The overall level of city recycling–about 14 percent–hasn't changed much since the Dinkins administration, but it is still far short of the 25 percent mandated last year under city law.
But all that was before the Fresh Kills Landfill Closure Task Force estimated that when the Staten Island dump closes in five years, the cost of shipping New York's dross out of town will be $150 to $200 million per year.
In his proposed Fiscal Year 1998 budget, the mayor hasn't brought back weekly collections but he has set aside nearly $9.5 million for a bulk metal and mixed paper recycling pilot project he killed last year.
The Giuliani administration has done pretty well by city parks as far as capital improvements are concerned–he set aside nearly $170 million this year alone–but his maintenance budgets haven't kept pace. The mayor projects that the full-time work force will number 1,906 in June of 1998, says Charlotte Fahn, planning and design director for the Parks Council. Even in 1992, when Dinkins made brutal cuts to the overall parks budget, there were still 3,436 full-time parks workers.
The 5,000 workfare participants assigned to the parks have lessened the blow of the headcount reductions on trash pickup but not on more serious maintenance problems. Says Fahn: “There's a desperate shortage of plumbers for the drainage systems, fountains and toilets, masons to fix crumbling walls, horticulturists who recognize plant diseases and people to fix the roofs of park buildings.”
In 1996, the Citizens Budget Commission determined that maintenance funding was less than 10 percent of the amount needed to keep parks in a “state of good repair.”