Pols Want Broader Push as 200 Cops Hit Public Housing Through Budget Deal

Members of the 2014 class of the New York Police Department. (Getty)

Members of the 2014 class of the New York Police Department. (Getty)

All 200 of the extra police officers hitting the streets thanks to the city budget deal will be working to patrol city public housing — and not everyone is happy about it.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that all of the 200 cops whose desk jobs will be replaced by civilians, as negotiated in the budget deal between his office and the City Council, will head to the NYPD Housing Bureau to fight an uptick in crime in public housing. But some were hoping for a broader push.

“Clearly we have an increase in shootings throughout the entire city. I expected the NYPD response would be a 5-borough plan, not just a NYCHA initiative,” City Council Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio, who pushed hard in a failed bid for the city to add 1,000 new cops to its ranks in the budget, told the Observer.

The mayor rolled out a $210 million plan to beef up safety at New York City Housing Authority residences Tuesday that includes new initiatives for better lighting, the removal of scaffolding and keeping community centers open later to keep youth off the streets.

But while a slew of elected officials praised the mayor for his plan – Mr. de Blasio’s office put out a press released filled with quotes from those supporting it – Mr. Ignizio and others shifted the focus back to increasing the department’s overall ranks beyond the Housing Bureau.

“I understand the focus on NYCHA as the stats relate to a disproportionate amount of the increase, but this underscores the need for more cops,” Mr. Ignizio said. “The NYPD headcount is simply too low and the 600 cops that just graduated were filling spots lost to attrition, not a net positive of manpower like the NYPD is trying to sell today.”

During budget negotiations, it was not specified where those 200 officers whose jobs will be taken by civilians would go, just that they’d be out on patrol, Mr. Ignizio and others involved in budget negotiations said.

While extra cops will hit neighborhood precincts outside the Housing Bureau through Operation All Out, that program is just a temporary summer reassignment of some police from desk jobs. The city budget deal named 200 police positions to be held permanently by civilians — meaning the 200 cops it freed up will be walking the beat for Housing until further notice.

“Having a focus on housing is important, but clearly, we also need additional cops on the streets, especially here on Staten Island,” fellow Republican Councilman Steven Matteo said. “This problem will only get better if both our local commands and housing complexes have adequate staffing to beef up patrols and presence in our communities.”

Councilman Eric Ulrich, another member of the council’s trio of Republicans, said the 200 cops were a “step in the right direction,” but just a Band-Aid.

“We want more police officers assigned not only to the high-crime precincts, but to every precinct in the city of New York, and the only way we can achieve that is if we bring another class or another two classes,” Mr. Ulrich said.

Moving police around merely reshuffles the deck, he said.

“I don’t want to take away from anybody — I want to see the city add to what we already have,” he said. “The people living in the areas of the city with the highest crime, they need more cops. You know what? So do I. So does my district.”

Councilman James Vacca, a Democrat representing the Bronx, said the 200 officers headed to Housing is a “relatively small” amount that would have had “minimal impact” if they had been spread across the city’s precincts.

“I think concentrating that small amount of manpower makes more sense to me,” he said, particularly with data showing much of the city’s violent crime is occurring in public housing.

Still, the department needs to beef up its ranks citywide, he said — and while the proposed 1,000 new cops he too lobbied for would have been a “good downpayment,” he argued even more would be needed.

“You can always do more with less — but I think there’s going to come a point where we’re going to find we’ve done as much possible with less,” Mr. Vacca said. “And I think we could be arriving at that point.”

The 200 cops from the budget deal are just a fraction of the new officers slated for the Housing Bureau, according to the mayor’s office. Another 96 will be deployed to the Housing Bureau as part of Operation All Out, 320 as part of the roving Operation Impact and 101 members of the recent NYPD graduating class.

Queens Councilman Mark Weprin didn’t criticize the decision to allocate the new cops to housing, saying a spike in shootings there has to be addressed. But he, too, pointed out the council had hoped for many more officers, enabling them to cover “many more precincts throughout the city.”

“I assume they make decisions based on what makes sense in the moment,” he said of deploying officers to housing. “We’d like to get more cops, where my precinct could get more cops on the street, too,” even with a lower crime rate.

But the office of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who made the call for 1,000 extra cops one of the council’s signature budget issues,  said the speaker was pleased with the steps the mayor and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton were taking — and added it was a matter of safety, not scoring political points.