More City Workers? Enough Already!

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio speaks at the 2014 graduation ceremony for the New York Police Department (NYPD) on June 30, 2014 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio speaks at the 2014 graduation ceremony for the New York Police Department (NYPD) on June 30, 2014 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Since taking office, Mayor de Blasio has hired more than 16,000 additional employees, bringing the city’s workforce to more than 313,000—the largest in history. And he is not done: his budget for the current fiscal year calls for hiring 10,000 more. We are not talking about replacing workers who retire or leave; this is about increasing the size of the bureaucracy.

The city budget has grown to $82 billion annually, up from $70 billion when de Blasio took office, and more than double the $40 billion during Mayor Giuliani’s final year. New York City spent $8,690 per capita in 2014, the third-highest per capita expense in America. (That is in addition to the $6,804 per capita the state spends; the eighth highest in the nation.)

To be sure, New York City is an expensive place—to live, to work, to provide essential services. The infrastructure is old, the scale vast and the population heterogeneous. A city of immigrants and opportunity, we recognize fully the significant challenges and their costs.

New cops and teachers account for about 2,500 new employees out of 16,000. What accounts for the rest?

Sometimes, adding more workers is precisely what needs to be done. The mayor’s signature program—universal pre-K—required the hiring of more teachers. At the start of this school year, there were approximately 45,000 full-day pre-k seats across the city. The mayor had hoped to increase the total by another 8,000 in September, but it is unclear whether that was accomplished. (Indeed much is unclear when trying to get information from the Department of Education.)

What is clear is that there are approximately 70,000 4-year-olds eligible for pre-K. At 20 children per teacher—the norm for pre-K classrooms in New York—those 45,000 for-certain seats needed 2,250 teachers. But 60 percent of all pre-K seats are provided by some 850 community-based organizations. It may be city dollars paying for those teachers, but they are not part of the city employee total.

One other legitimate need for increased headcount is the NYPD. The mayor and City Council agreed to increase the number of police officers by 1,550—bringing the total to 35,000 uniformed cops and a total workforce of 51,000. Each new police officer and pre-K teacher earns a starting salary of about $45,000. With benefits, each new employee costs the city about $100,000 a year.

So, the new cops and teachers account for about 2,500 new employees out of 16,000. What accounts for the rest? Nine city agencies saw staff increases of more than 20 percent. Why does the Office of Information Technology and Telecommunications need to increase its staff by 55 percent to more than 1,800 people? We’re not sure, but that is a hell of a lot of IT folks. Similarly, an increase of 900 folks working in City Finance and Administrative Services is probably essential to ensure the buttoned-up, well-greased functioning of the bureaucracy.

We have commented previously on the mayor’s penchant for surrounding himself with political supporters. His hiring of 264 special assistants is unprecedented in scope. It is far from obvious that city services have improved during de Blasio’s tenure, and the concept of greater efficiency is completely alien to this machine pol clad in progressive clothing. Enough already.

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