New York City Mayor Eric Adams has backed down from his proposed budget cuts to the city’s public libraries — but other cuts could be on the way as the city tries to get a handle on the migrant crisis.
Earlier this month, the president of the New York Public Library said that New Yorkers should brace for the eventuality that weekend library service is on the chopping block, after a round of proposed cuts would strip the libraries of $23 million. That came after the Adams administration asked all city agencies to cut another 4% from their budget.
“This would result in the elimination of Sunday service at all eight current locations, the reduction of hours, and moving to a five-day service schedule at a majority of locations,” wrote NYPL President Anthony Marx in a letter to staff, according to Gothamist, in which he also mentioned vacancies would not be filled. “All of this is, of course, truly awful to even contemplate, and we still hope, and will do all we can, to avoid these cuts.”
But those plans were met with sharp public outcry, and Adams said on Wednesday that the library would be spared from those cuts.
“We did not cut a single penny from libraries and cultural institutions in this plan,” Adams said while announcing his new proposed budget, “and we did not take a dime from our classrooms.”
Part of the reason for that is because of an influx of spending from tourists who have returned to the city. Visitors are flocking to restaurants and shows, with Broadway back to more than 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels, according to Adams.
“Tourists are back and booking more hotel rooms than we’ve seen in years,” the mayor said.
Those higher-than-expected hotel taxes and personal income taxes are good news for the city’s budget, and helped spare some services from cuts. The $106.7 billion budget, if approved, would be the largest spending plan in NYC’s history — though it comes at a time when the city’s fiscal forecast is partly cloudy.
For all the hotel rooms booked by tourists, there are thousands more booked by the city, which has been forced to house more than $35,000 asylum seekers since last year. The city has spent more than $870 million already to house 35,000 migrants, and that total is expected to head to $1.4 billion by July.
At $320 a day to provide shelter and food, the coast for 2024 is projected to be another $2.9 billion.
“While we are using a portion of our reserves to cover the asylum seeker crisis, we cannot allow the crisis to drain our reserves,” Adams said.
Also impacting the budget: Wall Street profits dropped 50 percent since 2021, commercial officials remain vacant at record rates and newly negotiated labor contracts are costing the city $16 billion.
As of Wednesday, there are no layoffs included in the plan, but the mayor said deeper cuts could be necessary if a downturn occurs.
The watchdog group Citizens Budget Commission warned that there are risks in next year’s budget, saying the city is facing a shortfall of almost $7 billion just one year from now. The group said that if the city doesn’t start reining in spending in a smart way, it will have to make substantial cuts in the next year or two.