NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Monday night blamed the federal government for his need to cut billions of dollars in city programs — including from police, fire and sanitation — because of a surge in costs to pay for new migrants.
“DC has abandoned us, and they need to be paying their cost to this national problem,” Adams said during a town hall in Brooklyn.
The city has been overwhelmed by more than 125,000 migrants since last year, including about half still in its care. The problem has meant funding tent facilities and paying for hotel stays across the five boroughs, crippling the city’s finances.
As a result, the city last week announced a slew of cuts to services, such as getting rid of some public garbage cans, lessening aid to libraries and eliminating new classes of police officers.
Speaking to Coney Island residents with more than three dozen city officials and elected officials at a dais behind him, the Democratic mayor continued to place blame on the federal government for the city’s ballooning migrant costs, specifically pointing out the inability of migrants to obtain legal work permits.
“This is unfair what we’re doing to migrant asylum seekers, and it’s unfair what we’re doing to everyday taxpayers,” Adams said.
The battle with Washington has put Adams on the outs with the White House and President Joe Biden, with whom he hasn’t spoken to in nearly a year. But Adams has been unapologetic, saying the president needs to do more to help the nation’s largest city.
“I tell people all the time when they stop me on the subway system, ‘Don’t yell at me, yell at DC,’” Adams said. “We deserve better as a city.”
In September, Adams called for a citywide hiring freeze due to spending on the crisis. The city has already dropped about $1.5 billion on the migrant surge for the fiscal year that runs through June 30, and it expects to spend about $11 billion over the next two fiscal years, according to his recent budget plan.
The federal government has provided help, as has the state with about $1.5 billion in aid. But the complexity and cost of the problem has strained the city’s budget, impacting overall services and programs.
On Thursday, Adams announced $4 billion in budget cuts over the next year and a half. Adams says he has to close a $7.1 billion gap before the new fiscal year begins July 1.
The cuts are also hitting services for migrants. His administration confirmed Monday they will seek 20 percent budget cuts for “asylum-seeker expenses.”
Adams has been eager to blame the federal government, and Gov. Kathy Hochul has also repeatedly called on Biden for more support, but not with the same biting criticism as the mayor.
But Adams’ calls for help have also been impacted by a federal investigation into his campaign finances. Earlier this month, he was set to meet with White House officials to plead for more aid, along with other big city mayors, but quickly returned to New York to deal with an FBI probe into his campaign. He never ended up meeting with any federal officials that day.
To finance legal costs associated with the federal investigation into his campaign, Adams has set up a legal defense fund, POLITICO reported Friday.
“Do you see all these people that love me?” Adams told reporters when he was asked about the defense fund, pointing to constituents gathered to take a photo with him after the event. “People love me as mayor. So they have the right to do whatever they want when they love their mayor. … That’s what America’s about.”