McCAUGHEY: New York's Crisis Is a Lesson for Cities Everywhere

By Betsy McCaughey

When New Yorkers complain about announced cuts to police protection and sanitation, Mayor Eric Adams weasels back, "Don't yell at me, yell at D.C." Adams is trying to shift the blame to President Joe Biden and the Democrats' open-border policy.

Don't fall for it. The surge of migrants accounts for less than half (42%) of the city's looming fiscal crisis. New York City was heading off a fiscal cliff before the surge.

Adams' predecessor, spendaholic Bill de Blasio, is partly to blame. But Adams worsened the crisis by negotiating insane labor contracts -- especially with the teachers union -- that the city cannot afford. It's a transparent attempt by Adams to lock in Big Labor's support for his own mayoral reelection, never mind that he's selling out city residents.

New Yorkers are getting ripped off. WalletHub's Best- & Worst-Run Cities in America ranks New York a dismal 147th out of 149 cities in spending per capita to provide basic services. Only San Francisco and Chattanooga, Tennessee, score worse.

Gotham isn't the cleanest city, or the safest, and it doesn't offer the best public schools. Yet New York City taxpayers pay top dollar, thanks to a succession of pandering pols.

For example, New York provides any municipal employee who puts in 10 years a health insurance premium, 100% paid for with no cost sharing, for life. Even after they leave city employment. Unheard of anywhere else.

As far back as September 2022, the Big Apple's fiscal situation was smelling rotten. Adams promised the state's Financial Control Board that he would "not make any deals that the city cannot afford."

This June, Adams broke that promise when he negotiated a contract with the United Federation of Teachers that dooms the city to fiscal failure. The Department of Education accounts for over a third (36%) of the city's spending, and a staggering 46% of the city employee headcount. New York cannot recover without fiscal discipline at DOE.

DOE already spends $36,000 per student, more than any other U.S. school district. What has that bought? National Assessment of Educational Progress scores below the national average and moving in the wrong direction.

The DOE budget soars while enrollment is plummeting.

Even so, Adams agreed to a UFT contract that awards 20% pay hikes over five years, pushing salaries to a record $150,000 for teachers on the job longest. Adams extracted no work rules concessions, such as additional instruction time, to benefit the kids or make the contract affordable. He even added a cherry atop this cream puff deal, a $3,000 ratification bonus for each teacher.

Adams lines up support for his reelection, and New York residents pick up the tab. That's the Adams playbook. In October, he did it again, signing a juicy deal with the principals' union with a nearly 17% pay raise over five years, budget be damned.

Weeks later, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Citizens Budget Commission head Andrew Rein called the city's financial situation "alarming." What's more alarming is how the city's elected leaders are reacting.

City Controller Brad Lander calls for tax hikes on "high-income residents" and the "owners of high-value real estate." That would ignite a rush to the exits by the city's wealthiest taxpayers.

Adams calls for immediate 5% across-the-board cuts in all city agencies, including police and sanitation. That's misguided, too. It would shrink the police force to its lowest level since the 1990s. It would also mean fewer pickups from litter baskets on the streets.

Safety and cleanliness would plummet.

Betsy McCaughey is a Constitutional Scholar with a Ph.D. from Columbia University, and is a former Lt. Governor of the State of New York. McCaughey is a syndicated columnist and weekly columnist for the New York Post.