It’s been one month since City Councilmember Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) voted to defund the NYPD by $1 billion in fiscal year 2021, and some of his constituents are urging him to reconsider his stance on law enforcement policies, claiming his views don’t reflect the values of the district.
“We work every day of every week trying to secure police patrols in our community and establishing an excellent relationship with the NYPD. This vote by our Councilman will lead to less policing as cops are reassigned elsewhere,” said Bob Friedrich, president of the Glen Oaks Village Co-op, which he says works closely with the NYPD to protect the 10,000-resident community. “Councilman Grodenchik pulled the rug from under us and is completely out of touch with his district and constituents in such an important matter as safety. I felt it was imperative that as an elected official he be held accountable for such an important vote.”
Friedrich, along with seven other Council District 23 civic association leaders, penned an Aug. 1 letter to the councilmember claiming that his constituents feel safer and better protected when there is a visible patrol presence, a factor that they worry will change as the budget cut goes into effect in six months.
At its fiscal year 2021 budget adoption hearing on July 1, the City Council, including Grodenchik, approved the redistribution of $1 billion originally slated to go to the NYPD to social and educative services. Some departments to benefit from additional funding include the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Department of Homeless Services. Some funding was given to the Summer Youth Employment Program, which had been originally suspended for the 2020 season to offset economic shortfalls caused by the pandemic. Friedrich said that the funding of these programs is a “worthy goal,” but claims cutting police funding will cause more damage in the long run.
“Slashing $1 billion from the NYPD budget and cancelling the new class of recruits, simultaneously, is simply incomprehensible. With a record number of cops putting in for retirement, public safety should be the highest priority of our Councilmember,” said Friedrich, who ran twice for the 23rd District seat, including against Grodenchik in 2015. “Especially when we are all seeing in real-time, crime spiraling out of control in the once ‘Safest big city in America.’”
Grodenchik, however, said his decision to defund the NYPD by $1 billion came as a result of directly engaging with constituents.
“I am in full agreement with the residents and civic leadership of eastern Queens about the importance of public safety and would never support any legislation that I thought would in any way risk the safety of our neighborhoods,” he told the Chronicle in an Aug. 4 email.
Friedrich and the other association leaders are especially concerned about the crackdown on the NYPD “as our city plunges into a precipitous crime wave that seems to be ominously spiraling out of control.” Although it is true that some crimes are up across the city — murder by 29 percent, burglary by 45.7 percent and auto thefts by 60 percent — overall crime for 2020 thus far is down by 3 percent when compared to the first seven months of 2019. Certain crimes increased drastically, however, such as shootings, which increased by 130 percent for the month of June, according to most recent NYPD data. There were 205 shootings in NYC during the month, compared to 89 in June 2019.
The coalition claims there is a disconnect between the community and its representative on at least seven policies, including ending cash bail for serious offenses, termination of the NYPD Anti-Crime Unit and ending “Broken Windows” policing. The coalition asks Grodenchik to reconsider where he stands on supporting policies that restrict power to the NYPD, and Friedrich added that he’d like the councilmember to take additional steps, such as vocalizing support for law enforcement, condemning protests of the agency and building a coalition with other elected officials and community leaders to support the proactive police force he says the city needs.
“As was said in the letter, it should come as no surprise to anyone that proactive policing dies when effective policing tools are removed [and] lawlessness, vandalism, grafitti, and rioting are not stopped or even discouraged,” said Friedrich. “The NYPD created the formula for keeping NYC safe. It is tragic that so many elected officials have not learned that lesson.”
Grodenchik noted that the budget included myriad benefits for the district as a result of his vote to pass it, such as funding for local public schools, graffiti removal, grass cutting and extra trash pickups.
“When the council votes on the budget, council members have to vote on the entire budget, not individual line items. Voting against the budget means voting against funding for our local police precincts, fire houses, public schools, sanitation services, hospitals, road repair, and senior centers,” he continued. “No budget is perfect, and this year’s budget was especially difficult, primarily because the pandemic has drastically reduced revenues and increased the need for emergency services to maintain the health and safety of New Yorkers, government’s primary responsibility.”