Critics Say Budget Shortchanges EMS, Complain Of Lack Of Funding For New Cops

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Liberal New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a conservative budget this past weekend amid worries about possible cuts in state and federal aid – and some critics have said the budget shortchanges some major needs.

CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported that rather than using the word “conservative” when he described his policies Sunday, he used another word beginning with C as he unveiled his preliminary budget.

“We’re proceeding with caution,” de Blasio said Sunday evening.

He is worried about federal aid, as the Republican-controlled Congress might not be as generous with New York City as it once was. He is also worried about state aid, which could include some belt-tightening.

“Downturns can happen,” de Blasio said.

As 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported, the mayor’s budget also includes more than half a billion in funds to continue the expansion of pre-kindergarten and after-school programs.

The budget also includes some programs to deal with homelessness. But overall, the spending plan is relatively modest.

The $77 billion budget proposal includes:

• $11 million for 45 new ambulance shifts;
• $11.5 million for a new bulletproof vests for police officers;
• $10 million to expand the police cadet program;

The plan also calls for $7 million presently to hire new EMS dispatchers, and an additional $70 million over the next five years to put more paramedics on the streets and dispatchers at call centers. But Queens City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-30th) said that is not enough.

“Right now, we need at least 76 supervisors — the mayor is calling for 24 supervisors,” said Crowley, who chairs the council’s Fire and Criminal Justice Committee. “And so I would think at least twice as much (is needed), if not three times as much of what the mayor is proposing.”

As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, Crowley said someone who is in cardiac arrest will die if help does not reach him or her within six minutes and that “on any given day, an emergency response time is over nine minutes for life-threatening emergencies.”

City officials said the funding will allow for the Fire Department to staff 45 additional ambulance shifts and employ 149 additional Emergency Medical Services dispatchers.

The proposal comes on the heels of the busiest year ever for EMS and fire units, whose responders answered 1.6 million emergency calls in 2014.

The average response time was 6 minutes 50 seconds in 2014, three seconds slower than in 2013. The goal now is to reduce the average response time by 20 seconds, city officials said.

“This investment will go a long way toward improving response time, ensuring that our first responders can do their jobs as effectively as possible, and potentially saving lives in communities around the city,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement.

Israel Miranda, president of the union for city EMTs and paramedics, said de Blasio’s proposal is “right on the nose.”

“They realize that there is an uptick in population and call volume, and that added resources are needed,” Miranda told 1010 WINS.

There is also nothing in the budget setting aside funds for the hiring of more police officers, which was uppermost on the minds of officials briefed on the budget.

“I think it’s a mistake,” said Michael Paladino of the Detectives Endowment Association. “I’d like to see the city commit to an increase in the NYPD head count. This is the post 9/11 world, and we have counterterrorism duties on top of our additional crime-fighting duties, and we’re down to 35,000, maybe less.”

Some members of the City Council also said more police officers are necessary.

“In the days ahead, the City Council will have its work cut out for us,” said Bronx City Councilman James Vacca (D-13th). “And I think that wee have to make a persuasive argument to the mayor that we do need more policemen – at least 1,000 more would have to be added, I feel.

“That’s going to be one of the significant battles over the next few weeks,” said Brooklyn City Councilman David Greenfield (D-44th). “I think that both the council and the police commissioner have made clear that we do need more police officers.”

The mayor remained non-committal.

“There’s always work do be done, but a lot of the approach we’re taking now is working with the resources we have,” de Blasio said. “I don’t bias that discussion in advance.”

The mayor also did not detail possible program cuts if there are shortfalls in state and federal aid. Those will be included in the final budget in April, when presumably, de Blasio will have a better idea of the funding gaps that have to be filled.

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