Council Speaker Corey Johnson is pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to pass a measure that would let New York City borrow billions of dollars to help prevent massive layoffs of government workers during the fiscal crisis triggered by the pandemic.
Johnson said the City Council will soon pass a resolution urging Albany to give City Hall the authorization to do so.
The move puts Johnson and the Council on the same page as Mayor Bill de Blasio, who for months has urged Albany to give him the authority to take out a loan to avoid draconian cuts, including thousands of layoffs.
The push comes after President Trump and Congress failed to approve an emergency package to bail out state and local governments whose finances have been ravaged by the COVID-19 crisis. Shutdown of businesses to curb the spread of the killer bug has deprived governments of billions of dollars in revenues.
“New York City deserves the authority to borrow,” Johnson said during a virtual press briefing.
Johnson said borrowing of up to $5 billion is only part of the solution and the mayor and Council will “still have to make hard choices” that could include tax hikes or spending cuts to keep the city’s fiscal house in order.
The speaker emphasized that the fiscal crisis was triggered by the pandemic, and not mismanagement and overspending that nearly bankrupted the city back in the 1970s.
He said he wants to avoid draconian measures that will cause damage to the city’s quality of life.
“We want to avoid a significant number of layoffs during the height of an economic recession,” Johnson said.
“If the streets become dirtier. If the parks become less attractive… The city becomes a less attractive place to live.”
He said resistance to borrowing — particularly in the state Senate — has “softened” after de Blasio threatened that upwards of 22,000 city workers could get pink slips.
De Blasio’s office applauded Johnson’s backing of the emergency loan, along with United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew.
“We remain hopeful. There clearly is increased pressure and solidarity from New Yorkers,” said mayoral spokesman Bill Neidhart.
“Honestly can’t thank Speaker Johnson and Mulgrew enough for their united effort. That’s what it’s going to take. We need all the help we can get to move the needle and their help is crucial.
“I think people are really starting to see the danger that not getting borrowing poses for the entire city. There are the layoffs, and the impact that will have on services. People are waking up to the idea that it’s not just 22,000 jobs, it will affect every single one of us. All New Yorkers will feel deep pain if we don’t get borrowing.”
Meanwhile, city Comptroller Scott Stringer also is open to the city taking out an emergency loan.
“We are in an unprecedented economic crisis, and so far the federal government has walked away from its responsibility to provide the stimulus support we need,” Stringer said.
“The mayor should stop threatening to fire frontline workers and propose a transparent, comprehensive plan to address our budget challenges. Borrowing can be a component of that plan, but the Mayor doesn’t get a blank check.”
NYC Comptroller Scott StringerStephen Yang
Both Johnson and Stringer are seeking to succeed de Blasio as mayor.
De Blasio recently invited Democratic senators to Gracie Mansion to woo support — among them Gustavo Rivera and Luis Sepulveda of The Bronx Jessica Ramos of Queens, Robert Jackson of Manhattan and Julia Salazar of Brooklyn.
In June he was criticized by state lawmakers for failing to provide details of his plan or personally lobby for it.
The mayor’s would borrow $5 billion over two years and pay the loan over 30 years.
“It was a much better pitch than the one he was making before. The people he had in the room were more amicable and have been allies on many issues,” said a state lawmaker who attended Hizzoner’s Gracie Mansion dinner.
“He asked for far less than last time and committed to providing details on how it would be spent. Also the city council and comptroller are much more open. He didn’t wait until the last moment, like last time”
Said a state Democratic legislative source,”There’s been movement. There’s momentum [to give borrowing authorization].
The source said the mayor is also open to state oversight on how the loan is spent.
The Legislature will go back into session in the next few weeks to pass borrowing legislation, if a deal is struck with lawmakers and the governor.