By Matthew Chayes
NEW YORK — City Council leaders, in their first major policy break with Mayor Bill de Blasio, want to add 1,000 more police officers to the NYPD.
The council members said Wednesday that the department needs more cops to keep crime down and fulfill the mayor's stated goal of reducing pedestrian traffic fatalities. De Blasio and Commissioner William J. Bratton responded that the current head count — 34,604 — is sufficient.
The cost of the additional officers would be about $95 million in the 2015 fiscal year, which begins July 1, and would increase slightly the following year.
"We can't continue to overstretch our police," said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who announced the NYPD proposal and other initiatives in a counterproposal to de Blasio's plan.
The council plan would spend about $257 million more than de Blasio's blueprint.
De Blasio, speaking to reporters on a visit to Albany, stood by his plan.
"I think with the force we have right now, we are doing a great job," the mayor told reporters. "The resources we have right now are getting the job done, and we're in a structural deficit, and I'm not in the business of adding to that deficit."
The council proposal also would spend more to make school lunch free for every child regardless of income, do more for the homeless and re-examine the city's property tax code.
In all, the council's plan would cost about 0.4 percent more than the $73.7 billion preliminary budget de Blasio unveiled in February.
The council contends the administration's revenue forecasts are too conservative.
Bratton, speaking after an unrelated event at City Hall, said that like any police chief in America, he could always use more officers, but he'd rather pay current cops more.
"To be quite frank with you, the issue of pay raises for my personnel — I'm much more supportive of that at the moment than I am additional officers," Bratton said Wednesday.
He said settling open labor contracts would help boost morale.
He also questioned the wisdom of the council's proposal to turn over some NYPD jobs to civilians, including some clerical positions, saying officers are better suited to perform in crisis situations.
Backers of the proposal to make free lunch universal say that doing so would remove the stigma for lower-income students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch.
Councilman Vincent Ignizio of Staten Island, one of the 51-member body's three Republicans, rejected the premise.
He said if removing the stigma is a worry, perhaps the city could explore technology so that it's not readily apparent which children are beneficiaries of the free lunch program.
Copyright 2014 Newsday
McClatchy-Tribune News Service