The City Council’s Progressive Caucus could lose as many as 10 members due to an internal dispute over law enforcement funding, multiple sources told the Daily News on Tuesday.
The caucus, which is considered highly influential in the Council due to its sheer size, recently asked its 35 Democratic members to sign a “Statement of Principles” in order to remain in the group.
The two-page document obtained by The News spells out the caucus’ priorities for this year’s budget negotiations with Mayor Adams, touching on a variety of issues, including housing, education and sustainability.
It also includes an entry about law enforcement funding: “We will do everything we can to reduce the size and scope of the NYPD and the Department of Correction, and prioritize and fund alternative safety infrastructure that truly invests in our communities.”
That proposed pledge has stirred an uproar among some Progressive Caucus members who fear it will provide ammunition for Republicans to paint Democrats as anti-police.
As a result, at least 10 concerned Council Democrats have either already stepped down from the caucus or alerted caucus leadership that they will not sign the statement as long as it contains the language about police funding, four sources directly familiar with the matter told The News.
“It’s an exodus,” said one Council member who’s considering bailing from the caucus and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Progressive Caucus leadership informed members they have until this Friday to decide whether they’re going to ink the statement.
Two members who have already left the caucus over the police funding flap are Brooklyn Councilman Justin Brannan and Bronx Councilwoman Marjorie Velazquez, who went public over the weekend with their decisions. Both of them are expected to face competitive general election challenges from Republicans in this year’s Council elections.
Manhattan Councilman Shaun Abreu, Manhattan Councilman Keith Powers and Queens Councilwoman Lynn Schulman followed suit by confirming Monday they won’t sign the missive unless the law enforcement funding language is stricken or softened, as first reported by Politico.
Since then, five more members — Manhattan and Bronx Councilwoman Diana Ayala, Queens Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers, Bronx Councilman Eric Dinowitz, Manhattan Councilwoman Julie Menin and Brooklyn Councilwoman Mercedes Narcisse — have privately made clear they are unlikely to stay in the caucus because of the law enforcement issue, the sources familiar with the matter said.
Ayala, who serves as chairwoman of the Council’s powerful General Welfare Committee, confirmed to The News on Tuesday she has already left the caucus.
But Ayala also said she “wouldn’t have signed onto the pledge” if she wasn’t already exiting for other reasons.
“It’s not the most responsible thing to sign onto pledges before we’ve even started negotiating,” Ayala said of budget talks with the mayor’s team.
Narcisse, who represents a slice of southern Brooklyn that includes Canarsie and Mill Basin, confirmed she’s contemplating not signing the Progressive Caucus pledge.
“Whatever decision I make, it has to be based on my constituents,” she said. “I have to meet them where they are. My district is a lot of police officers, a lot of retirees, so you figure that one out.”
Brooks-Powers, who’s a member of Council leadership as majority whip, declined to comment on the record, as did Dinowitz. Menin did not return a request for comment.
[ Mayor Adams blames progressives for N.Y. midterm losses, angering fellow Democrats: ‘They’re at fault’ ]
The Council infighting comes on the heels of Adams unveiling a preliminary budget proposal for next fiscal year that would keep NYPD funding effectively flat, while cutting spending on other initiatives, including social services. Adams’ proposed cuts have drawn backlash from many Council members, though few have called for slicing funding for the NYPD instead.
The Progressive Caucus’ top four members, Brooklyn Councilman Lincoln Restler, Brooklyn Councilwoman Shahana Hanif, Brooklyn Councilwoman Jennifer Gutierrez and Manhattan Councilwoman Carmen De La Rosa, defended their push for reducing the “size and scope” of the NYPD on Tuesday. In a joint statement, they said their demand for members to sign the pledge reflects their commitment to “progressive values and a just vision for New York City.”
A member who spoke on condition of anonymity to be candid said shrinking the Progressive Caucus isn’t necessarily bad as it currently comprises nearly the entire Democratic Council conference.
“We’re hoping that the bylaw reforms will make a stronger progressive faction,” the member said.
But one of the Council members who’s likely to leave the caucus said the pledge sends the wrong message.
“I’m not signing a pledge to ignore the will of my constituents, and they don’t want to defund or abolish the NYPD,” the member said.
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