• Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

NYC sees improvements on crime and trash, but police complaints surge, Adams admin says

NYC sees improvements on crime and trash, but police complaints surge, Adams admin says

Mayor Adams’ administration is making headway in collecting more street trash and curbing violent crime but struggling to build street safety infrastructure, keep police response times prompt and process cash assistance applications, according to a data-rich semiannual report on city services released Tuesday.

The document, the Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report, shows that in the first four months of fiscal year 2024, which began in July last year, police response times for serious crimes slowed by an average of 40 seconds compared with the same period a year earlier, a shift the city attributed to traffic and reduced personnel. Fire responses were five seconds slower on average, the report said.

Police responses to critical crimes are now up nearly two minutes since 2021, according to the 432-page government report.

Despite the Police Department’s sometimes slow-footed responses, violent crime rates continued to improve in the city. Major felony crime fell by 3%, and the murder rate plunged by 21% in the four-month period, according to the report. Adams, a Democrat who ran on a law-and-order platform, has often emphasized his successes on crime data.

“Crime is down, jobs are up,” Adams has repeatedly said.

But the report also carried data points that could sharpen concerns that the mayor is presiding over an increasingly heavy-handed Police Department. Civilian complaints against cops surged by 60% in the four-month period compared with the same period in 2023, according to the data.

In the same timeframe, quality-of-life violations reported by the NYPD spiked by almost 70%. The city reported significantly more quality-of-life violations in the four-month period than it did in all of fiscal year 2021, at the end of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. 

Adams’ office said its efforts across the board are improving quality of life in the city, and it hailed progress on trash pickups. The Sanitation Department is carrying out trash can collection at record rates, according to the mayor’s office. In the first four months of the fiscal year, the city serviced more than 100,000 more litter baskets than in the same period a year earlier, the report said.

“When we came into office 24 months ago, we had a clear vision to protect public safety, rebuild our economy, and make our city more livable for all New Yorkers,” Adams said in a Tuesday statement. “Two years later, New Yorkers’ quality of life is undoubtedly improving.”

The mayor also pointed to the city’s work to make its streets and parks greener. The city recorded a more than 100% increase in new tree plantings.

At the same time, the city continues to struggle to meet the mayor’s goals for safety improvements on the city’s often harrowing streetscape. Adams once vowed to build 300 miles of bike lanes and 150 miles of bus lanes over four years.

But Tuesday’s report offered the latest window into the city’s struggles to approach those clips. In the four-month period, the city built 22 miles of bike lanes and nine miles of bus lanes, the report said.

Ninety-three city traffic fatalities were logged in the timeframe, according to the report, roughly equaling the number in the same period a year earlier. The fatality rate for bicyclists and motorcyclists rose by more than 30%.

In a concerning trend, the city is floundering in its efforts to process low-income New Yorkers’ applications for cash assistance in a timely manner. In the four-month reporting period, timely cash assistance application rates plummeted by more than 40 percentage points compared to the same stretch the previous year, according to the city.

The report said the decline came in large part due to an “unprecedented and continuing increase in applications,” suggesting that more New Yorkers may be struggling with poverty even as city assistance wilts.

Overall, the city processed just 14% of cash assistance applications within the legally mandated 30-day timeframe in the latest four month disclosure period, according to the report. In 2021, the timeliness rate was above 95%. The city’s stated target for its timeliness rate is 96%.

On Dec. 26, Anne Williams-Isom, Adams’ deputy mayor for health and human services, claimed the administration had improved processing of cash assistance benefits amid historic demand.

“We still have been making a lot of progress on the backlog,” she said at the time.

A spokeswoman for the Social Services Department, which oversees the city’s benefits processing, maintained Tuesday that the agency has “made significant progress” on improving processing, but attributed the big dip in the first four months of fiscal year 2024 to a “more than 70% increase” in demand during the period.

“To address this increased need, DSS has significantly increased staffing levels for processing these applications and we continue to hire and train staff,” said the spokeswoman, Neha Sharma.

Timeliness rates for food stamp applications were also poor, but remained steady at around 40%, according to the management report.

City Councilman Lincoln Restler, chair of the Council’s Government Operations Committee, said that Adams had inherited a city where “almost all New Yorkers in need of emergency food or cash assistance got the help they needed.”

“Now, two years later, the significant majority of struggling New Yorkers are getting no answer on their applications for these federally funded entitlements for over a month,” he added. “The Adams administration is failing to provide help to the New Yorkers who need it most.”

With Téa Kvetenadze

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