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Mayor unveils budget with focus on public safety

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Making sure ambulances get to sick New Yorkers quicker is a top priority of Mayor Bill de Blasio in his 2016 budget.

The mayor revealed his $77.7 billion preliminary budget on Monday, focusing on making New York a safer place to live, promising to clean up Rikers Island and replacing all of the NYPD’s old bulletproof vests.

De Blasio, who was criticized for not highlighting the problems of community policing during his State of the City address last week, spoke first about FDNY and NYPD allocations after giving a overview of the city and country’s economy.

The fire department will receive $11.3 million to add 45 new ambulance shifts, and another $6.7 million to add 149 new EMS dispatchers to improve emergency response time.

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De Blasio said the goal is to speed up the average ambulance response times, which is about 6 minutes, 50 seconds, across the city, and especially slower neighborhoods including the South Bronx, western Queens and Staten Island.

In 2014, the FDNY responded to a record 1.3 million emergency calls, and the average response time increased by three seconds. City officials told the AP they want response times to drop to about 6 minutes, 30 seconds.

“The current average end-to-end response time of 9 minutes and 30 seconds for life threatening emergencies is unacceptable,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who chairs the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, in a statement.

Crowley said the city has to go a “step further” and hire 76 more EMS supervisors to meet federal emergency response standards.

“We cannot wait for response times to get even higher before taking the appropriate action,” Crowley said.

All NYPD bulletproof vests that are over five years old will be replaced over the next two years, with $11.3 million in fiscal year 2015 and $4.2 million in 2016.

De Blasio said he’ll spend 10 million to expand the Police Cadet Program to about 600 recruits, including college graduates.

The city law department will receive $3.2 million to stop “frivolous lawsuits” against police officers. De Blasio mentioned the recent “machete” case, where the city settled a case that gave a man who was shot after waving the large knife at officers $5,000.

De Blasio said the city will spend the money to take similar cases to trial in the future, and send a “blunt” message to those bringing frivolous lawsuits to “cease and desist.” Last year’s executive budget set aside $674 million to pay lawsuits and judgements against the city, according to the city comptroller’s website.

The city Department of Corrections will receive nearly $40 million to stop the use of excessive force, increase staffing for the adolescent population and expand background checks of corrections officers at Rikers Island.

Educational priorities in the budget include $340 million for universal pre-K and $190 million to expand after-school programs, and more spending for literacy programs.

Bronx Councilman Andy King told Metro his “favorite take away” was the $11 million commitment to the Administration for Children Services for child welfare reforms, training and prevention.

“As a former ACS worker, I am thrilled that the Mayor has committed to funding training efforts in my former agency to ensure a prepared and effective workforce of professionals tasked with ensuring the safety of New York’s young people,” King said.

Rental assistance, homelessness outreach and expansion to the city’s ID NYC program are also in the budget.

The city’s outlook is a “tale of two economies,” de Blasio said, and that while New York City enjoys higher employment numbers and lower unemployment rates, many of the positions being added are for lower wage workers. The “sustained impact of the Great Recession” is especially being felt by the city’s declining middle class.

“Even with growth too many people are left out,” de Blasio said.

 
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