Former NYC deputy mayor says city faces ‘bleak’ financial situation amid pandemic
Randy Levine, president of the New York Yankees and former deputy mayor of New York City, said Sunday that the coronavirus pandemic has left a “bleak” financial situation in the city, suggesting that the city “will go bankrupt” if the issue is not addressed.
“Because of the pandemic, because of what’s happened here, the fiscal situation in the city is really, really bleak. It hasn’t gotten the attention that it deserves,” Levine said during an interview with John Catsimatidis on his radio show on WABC 770 AM.
“If this city is not on good financial footing, then nothing else can happen,” said Levine, who served as the deputy mayor for economic development, planning and administration from 1997 to 2000.
“If you don’t solve this problem, then nothing happens,” he added. “The city will go bankrupt.”
State and city governments across the United States have exhausted their coffers since the start of the pandemic, using money to provide protective equipment and gear up for other preventative measures as the virus spread.
The New York Times reported in November that New York City itself spent $5.2 billion combatting the pandemic, including paying for ventilators, food assistance, testing and reopening schools safely.
Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) warned at the time that if the city did not receive additional resources from a major federal stimulus package, that New York would be forced to make “extremely difficult choices”, referring to cuts to municipal jobs.
The mayor reported a $4 billion budget gap as a result of increased spending due to the pandemic, according to the Times.
Levine said that while other issues may exist in the city, such as homelessness and crime, he argued that economic policy should be the foundation to solving any wider socioeconomic issue exacerbated by the pandemic.
“We have giant out-year budget deficits. The private sector is shrinking. Businesses are closing,” Levine said. “People can’t pay their mortgages, their rent. Real estate is depressed.”
“If you don’t fix [the budget] you’ll have no city services,” he added. “If we have a city that goes bankrupt, then there’s going to be chaos.”
Levine, who wrote in an editorial Thursday that “structural change” must come from “reducing the size of the city government,” echoed these remarks during Sunday’s interview.
“We’ve got to reduce the size of the city government in a planned way,” Levine argued, adding that this includes reducing the number of city employees, selling unused city property and focusing on funding for “core services.”
Since COVID-19 first hit the city earlier this year, Broadway shows, restaurants and other tourist attractions have been forced to shut down, leading to 896,000 private sector jobs lost between February and April, according to the city’s comptroller office.
The city’s unemployment rate reached as high as 20 percent in July, although the New York City Department of Labor reported that this had fallen to 14.1 percent in September.
As of Saturday, New York City has recorded a total of more than 304,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 62,000 hospitalizations and at least 19,653 fatalities due to the virus.
John Catsimatidis is an investor in The Hill.
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