The de Blasio administration is expected to provide $19 million in funds for private security officers who’ll be placed outside non-public schools, including Yeshivas and Jewish day schools, across the City of New York upon request, the office of the Mayor and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced on Wednesday.
The agreement between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Council came after a yearlong battle over Introduction 65-A, sponsored by Council Member David Greenfield.
The initial draft of the piece of legislation would assign uniformed NYPD School Safety Agents to all non-public schools, just as every public school in the City of New York receives. The funding proposed for this bill was estimated at the maximum of $50 million. But Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to include any funding for the proposal in his Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2016, arguing that the NYPD is doing a pretty good job in protecting all communities. The mayor argued that security is already being provided to all neighborhoods, regardless of the location of the officers. “It’s about the choices we have to make with the resources we have… We believe that with the resources we have now we can provide protection to communities,” he explained. “We understand there are some very challenging times we’re in, but we also know the NYPD is, in particular, tremendously able to addressing the challenges we face, even when they are internationally derived. We feel good about our ability to protect people.”
But in the aftermath of the deadly Paris attacks and the concern over public institutions remaining unprotected and thus vulnerable for potential targets pushed the two sides towards compromise.
According to the agreement, at least one unarmed security guard will be assigned to non-public schools with 300 or more students upon request. Larger schools will receive additional guards. The guards must be registered and trained according to state law, and they must be referred by a state licensed security guard agency. The law will also require that the guards are paid the prevailing wage.
The Council has agreed to cap spending on the program at $19.8 million in the first year and allow for future increases as needed based on the growth of the program and increases in the prevailing wage.
A City Council vote is expected in December.
“The safety of all children is our collective responsibility, and that’s something the NYPD and City agencies act on each and every day. We’re pleased we could work productively with Speaker Mark-Viverito, Councilman Greenfield and their colleagues on an initiative that gives the administration the flexibility to develop a program that recognizes community needs, while addressing administration concerns about diverting critical police resources,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement on Wednesday. “This will be a targeted and fiscally responsible effort that will bolster security where it’s most appropriate. Additional security guards, who will work closely with the NYPD, will put more eyes and ears on the ground and will improve our ability to keep all New Yorkers safe. ”
“This first-of-its kind program in New York City is going to help keep children in private schools safe,” Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement. “The New York City Council is proud to lead on this landmark public safety measure, and we look forward to its implementation.” Greenfield added, “This legislation recognizes that all children, regardless of where they go to school, deserve to learn in a safe environment. I am especially grateful to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito for her support and guidance over the last 21 months as we worked towards passage of this vital legislation. I thank Mayor de Blasio for recognizing the importance of security for all school-children and for taking a bold step in protecting the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”
The Orthodox Union – Teach NYS, as an organization behind the grassroots campaign for the passage of the bill, commended the mayor, the City Council Speaker and Greenfield for the agreement. “As security is increased in light of recent events and religious communities face especially heightened concerns, it is especially critical that all students are protected regardless of what kind of school they attend,” said Maury Litwak, Director of State Political Affairs for the Orthodox Union.