A crowd gathered Tuesday evening in McCarren Park to hear Council Member Stephen Levin explain his ‘yes’ vote for a city budget that many Black Lives Matter activists opposed.
What started as an in-the-weeds discussion of city finances turned into an open forum in which community members and activists criticized Levin for supporting a budget that failed, they argued, to adequately cut funding for the NYPD.
“The only reason you’re out here is because you feel guilty,” said a community activist who declined to give her name.
Levin stood behind his reasoning to vote for a budget that was a vast improvement, he said, over Mayor de Blasio’s conservative financial plan that barely reduced funding for the city’s police department.
“I think I made the right vote, in my heart of hearts,” he stated.
Levin explained that he and other City Council members faced substantial opposition from Mayor de Blasio. The resulting budget, which cut overtime spending for the city police in half but did not lay off any school safety officers, he said was a compromise.
And if the City Council had passed its own budget or had not passed one at all, the ensuing instability would have been a “disaster.” The mayor might have ignored the council’s proposed budget, and New York State would have had the authority to take control of the city’s finances.
“Both of these options are terribly risky,” he explained in a statement published on Twitter.
Listeners, though, didn’t buy his explanations and voiced strident criticisms of Levin and his legacy.
“You didn’t change a damn thing since you’ve been in office,” said one attendee who declined to be named. Other attendees pointed out that Council Member Antonio Reynoso, who represents portions of Williamsburg, voted ‘no’ for the budget, which a majority of members passed two weeks ago.
Levin summed up his reaction to community blowback Wednesday morning on Twitter:
“I take your criticism to heart & will use my remaining time in office to do more & do better to combat police brutality & misconduct.”
I want to thank everyone that came out to McCarren Pool yesterday to talk about the #NYPD budget & my “yes” vote-I take your criticism to heart & will use my remaining time in office to do more & do better to combat police brutality & misconduct 1/ https://t.co/pHLl99HaSd
— (((Stephen Levin))) (@StephenLevin33) July 15, 2020