(The Center Square) – New York City is one of three cities deemed to be permitting anarchy, the U.S. Justice Department announced on Monday, and as such risks losing federal funding. But both state and local officials responded by threatening to take the Trump administration to court if it withholds billions of dollars that have been allocated to the city.
The DOJ’s decision comes nearly three weeks after President Donald Trump signed an executive order calling for a review of New York, Portland, Ore., Seattle and other cities that, according to the order, “allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones.”
Besides New York, the Justice Department also identified Portland and Seattle as cities that have endangered the public.
The threat to withhold federal funding to New York City could be especially troublesome as the city already faces a $9 billion budget shortfall due to the COVID-19 crisis and the economic downtown that came with it earlier this year. Losing additional funding could compound the issues facing the nation’s largest city.
In designating New York, the DOJ noted the sharp increase in shootings over the summer, a 171.5 percent increase in July and August from last year. That comes after the city cut the New York Police Department funding by $1 billion for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
At the same time, the DOJ claims local prosecutors have declined to pursue cases against protestors who have been cited for various charges stemming from the demonstrations calling for justice in the George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other similar cases of people killed by law enforcement officers.
“We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. “It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens.”
In speaking to reporters Monday after the announcement took place, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo dismissed it as more campaign rhetoric.
“I think he's more concerned with remaining president of the United States, and he thinks his political opportunity is to try to divide this nation,” Cuomo said.
However, he believes this attempt to cut funding, which would be about $7 billion in housing, transportation and other public service funding, is as unconstitutional as its Congress that determines how much funding states and cities receive.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio told reporters during his daily briefing Monday that he was out and about in the city before the announcement, and what he saw, kids getting ready for school and people going to work, showed anything but anarchy in the streets.
The city also threatened court action if the administration held back funding.
“The designation of anarchy doesn't even pass the commonsense test,” New York City Corporation Counsel Jim Johnson told reporters. “If need be, we can send, in addition to our legal filings, a dictionary, because what we have in New York is not anarchy. What we have is a city moving forward under difficult circumstances made more difficult because of the threats to withdraw federal funding.”