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.

Council Member Stephen Levin explains his ‘yes’ vote in Greenpoint (Image via Ben Weiss).

“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.

Community members voice their concerns and criticisms (Image via Ben Weiss).

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.”

Join the Conversation


  1. He is not gonna win either way. By voting yes he incurs the wrath of the extreme socialists, cops are the problem with everything, let anarchy rule.

    If he would have voted no, he would have incurred the wrath of the right, ie let anarchy rule.

    That is the problem, the extremes get the squeaky wheel oil instead of looking at the problem, clearly identifying it without ax grinding and work with moderate people on both sides how to solve the issue.

    1. Paul, you have no idea what you are talking about. Anacharists don’t fight for more government. That’s what people who support voting “No” were asking for. More money going from the NYPD budget to other government agencies. Not shifting money from the NYPD to “school safety officers.” Police officers by another name. There was a teacher in this very forum who was furious about the “No” vote.

  2. Understanding completely the frustration of the people constituting what, in essence, is a disenfranchized majority in NYC, that government can’t just make things right already, and do it completely, now — I also understand that’s not going to happen. Incremental change is something we all have to begrudgingly accept.

    That said, we SERIOUSLY need to increase the size of those increments. I’m heartened to read about folks continuing to put pressure on our elected officials to increase the pace of change. Keep it up, folks.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *