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Gracie Mansion hopeful Andrew Yang stepped into a municipal hornets’ nest Tuesday by saying he backs requiring newly-hired police officers to live in New York City, a proposed change that would run afoul of state law and which has already infuriated powerful police unions.
Yang made the remarks on New York public radio station WNYC in response to a caller comment on the “Brian Lehrer Show.”
The caller “is correct that new officers should be required to live in the city, hopefully in the neighborhoods that they’re actually policing, because talk about being able to understand the community better,” Yang told the host.
“You should be of the community, certainly when you start on the force,” he continued. “And that, I believe, would fundamentally change the dynamic, because instead of seeing folks as strangers or potential perpetrators, you see them as your neighbors.”
However, the police residency exemption has been enshrined in Section 3 of the state’s Public Officers Law. It includes carve-outs for officers who live in counties within 30 miles of the Big Apple’s boundaries.
Currently, in order to qualify for uniformed service with the NYPD, a candidate be an American citizen, “have a valid New York driver license and live in one of the city’s five boroughs or Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Westchester, Putnam or Orange counties within 30 days of being hired,” the department’s website states.
Officers and their unions quickly jumped on Yang for the remarks.
“We can’t talk about changing the NYPD residency requirements without talking about police officers’ pay,” said Pat Lynch, the head of the city’s biggest police union, the Police Benevolent Association. “Requiring them to live in the city and shoulder its sky-high cost of living on a below-market salary will hurt NYPD recruitment efforts, not improve them.”
Yang’s residency requirement would be at least the third proposal made by the New York City political novice in recent weeks, which would require state or federal action to be implemented.
The tech entrepreneur-turned-2020 Democratic presidential candidate and now mayoral wannabe is seeking to end Madison Square Garden’s property tax exemption, which is controlled by Albany. And he’s called for the construction of a casino on Governor’s Island, which Politico New York reported is barred under a 2003 agreement made with the federal government.
Yang has also faced criticism for spending the terrifying early months of the coronavirus pandemic with his family at their second home upstate and for failing to vote in a single mayoral election before throwing his hat into the municipal political ring.
Those unforced errors have been quickly highlighted by Yang’s opponents as they try to blunt his momentum following a high-profile launch that jolted the previously placid but crowded Democratic mayoral primary race.
Another NYPD union picked up that thread as it blasted Yang for his remarks.
“We have no doubt that Mr. Yang understands how it can be difficult living in a small apartment as we have seen in the headlines,” said Detectives Endowment Association president Paul DiGiacomo. “His idea is really just another way to shrink the headcount of the department — another anti-police initiative affecting New Yorkers who need us the most.”
Yang’s backers have brushed aside the criticisms and say his name recognition and donor base from his 2020 bid — which was fueled by his support for guaranteed income payments — give him a commanding position in the June primary.
More than two dozen people have filed the paperwork to run for mayor, city Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former Wall Street executive Ray McGuire and two former top officials to Mayor Bill de Blasio turned critics — civil rights attorney Maya Wiley and former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia.
Yang’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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