The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is threatening to relocate federal offices out of New York City over a recent spate of violence that has endangered EPA employees.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ripping both officials for allowing rioters to engage “in unwarranted, violent activity” at the agency’s New York City offices, according to the New York Post.
July “Occupy City Hall” protests caused damage to the EPA office building after de Blasio, while issuing strong remarks condemning the violence at the protest in early July, allowed protesters to remain encamped around the city’s government buildings for weeks before police officers cleared the space out. Wheeler said that he was forced to keep EPA staff home who needed access to their building in the area because it was not safe for employees to travel there.
“If you cannot demonstrate that EPA employees will be safe accessing our City offices, then I will begin the process of looking for a new location for our headquarters outside of the City that can maintain order,” Wheeler wrote in the letter. “I have an obligation to our employees and if the City is unwilling or incapable of doing its job, I will do mine and move them to a location that can competently fulfill the basic mission of a local government.”
“The demonstrators engaged in unwarranted, violent activity at the facility, breaking windows and defacing/destroying government property,” he continued, noting that “protestors smashed a turnstile door and forcefully entered the lobby” of the nearby Jacob K. Javits Federal Building, which houses federal offices for the Department of Homeland Security and FBI.
The Department of Justice recently designated New York City as an “anarchist jurisdiction” along with Portland and Seattle, accusing local officials of being unwilling to crack down on violent rioters within their cities, and threatening to strip their federal funds. The Trump administration did not specify what kind of funds or how much each city stood to lose.
Attorney General William Barr released a statement on Monday explaining why New York City was placed on the list and is at risk of losing federal assistance:
- Shootings in New York City have been on the rise since looting and protests began on or about May 28, 2020. For July 2020, shootings increased from 88 to 244, an increase of 177% over July 2019. In August 2020, shootings increased from 91 to 242, a 166% increase over August 2019.
- While the city faced increased unrest, gun violence, and property damage, the New York City Council cut $1 billion from NYPD’s FY21 budget.
- The budget resulted in the cancellation of the new police recruiting class, cuts to overtime spending, and the transfer of certain police functions, including school safety, out of the NYPD.
- Meanwhile, the Manhattan and Brooklyn District Attorneys have declined to prosecute charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly arising from the protests, and the District Attorneys in Queens and the Bronx have declined to prosecute other protest-related charges.
- Both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo have forcefully rejected federal law enforcement support.
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