New York City’s Probation Department has cut programs, its workers gripe about low pay, and city government is in a budget crunch — but Probation Commissioner Juanita Holmes has a new, luxurious city-funded car.
Holmes travels in an $86,590 Ford Expedition Platinum, purchased in October from a dealership in Rockland County, city records show.
The Ford’s standard features include heated leather-trimmed “multi-contour” seats that vibrate with “Active Motion massage,” a high-end Bang & Olufsen stereo system with 22 speakers and a “panoramic” sun roof, the car maker says.
After the city bought the car, it was sent to Valley Van, a company in Valley Stream, L.I., for installation of a lights-and- siren package worth roughly $17,000, said sources. That purchase was outside the purview of the comptroller’s office, and city officials declined to confirm it.
The department bought the Expedition because the agency’s existing Mitsubishi Outlanders were considered “too small” by Holmes, according to probation insiders with direct knowledge of the discussions. Outlanders retail for about $30,000.
“The Department of Probation is eliminating critical programs for at-risk young adults, but can somehow afford a luxury SUV vehicle for the commissioner,” said City Councilman Lincoln Restler. “The Department of Probation has the wrong priorities, and this sale should be immediately reversed.”
In an emailed statement, a Probation Department spokesperson said, “Upon the commissioner’s appointment in Spring 2023, the vehicle was requested and approved, prior to the City’s budget cuts. Like all Commissioners, Commissioner Holmes needs a vehicle to ensure she can conduct City business outside of the office.”
Holmes took office on March 9. The earliest date recorded for purchase of the Expedition Platinum in Comptroller’s office records is Oct. 5.
The probation spokesperson, who did not provide their name, did not specify the date the vehicle was “requested” or “approved.” Nor did the spokesperson identify who approved the purchase.
The contract of sale was signed Oct. 25 by the Probation Department’s Interim Agency Chief Contracting Officer Richard Tibbetts, records show.
Holmes, appointed as probation commissioner in March, has been criticized for canceling the funding of two mentoring programs, Next Steps and Impact, and slashing $1 million a year from a third program called Arches.
Anessa Hodgson, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which usually handles vehicle purchases, said The New York Daily News’ information about the purchase was “incorrect.”
However, Hodgson and her colleague Dan Kastanis repeatedly refused to specify what was “incorrect.”
Holmes’ driver for the swanky SUV will likely be William “Red” Manderson, an NYPD detective first grade, who made close to $200,000 in 2023 as Holmes’ personal aide.
Mayor Adams’ City Hall fleet includes a Lincoln Navigator and more modest Chevrolet Suburbans, according to reports and witness accounts. Navigators start at around $80,000, the Lincoln website says. Retail prices for Chevy Suburbans start at $59,200.
City Comptroller Brad Lander is driven in a Mustang Mach-E sedan which retails for under $43,000, a source familiar with Lander’s car said.
City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams is the only Council member with a city car — though council members have the option of taking a parking placard for their personal vehicles. Restler chose to decline the placard, his spokeswoman Nieve Mooney said.