By Bill Parry
From the start of his State of the City address at Harlem’s Apollo Theater Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised it would not include the “bells and whistles” of years past, with expensive project proposals such as developing the Sunnyside Yards or building a street car connecting Queens with Brooklyn. Instead the mayor concentrated on the city’s affordable housing crisis.
“This affordability crisis threatens who we are, threatens the very soul of this city,” de Blasio said. “I say to any New Yorker who is struggling to pay the bills, anyone fighting to stay in their own neighborhood, anyone who is just starting their retirement and are not sure if they are going to have enough to keep going, I say again, very simply, this is your city, and we are here for you.”
The mayor said he was proud to have the biggest affordable housing plan in the history of the city, but said job creation “will be the new front line in the battle to keep New York City affordable.” He said from 1990 to 2014 the average rent in New York City increased 22 percent, while real wages went up only one percent.
“That’s why people are struggling,” de Blasio said. “And we have to respond to that kind of profound crisis with even stronger solutions. We have to drive up incomes, and that means actually helping people get the kinds of jobs that allow you to afford to live in New York City.”
The mayor announced a new effort to create 100,000 jobs that pay at least $50,000 a year over the next decade, including 40,000 in the next four years. In addition, de Blasio said he would expand a program that provides lawyers to low-income New Yorkers facing eviction.
He did not go into any detail on the homeless crisis that topped a record 60,000 this summer. “That will come in the coming days,” de Blasio said, drawing a thumbs-down from City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who is said to be mulling a run for mayor in November.
“As expected, Mayor de Blasio gave himself a glowing review in his State of the City address on Monday,” he said. “However, he conveniently forgot to mention the homeless epidemic, and the administration’s failure to protect vulnerable children in ACS custody. At a time when New Yorkers are more and more concerned with the future of our city, we deserve real solutions to the problems we face — not political grandstanding.”
The mayor also briefly mentioned Sandy recovery efforts and investment in infrastructure before finishing with a warning about the Trump administration, which is trying, among other things, to cut off federal funding from sanctuary cities such as New York that refuse to assist the feds with deporting undocumented immigrants.
“We do not know what the future of our economy will be. We sure don’t know what’s going to happen in Washington, D.C.,” de Blasio said. “And we, as New Yorkers, we’ve become even more important in this moment of history. This place becomes more important because of who we are and what we stand for. We need to get it right, my friends. We need to stay a beacon of hope. We need to show people what a society that respects all looks like. And keep the dream of so many of our forbearers alive for all to see. We need to remember this country is ours. It belongs to all of us. And this is our city.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr