New York's 46-Percenters: Living Near Poverty Line

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[Op-Ed: NYC Mayoral Race 2013]

Mayor Bloomberg deserves credit for many of the administration’s efforts to diversify the city’s economy from its over-reliance on Wall Street. Especially since the financial crisis in 2008, the administration has pursued smart strategies to nurture the growth of new jobs and industries in tech, biosciences, film and television, design, advanced manufacturing and tourism.

Those efforts, coupled with expansions of our colleges and universities and the launch of the Cornell-Technion partnership, have helped New York continue to be a magnet for talent from across the country and the world. 

Those efforts can and must continue in a new administration.   

We also must negotiate responsible contracts with our city’s hardworking public employees – including smartly addressing the rise in the cost of health care and retirement security for New York’s workers.  This is essential if we are to make the investments we need in early childhood education, after school programs and all of the services – from green-spaces to public libraries – that make New York a vibrant and livable city for every New Yorker.

But the Mayor has failed to acknowledge the single greatest threat to New York’s economic future: deep inequality that has left 46% of New Yorkers at or near the poverty line, and too many others struggling to get by.  Allowing income inequality to grow unabated is irreversibly destructive to the middle class, and our greatest threat is losing our middle class all together. 

For all the progress in nurturing new industries, too many New Yorkers are still being left out and left behind.  New York under Mayor Bloomberg has become a Tale of Two Cities where very few graduates of our public schools and community colleges have benefited from New York’s tech boom, while the fastest growing industries creating new jobs in this city continue to pay poverty-level wages. Addressing this gaping inequality is the great challenge for our next Mayor. 

We must raise the floor on low wage work through a real living wage law, expanded paid sick leave, and a bold expansion of affordable housing. We must redirect wasteful one-shot economic development subsidies into rebuilding CUNY and supporting neighborhood economic development, and make a historic investment in New York City families by making high quality early education and after school programs available to all of our kids.  

Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn didn't create the Tale of Two Cities that New York has become, but their failure to take the bold steps necessary to reverse the trend threatens the very foundation of what New York City has always been and can be once again: a city of opportunity for everyone that leaves no one behind.


Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is a Democratic candidate for Mayor of New York City.



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