FLATBUSH – Mayor de Blasio delivered his big annual State of the City speech at the Kings Theater on Flatbush Avenue last night. He got down to business around 8:00 pm, saying that “there is a point at which extreme inequality makes a mockery of a democratic society”, and that his goal for the reminder of his term will be to make NYC the Fairest big city in America.
How do we become the Fairest Big City in America? “By listening to the voices of the people. Nothing comes through louder and clearer, and, yes, we New Yorkers are loud, nothing comes through more than that daily demand for fairness. New Yorkers aren’t afraid of tough challenges. But we want the rules of the game to be fair. So my mandate entire administration is this, make every decision whether about a policy or a judgement, make every decision with this simple question in mind, will this action help make us the Fairest Big City in America? And then apply these decisions with urgency and energy,” De Blasio said.
He then proceeded to outline his 12 point plan, using tools and policies mostly already available. Only 3 years, 10 months and 15 days left for his administration to accomplish all that — and few clear goals to hold them accountable.
Here are some of the questions I left with, wondering if the administration really is listening:
- Policing. “ If policing is fair it makes fairness possible in all aspects of life, and that’s what we have to insure.” Sounds great, maybe let’s also take a good look at rules, and regulations the cops are expected to enforce – as he spoke, street vendors were protesting unfair treatment, steps from the 67th precinct which had three times the average per capita murder rates in the city last year, and no end in sight (murders were up to 17 last year from 14 the year before).
Outside #SOTC2018 delivery workers and @VendorPower protest @NYPD harassment. @NYCMayor says inside that police will only pursue major crimes. “Fairest big city in America” #legalizeebikes #deliverjustice pic.twitter.com/N1RrwQd8Jf
— BikingPublicProject (@BikingPublic) February 14, 2018
- Environment – Let’s reduce building emissions, install more electric charging stations, and an all electric fleet, the Mayor proposed. Those glossy, large-scale plans don’t do much for the delivery workers outside who’s electric bikes he’s asked the police to aggressively confiscate.
- Schools – There are two substantive, aggressive new plans: universal preschool for 3 year olds by 2021, and getting everyone reading at grade level by the time they get to 3rd Grade. Aimed at a big target, fixing the issue of “good” and “bad” schools depending on where you live, the Mayor said. Missing from the equation, though, was a pressing, central issue: Brooklyn, and New York City, are home to some of the most segregated schools in the country, surely part of the problem.
- Housing – “When it comes to fighting income and inequality and creating fairness in our everyday lives, nothing is more important than affordable housing,” de Blasio said. “Well, here’s how I see it, every time a family is saved from an illegal eviction, every time a family gets their apartment preserved at affordable rent, every time a family moves into one of our new affordable buildings, it’s another step towards becoming the Fairest Big City in America. And we will reach more New Yorkers in the next four years than ever before in our history.”
So – is it getting better?
“In recent years, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s” Coalition for the Homeless says, “The number of homeless New Yorkers sleeping each night in municipal shelters is now 82 percent higher than it was ten years ago.” Street homelessness in New York increased by 39% percent in 2017, NBC reported last summer.
The ever increasing rents are making affordable apartments scarce, and too many of the newly “affordable” apartments, are only affordable for those making quite a bit more than most in the community – the question we hear from neighbors over and over is – affordable for whom?
Flatbush Tenants Coalition was outside the event trying to get their voices heard, as were the NYCHA tenants out there complaining about the lack of heat.
— CommunityVoicesHeard (@CVHaction) February 13, 2018
Let’s hope the Mayor heard them.