The State of Two Cities

New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, delivers his State of the City address Monday at LaGuardia Community College in Queens. De Blasio outlined his vision to fight the city’s widening income inequality gap. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

It is the age of wealth. It is the age of poverty. It is the start of a new administration.

In his first State of the City address Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio laid out his administration’s work thus far and outlined the core of his plan: to reduce income inequality and give all New Yorkers an opportunity to thrive. Even if that means asking the wealthy to pay some additional taxes. We should be “fighting to end the Tale of Two Cities, not just because it’s moral and just,” he said, “but because it makes all of our lives richer.”

In case you missed it, here are the six things you need to know about de Blasio’s State of the City address, plus a few fun facts:

1. Bill’s recap of his first month in office:

Since entering the mayor’s office on January 1st, de Blasio pointed out, he has

  • promised to preserve or construct roughly 200,000 units of affordable housing, and last week appointed a team of housing and planning experts who are to release a plan by May 1st,
  • worked with Brooklyn residents to stop the closures of community hospitals that provide medical services in their neighborhoods,
  • decided to reform stop and frisk,
  • extended paid sick leave to an additional half million New Yorkers, and
  • begun work on Vision Zero, a plan designed to eliminate pedestrian fatalities in NYC by 2024.

2. Living and minimum wage:

De Blasio’s vision for a progressive future includes spreading the city’s “living wage” standards and increasing the number of “living wage” jobs city-subsidized employers offer. (City “living wage” law requires businesses that get city subsidies or contracts to pay at least $11.50 per hour or $10 plus benefits.) At the same time, he said, the city will turn to Albany to request the power to raise minimum wage for other employers.

3. Jobs, training, and small businesses:

De Blasio plans to foster the growth of small businesses in emerging industries with the aim of creating jobs for young people. “We will reverse the trend of importing engineers, nurses, and other skilled workers to fill New York City jobs,” he said, “and start in-sourcing good jobs.”

To this end, de Blasio presented a four-pronged approach:

  • advance a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program at CUNY to train young people for tech jobs;
  • prepare the young and unemployed for middle-skill, middle-class jobs in the health sector;
  • reimagine the city’s web of job training programs for those without a college degree; and
  • connect the city’s high schools with colleges, apprenticeships, and industries that will prepare them for future job opportunities.

The city will also create an entrepreneurship fund for low-income New Yorkers and a fashion-manufacturing fund.

4. Municipal ID cards for the undocumented:

Starting this year, the administration will offer municipal identification cards to all New Yorkers. For undocumented immigrants—which de Blasio estimated number nearly half a million—he noted that ID cards are particularly vital to ensure access to bank accounts, leases, library cards, and other services.

5. Sandy relief:

Though the super-storm may seem a distant memory for many, some New Yorkers—like those in the Rockaways, Coney Island, Staten Island, and Lower Manhattan—are still recovering. De Blasio promised to deliver “a comprehensive review and updated plan to help those for whom the effects of Sandy are still an everyday reality.”

6. Universal pre-K and after school:

De Blasio ended with the children. As widely reported, the mayor has put a detailed plan to provide universal Pre-K and extended learning after school for junior high students on the table, ready to be put in effect for September 2014. But first Albany will need to approve the plan, which proposes procuring funding by increasing taxes for those who make $500,000 or more.


Five fun facts:

1. De Blasio’s first State of the City address ran roughly 42 minutes.

2. There has been more snow in the last month than any new administration has seen since Ed Koch took office in 1978, de Blasio said.

3. Speaking at LaGuardia Community College, de Blasio invoked its namesake—Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia—at least five times.

4. De Blasio said the words “New Yorkers” roughly three dozen times, the most frequent two-word phrase in his speech.

5. Three of these New Yorkers were cited as examples during the speech: Kathy Delahoz and Esmeralda Valencia, regarding paid sick leave, and Rocio Espada, regarding pre-K and after-school programs.