Bill de Blasio will face a number of tough issues when he takes office in January. To determine what New Yorkers want their new mayor to concentrate on, we asked them, using our annual survey of New Yorkers, “The Unheard Third.” Here are some of the highlights.
New Yorkers overwhelmingly want the next mayor to focus on creating middle-income jobs. Since the start of the recent recession, the city has suffered a net loss of high and middle-wage jobs, with job growth concentrated in low-wage employment.
A majority of all New Yorkers – including 52 percent of low-income Latinos - feel it is not possible for the poor to make it into the middle class. Economic mobility, historically associated with New York City, seems to be fading.
An overwhelming 82 percent of New Yorkers favor making a large investment in infrastructure to create jobs. Two-thirds of respondents – including 67 percent of low-income Latinos - strongly favor a large public works program to provide well-paying jobs.
Latino New Yorkers see the importance of aiding education and training for youths. Seventy-three percent of low-income Latinos are willing to pay a little more in taxes to connect out-of-school and out-of-work youth to jobs. Seventy-six percent are willing to pay a little more in taxes to make pre-Kindergarten programs available to all children.
Mayor de Blasio will have to negotiate long overdue labor contracts covering all municipal unions. Given that reality, it is important to note that many of the proposals that could make a real difference for low-income New Yorkers can be accomplished without any additional city spending.
Rent burdens now account for a staggering two-thirds of income, on average, for poor New Yorkers in unsubsidized units. So it is hard to think about alleviating poverty in New York City without talking about affordable housing. The city should invest its financial resources in maximizing the use of the federal tax credit and other affordable housing subsidies. And it should lower the income target in new developments to reach the lowest-income tenants possible.
The public housing deficit can be immediately cut by ending the annual $75 million that the New York City Housing Authority pays for special police services that the NYPD provides free to private landlords under “Operation Clean Halls,” and the $23 million that goes for PILOT payments in lieu of taxes from which many nonprofit housing providers are exempt.
Developments given multi-million dollar tax breaks by the city should be required to hire locally and pay living wages. Paid sick days can be expanded to cover all workers. The new mayor should expand the network of high schools focused on trades and link them to apprenticeships and jobs in selected industries.
He could raise wages and provide benefits to low-wage workers by supporting paid family leave, a local minimum wage, and a living wage law. He should drop the city’s lawsuit on stop and frisk. And he should end the use of a single test score as the only criterion for admission to the city’s elite high schools.
These are policies that we have advanced before the current race for mayor. Many of them can be accomplished without additional expenditures. Where new resources are required, our survey finds that New Yorkers are willing to make the investment needed to rebuild a strong middle class and create broad pathways into it for those who have been stuck in low-wage, dead-end jobs.
“The Unheard Third” is the only public opinion poll in the nation to regularly chronicle issues facing low-income individuals and families. Major findings from “The Unheard Third” are available online.