Today Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled “OneNYC,” a plan for New York City to face the many challenges of the years ahead. While other mayors have offered their vision on how New York City can grow economically and move forward on issues related to the environment and sustainability, we are pleased to see Mayor de Blasio also focusing on reducing poverty and addressing income inequality.
The city’s recovery from the Great Recession has not led to any reduction in the poverty rate, as most economic gains continue to accrue to only the highest earners. There are more than 1.7 million New Yorkers living below the poverty line, and another 1.6 million between 100 and 200 percent of the poverty threshold. A significant share of the poor and near poor are working New Yorkers. Far too many in our city deal with significant hardships on a daily basis, and are forced to rely on public assistance such as food stamps to help keep their families’ heads above water.
Seemingly every politician these days – even those not typically associated with an anti-poverty agenda – is talking about income inequality. But as a nation, we have not yet put forth any bold proposals to deal with it. Localities across the country have increased their minimum wage to take some of the stress off low-wage workers. However, Mayor de Blasio’s plan is the first comprehensive long-term plan for a major city to substantially reduce poverty rates and address the issue of income inequality. It is our hope that New York City, as it has often done in the past, can serve as a template for other localities and the nation as a whole on how to deal with the issues of stagnant wages and economic immobility.
"Persistent poverty continues to keep too many New Yorkers from moving ahead economically. Mayor de Blasio has staked his administration on addressing income inequality and the needs of segments of our city who are struggling. And now he's setting a milestone and a plan for how to get there. It's an ambitious plan, but we should be setting ambitious goals," said David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York.
Polling from the Community Service Society’s Unheard Third survey shows that New Yorkers – across income level and political party – are concerned with the effects of income inequality. Two-thirds of New Yorkers are worried about a disappearing middle class, and nearly half say it is not possible for the poor to make it into the middle class. And New Yorkers agree on what it will take to improve the situation: measures such as raising the minimum wage and making college more affordable received overwhelming support among survey respondents.
Since day one of his election campaign, Mayor de Blasio has spoken of the need to address income inequality, and we are happy to see those words being backed by concrete goals and action. We are hopeful that the Mayor will receive the support he needs for these initiatives to be successful, and other cities, and the nation as a whole, will follow suit.