What Are the Next Mayor’s Priorities?

David R. Jones, La Nueva Mayoria / The New Majority

For the first time in 12 years, New York City will elect a new mayor in November.  Voters will want to know the priorities of those candidates running for mayor.

One of the most serious challenges facing the next mayor is the dwindling supply of housing affordable to low-income New Yorkers.  Neither the private market nor affordable housing subsidy programs are producing enough apartments to house the growing low-income population.

A recent housing report by the Community Service Society, “Good Place to Work/Hard Place to Live: The Housing Challenge for New York’s Next Mayor,” revealed rapid losses in subsidized housing.  And there have been major cuts in federal funds for Section 8 housing vouchers and the city’s public housing agency, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) - this in the face of an unprecedented 50,000 homeless New Yorkers.

The next mayor must end NYCHA’s practice of paying the city nearly $100 million per year for police services and payments in lieu of taxes.  There is no good reason for continuing these payments given NYCHA’s poor financial condition, the physical deterioration of its housing, and the plan to close community and senior centers.  The mayor can end these payments without any need for legislation.

If NYHCA’s Infill plan for private redevelopment of available land moves forward, it should be focused on the creation of new affordable housing, not just the generation of cash flow for the Authority.  The city should use its own resources as well as project-basing Section 8 vouchers to make newly developed housing affordable to people with lower incomes, especially where low-income people face the greatest threat of displacement.
Thousands of jobs have been created in the city since the end of the recession.  Unfortunately, many of them are low-wage, dead end jobs.  Income inequality is greater in New York City than anywhere else in the nation.  The city’s business community is well aware of this problem.

The Partnership for New York City is a network of business leaders dedicated to enhancing the economy of the city.  It recently released an in-depth analysis of the state of the city’s economy and a set of recommendations for what the next mayor can do to accelerate job growth and expand opportunities for all New Yorkers.

The report proposes that employers provide mentors, work experience, and job opportunities for high school and community college students on a meaningful scale.  The city should build a network of Urban Tech Campuses that provide affordable housing and flexible work space, and establish industry-labor partnerships to promote the growth of good jobs in key industry sectors.

A great deal of this involves the creation of mid-level jobs, crucial to the economic health of the city.  Too many New Yorkers lack the skills to fill those jobs.  But education alone will not close the income gap in this city. 

Paul Krugman, in The New York Times, explains: “The only way we could have anything resembling a middle-class society ……. would be by having a strong social safety net, one that guarantees not just health care but a minimum income, too.  And with an ever-rising share of income going to capital rather than labor, that safety net would have to be paid for to an important extent via taxes on profits and/or investment income.”  Will the next mayor strengthen the social safety net? 

Income inequality, growing homelessness, the lack of middle income jobs, and a tattered social safety net are a prescription for more poverty, more people living on the streets, a weakened economy, and possible civic unrest.  These issues will affect the lives of all New Yorkers.

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