Breaking with tradition, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gave his State of the City address Monday night — unusual because the annual speech tends to be given in the morning — maintaining that it would allow more residents to tune in and watch him live. The issue that defined the address, affordability, is not a new one for his administration, but instead of focusing just on housing, de Blasio underscored his intention to “drive up incomes” and add more “good-paying jobs” to the city’s economic pool.
“The openness, the possibility, the fact that anyone has a shot here — it is one of the most beautiful things about this place, more beautiful than any of our skyscrapers or museums,” he said. “That beautiful reality is at risk … . So many people in this city are afraid that they cannot stay in the city that they love.”
But while he promised that job creation would be “the new front line in the battle to keep New York City affordable,” and pledged to add 100,000 jobs paying $50,000 or more in the next decade, and 40,000 in the next four years, the New York Times reports that, beyond a few numbers, he offered relatively few substantive details.
“The projects he mentioned seemed to fall well short of those numbers,” William Neuman and J. David Goodman wrote for the Times, referring to the 40,000 and 100,000 figures. “He … pledged to train a total of 3,000 workers over the next three years to retrofit buildings to make them more energy efficient. He mentioned several other previously announced economic development initiatives, but the timing involved was not clear, nor was it clear whether he was referring to new jobs or jobs that had already been created.”
De Blasio touted his administration’s efforts in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn to focus on manufacturing, specifically the new Made in NY campus for fashion and food production. As Oscar Perry Abello reported for Next City, in December the NYC Economic Development Corporation announced the first awardee of a new Industrial Developer Fund, created to support nonprofit and mission-driven industrial development in NYC.
New York-based Center for an Urban Future researches economic inequality and jobs growth, and its executive director, Jonathan Bowles, released a statement Tuesday, saying, “It’s great that Mayor de Blasio is committed to boosting the number of good-paying jobs. While more people are employed in New York City than ever before, a lot more needs to be done to preserve and create middle-income jobs that are accessible to a broad group of New Yorkers. Too many of the jobs created in recent years have been in low-wage fields that don’t offer a pathway to the middle class.”
The New York Times wasn’t the only paper that found de Blasio’s address lacking.
“The worst thing about de Blasio’s State of the City was de Blasio,” a headline for the right-leaning (and notoriously sensationalistic) New York Post declared.
The Post took issue with, well, almost everything, but singled out the mayor’s silence Monday on some of the thornier issues that have arisen during his tenure — like pedestrian deaths and homelessness. The Times backed this up somewhat, claiming that he “dodged” some of the “knottier” problems of his administration.
One local reporter tweeted that several groups of protesters had gathered outside the Apollo Theater in Harlem, where the speech was delivered, demonstrating on several issues, including housing displacement and the mayor’s reluctance to close Rikers Island.
Outside of de Blasio’s “state of the city,” 3 separate protests on NYCHA displacement, closing Rikers & Broken Windows - All from the Left pic.twitter.com/UTvyDMKcyi— Max RN (@MaxRivlinNadler) February 13, 2017
Attendees waiting to enter the Apollo for the speech could hear cries of “de Blasio has got to go,” and “New York City is not for sale,” according to Patch.com.
The mayor is up for reelection in November, and City Hall recently released data on the administration’s delivery on his 2013 campaign promises.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.