Edited by: Fern Sidman
On Thursday afternoon in a front of packed audience at the Museum of Natural History on Manhattan’s upper west side, Mayor Bill DeBlasio delivered the annual State of the City address.
DeBlasio’s address focused on a “Blueprint to Save Our City” and included his plans to make the city more affordable for New Yorkers.
Leading off the proceedings was Rabbi Michael S. Miller of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) who delivered a prayer. “We ask that you confer your divine blessing on the City of New York, on its people, its elected officials and most particularly on its Mayor, our Mayor, Bill de Blasio. Indeed, what a blessing it is to dwell in a metropolis populated by women, men and children, and from the four corners of your earth and unmatched demographic diversity on the globe representing every race, every faith, every creed, every background, ” he said.
Touching on the topic of increasing anti-Semitism, the mayor said, “Rabbi Miller spoke powerfully about the challenge we face in recent months with this horrible uptick in hate and anti-Semitism. And one of the most terrifying moments was that night during Hanukkah, a night you should never expect hate to rear its head, when there was an attack in Monsey and the attacker fled. There was a moment of doubt. Was this individual going to get away? Were there others in danger? Well, it turned out the suspect drove down to the city to West 144th street. Our officers had been alerted and we should all count our blessings in this city that two smart, able, quick witted officers immediately did the exact right thing and stopped someone who could have harmed so many others before he could ever get out of his car. Let us thank Officer David Radziwon and Officer Russell Mattera.”
The mayor chose to speak about people’s fear and anxiety about how expensive the city has become.
“New York City is the greatest city in the world, but many New Yorkers have real fears that the city they love is slipping away,” de Blasio said, as was reported by WABC News.
“We need a plan to save our city because that’s where we are right now,” he said.
“I feel this anxiety everywhere I go and when my people are anxious, I’m anxious too. When my people are worried. I’m worried too. We have to come to grips with the fact that this is a different kind of problem. We’ve literally never experienced before on this scale, with this intensity, ” DeBlasio said.
DeBlasio spoke of the plans that he would like to implement in the years to come. “We have two years of urgent work ahead of us. And I want it to be very clear, this is a very ambitious agenda. It’s going to take a lot of work. I’m going to devote myself for these two years to getting all of these things done and I need your help. Everyone in this room, I need your help to make these changes. And I say that with a sense of urgency, but I also say it with a sense of hope. The good news for me after six years of working with all of you is seeing that, in fact, a lot of things can change. A lot of things we were told would never be achieved, have been achieved. I remember vividly – over these last six years, I remember it all very clearly. I remember all the voices that said it was impossible to give pre-K to every one of our children. And we proved them wrong, didn’t we?”
DeBlasio said that his focus over the next two years of his term will be to provide small businesses the support they need to survive and take meaningful steps to improve affordability for families, according to the report.
“We must make New York City easier to afford, protect mom-and-pop businesses that make New York, New York, and hand this city back to the people who make it so great,” de Blasio said.
The mayor’s plan will also aim to increase access to positive community resources for young people and bring a second wave of the Green New Deal, according to the WABC report..
DeBlasio also would like to add 100 cops to a new NYPD “Vision Zero Unit” to crack down on speeding, expanding pre-K-for-all to 26,000 3-year-olds, and legalizing basement apartments and tiny houses in backyards to create 10,000 affordable homes, according to a NY Post report.
In addition to the tiny homes and basement apartments, de Blasio will build 2,000 more units of affordable housing for families making under $50,000 a year, the report indicated.
“There are 900,000 apartments in the city, have no protection. Millions of new Yorkers, no protection against rent gouging. The landlord can jack up the rent as much as they want for no reason whatsoever. That’s one of the reasons so many people can’t in this town. We want New Yorkers, all New Yorkers, even if you’re not currently in a rent regulated apartment, we want you to have protections. We want you to be able to have a rent that you can actually pay and we want to make sure that you can renew your lease and not just be thrown out for some arbitrary reason. We need universal renter protection, ” DeBlasio said.
The Post reported that DeBlasio said he’ll help the city’s youth by expanding hours at Parks Department recreation centers, reopening six shuttered community centers and building seven new ones in the outer boroughs.
“The NYPD today has announced a new youth strategy, focusing the most powerful and effective police force anywhere on the globe on the work of healing, communicating, inspiring our young people to never even think of a life of crime, but only believe in themselves.
So, here’s what we’re going to do. That youth strategy – that means over 300 officers will be Youth Coordination Officers. Imagine this, they have that uniform on, they have that badge, they have that gun – that’s true – and what are they thinking about every day? They’re thinking about how to reach young people who might be teetering on that edge, how to help a family that is struggling but doesn’t know where to turn, how to make sure if a kid is starting to get in trouble, that is stops right there, using all the power and intellect of the NYPD to move our young people in the right direction, stopping crime before it even happens. I want to say – and this is a reason I’m very proud of this man – this was from the heart and soul of Dermot Shea. Thank you, Commissioner Shea. Thank you to NYPD.
So, that’s the first point. The second point, community centers – we need more places that are safe and positive for our young people. I have heard this at town hall meetings all over this city. So, dozens and dozens of our parks, recreation centers, we’re going to open them up more hours, more days, and for young adults we’re are going to make their memberships free so they can go there and have that safe place to be, ” said DeBlasio.
On the topic of enhancing the educational system in the nation’s largest city, DeBlasio addressed the issue of pre-K classes.
“Our schools should be as good as our children. They can be, they must be. Now, remember, our schools, once upon a time, they were just assumed by so many to never have potential, to never be able to change and get better. They were put down. They were left for dead. But we have proven with the vision of Equity and Excellence that schools can get better and they can get better quickly, and now we’ve got a lot more to do. So, it begins even before a child gets to school.
So then, let’s go to not just pre-K but 3-K. They said pre-K couldn’t be done. No one saw 3-K coming. But now, I’m proud to tell you, in September, it’ll be in four more districts – District 12 in the Bronx; District 29, Southeast Queens; District 1 in Chinatown, Lower East Side, and East Village; District 14 in Greenpoint and Williamsburg. As of September, we will be in half of all the school districts in this city with 3-K and more to come.
Third grade literacy – this is something you’re going to hear a lot more from Chancellor Carranza and I in the next few weeks, because this is a story that’s not being told. We’re going to get our kids reading more and more on grade level by third grade. It’s one of the great indicators of academic potential and success. We are going to do that, and already for the first time in New York City history, there are hundreds of reading coaches in our schools right this minute, helping teachers to get better, helping kids to get better. Some of them may be here today. Let’s thank those reading coaches for all they’re doing, ” DeBlasio told his enthusiastic audience.
As part of de Blasio’s efforts to tackle climate change, the city will assist homeowners in installing solar panels on 50,000 homes and end the government’s use of plastic bottles by 2021.
“We’re going to double the use of solar power here in sunny New York City. 50,000 New York homes will get solar power on their roof. We’re going to have a person you call – a human being who will help you to get solar on your roof and you will not have to pay upfront costs. The City of New York will make sure that solar gets to you so that you can have a green future,” DeBlasio said.
As to the newly implemented bail reform measures that have come under intense scrutiny because of the fear that dangerous criminals will be back on the street in the aftermath of their arrests, New York District Attorney Cy Vance told Jewish Voice publisher David Ben Hooren that the new measures need to be reassessed for effectiveness.
Thus far in 2020, official NYPD statistics show that there have been nearly 30% more shootings and a significantly higher overall crime rate in the Big Apple. Serious crimes have been marked as ‘increasing’ in five out of seven general categories; murders and rapes are the only types of crimes that have gone down, compared to the same time last year. The murder rate dropped by almost 20%, while the rape rate decreased by a steady 30 people.
In auto theft crimes, the percentage rose 70% to a massive 617 vehicle-robberies. That’s 20 cars every day. Robberies in general rose approximately 35%, with 1,355 people reported being attacked by muggers and other thugs. Burglaries, grand larcenies and felony assaults were also up by 18.3%, 10.6% and 8.5%, respectively.
NYPD sources say that New York State’s controversial new bail-reform law, which mandates the release of most defendants charged with misdemeanors and felonies considered “non-violent, is to blame. “Criminals now know there are no consequences for their actions, and they are causing havoc for innocent people of New York City”, one citizen said. The law was adopted on Jan. 1st, 2020.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea also tied bail reform to “significant spikes” in crime during the first three weeks of the new year. “If you let out individuals that commit a lot of crime, that’s precision policing in reverse and we’re seeing the effects in a very quick time, and that is why we’re so concerned,” Shea commented. A famous instance is when Tiffany Harris, 30, allegedly slapped three Orthodox Jewish women in Crown Heights one Friday, and was rewarded by being released, without bail, the next day. She then went on to allegedly punch another woman on Sunday.
To combat the stigma against the bail-reform law, Gov. Cuomo suggested that amendments could be coming around soon, during his annual budget address. “It’s not that you reform a system once and then you walk away. You make change in a system, it has consequences. And you have to understand those consequences,” he said.
Despite the overall rise in crime rates, the total number of arrests made this year are, so far, at least, down by a whopping 20%; in subway stations, that number is 30.1%. A source from the NYPD credited the drop to “…the hands-off approach that comes from City Hall”. A spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “This administration has had the same approach to policing since January 2014, and the longer term trends reflect the city’s safety.”