New York City’s elected officials took office this week and immediately outlined a progressive agenda that was topped by tackling a housing affordability crisis.
“The affordability crisis gripping our city threatens the very existence of our neighborhoods," Corey Johnson said in his acceptance speech Wednesday after being elected speaker of the City Council by a vote of 48 to one. "New Yorkers who have lived in the same community their entire lives now find themselves priced out, unable to afford their rent or even groceries. We believe in a New York where every person has access to good paying jobs, affordable housing, quality health care and good public schools.”
Johnson said he looked forward to working with mayor Bill de Blasio during the upcoming budget process and will look closely at the capital budget.
De Blasio was sworn in as mayor on Monday by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on the steps of City Hall. Scott Stringer took the oath as the city comptroller and Letitia James was sworn in as public advocate. All three won re-election last November and are now serving their second, and final, terms.
In his inauguration speech, De Blasio touted the accomplishments of his first term — including a falling crime rate and universal pre-Kindergarten education.
“Something big is happening in New York City, something new, something different, something that has begun a new progressive era in this city’s history,” de Blasio said. “I want us to be the fairest big city in America. And I know we can do it because we are called in a time of vast overt disparities to do something different, to be something better.”
He also cited creating more affordable housing as one big goal of his administration.
“For hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, we will make sure that this city that is now too expensive for them becomes theirs once again. We will give them the affordable housing they need. We will create for them the good-paying jobs they deserve,” he said. “We do all this for the people who do the work, people who have always made New York great but have never gotten the credit. We do this because anything less threatens our very future as a city.”
He said the residents of the city were the backbone of its success.
“It is a reminder that the true owners of this beloved place are not the big landlords and developers, not the titans of Wall Street, and the one percent,” he said. “The deepest, truest stakeholders of this town are the people who do the work, who every day make this city come to life but have too often not reaped the rewards. We commit ourselves today to making sure this is always their city and that it will never be taken away from them.”
Stringer echoed the concern over affordable housing in his inauguration speech.
He said that while the city’s unemployment rate has fallen to an historic low, too many people were having trouble finding a decent place to live at an affordable price.
“Tonight, in subzero conditions, more than 62,000 New Yorkers will sleep in homeless shelters — 24,000 of them are children,” Stringer said. “Rents have increased 33% over the last 10 years, while wages grew less than half that rate.”
He said that more New Yorkers live in poverty than there are people living in Philadelphia or Phoenix.
“Folks, we have an affordability crisis — for nurses, teachers, firefighters, and child care workers; for young people who want to make New York City home and for seniors who worked for decades and earned their retirement,” he said. “And as we know, a city that is unaffordable, is a city that is unsustainable. Because this city only works if it works for everybody.”
He said that solving the affordability crisis required bold ideas and putting them into action.
“From Mayor LaGuardia inventing urban public housing in the 1930s to opening the City University of New York in 1961 to rebuilding at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks, we have always been about big plans,” he said. “We need that spirit of ingenuity and determination today — to fix our subways and buses, so working people can get to where they need to be; to support our women and minority-owned businesses, which form the core of our neighborhood economies; to build wealth in every community; and to create a true five-borough economy.”