by Ben Max
On Monday at noon, Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver his first State of the City address at LaGuardia Community College, in Queens. In the speech, de Blasio is likely to continue to hit on the theme that got him elected, inequality, and the several antidotes that he identified: providing universal pre-kindergarten and middle school after-school programming, ending stop-and-frisk abuses, preventing hospital closures, ensuring a living wage, expanding paid sick leave, and building affordable housing among them.
De Blasio is also likely to argue that the state of the city is generally strong – but, that it is truly only as strong as its weakest links and, as he has said before, that we New Yorkers have a shared responsibility to lift each other up, not leave anyone behind. Our city is truly strong, he will say, when we all share in prosperity and make progress together, not at the expense of one another.
He is likely to relate this message to education, employment, wages, homelessness, and affordability. The state of our city is strong, he will say, but must be strengthened. As he did throughout his campaign and has into his mayoralty, de Blasio is likely to walk a fine line between extolling the city’s virtues and decrying its vices. As always, he will credit the spirit of New Yorkers with the city’s accomplishments and task us with improving its future.
We shall see exactly how Mayor de Blasio describes the city. Besides unequal, expensive, and strong, here are a few other possibilities:
The state of our city is…
Yes, crime is at historic lows, despite the possible slight uptick of late in certain types of violent crime, but, pedestrian deaths, despite also trending downward, are still all-too-common. Vision Zero is in the works, but for now at least, it is very much just that, a vision.
Crumbling and cracking
Like throughout the rest of the country, New York City has an aged infrastructure in need of attention. Water main breaks continue to remind us of the need for preventive infrastructural care.
Charter school advocates and their detractors are as polarized as ever, especially with everyone feeling uncertain about the fate of the last Bloomberg-era approved co-locations, being reviewed by the new chancellor. Regardless of what Carmen Fariña decides about those co-locations, it is time for education advocates to heal wounds and build bridges. Will they?
All of the city’s municipal labor unions, including its largest, the teachers union, are operating under expired contracts. The mayor will give a budget address on Wednesday, just two days after his state of the city. Soon, he and his team will begin earnestly negotiating with these unions and, in all likelihood, announcing the first new contract deals. This, more than anything, could show the direction the city takes moving forward.
The availability of high quality cultural experiences in New York is unparalleled. Despite the difficulties around funding and affordable space, the arts continue to flourish here.
What’s with these temperatures?
From the mayor to the comptroller, public advocate, and down through the city council, self-professed progressives have been elected to lead the city.
Mostly decried, some also argue the benefits of gentrification, while virtually all who discuss the topic acknowledge the need to make sure that working and middle class New Yorkers are not priced out of their neighborhoods and pushed further to the outer reaches of the boroughs.
The need for expanded public transportation networks to allow access to major economic hubs from the outer outer boroughs becomes more evident the more that the outcomes of gentrification take hold. As one transit scholar puts it, transportation options equal freedom – you are only as free as your ability to easily, regularly, and reliability get where you want to go.
The city’s sports teams are not experiencing a glory age. After disappointing seasons from the Yankees, Mets, Giants, and Jets, the Knicks and Nets are now flailing at mediocrity despite coming into their seasons with high expectations. The Rangers show signs of life, but the Devils and Islanders are ice cold.
New York City is home to an incredible amount of human capital, capable of innovation and problem-solving on a scale that few, if any, other cities can claim.
Always a highlight, the food options in New York continue to expand, satisfy, and amaze.
New York City remains the greatest city in the world, but where is it heading? With all of those expired labor contracts, big questions about the directions of public safety and public education, and major promises from the new mayor to address a yawning income gap that will be challenging to keep, it is far from clear where this city will be when the mayor gives his second state of the city.
[Reach Ben Max at DecideNYC@gmail.com]