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De Blasio At State Of The City Address: Affordability Crisis Threatens City's Soul

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) --Mayor Bill de Blasio said in his State of the City address Monday night that an affordability crisis "threatens the very soul of the city."

"People – so many people in this city are afraid that they cannot stay in the city they love," de Blasio said. "They are afraid they will not be able to afford the very place that they have given so much to."

De Blasio said the city must address the crisis, and announced plans for doing so -- including the creation of 100,000 good-paying jobs for New Yorkers in the next 10 years.

"All those millions of New Yorkers need to know this is still their city, and that's all of our jobs to make that true," he said.

De Blasio said the city had a choice of "whether we're going to look away in the face of a crisis, or whether we're going to act in time so more and more New Yorkers can call this magical place their home."

The mayor said there are many problems in the city that must be addressed – including homelessness, opioid addiction, and traffic congestion. But he said those issues would be addressed in later speeches, while the State of the City address this time would be "about the fact that people are so fundamentally challenged by the affordability crisis."

De Blasio said the city had been successful with affordable housing in the three years that he has been mayor, but he said that was insufficient. He said the city also has to drive up incomes.

He said the city must help people get "the kind of jobs that allow you to afford to live in New York City – good paying jobs."

De Blasio said the city had been successful with affordable housing in the three years that he has been mayor, but he said that was insufficient. He said the city also has to drive up incomes.

He said the city must help people get "the kind of jobs that allow you to afford to live in New York City – good paying jobs."

De Blasio did outline some ways in which he said New York City is in better shape than ever before. He noted the historic low crime rates, new community policing efforts, and plans for all NYPD officers to have body cameras by 2019.

De Blasio also said the city's education system was getting better and better – with the highest graduation rate in the city's history at 72.6 percent, and a dropout rate of only 8.5 percent.

But de Blasio said those achievements are not enough.

"If you said, 'What's the state of the city in terms of affordability?' I'd say our city and who we are is threatened by an affordability crisis," de Blasio said.

He reminded people that those who cannot make ends meet cannot achieve their other goals.

"It's hard to think about your health, it's hard to think about your education, it's hard to think about anything if you can't pay the rent," de Blasio said.

The mayor emphasized that affordability and economic insecurity are nationwide problems – and a perception of indifference in Washington had led some people to vote for President Donald Trump.

"A lot of people voted in 2016 based on a pain that was very economic; very real, because they hadn't seen answers," he said.

But de Blasio said the Trump administration is doing the opposite of what is needed to benefit those in an economically unstable situation. He said New York City would go a different way.

"We're not going to give tax breaks to those who are already doing well. We're going to ask them to pay a little more to help people on demand," de Blasio said.

He also said the city would not take health insurance away from anyone, but would do all that is possible to sign more people up for it.

"It's a reminder that this city, and cities all over the country, have more ability to have a positive impact over the lives of their residents than Washington can have a negative impact," de Blasio said.

De Blasio outlined some work that New York City government is already doing in an effort to make the city more affordable.

He noted that the vast majority of city workers now have contracts, and the rent-stabilized apartments have seen no increases for one-year leases for two straight years.

De Blasio also said his office had gone into areas with a lot of development, and focused on "places where there was a real unfair and unscrupulous effort to illegally evict tenants." He said the efforts have resulted in a 24 percent decrease in evictions in New York City.

De Blasio added that his office has eliminated a hidden tax in which people were paying for other things on their water bills. He also said his office has worked to eliminate "arbitrary and capricious" fines on small businesses.

But that is not enough, de Blasio said.

De Blasio announced that he would prioritize a "mansion tax," in which anyone who sells a home worth $2 million or more pays a little bit more. The tax would bring in $336 million, which would be used to fund affordable housing for 25,000 senior citizens in New York City.

De Blasio also noted that housing court has been known to be biased against tenants, and his office is seeking to change that.

To that end, de Blasio announced that anyone making up to $50,000 a year for a family of four will now be guaranteed a lawyer in housing court. He added that any New Yorker regardless of income level will have access to free legal support, and advice to help them navigate housing court.

And as the most significant new effort, de Blasio said the major goal for the next 10 years will be getting more New Yorkers into good-paying and stable jobs.

"These are jobs that we intend to be open to New Yorkers of every background; to jobs that will finally allow people to know that this is their city, not just today, but for decades to come," the mayor said.

He said the city's goal in the next 10 years is to create 100,000 more permanent, good-paying jobs in New York City. He said that alone will benefit at least 250,000 people.

The mayor said a good-paying job has to pay at least $50,000 a year, and must give workers skills that they can use not just for one position, but for decades to come. He said the city would provide training and support so workers can develop those new skills.

Many industries are booming in New York City and will be the focus for the new jobs, de Blasio said. He noted the film and TV industry is making more money than ever, the tech sector is growing rapidly, the city is preeminent in the life sciences industry, and advanced manufacturing is also transforming the economy.

Of the new jobs, 40,000 will be ready in the next four years, de Blasio said.

For one of many examples, de Blasio said the life sciences industry will have 9,000 new positions available for an average of $75,000 a year. New positions in green construction will also be available at similar salaries, the mayor said.

The mayor also plans to remake the waterfront in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The Made in New York campus will be home to fashion manufacturing and a TV and film studio, creating 1,500 jobs.

"Everyone having a piece of the pie – that's our mission," de Blasio said.

De Blasio said finally that while many are worried about what is happening and may happen in the future under the Trump administration, people should not be fatalistic. He said a new beginning under way in the efforts to resist, among New Yorkers in particular.

"When thousands of New Yorkers rush to our airports to protect our constitution, that is not an end. That is a beginning. When people gather by the thousands at town hall meetings here and all over the country to tell their members of Congress, 'You can't take my health insurance away,' that is not an end. That is a beginning. When 400,000 people march for women and their rights here in New York City, and almost 3 million more around our nation, that is not an end. That is a beginning, my friends," de Blasio said.

The speech was held at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Earlier in the speech, Mayor de Blasio honored several New Yorkers – including NYPD Sgt. Conor McDonald, the son of Detective Steven McDonald.

The elder McDonald died last month, 30 years after forgiving a teen shooter who left him paralyzed. Sgt. Conor McDonald gave a speech in tribute to his father earlier in the State of the City program.

The mayor also recognized Harry Belafonte, who is being honored by having a library named after him.

"He is 90 years old and he has on suggestion that he will slow his activism down," de Blasio said.

Last year, he outlined a series of ambitious policy proposals and highlighted steps his administration has taken to make the city safer and more fair to all.

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