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Mayor Bill De Blasio's State Of City Speech Focuses On Affordable Housing Plan

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio used his second State of the City speech Tuesday to outline an ambitious plan to build hundreds of thousands of new affordable housing units in New York City.

De Blasio said his plan, which would include building 160,000 market-rate apartments and building or preserving 200,000 affordable housing units, would be a big step toward fulfilling his campaign promise to narrow the divide between New York City's rich and poor -- what he called the "tale of two cities.''

"If we do not act -- and act boldly -- New York risks taking on the qualities of a gated community,'' de Blasio said during his speech at Baruch College. "A place defined by exclusivity, rather than opportunity. And we cannot let that happen.''

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De Blasio hopes to achieve his goal to build denser, economically diverse, affordable residential communities through rules that would require developers to include affordable housing "not as an option -- as a pre-condition'' in every major rezoning development.

His plan calls for transforming whole neighborhoods from Staten Island to Brooklyn.

New York City plans to invest $200 million in affordable housing, infrastructure and job initiatives for the southwest Bronx. The plans include the construction of a new public open space, roads, and remediation to spur development of up to 4,000 units of affordable housing. The design phase of the program is expected to launch in the coming fiscal year.

City officials will also work with communities in Queens to develop a new vision for the Sunnyside Yards project. De Blasio said the development provides an opportunity to build thousands of new affordable homes. A feasibility study will be launched this month to determine the costs and infrastructure needs required to redevelop the rail yards.

Mention of a Sunnyside Yards project set off an intense war of words with Governor Cuomo.

"The MTA uses Sunnyside Yards as an important facility for our transportation system, and it's not available for any other use in the near term," Melissa Derosa, Dir. of Communications, said.

A spokesman for the mayor pointed out that the city owns the air rights to more than two-thirds of the MTA property.

"We can put piles in the ground and build above the yards," a spokesman said.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer explained, that wasn't the only fight between the 800-lbs gorilla in Albany and New York City's elephant in the room.

"Nothing does more to address income inequality than actually raising people's incomes," the mayor said.

De Blaiso wants Albany to increase the minimum wage in the city to $15 by 2019.

Gov. Cuomo said anything more than $13 was a non-starter.

Mayor Bill De Blasio's State Of City Speech Focuses On Affordable Housing Plan

Programs outlined in de Blasio's address are also designed to protect New Yorkers facing displacement from rising rents and harassment. A new $36 million commitment will provide free legal assistance in housing court to all tenants in rezoned neighborhoods facing harassment, building neglect or eviction proceedings. Officials say about 90 percent of tenants enter housing court without a lawyer.

Another piece of the plan is to build 1,500 new affordable live-work spaces for New York City artists over the next decade. The city will work with cultural partners, housing agencies and the philanthropic community to realize that goal. De Blasio said the city also will convert underutilized city-owned property into 500 below-market artist workspaces.

The mayor is also making a call to find permanent housing by year's end for the 1,000 veterans living in city homeless shelters.

The city also plans to create and preserve 10,000 units of senior housing. De Blasio said the program will be supported by a $400 million capital investment as well as Section 8 vouchers. The first projects are slated to begin this year.

De Blasio surprised his audience -- primed to hear him speak on affordable housing -- by announcing a new city-wide ferry system that would launch in 2017, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported.

The system will combine existing East River routes with new landings and services to Astoria, the Rockaways, South Brooklyn, Soundview and the Lower East Side. The service will be pegged to the cost of a Metrocard.

De Blasio said a second phase of expansion could benefit Stapleton and Coney Island. But that would require more funding.

The mayor's speech expanded on a plan first announced last spring. De Blasio has billed the program "the biggest affordable housing plan anyone's tried anywhere at any time at the local level in the history of the republic.'' Last year, the city saved and preserved more than 17,300 affordable units, enough to house nearly 42,000 people.

Housing costs are exorbitant in much of the city, and for most New Yorkers, their monthly housing payment is their largest expense.

"While the state of our city is strong, we face a profound challenge," de Blasio said. " If we fail to be a city for everyone, we risk losing what makes New York, New York....And nothing more clearly expresses the inequality gap — the opportunity gap — than the soaring cost of housing."

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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