De Blasio Focuses on ‘Affordability Crisis,’ Attacks Trump’s Policies in State of City Address

Bill de Blasio
The Associated Press

In an election year and facing investigations into his fundraising practices, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered Monday night his fourth State of the City address that focused on the city’s growing “affordability crisis,” while speaking out against President Donald Trump policies.

“This affordability crisis threatens who we are and threatens the very soul of this city,” de Blasio said. “This administration will not accept that status quo. This city is better than that, and we have to go farther.”

Emphasizing how the affordability crisis is not only a New York problem, but a nationwide problem, the mayor reminded how “their pain” led to many voting for Trump, but are now seeing the “exact opposite of what they thought they were voting for.”

“A lot of people voted in 2016 based on a pain that was very economic, very real because they hadn’t seen answers,” de Blasio said. “I want to be blunt. That includes a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump. They were voting for an answer, but what they’re seeing now is not the answer they wanted.”

“The sad reality is they’re unfortunately seeing the exact opposite of what many of them thought they were voting for,” de Blasio said, adding that New York will do things differently than Washington. “We’re going to invest in everyday New Yorkers. We’re not going to try and take health insurance away from people. In fact, we’re going to do all we can to get more and more people signed up for health insurance in this city.”

Held at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem, the speech was seen as somewhat of a kickoff to the mayor’s re-election bid. De Blasio began his remarks to state the annual address  “will not be a traditional State of the City,” as he focused mostly on his past accomplishments while providing vague details in his plans to make New York more affordable. 

Touting his three years of accomplishment, de Blasio cited how New York is safer than ever before with the implementation of neighborhood policing that has ended the “era of stop and frisk” and the plans for all NYPD officers to have body cameras by 2019. He also touted the city’s education system with the “lowest dropout rate” of 8.5 percent and the “highest graduation rate” of 72.6 percent.

However, de Blasio failed to mention the many problems the city faces, including the record-high homelessness population of 60,000, opioid addiction, and traffic congestion. The mayor stated these issues would be addressed in the upcoming weeks. 

“There are some very serious topics that I’ll tell you up front I’m going to speak to and my administration is going to speak to in just the next weeks, but not tonight,” de Blasio said. 

Instead, the mayor used his hour-long speech to focus on inequality, vowing to increase his affordable housing plan along with a goal of creating 100,000 new “good paying jobs” over the next decade. De Blasio defined “good paying jobs” as a job paying “at least $50,000 a year” – an initiative he said which will “be the new front line in the battle to keep New York City affordable.” 

“The affordability crisis is a fundamental and a profound problem. It’s deep, but it’s not complex,” de Blasio said. “We have to now focus on the other half of the equation. We have to drive up incomes. Our goal over the next ten years is to create 100,000 more permanent good-paying jobs in New York City. A good job to me has to pay at least $50,000 a year. Isn’t that what New Yorkers deserve?”

De Blasio added, “We have a strategy — we have a game plan. We do not know what the future of our economy will be. We sure don’t know what’s going to happen in Washington D.C., but we know what we’re going to do. We are going to be consistently focused on the creation of good paying jobs.”

The majority of the mayor’s remark rehashed a previous initiative he unveiled just days before Monday’s speech, including allocating $1.9 billion for 10,000 new apartments reserved for low-income families, veterans, and seniors earning less than $40,000 annually. Another initiative de Blasio mentioned included free legal counsel and advice to tenants facing evictions, funding that is projected to cost the city $93 million over the next five years. 

The short on specific speech was an opportunity for de Blasio to continue his attacks on President Trump, as a way to turn the attention away from the ongoing state and federal investigations into his administration.  

“We have seen New Yorkers time and time again stand up against hatred and stand up against bias,” de Blasio said. “The election brings out a lot of strong feelings. People have different views. For a lot of people, there’s a sense of fear; there is a sense of distress. When thousands of New Yorkers rush to the airport to protect our Constitution, that is not an end; that is a beginning.” 

De Blasio is scheduled to meet with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara within the next two weeks, who is investigating whether there were pay-to-play favors were given to donors who donated to the mayor’s now-closed nonprofit ‘Campaign for One New York.’ In late December, de Blasio met with prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office as the state investigates whether the mayor illegally funneled campaign contributions in an attempt to help Democrats take over the New York State Senate in 2014. The separate probes are set to cost taxpayers $11.6 million to cover the legal fees.

According to a Quinnipiac Poll conducted in January, 49 percent of the 1,000 New York voters surveyed believe that de Blasio doesn’t deserve a second term, while 46 percent disapprove of de Blasio as mayor.

The mayor ended his speech by introducing for the first time over two dozen police officers, firefighters, and sanitation workers for their heroic act. 

“I want to honor now some great heroes who serve us in uniform,” de Blasio said. “They are heroes because they put on the uniform to begin with and they serve us.”