I came into office determined to use every tool available to a Mayor of New York to fight the inequality that is threatening the city I love. There’s still much more to do, but New Yorkers should be proud that we have taken big steps forward.
Our city is now measurably fairer. By the end of the first two years of our administration, the share of New Yorkers living in or near poverty fell almost two percent. We now have the lowest share of New Yorkers living at or near poverty since the Great Recession.
Get TalkPoverty In Your Inbox
This did not happen by accident. It was the result of choices we made every day. We chose working families over corporations. We chose seniors over developers. We chose neighborhoods over hedge fund billionaires. The income inequality that has been strangling us is the result of choices made by the 1 percent, for the 1 percent. We made choices for the 99 percent.
We made those choices on a massive scale. We added an entire grade to the country’s largest public school system: nearly 70,000 4-year-olds now receive free, all-day high-quality pre-K. That saves the average family $10,000 a year, and frees parents to pursue their careers and education.
We marched with workers and won a $15 minimum wage. We set a goal to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing, the biggest program in a quarter century—and we’re ahead of schedule. We’ve seen the first rent freezes in city history, affecting 2.5 million New Yorkers. We are rewriting rules to make employment work for everyone, including guaranteeing paid sick leave and placing restrictions on potential employers inquiring about salary or criminal history.
These choices are producing results.
Poverty is now at its lowest level since the Great Recession and a broad cross section of New Yorkers are reaping the benefits. Many groups saw significant declines in poverty or near poverty including: single parents; seniors; adults of working age; people with high school educations; blacks, Latinos, Asians and whites.
We are already five years ahead of schedule on our goal to lift 800,000 people out of poverty by 2025. We project that by the end of this year more than 280,000 men, women and children – about the population of Newark, New Jersey – will rise out of poverty or near-poverty.
Given the tired and phony arguments conservatives so often trot out to oppose policies like these, it’s important to state clearly that our decisions have helped our economy. Let me repeat that: We’ve helped working people and our economy is stronger than ever.
Employment is at a record high. Just 4.1 percent of New Yorkers were unemployed in April 2017. That means there are a quarter million more people in the workforce today than in 2013.
The jobs New Yorkers are finding are good jobs. The share of New Yorkers earning more than $50,000 a year grew to more than 48 percent in 2015. That is its highest level in a decade. Comparing 2015 to two years before, almost 125,000 more New Yorkers are earning more than $50,000 per year.
There are many reasons for Americans to be worried these days. We have a president and a Republican-controlled Congress that want to take us backwards. Their plans would give tax breaks to billionaires and corporations, let Wall Street write its own rules, and gut health care for millions to fund handouts for millionaires.
At the same time, I’m hopeful. Big, bold progressive policies are working right here in New York City and that matters now more than ever. People are watching us. They’re looking for an antidote. They’re looking for a different way forward and we are proving that an economy by, for, and of the people can be a strong and growing economy, too.