De Blasio Revives 'Tale of Two Cities' in State of the City Address

Mayor Bill de Blasio laid out a plan for more affordable housing in New York City.
Mayor Bill de Blasio laid out a plan for more affordable housing in New York City.
Screengrab: YouTube

Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered his second State of the City address on Tuesday, emphasizing plans for affordable housing and pivoting back to the "tale of two cities" narrative from his 2013 election campaign.

De Blasio spent much of the address emphasizing a promised push for more affordable housing in the city, saying too many New Yorkers are struggling to find rents they can manage.

"In 2014, 56 percent of rental households in New York were spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing," he said, "up ten points in a little more than a decade."

He has pledged to create or preserve 200,000 affordable housing units, and said developers would be required to build affordable units in any project that involves rezoning.

"For the first time in New York City history," de Blasio said, "we are creating a Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning requirement that will apply to all major residential rezonings. In every major rezoning development, we will require developers to include affordable housing — not as an option — as a precondition."

De Blasio also called for more enforcement of rent laws by state housing authorities, noting that harassment is forcing tenants out of their homes unfairly.

"We need Albany to recognize that this is a crisis right now," de Blasio said. To help address harassment, he announced a plan that will provide free legal services for tenants in areas that are being rezoned if any evidence is found of landlord harassment.

See also: How Can New York City Stop the City's Worst Landlords?

The mayor began his speech, delivered at Baruch College in Manhattan, by considering the experiences of his Italian immigrant grandmother, and contrasting the opportunities she found in New York City with those available today.

My grandmother's story, like most New York success stories, was not a fairy tale. She did not stumble upon success through luck or charm. She forged it with hard work and raw grit. And she lived in a place that rewarded those things in unique and powerful ways. For generations, New York City has been a place that has unleashed human potential. A place offering opportunity for everyone, no matter how your life story began. Opportunity for innovators and visionaries to write new chapters in our history. And for parents and grandparents to write a brighter one for the next generation. Now, here is the hard truth. All of that is at risk today. At risk because so many who live in our city struggle to afford to be here.

De Blasio also rattled off what he characterized as his administration's accomplishments so far, listing its expansion of pre-K education, strengthening of New York's living wage law, and broadening of the mandatory paid sick leave law.

The city's law enforcement policies also received a good amount of attention in the address. De Blasio's campaign focused heavily on reforms in the department, and especially a reduction in stop-and-frisk encounters. Stop-and-frisk numbers have cratered in the past year, reduced by as much as 75 percent.

Though the mayor is still embroiled in a contentious war of words with the NYPD — over what some rank-and-file officers believe were attacks on the department in the wake of the death of Eric Garner — he had praise for the men and women in blue. De Blasio cited the reduction in stop-and-frisk encounters and a dramatic drop-off in marijuana arrests — another of the mayor's campaign issues.

"Thanks to our courageous men and women in uniform," de Blasio said, "we've not only kept New York City safe, we've made it even safer. Our NYPD officers have helped bring the city's crime rate to an all-time low, with the smallest number of murders, burglaries, and robberies in our history."

Watch the mayor's speech below:


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