An expansion of the NYC Ferry, a new Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants, a plan to speed up MTA buses and free eyeglass for all pre-K and first graders were some of the promises Mayor Bill de Blasio made at his 2019 State of the City, reiterating his message to make New York the fairest big city in America.
The mayor first highlighted some wins from 2018, reiterating how homicides dropped to the lowest numbers seen since 1951 and how the NYPD made 140,000 fewer arrests in 2018 compared to 2014, the year de Blasio took office.
Traffic fatalities also dropped to a record low in 2018, with the lowest deaths reported since 1910, the mayor said, and New York permanently housed more than 2,000 homeless residents.
The mayor has pushed for progressive changes, but he hass faced some criticism from other liberal Democrats — most notably concerning his support for Amazon HQ2 in Queens, which is getting nearly $3 billion in subsidies from the city and state combined.
Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, de Blasio announced big plans highlighting worker protections. Some announcements came earlier this week, like guaranteed health care for all New Yorkers and mandated paid personal time off for all workers.
Here’s what else de Blasio pledged to improve New York City at his 2019 State of the City address.
NYC State of the City 2019: Mayor de Blasio promises
Expand scope of Department of Consumer Affairs
The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs will now be known as the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, de Blasio announced, and “undertake a new mandate to protect the most vulnerable workers in our economy” by guaranteeing wages and benefits,
“In this city, nannies, home health aids, housekeepers, drivers, freelancers — more than 200,000 New Yorkers receive no benefits at all and have no security,” he said. “No one should be punished for how they make a living.”
Create Universal Retirement System
Nearly half of the New York City workforce, or about 2 million workers, do not have employee-sponsored retirement plans, the mayor said at this State of the City. The mayor proposed establishing retirement plans for any worker who doesn’t have one.
He will work with City Council, he said, to pass legislation in 2019 that would require all employers with at least five employees to either offer access to a retirement plan or to auto-enroll their employees in the city plan with a default contribution of 5 percent.
Create Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants
The Mayor signed an executive order at his podium during the 2019 State of the City to create this new office, which will “root out the worst landlord abuse,” he said, “and hold every city agency as well accountable for protecting tenants.”
If fines and penalties don’t stop an abusive landlord, he added, the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants will seize their buildings and put them in the hands of a community nonprofit “that will treat tenants with the respect they deserve.”
Expand NYC Ferry
In 2018, the NYC Ferry launched its Soundview and East River routes, and more waterway transportation will soon be available to New Yorkers, the mayor said. The next NYC Ferry expansion will include a link from Staten Island to the West Side of Manhattan, Coney Island to Lower Manhattan, a new stop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and a new landing at Ferry Point.
Speed up MTA Buses
The mayor made the bold promise that in 2019, the city will help 600,00 New Yorkers who take an MTA bus “actually get to work on time.” The city will double the number of intersections where buses are given green light priority and keep bus lanes clear, the major promised, with expanded camera enforcement and seven dedicated tow truck teams within NYPD, the departments’ “first-ever tow truck units dedicated solely to keeping parked cars out of bus lanes.”
Bus speeds will go up 25 percent by the end of 2020, the mayor vowed, and DOT will ramp up its pace of installing dedicated bus lanes from an average of 7 miles per year to 10 to 15 miles per year
The city will also pressure the MTA to restart the SBS Bus program, helping fulfill the de Blasio administration Oct. 2017 commitment to add 20 SBS routes citywide.
In September the city will continue to expand it’s 3K program, which provides free, all-day preschool for 3 year olds. The program, which is currently in six districts, will be expanded to Washington Heights, the South Bronx, East New York, Staten Island, Bushwick and Soundview, serving 20,000 more children in the next school year.
Provide Free Eyeglasses for Pre-K, 1st Graders
New York City will expand its partnership with Warby Parker, de Blasio said, to provide free eye exams and eyeglasses to all kindergarteners and first graders. This partnership first began in 2015 in an attempt to rectify the statistic that 25 percent of New York City students need glasses, but only 5 percent of those students currently get them. Since the partnership began, it’s provided more than 220,000 screenings and more than 55,000 eyeglasses to Community School students in need, according to the company.
NYC and Albany in 2019
A few of the mayor’s goals will have to come from Albany, he said, but he promised officials will work in the capital for speedy trials and bail reforms, prevent rent regulation for 1 million New York City apartments from expiring, push for the state budget to address the MTA subway and buses and with with the state to legalize marijuana”in the right way, by expunging arrest records and making sure the grassroots, not the big corporations, run this new business.”