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In annual speech, mayor vows to make New York City more affordable





By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to make it compulsory for developers to include cheaper, affordable apartments if they build in newly rezoned parts of the city, he said in his second annual State of the City speech on Tuesday.

De Blasio also said the city will triple the money it spends on providing legal services to tenants to $36 million in the hope of making it harder for landlords to force out older, poorer tenants in favor of new ones willing to pay more.

"New York risks taking on the qualities of a gated community, a place defined by exclusivity rather than opportunity," de Blasio said onstage at Baruch College in Manhattan in remarks he sometimes paused to repeat in Spanish.

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The mayor, whose remarks were dominated by the topic of affordable housing in one of the most expensive cities in the United States, said 56 percent New York tenants spent more than 30 percent of their income on rent last year.

De Blasio, a liberal Democrat, took office 13 months ago after criticizing his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, for creating a "Tale of Two Cities" divided by inequality over his 12 years in power. Bloomberg offered tax incentives to developers to include affordable homes in their buildings, but it was generally optional.

Last year, de Blasio launched an ambitious expansion of pre-kindergarten, or "pre-K," for more than 50,000 young children last year, fulfilling one of his main campaign pledges.

He has pledged to "build and preserve" 200,000 affordable homes in the coming decade. Bloomberg, using similar language, promised to "create or preserve" 165,000 affordable homes over his tenure, and ended up building about 50,000.

De Blasio's office has mulled different ways of luring developers with generous, decades-long tax breaks.

The mayor has also been grappling with his campaign promise to mend frayed relations between police and black and Latino New Yorkers, who were stopped and frisked by the police in disproportionate numbers under the previous administration.

Many police officers have been angered by de Blasio's support of critics of police practices, and have engaged in open insubordination by turning their backs on the mayor at public events and embarking on a temporary work slowdown in December.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Mohammad Zargham)

 
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