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Mayor de Blasio on income inequality in NYC, his millionaires tax, and more

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The mayor gets candid in a new interview with New York Magazine


Mayor de Blasio will appear on the ballot for the NYC mayoral primaries on September 12, and has largely been considered a shoo-in in a bid to complete the work he’s already started in his stint as the city’s highest elected official. But that hasn’t kept the mayor off of the press circuit, most recently speaking candidly—or as candidly as a politician during an election year can—to New York Magazine.

The article, presented as an interview with journalist Chris Smith, highlights a man who admits challenges ahead but also dwells on the lack of acclaim in his achievements. “When I think about how crime’s gone down for four years, graduation rates up, test scores are up, more jobs than ever in our history — I think, Wow, just that quick profile, any candidate anywhere would want it,” De Blasio said. You’d assume they’d be having parades out in the streets.” (To his credit, his next phrase is “But that’s not the time in history that we’re living in.”)

Smith goes on to ask De Blasio to speak to some of the more contentious points of his tenure—his relationship with the NYPD, his ongoing public feud with Governor Cuomo, the city’s unbudging economic and racial segregation—to which the mayor provides some eloquent, and often deflective answers.

The interview is long, and worth reading in full, but for built environment nerds like us, we’ve plucked the piece’s most insightful quotes from the mayor:

On his platform to bring more affordable housing to New York:

I think people all over this city, of every background, would like to have the city government be able to determine which building goes where, how high it will be, who gets to live in it, what the rent will be. I think there’s a socialistic impulse, which I hear every day, in every kind of community, that they would like things to be planned in accordance to their needs. And I would, too. Unfortunately, what stands in the way of that is hundreds of years of history that have elevated property rights and wealth to the point that that’s the reality that calls the tune on a lot of development.

On the ongoing subway crisis:

The state needs to fund the MTA appropriately, which means starting by giving back the $456 million they diverted in MTA funds. And then we all need to agree on a long-term plan. I believe the millionaires tax is the best long-term plan. There are other proposals, obviously, that are worth discussion. But I think it’s a pretty linear situation. I don’t think the dynamics in the subway need to get any worse. I think it’s time to decide which path we’re gonna take.

On the city’s worsening income inequality:

In very few ways can we address the rampant growth of wealth among the one percent. The state and the federal government have the power to do that. I called for a tax on the wealthy to fund pre-K. We didn’t achieve that, but we did get the money for pre-K from the state. Now I’m calling for a millionaires tax to fix the subways and to provide the half-cost fare for low-income New Yorkers. If we’re going to have a strong social fabric, if people are going to have faith it’s a fair and open society, they need to see the wealthy paying their fair share. It frustrates me greatly that we don’t have the power here to tax the wealthy in this city.

Read the interview in full, here.