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De Blasio renews call for millionaires’ tax, more affordable housing in State of the City

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The mayor reiterated his goal of making New York “the fairest big city in America”

Max Touhey

Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered his annual State of the City address last night from the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn, and used the time to reiterate his goals for his second term—namely, to make New York City “the fairest big city in America.”

In the speech, he gave a brief overview of a 12-point plan (distributed in booklet form to those assembled in the audience) that outlines how, exactly, his administration plans to improve things for New Yorkers over the next four years.

But unlike last year, the city’s affordable housing crisis was not the centerpiece of the narrative; it merited a brief mention toward the top of the speech, in which the mayor praised the gains of his Housing New York plan (and its expanded version, which was unveiled last November).

“Every time a family is saved from an illegal eviction, every time a family gets their apartment preserved at affordable rent, every time a family moves into one of our new affordable buildings, it’s another step towards becoming the Fairest Big City in America,” De Blasio said. “And we will reach more New Yorkers in the next four years than ever before in our history so they can be New Yorkers for a long time to come.”

De Blasio spent more time talking about the beleaguered New York City Housing Authority, stating that “This entire city government is focused on the needs of 400,000 New Yorkers who have not gotten a fair shake for a long time.” Though the mayor didn’t get deep into specifics on what the city will do to address NYCHA’s myraid problems, he briefly touched on initiatives like the NextGen housing program, intended to help fund repairs to the housing authority’s buildings, as well as efforts to bring widespread internet access, new boilers, and other quality of life improvements to public housing.

Another problem De Blasio addressed more thoroughly is the crumbling subway system, which seems to get worse with each passing day. “Like it or not, only Albany can pass the legislation that can end this crisis,” he noted to applause, before saying the city should “redouble our efforts” to pass a millionaires’ tax, which could, in theory, fund both subway repairs and half-priced MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers.

The mayor alluded only briefly to congestion pricing, which Governor Andrew Cuomo has recently voiced his support for, saying, “I will sit down with leaders in Albany any time, anywhere, to find a solution to the subway crisis. I have only one condition: the money raised in New York City stays in New York City.” (That got plenty of applause.)

Other goals he brought up for the coming years included expanding his universal pre-K program to include “3-K” for more children; improving relations between the NYPD and the communities it serves; divesting $5 billion in city pension funds from fossil fuel companies; reducing the population in city jails; and creating an “Office of Democracy” to both ensure that city elections are fairer, and to engage New Yorkers to get involved in their communities.

“We have a lot of the tools we need,” the mayor said. “We’ve proven they work. We know what we need from Albany. We know what we need from Washington and we’re going organize New Yorkers and allies everywhere to achieve those goals.”