NYC Inequality Issues Are as Big as the City Next Mayor Will Run

In their campaigns for New York City mayor, leading candidates Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia and Maya Wiley pledged to reduce crime and repair the social and economic inequities a pandemic-fueled economy has exacerbated for much of the past year.

It’s a tall order in a city where unemployment is almost double the national average and where Black and Latino people have been twice as likely to live in poverty as White New Yorkers.

The slate of candidates running to lead the city is it’s most diverse field ever, with unofficial results predicting a likely winner who is Black, female, or both.

About half the population, or 4.1 million women, live in New York City and while it remains to be seen whether New Yorkers will see their first female mayor, having a woman run the city is more than symbolic. When Congresswomen, both Republicans and Democrats, are involved in policymaking they tend to sponsor more bills than their male colleagues on education, health care, violence against women, and abortion (both for and against).

NYC Inequality Issues Are as Big as the City Next Mayor Will Run

Adams, a former police captain and Brooklyn borough president, was leading the race on Election Day after the first round of counting in New York’s Democratic mayoral primary. Behind him were former bureaucrats Wiley and Garcia, who could still become the Democratic nominee after subsequent rounds of votes are tallied, a final result that may take weeks.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the dominant issues he or she will face:

Crime

When George Floyd’s death last year sparked a national protest against racial injustice and police brutality, New York -- one of the most diverse cities in the nation -- was home to some of the largest demonstrations. Floyd’s murder by a White police officer in Minneapolis hit close to home for many New Yorkers who saw Eric Garner die in 2014 after a white NYPD officer used a chokehold to subdue him.

While overall crime has fallen over the past few years, shootings are up 64% in the Big Apple so far this year from the same period of 2020. The increase in shootings, hate crimes and quality-of-life concerns made public safety the lead issue in the city’s mayoral campaign, as candidates debated how best to deal with the problem.

There are stark differences in the crime proposals from the top two candidates, Adams and Wiley. Adams, who was beaten by police as a teenager, went on to become a police officer and founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, a group created to improve relationships between cops and the communities they police. Adams has called for the revival of a plainclothes anti-gun unit that was shuttered over complaints of misconduct and more officers on the streets and in transit stations.

Wiley, meanwhile, was among one of the only candidates who said she would cut the NYPD’s budget by $1 billion to fund alternatives to policing, such as social services that she says would address the root causes of crime.

Her less ideological rival, Garcia, the former city Sanitation Commissioner currently in third place, doesn’t want to take money away from the police force. Instead, she pledged to increase cops and transit officers, while focusing on greater accountability for the NYPD and address issues such as unstable housing and food insecurity that she says drive people to turn to crime.

NYC Inequality Issues Are as Big as the City Next Mayor Will Run

Unemployment

The next mayor is expected to lead the city back to pre-pandemic employment levels while tackling economic equalities. While job growth resumed across most sectors during the reopening, New York City’s unemployment rate in May was 10.9%, nearly twice the national average of 5.8%. The city is not expected to reach its pre-pandemic employment peak until 2024, longer than the U.S. overall, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office’s forecast.

Adams has proposed cash assistance to working-class New Yorkers, subsidized or free childcare, and the prioritization of businesses owned by minorities and women for city contracts. Wiley’s “New Deal New York” plans to inject $10 billion into the city’s economy with infrastructure projects that create 100,000 jobs. She also wants to fund annual stipends for domestic caregivers, such as stay-at-home parents. Garcia’s plans include help for small business owners and a partnership with companies and colleges to create jobs and internships.

Homelessness and Affordable Housing

When the extension of a state moratorium on evictions ends on August 31, a spike in homelessness could follow, particularly in Black and Latino neighborhoods.

There were more than 50,000 people in New York City homeless shelters in April, down from a peak of more than 63,000 over several months in 2019, but still more than double the figure in April 2001, according to the Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit advocacy group. The vast majority of people in shelter beds, more than 80%, are Hispanic or Black, according to the city Department of Homeless Services. There were also more than 2,000 unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in New York in January 2021, according to the city’s most recent point-in-time estimate.

The next mayor will inherit the financial headache of the New York City Housing Authority, which said it needs $40 billion to renovate public housing buildings plagued by mold, lead paint, and vermin.

Adams wants to increase rent subsidies, fill empty public-housing units, create more affordable housing and change rules to allow private office buildings and hotels to be converted into housing. Wiley would enact and enforce an eviction moratorium, seek state funding for rental assistance vouchers and create an aftercare system for the homeless. Garcia, who temporarily ran NYCHA when she worked for de Blasio, wants to build 10,000 units of supportive housing for people experiencing -- or are at risk of --homelessness. She also wants to increase rental assistance programs and simplify the process of getting New Yorkers from a shelter or the street and into permanent housing.

Education Equality

Whoever takes office midway into the next school year will manage New York City public schools, which are expected to bring back all students for in-person learning. Add to that, the challenge of tackling the lingering post-pandemic impact on the largest public school system in the U.S., including mental health issues, uneven attendance and a digital divide that persists after a prolonged period of disrupted learning.

The incoming mayor will also face mounting pressure to desegregate schools. The city has one of the country’s most segregated school systems due to its widespread reliance on admission tests. Bill de Blasio paused the use of screening for middle school admissions for a year during the pandemic, leaving it up to the next mayor to make any permanent changes.

All three of the top candidates have pledged to desegregate schools. Adams said he was one of the first high school students to be bussed in the city, from South Jamaica to Bayside, in order to reduce segregation and inequality. He has proposed the expansion of school options, more summer instruction, and directing more funding to struggling districts. But Adams has also made it clear that he wouldn’t just prioritize public school students and during his campaign attracted multimillion-dollar donations from hedge fund billionaires that are big proponents of charter schools.

Wiley wants to reallocate money from the NYPD budget that is used to station police officers in schools and give it to mental-health services for students. She pledged to redistribute school-testing money to arts programs and simplify the school admissions process to make it less discriminatory. Garcia wants to move money out of administrative “bloat” into classrooms, accelerate the city’s universal literacy goal, and open new high schools in every borough, with a focus on South Brooklyn, Central Queens and South Bronx.

Childcare

Business leaders say that returning to the city’s offices -- a key driver of local economies -- will be difficult without a sustained solution to childcare challenges faced by New Yorkers. While de Blasio’s signature accomplishment as mayor has made pre-kindergarten a universal benefit, Garcia has proposed free child care for kids under the age of 3 who come from low-income families. Wiley’s platform includes a plan for universal community care, which would allow 100,000 families to receive $5,000 annually to care for children and the elderly. Adams has proposed expanding the city’s earned income tax credit and childcare vouchers for parents, and installing a childcare czar to oversee the issue.

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