In a stirring State of the City address at Justice Sonia Sotomayor Houses and Community Center in the Bronx last week, Speaker Adrienne Adams spoke about her vision to invest in the city, centering women’s needs and people of color since they make up the majority of the frontline workforce.
“Whether lifelong New Yorkers, immigrants and transplants who arrived years ago, or recent migrants seeking asylum, the shared joys and struggles we uniquely experience as New Yorkers are what unite us,” said Adams. “For us to succeed, we must build a city that works for everyone, and that hinges on investing in historically underserved communities that have lacked equal access to economic mobility.”
Adams announced several new proposals to increase industrial development, preserve affordable housing, expand Fair Fares, fix the city’s childhood education system, and close Rikers Island, which numerous advocates praised.
For transit, Adams plans on expanding half-price rides on buses and subways. She also proposed expanding eligibility for the Access-A-Ride and Fair Fares program to more low-income New Yorkers.
“The City Council was the force behind establishing the Fair Fares transit discount program in 2019,” said David R. Jones, president and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York. “Under the leadership of NYC Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, the Council is poised to once again lead on the critical need to ensure that our public transit system is more accessible and affordable to all New Yorkers. By increasing the income eligibility threshold for the Fair Fares program from 100 percent of the federal poverty line to 200 percent, more working-class New Yorkers with incomes just above the eligibility cut-off will be able to take advantage of the program.”
The city’s workforce has been struggling with an understaffing issue among mental health workers, nurses, public defenders, and housing attorneys. Adams said she plans to advocate for budget investments in front-line positions and expediting agencies’ abilities to hire. She also proposed passing bills that open more civil service jobs and collaborating with labor unions and the mayor’s administration to identify jobs that no longer require college degrees and other qualifications.
“New York City’s future depends on a strong municipal workforce that is both prepared and supported to deliver the critical services we all rely on,” said Henry Garrido, executive director of District Council 37. “We thank Speaker Adams for her leadership in advancing these workforce development initiatives and look forward to a continued partnership with the City Council to address the barriers our members face in and out of the workplace.”
Blondel Pinnock, president and CEO of Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, said the city needs workforce development and financial inclusion that center Black and brown communities.
“We applaud Speaker Adams and the City Council for advancing plans to expand workforce hubs across the city, increase SBS resources for minority- and women-owned businesses, and support equitable lending programs,” Pinnock said. “We also endorse plans to pilot critical anti-poverty measures, including offering free financial literacy training through the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) for under-resourced young adults.”
To combat the “dire” housing crisis that disproportionately burdens low-income working families and the city’s Black population, Adams said she wanted to preserve public housing units in the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and create a Fair Housing Framework that targets housing production at the community district level.
According to Christie Peale, executive director of the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, Speaker Adams’s housing proposals, coupled with the mayor’s and the movernor’s focus on increasing housing supply, are important. Peale added that leadership should also fully fund community-based housing nonprofits “that do the work to protect New York’s homeowners from displacement.”
“We know that the safest communities are the ones with the most resources, not the most incarceration,” said Darren Mack, co-director of Freedom Agenda at the Urban Justice Center. “The long-overdue investments Speaker Adams has outlined—in supportive housing, community-based treatment, and diversion and re-entry programs—will make our communities stronger, healthier, and safer, and keep us on the path to closing the Rikers Island jails. For generations, Rikers has fueled cycles of trauma and violence instead of interrupting them, at great moral and financial cost. We applaud Speaker Adams for her leadership and commitment to erase this stain on our city once and for all.”
Adams’s other proposals include creating year-round public pool access and free swimming programs, $5 million toward anti-poverty assistance payments to low-income mothers, and public safety investments.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America (RFA) corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.