Mayor de Blasio, who for most of his campaign criticized the severe economic inequality in the five boroughs, addressed how he plans to make the “Tale of Two Cities” into one of strength and unity.
“In past decades, working people built our city, and for their hard work they were rewarded, not always with great wealth, but with a fundamental assurance … the knowledge that hard work could pull them from modest means into a growing middle class” de Blasio said before a packed crowd of government officials and community members at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City on Monday. “Today, that assurance is missing … that sense of economic justice is gone. And that’s what we aim to address.”
The speech was the first State of the City Address made by a Democrat in more than two decades and de Blasio made it very clear that his agenda will be an intentionally liberal one.
“There are some who have taken issue with our commitment to this cause — who say that income inequality is just a fact of life, and that attempts to remedy it are simply sowing the seeds of class welfare,” he said. “But we know better. We understand that allowing the income gap to stretch further isn’t simply a threat to those at the bottom but to every New Yorker. And we also know this: New Yorker’s personal commitment to tackling inequality knows no boundaries of geography or income.”
Former Mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s granddaughter Katherine, who introduced the new mayor, said in the past “many have wanted to be compared to La Guardia but De Blasio plans to work at it.”
Many of de Blasio’s ideas, including universal prekindergarten, his Vision Zero traffic safety initiative and paid sick leave, were met with uproarious applause. He vowed to support immigrants both with and without legal status by introducing municipal identification cards. These cards will allow undocumented immigrants to open bank accounts, receive medical care at a clinic and utilize other private and public services.
“To all of my fellow New Yorkers who are undocumented, I say, ‘New York City is your home too, and we will not force any of our residents to live their lives in the shadows,'” de Blasio said.
He has already gained the support of City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) and Immigration Committee Chairman Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn) for the cards measure.
De Blasio said he will ask Albany for permission to increase taxes on high-income residents, something he has spoken about for much of his campaign.
“Raising taxes on the rich makes our commitment to our kids more than just words,” he said. “It makes that commitment real. It makes that commitment fair. And it offers a promise to our kids that they can count on.”
Though he has already taken steps on his campaign promise to amend parts of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactic, de Blasio did not spend much time speaking about it in his address. Instead, he concluded that his term will mostly be about “lifting the floor” for all New Yorkers so that everyone, regardless of socioeconomic background, will have a fighting chance at a successful future.
“We find ourselves at a fork in the road,” de Blasio said. “We can look down the path that we’ve been on for far too long. We can see it as the easier trail to traverse, and fool ourselves into thinking it’s our only option. Or we can take the other road … the path to closing the inequality gap … that very New York option of taking on big challenges and getting results.”