Photo: Flickr/kevdiaphoto/Creative Commons
NEW YORK — Welcome to office, Mayor Bill de Blasio. Now get to work.
That’s the message from more than two dozen Gotham Gazette readers who submitted their advice and top concerns to de Blasio on the eve of his inauguration. The crowdsourced submissions to our "Minute With The Next Mayor" project touched on affordable housing, unemployment and homelessness, transportation, public health and the preservation of libraries.
Many who shared their views said they are looking forward to the change from the outgoing Bloomberg administration. Some are delighted with de Blasio's style and speeches so far, particularly his “tale of two cities” narrative that touches on deep concerns of many New Yorkers. "Your wisdom and humanity are just what is needed," wrote reader Shelley L. Ackerman.
The lack of affordable housing was on the minds of a number of those who submitted their thoughts. "The diminishing of rent-stabilized apartments and the 170,000+ wait list for section 8 housing, and serious issues with substandard housing conditions must be addressed," wrote reader Alfia, who added a concern that "the city is losing lifelong residents and those who have called NYC their home for decades."
Reader Cathy Lisa Schenider wrote that de Blasio should first focus not only on substandard housing, but also homelessness, especially homeless children, substandard wages and unemployment, as well as police reform, and poorly resourced schools and neighborhoods.
"The biggest issue is poverty," wrote reader Katha Pollitt, who also happens to be political columnist for The Nation. "De Blasio was elected because the ‘Tale of Two Cities’ message spoke to people's concerns. Now, act!"
Reader Beatrix submitted a post inspired by “Invisible Child,” a recent feature in The New York Times about a homeless family. "The thousands of homeless are struggling to get their lives back," she wrote. "I ask our future Mayor to make it his priority to provide decent housing for those people now in homeless shelters: built new home restore dilapidated houses, stop building luxury office spaces."
According to the Coalition for the Homeless, homelessness in New York has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression. More people are sleeping in shelters than ever before. This includes an estimated 12,500 families and 22,100 children in shelters each night.
Reader concerns about a resource gap went beyond housing and homelessness, reflecting worries that city services and public amenities are being unfairly divided.
For reader Merrill Frank, the top concern is improving transit to shorten wait times and increase non-rush hour frequency. “When transit service is increased,” he wrote, “working class job prospects are improved and property values are enhanced.”
Reader Adam Lynn applauded de Blasio’s stance against stop-and-frisk policing, but said he would like to see more attention directed toward public health and the HIV/AIDS crisis among men of color. “If we are to address the inequities in our criminal justice system, we must also tackle how the ‘tale of two cities’ is allowing AIDS to spread among the most vulnerable, unnoticed in the gilded corners of our city.”
The shuttering and redevelopment of Long Island College Hospital, the top issue for reader Robert Stone, was also a key campaign issue for de Blasio, who was arrested at a demonstration in July protesting the closing of the hospital. Stone wrote, “I'd like him to fulfill his promise to keep Long Island College Hospital as a full-service facility with a functioning ER and Ped [Pediatric] ER.”
For several readers, the divide is also affecting the city’s public library systems. They raised concerns about the redevelopment of the NYPL’s main research branch on 42nd Street and the sale of the Brooklyn Heights branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.
Reader David Lewis wrote, “The NY Public Library's outrageously misguided $350-million-plus Central Library Plan (CLP) demands an audit and radical revision.” The CLP would redevelop the main research branch into a lending library and close two existing midtown branches.
Also asking de Blasio to reverse the city’s support of the CLP was reader Carol HK. “Please take back the $150 million of taxpayer money offered to the Library and use it for low-income housing,” she wrote. “Over 20,000 children are in homeless families — a sin and scandal in our wealthy city.”
With a new year and a new mayor, our readers are looking forward to the next chapter of de Blasio’s “tale.” Based on the concerns raised in our project, he has his work cut out for him.
Meral Agish is a Brooklyn-based reporter and student at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Valentina Cordero is a Manhattan-based journalist, writer and editorial assistant. She is also student at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
The “Minute with the Mayor” project was jointly produced with Meral Agish, Julia Alsop, Jaclyn Anglis, Kaara Baptiste, Valentina Cordero, A. Adam Glenn, Pamela Granda, Jennifer Lehman, Steven Trader and Max Willens of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.