Brigid Bergin is the City Hall reporter for WNYC. She covers city politics including the 2013 mayoral race and transition.
With no term-limit exception to alter his lame-duck status, Mayor Bloomberg will deliver his 12th and final State of the City address Thursday from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The site was selected, according to the Mayor's official press release, because the Center has generated “unprecedented economic activity in the area” and the Atlantic Yards development project will create 6,400 units of affordable housing to downtown Brooklyn. One of the 15 residential towers is under construction, but none are complete.
And that juxtaposition – between what the administration has achieved versus what it wants to accomplish – is what will underpin this address. It will be as much about framing the Bloomberg legacy as it is about his final policy proposals.
Working to accentuate the positive, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson sent out a snapshot of the administration’s successes. The list contains more than 20 records that the administration believes define a safer and healthier city in 2013, like record high life expectancy, record low traffic deaths, and record investment in parks.
But the list also cites records that demand context and fact-checking.
While the murder rate and shootings may be down citywide, violence has become concentrated in certain neighborhoods. According to the city, 20% of crime occurs in public housing, while public housing residents account for 4% of the population. And while incarceration rates have been dramatically reduced, the city continues to face several lawsuits for the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy, which overwhelmingly affects black and latino young men.
Housing advocates agree that the mayor’s commitment to build or preserve 165,000 units of affordable housing has been impressive. But some question whether apartments created are cheap enough for the lowest income New Yorkers. A report being released Thursday by the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development finds fewer than 8% of apartments are affordable to a family of four making less than $64,000 a year.
There are record low welfare levels but roughly one third of New York City’s children live in poverty, an uptick over prior years. And the city has been experiencing record homelessness. As of Monday, there were more than 49,000 people in city shelters. More than 40% were children.
The address is expected to build on Bloomberg’s commitment to making New York an increasingly sustainable city and a portion of the speech will be dedicated to unveiling plans to achieve better air quality and higher recycling rates.
Specific programs include a pilot program for curbside chargers to make the city a leader in electric vehicle; a plan to double the city’s recycling rate to 30 percent by 2017; and in partnership with the City Council, a ban Styrofoam food packaging from our stores and restaurants.
With reporting by Cindy Rodriguez