A vibrant middle class made New York City a beacon of opportunity to so many generations. But today’s reality is different. New York’s middle class isn’t just shrinking. It’s in real danger of disappearing altogether. A recent study by the Partnership for New York City found that high- and low-wage jobs are growing, but the city continues to lose middle-wage jobs and middle-class households.
New York City spends too many dollars in one-off deals for large, well-connected corporations, while too many industry sectors and small businesses are neglected — especially those in outer-borough neighborhoods. We have had a high-tech job boom in recent years, but few of those jobs have gone to graduates of our public schools. A recent report found that as many as a third of jobs in STEM-related fields don’t require a bachelor’s degree, but New York lags behind other regions in the proportion of jobs held by STEM workers without a bachelor’s degree — which correlates strongly with the rising inequality we have seen in our city. Similarly, we have failed to train people to meet rising health care demand, so New York City’s medical institutions have to recruit abroad to fill 16,000 nursing positions with overseas-trained nurses, rather than hiring from the ranks of our own unemployed.
The result is that, using the broadest definition of unemployment, 15.8 percent of New Yorkers are estimated to be without a job or involuntarily working part time, while the city’s poverty rate is now 22 percent — higher than when Mayor Bloomberg came into office. In the three years after the economic crisis of 2008, we saw median income decline 6 percent.
A New York City that continues the economic and educational policies of the last decade cannot — and will not — be a city of neighborhoods where middle-class families can live, work, and raise their children. Without a dramatic change of direction — an economic policy that combats inequality and rebuilds our middle class — New York will become little more than a playground for the rich, where millions upon millions of New Yorkers struggle each and every day to keep their heads above water.
As Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio understands that it is essential to stand with small businesses — including immigrant businesses — and to fight for decent pay and working conditions, especially for low-wage workers.
New York City needs an economic development policy that balances investments in the knowledge economy — maintaining our leadership as a magnet for global talent — with support for entrepreneurs in new and neglected industries of the five boroughs, real investments in creating career paths for city residents, a focus on raising wages for all workers in the city, an expansion of green jobs, and investments in technology infrastructure across the city. Bill de Blasio is committed to an economic development path that focuses on rebuilding the middle-class job base.
Replace Corporate Tax Giveaways With a New Economic Development Focus
New York City currently disperses around $4 billion a year on economic development, including $3 billion on tax expenditures that too often go to single large companies. Yet many of these projects would have happened even in the absence of the tax and subsidy giveaways. Bill de Blasio is proposing broad reform of all tax breaks — and elimination of programs with notoriously weak payoffs like the Industrial and Commercial Abatement Program (ICAP) — that will save $250 million per year. De Blasio will also create a Unified Development Budget to ensure any subsidies create jobs that offer a living wage with benefits and that development is spread throughout the city. The money saved will instead be invested in a much broader economic development agenda that invests in the skills of the city workforce and neglected industry sectors throughout the five boroughs.
Create a World-Class Education, Training and Job Placement System for Existing Workers
In place of the balkanized hodge-podge of existing programs in the city, Bill de Blasio will connect our public education system, our workforce training systems, and our economic development programs to create a far more cohesive system that educates and trains people for today’s jobs and the jobs of the future.
Restore CUNY as the Central Gateway to a Quality Education and a Good Job
If we want the jobs of the future to go to the children of the present, they deserve an education that will not only give them necessary skills but connect them to jobs. We have seen CUNY’s budget slashed by a third in the last two decades. Bill de Blasio will fight in Albany to reverse state budget cuts and, as a first step, commit a large portion of funds freed up from eliminating wasteful tax breaks and subsidies to increase New York City funding of CUNY by 50 percent. This will start to make CUNY affordable again and help expand critical programs, including those with a greater focus on “middle skill” Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) training.
Expand CTE Schools to Match Growing Job Opportunities
Similarly, Bill de Blasio will expand the network of Career and Technical Education (CTE) high schools and ensure they provide skills in line with projected job growth in the city. The city will seek business commitments to hire CUNY and CTE graduates, while schools will be required to clearly track their success in placing each graduate in a relevant job. Every high school should be connected to a relevant college, apprenticeship program, business or industry to give every student a road to success, while all workers — especially the unemployed — should have access to comprehensive training, apprenticeship and job training programs.
Ensure Less-Skilled Workers Have Access to Comprehensive Training, Apprenticeship, and Job Placement Programs
Bill de Blasio will bring local business, education, community, labor and agency leaders together to create an integrated local workforce development and job placement system. We should support and expand successful programs, like Per Scholas and Brooklyn Networks, that train and place workers in entry-level technology jobs. It is also time the city ensured the billions it spends every year on city contracts, particularly construction contracts, promote workforce development and job placement.
Create Comprehensive Career Pathways in the Health Sector
Bill de Blasio is committed to ensuring that our own trained workers are filling nursing job openings without the need to go overseas, and he will work to create comprehensive career paths in the health sector. Given the importance and demand for new employees in the health sector, de Blasio will ensure that the city recruits and trains New Yorkers for these jobs and creates opportunities for current health workers to upgrade their skills and take higher-paying jobs.
Help Manufacturing Thrive in New York City
Bill de Blasio believes manufacturing 2.0 can be a critical part of the city economy and will build on existing programs to preserve the physical integrity of Industrial Business Zones, stop illegal conversions of industrial areas, and support better infrastructure and workforce development planning. He will replicate the success of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in other industrial areas owned and managed by the city.
Use Sectoral Strategies to Diversify NYC’s Economic Base and Bring Jobs to Neighborhoods in All Five Boroughs
Beyond fashion, high-profile technology, and a few other sectors that have received attention in the last decades, Bill de Blasio will strengthen neglected industry sectors in every neighborhood in the city. He will bring together stakeholders across industry clusters and across neighborhoods to assess where supply chains go, what financing is needed, how to assist in finding and training employees, and other guidance to help each industry become a high-productivity, high-wage part of the city economy.
Create Economic Development Hubs in Every Neighborhood
The city will establish economic development hubs in every neighborhood to bring local stakeholders together — from entrepreneurs to educators and community organizations — to map the economic assets, industries, needs, and human resources in each neighborhood and economic sector. Using this map of the city economy mapped neighborhood-by-neighborhood, Bill de Blasio will ensure that economic development staff working and living in those neighborhoods deliver the economic and technical support that each neighborhood and each economic sector needs to grow and develop to its full capacity.
Establish New Revolving Loan and Equity Investment Funds to Support Neighborhood Entrepreneurs and Industry Sectors Throughout the City
To fulfill the role abandoned by most banks — providing credit for neighborhood businesses — Bill de Blasio will establish new revolving loan funds targeting low-income neighbor- hoods that support growing industry sectors. By intimately knowing the local economy, economic development hubs will function as “loan officers” to identify and promote the entrepreneurs with the savvy and market opportunity to grow, while building partnerships with private lenders to co-invest. A new NYC Innovation Equity Fund, using a small portion of city pension funds, will target strategic equity investments throughout the five boroughs. Economic development staff will focus on support for complementary firms in sectors to strengthen local supply chains and increase the overall vitality of neighborhood and citywide industry clusters.
Establish a Job Creation Coordinator to Oversee All Economic Development and Workforce Training in the City.
A Job Creation Coordinator, answerable to the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, will have oversight over all neighborhood economic development hubs, citywide industry cluster initiatives, technical assistance, economic development funds, and workforce development initiatives to ensure that training and job creation are better coordinated.
Support Small Businesses as the Key to Growth
Small businesses drive neighborhood economies across the city. They keep three times the percentage of profits in local communities compared to larger firms — and are far more likely to do business locally as well. Bill de Blasio is committed to policies that support those small businesses.
Replace the Current Fine Assault on Small Businesses With Technical Assistance to Ensure Compliance
Economic development hubs will help businesses navigate regulatory rules, comply with wage and labor laws, and avoid consumer and health violations. Overzealous enforcement will be replaced with tiered classifications of small business violations to distinguish low-risk violations and create easier ways for businesses to fix problems or contest violations online, by mail, or by phone.
Promote Entrepreneurship Training at Economic Development Hubs
The city will take many of the business services and entrepreneur classes out to neighborhoods to reach small business entrepreneurs, who often have never heard of these resources. Just as big businesses are able to negotiate lower prices from their suppliers, economic development hubs will work with neighborhood Business Improvement Districts, and through clusters of small businesses in the same industry, to use group purchasing to negotiate lower prices for telecommunications or other shared services.
Give Local Businesses a Real Shot at City Contracts
Bill de Blasio will also redesign the bidding process for government contracts, and the billions of dollars the city spends every year buying goods and services, to recruit bids from local businesses and give them a “second chance” to match winning bids by non-local competitors. And the program to include Minority and Women’s owned Business Enterprises (M/WBE) must be reformed and expanded to cover more contracts.
Raise Wages as a Bottom-Up Driver of Economic Development in Low-Income Neighborhoods
When wages rise, workers spend more in their neighborhoods, and local businesses can then employ more people. Bill de Blasio is committed to using a broad range of policies to help raise wage standards so everyone is able to live and support a family in relative comfort and security.
Use Public Contracts and Subsidies to Raise Wages
The living wage law should be pegged to increases in the cost of living and cover any large for-profit company receiving $1 million in economic subsidies. Any businesses receiving city subsidies should provide clear plans on providing health care for all their workers. Bill de Blasio will create a “responsible contractor policy” requiring all contractors and economic subsidy recipients to disclose and explain past and pending violations of labor, employment, environmental and workplace safety violations, and bar repeat offenders from receiving public money.
Advocate for Local Control of Minimum Wage Rates
Bill de Blasio will advocate for Albany to give New York City the ability to set the minimum wage rate at a level appropriate to the city’s high cost of living and worker productivity, rather than having the same rate as that of lower-cost upstate counties.
Expand Coverage of Paid Sick Days
Building on the recent paid sick days victory, Bill de Blasio will close the exemptions in the recently passed law to ensure that fewer workers are forced to choose between losing needed income or taking care of themselves or a sick child.
Help Workers Enforce Their Wage and Labor Rights
To guarantee that wage laws are enforced, Bill de Blasio will create a dedicated legal services fund to support low-income workers challenging wage theft and other workplace violations.
An Affordable Housing Policy That Helps Sustain Construction and Associated Jobs in the City
Bill de Blasio has committed to building or preserving nearly 200,000 units of affordable housing in the city over the next decade. The construction and associated tasks involved in executing this plan will create an additional source of new jobs, especially for those without a college education. Based on job creation estimates from studies of New York’s housing construction this housing plan could create close to half a million job-years of employment over the life of the plan, in construction, design, and support services, as well as induced employment from the wages spent by those hired for those construction-related jobs. Maintenance and related services for the new buildings and local jobs induced by spending by those new residents will be another source of permanent jobs in the city.
Invest in New York’s Technology Infrastructure
In today’s economy, Internet access is not a luxury — it’s an essential commodity that New Yorkers depend on to make a living. Broadband access in New York City is among the most expensive in the industrialized world, and only about half of New York households had access to the highest- speed fiber broadband services as of December 2012. Bill de Blasio will ensure that affordable, high-speed fiber Internet reaches all New York City households within five years. The Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) need to introduce new franchise agreements to wire more city infrastructure and create greater oversight and accountability in current telecommunications agreements. All options must be on the table to expedite this process, including exploring the creation of a municipal-owned fiber network in parts of the city where private firms may not have the capacity or interest. Bill de Blasio will work with Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and local Chambers of Commerce to create public Wi-Fi hot zones around economic development hubs across the city.