Mayor Bill de Blasio in his first State of the City address Monday outlined initiatives designed to bridge the income inequality gap, protect undocumented immigrants and usher in universal prekindergarten.
He said he will ask Albany for the authority to raise the city's minimum wage and will expand, through an executive order and City Council cooperation, the number of workers eligible for "living wages."
The new mayor also advocated for municipal IDs "regardless of immigration status," assuring undocumented residents that New York is their home, too.
"We want to make sure that no son or daughter of our city goes without the bank accounts, the leases, the library cards that make everyday life possible simply because they lack identification," de Blasio said to applause at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.
Katherine LaGuardia, granddaughter of former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, introduced de Blasio Monday. De Blasio's 42-minute speech, titled "A Fair Shot for Everyone," used LaGuardia quotes such as: "Our city does not belong to any individual or set of individuals. It belongs to all the people."
De Blasio, the first Democrat to lead the city in two decades, was elected in a landslide pledging to reverse policies that favor the wealthy. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent whom de Blasio has criticized for neglecting the working class, was not mentioned in the speech. Democratic mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins were cited.
Besides local control of the minimum wage, de Blasio is making a higher-profile request of state legislators: He wants approval of a tax increase on the city's highest earners to fund universal prekindergarten and after-school programs.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who seeks tax cuts statewide and was not at yesterday's speech, has countered with a proposal to fund universal pre-K statewide with a state budget surplus. De Blasio noted the governor's absence and complimented him while promoting the city's plan.
"I know that people of good conscience can have different plans for how to achieve better outcomes for our kids," de Blasio said, adding, "We're not asking Albany to raise the state income tax by a penny to pay for universal pre-K and after-school programs here in New York City."
The mayor said any state budget surplus could be funneled toward the "billions more in educational resources" ordered from Albany by a state appellate court ruling in 2006.
The mayor is expected to release his preliminary city budget Wednesday, marking the start of formal negotiations over funding.
"We have over 150 labor contracts that are unsettled," de Blasio said Monday, noting that the federal and state governments are in fiscal straits. "When you take all these factors into account, we are facing an uncharted path."
After the speech, council member Eric Ulrich, of Ozone Park, one of three Republicans in the 51-member City Council, said he believes Bloomberg left de Blasio with a city that was in better financial shape than the former mayor found it in. Ulrich said he doesn't believe taxing the wealthy is necessary considering Cuomo's offer.
Council member Jumaane Williams (D-East Flatbush) said he supports the plans that de Blasio presented for municipal IDs and pre-K but wanted concrete proposals on other initiatives, including those to reduce gun violence.