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De Blasio: Afforable housing, jobs are long-term priorities

In his State of the City speech Monday

In his State of the City speech Monday night, Feb. 13, 2017, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio touted lower crime and high school dropout rates, and vowed to make affordable housing and jobs his long-term priorities. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered his fourth State of the City address Monday evening — vowing to increase access to affordable housing and create 100,000 new jobs over the next decade.

De Blasio, who is seeking re-election this year, used the speech before supporters and city officials at the Apollo Theater to highlight his administration’s work since his election. He touted record low high school dropout rates, and a reduction in crime but said he was “keenly aware” the city had to “go farther . . . to protect people from the rising cost of housing.”

“This affordability crisis threatens who we are, it threatens the very soul of this city,” de Blasio said in a speech that echoed the “tale of two cities” theme he used in his 2013 winning campaign.

The mayor’s speech jumped from local talking points to national issues. He touted plans to provide free legal assistance to city tenants. He also encouraged New Yorkers to speak out against the policies of President Donald Trump.

De Blasio also revived calls for a 2.5 percent “Mansion Tax” to be levied on home sales exceeding $2 million, to fund senior housing programs. The mayor’s aides said the tax would generate $336 million annually to help “25,000 seniors receive subsidized housing.”

A similar plan was blocked by state lawmakers in 2015, and Senate Majority Leader John Flannagan (R- East Northport) last month dismissed the new proposal as a “non starter” for the current legislative session.

De Blasio’s s plan to create 100,000 new permanent jobs over the next decade includes allocating $2.6 billion to upgrade public buildings with clean energy systems — an initiative he said would create 30,000 jobs.

The mayor said the city will spend $136 million to transform city-owned property in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood into a “Made in NY campus” that will provide film production space and room for fashion manufacturing and food production, adding that the project, will add 1,500 jobs.

“This new focus on creating more and more good-paying jobs, this will be the new front line in the battle to keep New York City affordable,” de Blasio said.

He had previously unveiled some of the policy proposals in the days leading up to Monday night’s speech. Friday, the mayor announced the city would add 10,000 new apartments to a city program providing affordable housing to households earning less than $40,000. Half of the new apartments will be set aside for seniors and 500 for veterans, the mayor said.

On Sunday de Blasio announced the city would offer free legal counsel and advice to tenants facing evictions. The legal support will be paid for by a $93 million increase in funding for tenant legal services that will be phased in over the next five years.

The initiatives have been rolled out as de Blasio faces a federal probe into his campaign’s fundraising activities. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office is said to be investigating whether the mayor and his aides doled out favors to donors in exchange for campaign contributions and contributions to his defunct nonprofit, Campaign for One New York.

DeBlasio’s aides, in an email sent to reporters Friday, said “the Mayor and his aides acted appropriately and well within the law at all times,” adding that de Blasio has “voluntarily” agreed to meet with federal prosecutors to discuss the probe.

— With Matthew Chayes

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