The NYPD’s civilian watchdog would get more power to investigate cops; automobiles would be banned from new bicycle-only lanes on certain bridges into Manhattan; and in May, the rest of the city’s full workforce will start returning in person, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday night.
In his eighth and final annual State of the City address, de Blasio set out the agenda for his last year in office — chiefly, helping resuscitate a metropolis battered by the coronavirus pandemic — and is renewing a theme that swept him into office in 2013: reducing inequality and a "Tale of Two Cities."
That was the Dickensian slogan de Blasio, a Democrat, used during his bid for mayor when he cast the city as bifurcated between rich and poor, black and white.
"Let me tell you a tale of a new city," de Blasio said, riffing off that slogan, promising that New York City would recover, as it had from the Great Depression, the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, the 9/11 terror attacks, the Great Recession of 2008 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
"There were times before when we were laid low, when so many naysayers said New York City's best days were over," he said in a speech called "A Recovery for All of Us," adding: "And yet New York City fought back. New York City found a way. New York City made something better each and every time. And where did it take us?"
Among the mayor's goals, which he described in a 28-minute video he narrated that was streamed online instead of the traditional State of the City speech before hundreds:
- Vaccinating 5 million people in New York City by June: "It will be a signal to the world that the comeback is happening right here, right now," he said.
- Restoring employment numbers to at least pre-pandemic levels and exceeding them. Although a third of the 900,000 jobs lost have been restored, there are still 400,000 fewer than before the pandemic. About 30% of commuters into the city are from Long Island, a figure that includes public- and private-sector workers, according to city planning figures, which counted more than 300,000 Nassau and Suffolk residents as city workers before the pandemic.
- Tamping down the rise in shootings, with a "Joint Force to End Gun Violence": While overall serious crime declined in 2020 compared with 2019, the number of homicides rose to 462 last year, up about 45% from the prior year’s 319. The number of shooting victims more than doubled, to 1,868 from 923.
- Expanding the Civilian Complaint Review Board's powers, including guaranteeing timely access to police body camera footage [currently, the board must rely on the NYPD's discretion], allowing the board to initiate investigations on its own and gaining access to cops' employment history and other details. The NYPD’s oversight, currently a tripartite, would be centralized. "We have to change the culture of policing, fundamentally," de Blasio said.
- On the Brooklyn Bridge, vehicles will be banned from the innermost lane of the Manhattan-bound side, with a two-way protected bike lane installed instead. On the Queensboro Bridge, the north outer roadway will become a two-way, bike-only lane. "These are the kind of changes that allow us to move out of the era of fossil fuels and the era of the automobile," the mayor said, "and into a green future."