Crime. Jobs. Housing. Rats. Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, highlighted his well-known priorities on Thursday in his State of the City address. Adams addressed the crowd gathered at the Queen’s Theatre in Flushing Meadows Corona Park to outline the coming year’s agenda and remind attendees of the administration’s accomplishments during its first year in office.
Adams declared that “our city is in good shape.” As strong as the police officers and first responders who have made this city safer, as strong as the legions of city workers who have built the foundation for the future, and, above all, as strong as the working people of this city who make it all possible. Several new initiatives included a plan to rezone parts of midtown Manhattan to help convert office buildings to housing, expand health care to New Yorkers using the shelter system, and provide Section 8 housing.
While many of the issues Adams raised on Thursday were well-known—he emphasized the need for a YIMBY approach to the construction of new housing—Adams’ speech, titled the “Working People’s Agenda,” also contained some unexpected ideas. Here are the critical details regarding Adams’ plans for New York City.
Working is emphasized in Adams’ Working People’s Agenda. “People used to migrate where the jobs were, but in today’s market, jobs come to where the talent is,” Adams remarked before citing recent investments in workforce development and job training initiatives. One of those initiatives was a brand-new “Apprenticeship Accelerator” that aims to enroll 30,000 New Yorkers in apprenticeship programs by 2030, focusing on fresh technological prospects. According to Abby Jo Sigal, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development, the program, which the Daily News first reported, would represent an increase from the typical 18,000 active apprenticeships in the entire state.
The measures the city should take to create a more fair economy in New York City are precisely the ones Mayor Adams announced today, according to Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the think tank Center for an Urban Future. “The city is ensuring employment opportunities are available to all New Yorkers by investing in the Apprenticeship Accelerator, the CUNY 2x Tech program (which Adams promised to expand to more campuses), and programs to connect persons with disabilities to high-paying occupations.”
Limited focus on asylum-seekers crisis
Adams made surprisingly few references to asylum seekers in his statement, especially when compared to how frequently the mayor has expressed concern in public regarding the more than 42,000 refugees who have entered New York City since last spring. The city has deployed resources and built emergency shelters over the past seven months to handle the influx while pleading with the federal government and state authorities to help. About an hour into his speech, he made only one reference to the disaster, and it was to emphasize remarks he had already made about federal and state aid as well as how New Yorkers have “raised to the occasion as they always do” to help those who are most in need.
“We can’t continue to bear this expense alone. Adams referred once more to a topic that has been frequently discussed in recent months: “We are going to need help, we are going to need our Albany friends, and we are going to need Washington D.C. “The asylum-seeker situation is a national crisis; it shouldn’t just affect inhabitants of New York City. It’s unjust for both New Yorkers and asylum-seekers.” You don’t come here to live in a nightmare; you come here to achieve the American Dream.
The New York Immigration Coalition accused Adams in a statement issued after his remarks of excluding “immigrants and asylum-seekers from his vision,” claiming that the city needs to take bold measures, such as increasing funding for legal services, hiring bilingual social workers for schools, and including long-term housing vouchers in his proposed budget for the fiscal year 2024.
According to the coalition’s executive director, Murad Awawdeh, “by making us invisible, he neglected to acknowledge a significant section of New York’s population and the critical role our communities have played in keeping New York open for business throughout this pandemic.”
Seeking friends in Albany
The governor, who was in the front row at the Queen’s Theatre on Thursday, was praised by the mayor. Adams remarked, “She has been there for our city from the beginning on many issues. Since several of Adams’ agenda items call for collaboration with Albany, flattering the state executive is probably not a bad move. Adams has long advocated for tightening the state’s bail regulations and has stated that there is a need to develop “sensible, evidence-based solutions to this recidivism epidemic.”
Without going into too much detail, Adams advocated for ways to speed up the discovery process, which concerns district attorneys from the Bronx and Manhattan, including Alvin Bragg, who stood up from his seat in the theater to applaud the mention. Adams is stepping up funding for the court system’s backlog and urging the state to provide monies to the city’s district attorneys and public defenders as part of a new initiative, which was first reported by the New York Post. Adams also proposed requesting state authority to require businesses with city contracts to hire local community members, returning to his focus on job creation.
In a lengthy statement issued shortly after Adams’ speech, Hochul reiterated the mayor’s praise for their collaboration but avoided addressing those points. Hochul said in the statement, “our city faces significant issues that call for decisive action and an all-hands-on-deck approach.”
Cracking down on reckless drivers
Adams made it clear that he emphasizes public safety more than gun violence and quality of life concerns. He declared that the city will cooperate with Albany to forward a new measure to toughen punishments for aggressive and illegal drivers, saying, “We must treat traffic violence the same way we do other deadly crimes.” Adams called the proposed legislation ROADS, or “Removing Offenders and Aggressive Drivers from our Streets,” and said that it would increase the severity of the punishments for serious accidents and driving while intoxicated and even remove the worst offenders from the streets. When questioned about the legislation or who the city is collaborating with in Albany to advance it, City Hall’s spokespeople did not comment immediately.
Adams’ address, in which he emphasizes traffic safety, comes as the city ends another horrific year in which motorists killed 255 people. According to Gothamist, despite a reduction from 2021, it represents a 24% gain from 2018.
Putting on a show
With hundreds of private lobbyists from companies like Kasirer and Cozen O’Connor, advocates, and activists like Erica Ford of LIFE Camp, Adams packed the little theater to the gills. All guests received t-shirts bearing Adams’ catchphrase, GSD, and Get Stuff Done. Ingrid Lewis-Martin, the chief adviser to the mayor, was dancing to Bill Withers in front of the stage before the speech started. Other attendees included elected leaders like Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and city Comptroller Brad Lander.
The mayor had the chance to put on a show at the State of the City, and he did so. The speech’s content seemed to succeed in offering every discriminating listener something to be delighted about, not simply the spectacle, which featured high school kids showcasing a variety of cultural dancing forms. While conservative City Council Member Kalman Yeger took a different stance, appreciating that “he mentioned NYCHA, which very rarely happens in these state of the city speeches,” Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, a progressive, said, “This mayor, for the first time I can remember, said we have anarchy, and he’ll put a stop to it.”
Other council members also expressed their satisfaction, but their comments hinted at a possible shift in the legislative body’s tone as budget season approaches. Wonderful promises. According to Rita Joseph, a council member, the council will ensure that he follows through. “It was an extensive speech. The devil is in the details, said councilwoman Gale Brewer, who questioned how the city would deploy rapid charging infrastructure to fulfill Adams’ promise to have Uber and Lyft’s fleets utterly free of emissions by 2030.
Adams’ upbeat, 71-minute address seemed to be delivered without effort. There was no discussion of the city’s impending financial difficulties or cuts to agency expenditure, and he sometimes used many of his trademark one-liners while deviating from the script. He urged New Yorkers to spend an hour volunteering for the homeless.
He referred to Hochul as the state’s pilot and said we should pray for her to land the aircraft safely. He promised a cleaner future for New York City, with “more dolphins, fewer rats,” and he projected confidence in his uphill battle against rats and the city’s healthier waterways. The mayor, who eats mostly plants, also promised to address food deserts, saying, “You can’t have Whole Foods in Park Slope and junk food in Brownsville! ”