The Mayors Op-Ed: What We Need From Albany

February 16, 2024

By Mayor Eric Adams

New York City is all about what is possible. It’s a place where you can start a business, raise a family, and make a difference.

Our administration came into office with the aim of keeping that American Dream alive by protecting public safety, rebuilding our economy, and making our city more livable for everyday New Yorkers. I went to our state capital last week with the goal of furthering that vision.

We laid out an agenda to advance working-class families by extending mayoral accountability of our public schools for four years, granting the city the authority to shut down illegal smoke shops, and creating more affordable housing.

Finally, we outlined the city’s fiscal challenges, including state funding for asylum seekers and increasing New York City’s debt limit.

New York City public schools are leading the way in New York State and across the nation because of mayoral accountability. Thanks to mayoral accountability we were able to launch New York City Reads, a nation-leading curriculum that teaches our kids the fundamentals of reading. This is more than a curriculum change — it is a reading revolution. And Governor Hochul announced that she is following our model and bringing our approach to every school district statewide. We also became the first city in the country to screen every child for dyslexia to make sure no child falls through the cracks, like I almost did as a young undiagnosed dyslexic child.

Mayoral accountability allowed us to deliver on countless wins: gifted and talented programs in every neighborhood, full-time mental health professionals for every school, outpacing the state in reading and math while closing racial disparities, and more. Prior to mayoral accountability, high school graduation rates stagnated at 50 percent — they are now over 80 percent. Again, all of this is possible because of mayoral accountability. If Albany fails to extend mayoral accountability, we risk seeing test scores and graduation rates fall back.

Additionally, New Yorkers should be able to walk down our streets without worrying about illegal smoke shops selling cannabis to our children. Legal cannabis remains the right choice for our city and our state, but New Yorkers are fed up with these illegal storefronts and their unlawful business practices. We asked Albany to grant us the authority to inspect and permanently shut down these shops.

Rebuilding our economy means creating homes that working-class New Yorkers can afford. Our administration is playing our part and becoming a City of Yes — “yes” to building more in our backyards, neighborhoods, and everywhere else. Now, Albany needs to play its part. We are calling for a new affordable housing tax incentive; a pathway to legalize safe, existing basement and cellar apartments; incentives for office conversions; and lifting the cap on density for new construction. These measures will enable us to build more affordable homes that working-class New Yorkers urgently need.

Finally, New York City is proud to uphold our legacy as a city of immigrants. And we are proud that we have demonstrated leadership and compassion, when so many others showed only cruelty. We have helped tens of thousands file Temporary Protected Status, asylum, and work authorization applications, bringing them one step closer to living a more stable life. However, right now, there are more than 66,000 asylum seekers still in the city’s care. 

When you add in the over 55,000 longtime New Yorkers in the city’s care, that means we have close to three times the number of people in our shelter system than when we came into office. While we appreciate the commitment the governor made last year to cover one-third of the city’s asylum seeker costs, this was based on the premise that the city, the state, and the federal government would split the costs three ways. We are again asking the state to increase its commitment and cover at least 50 percent of New Yorkers’ costs. Then, to meet ongoing capital needs, we are asking the state to increase the city’s debt capacity. All of these financial investments will allow us to continue to invest in cleaner streets and welcoming public spaces that benefit all New Yorkers.

Our administration looks forward to turning our agenda into a reality and working with our colleagues in Albany to improve the lives of everyday New Yorkers now, and for generations to come.

Photo credit: Eric Adams.

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