In a sweeping and ambitious State of the City speech on Thursday, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn zeroed in on jobs, housing and education, promising new programs and city and state cooperation to pass laws that will enable them.
“We need to tap into the power of our communities,” Quinn said in her speech. “We need to restore the promise that everyone can succeed in New York, no matter how humble their origins, with a bit of help and hard work.”
Emphasizing the need for the city to support immigrants, Quinn highlighted a group of women in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, who started a successful worker-owned cooperative offering cleaning services, with help from a community organization.
She echoed Mayor Michael Bloomberg in her push for more tech jobs in the city, announcing the launch of a software language certificate program at CUNY aimed at helping New Yorkers fill the programming jobs that come with tech companies.
She also named the fashion and design industries as key to creating and keeping jobs. She hailed Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, going on now at Lincoln Center, and announced a similar plan for a design week.
“We have more designers than any city in the United States, with nearly 40,000 New Yorkers working in everything from graphics to movie sets, architecture to interior decorating,” she said.
In her focus on creating opportunities in low-income areas, Quinn singled out one particular growing company, Kickstarter, and said that the City Council would be partnering with the Lower East Side start-up to help highlight projects needing funding in different neighborhoods.
Kickstarter offers an online fundraising platform for anyone to invest in a project; investors get rewards for contributing money at different levels and each project must reach a set goal in order to get the money it has raised.
Quinn name checked a group in Brownsville that raised $25,000 to start an urban farm on an abandoned lot, offering vegetable harvesting and chicken-naming privileges as rewards, and another group looking for $10,000 to open a restaurant in Clinton Hill.
“As we look to help people get back into the workforce, the most infuriating stories we hear are from people who have been turned down for a job just because they’ve been unemployed for too long,” she said, vowing to make that practice illegal and ban what she called unemployment discrimination.
Quinn also introduced a pilot program to help middle-income families afford child care; Upper East Side Council Member Jessica Lappin and State Sen. Daniel Squadron have been working on it at the city and state levels, she said. The program would have the city pay upfront the cost of child care and allow families to pay back the money over time with a low-cost loan.
She also advocated for more city aid for homeless families. “We need to prioritize homeless New Yorkers for New York City Housing Authority apartments and Section 8 vouchers so we can get even more families into long-term, stable housing,” Quinn said. “This isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. The average cost of a rental subsidy for a family of four: $800 a month. To house that same family in a shelter: $2,500 a month.”
Targeting bad landlords, Quinn thanked Upper West Side Council Member Gale Brewer for her bill that would give Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) more power to “crack down” on them when they don’t make repairs. She also called the city out on its own bad landlord tendencies in managing NYCHA developments.
In her focus on education, Quinn named Houston, San Francisco and Cincinnati as cities that have redesigned their education systems to great benefit, doing away with unnecessary levels of bureaucracy. She pushed for more funding for CUNY and the creation of a new honors college, as well as working with the state to make kindergarten mandatory; it currently is not.
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