De Blasio's State of the City Address 2016
Moving NYC from 'Tale of Two Cities' to 'One New York'?
I attended Mayor de Blasio’s second State of the City Address delivered at the Performing Arts Center at Lehman College in the Kingsbridge Heights neighborhood of the Bronx. In spite of its northern, non-central location, the speech was well attended. About three dozen protesters also made their way north of Manhattan into the Central west Bronx, wielding placards asking the Mayor to stop gentrification and something about fair labor practices.
I took my place among the press corps where we were seated right in the middle of the auditorium. After settling in, I started photographing the slides whizzing by on the main stage, showing the accomplishments of the de Blasio Administation during its first two years. I have included a slide show a bit later in this report, which contains some of the slides that I photographed.
Unlike last year, when the Mayor and the Police Commissioner were having difficulties adjusting to each other, this year the mood seemed buoyant. In front of me was a group of students from the Laboratory School of Finance & Technology - MS 223 - at 360 East 145th Street in the Mott Haven neighborhood in the Bronx. The school is connected with Bronx Prep and hence handles grades 6 through 12.
Click here to read our report of Mayor de Blasio's State of the City Address 2016. The report includes video excerpts of the Mayor's speech, as well as two other short video pieces including the harmony singing of the National Anthem by a talented Bronx choral group, and the teachers and students of MS 223.
De Blasio's State of the City Address 2016
Progress Moving NYC from 'Tale of Two Cities' to 'One New York'?
Bronx Middle Schools: MS 223 in Mott Haven
The kids told me that they had a videoconference with the Mayor several months ago and based on that interaction, they believed, they were chosen to attend the Mayor’s second State of the City Address. I spoke to two of MS 223 teachers, Adriadna Phillips-Santos along with Nicole Lentino, who made a short statement, and introduced the class.
Video of MS 223 - - Click Refresh if it doesn't appear
And then the show began.
CUNY Colleges in the Bronx: Lehman College - Kingsbridge Heights Neighborhood
Ricardo R. Fernandez, President of Lehman College, opened up the event by welcoming us all to CUNY Lehman at 250 Bedford Park Blvd West in the Bronx. The event was held in the Performing Arts Center on campus and he told us about some of the cultural events held there. He went on to talk a bit about the importance of computer skills in the 21st century economy and then something about Lehman College, Bronx Community College and I think Hostos Community College – the details of which I didn’t catch. He closed by telling us that Lehman College had graduated 58,000 students during his 25 years as president of the college and he was looking forward to the years to come.
LGBT Fire Department Chaplain Leads Prayer
Next up was Reverend Ann Kansfield of Brooklyn’s Greenpoint Reformed Church. According a March 3, 2015 WSJ report about her appointment to the post, she is one of the Fire Department’s eight chaplains, and first that is openly gay.
Reverend Kansfield prayed for all of us to have food, housing and good health, as well as opportunities to get a good education and a good job that paid a living wage. She noted that New Yorkers have always been a generous people, welcoming immigrants and visitors from around the world, and she prayed that that kind of love and respect for one another would continue. She prayed that our Fire Figthers and Policemen would be kept safe, so that they could help keep the rest of us safe. She went on to pray for our teachers, our transit and sanitation workers, social workers and advocates. And she ended by praying that everyone checks their fire detectors twice each year.
Muslim Police Captain of NYPD Leads Pledge of Allegiance
Captain Jamiel Altaheri and his family, who I believe are Muslims, lead the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. Captain Altaheri’s wife wore the traditional Muslim scarf, which is a cultural sign of the woman’s modesty, during the ceremony. It was only decades ago that American women in the Catholic Church were required to wear hats or scarves in Church for similar reasons.
National Anthem by African American Choral Group
And then came the singing of the National Anthem by one rockin’ chorus group from the Renaissance Youth Center at 3485 Third Avenue [at 168th Street] in the Bronx. You can enjoy the short innovative harmony by clicking the video below.
Choir Harmony Video - Click Refresh if it doesn't appear
A Human Mosaic: Mayor's Film of New York City
Next up was a short film showing the marvelous mosaic of Metropolis’ humanity who talked about the issues facing them in their daily lives. People challenged to make rent, looking for good paying jobs, trying to get a good education in the face of linguistic and academic and technological [access to computers] challenges, and trying to get to work on time using public transit. Mixed into the video were things the de Blasio administration has championed like now having an ID card through the IDNYC program, like no longer being accosted by the police on the street in your own neighborhood because the phase out of the Stop N’ Frisk program. They mentioned the raises given to municipal employees to help them cover their living expense increases. The experiences, the ethnicities, the cultures were all different – but all of the people shown in the film comprise ONE NEW YORK … which was the theme tonight. The theme embraced the American ideals of multi-culturalism, multi-racialism and equal opportunity.
African American Fighting For Fair Housing
Ausar Burke – a young African American male – of the Churches United For Fair Housing in Brooklyn at 41 Adelphi Street in Brooklyn [they have five locations & this appears to be the main one] was given the honor of introducing the Mayor. He told us how he felt empowered, in part because he was no longer stopped and frisked in his own neighborhood, but also because he could now really help people when they ran into landlord-tenant problems because of the Mayoral deployment of lawyers to help tenants in trouble.
Mayor Bill de Blasio's State of the City Address 2016
The Mayor then came on stage to a largely friendly audience who gave him a welcoming applause.
NYPD Successes in 2015 Were Many
The Mayor started by talking about the success of the NYPD’s neighborhood outreach program which is in two [maybe three?] precincts including the 43rd in Brooklyn and the 109th in Queens. The intent of the program is to facilitate communication and understanding between the NYPD and the folks in the neighborhood, so that people have multiple interactions with police instead of only one - being when they’re in trouble. Studies have shown that this helps establish trust and respect between the police and community, and that both are subsequently better able to communicate with one another, because they have a better understanding and appreciation of the challenges both face.
Strengthening the Human Bonds: Police in Neighborhoods
In 2016 the outreach program is being rolled out into four more neighborhoods. There’s also going to be bias training, because we all have biases, many of which we’re unaware of, that work on a subconscious level. I think the Maor said that there are 35,000 uniformed police officers and that that number is up 2,000 versus year ago, which is the first increase in fifteen years for the police force. The last year there was an expansion of the Police force was in 2000.
NYPD Acts of Heroism 2015 - On & Off Duty / In & Out of State
The Mayor then went on to tell us anecdotal acts of heroism by several members of the Police Department [please note that I’ve requested help with these names so they may not yet be correct]. Officer Healey was hit in the head with a hatchet, which he survived, while apprehending a criminal. Campaverde talked down a suicidal person, I think while he was off-duty. Gordon of the 109th exercised the Heimlich maneuver to save someone from suffocating. Ramos was off-duty in Los Angeles and subdued an attacker. Somebody helped folks out of an overturned ambulette [?] in Pennsylvania. Barton and Puzilkowitz delivered a baby on the Long Island Expressway. Less than two weeks later three officers delivered a baby on the FDR. And within another couple weeks an EMS team delivered a baby near the Lincoln Tunnel.
The Mayor went on to say:
“ladies, please have your babies in the hospital”
Acts of Heroism II: Fire Department & an NYC Sanitation Worker
The Mayor told us that a Fireman saved a woman from a blaze in the Village. That a Sanitation Worker who is a former Marine stopped a theft. That a Corrections Officer helped a disoriented person on the street into a coffee shop, bought them lunch and gave them his coat. The point of these anecdotal tales was that we are all ONE NEW YORK … one community. And if we embrace one another, instead of battling with one another, life doesn’t have to be that hard.
The Zadroga Act: Lifetime Health Benefits for 911 Responders
Mayor de Blasio went onto thank Congress for authorizing the Zadroga Act, which guarantees lifetime health benefits to all of the first responders to 911. I believe the Act or its reauthorization was sponsored, in whole or in part, by U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.
James Zadroga was an New York City Police Officer who died in 2006 due to respiratory disease, believed to be linked to his service while helping at the 911 World Trade Center site in 2001. Zadroga entered the NYPD in 1992 and had no prior respiratory ailments and was not a smoker. He died in 2006 of respiratory problems.
According to FireLaw.com, beginning after 911, many NYC Firefighters were denied pension or disability benefits in the face of new respiratory problems. According to Wikipedia, the first Zadroga autopsy in 2006 asserted that Zadroga’s lung ailment was related to his time spent at the World Trade Center in 2001.
The assertion of 911 related health claims was subsequently challenged / refuted by NYC Chief Medical Examiner, Charles Hirsch, in 2007. NYC Chief Medical Examiner Hirsch said Zadroga’s lung scarring was from the injection of pharmaceutical drugs. According to FireLaw.com former Mayor Bloomberg subsequently said of Zadroga, "he was a drug user ... he was no hero." Apparently this was a statement, which former Mayor Bloomberg later recanted.
The Zadroga Family requested a third opinion which was rendered shortly after the second, by Dr. Michael Baden who was a former NYC Medical Examiner and the then Chief Forensic Pathologist for the NYS Police, who confirmed the first autopsy findings - that Zadroga’s lung ailment was related to his time spent at the World Trade Center in 2001. Thus, in 2015, the Federal government authorized the Zadroga Act, granting all of the first responders lifetime health benefits for helping during a national crisis: 911.
Uneven Disbursal of Policemen & Firemen Pension Benefits?
It's worth mentioning that while doing the research on the management of policemen and firemen pension benefits, there were numerous stories regarding what appears to be the uneven awarding of pension benefits. Some stories were about people who had to go to court to win the benefits they appeared to have rightly deserved, and ther were other stories about alleged fraud by members to obtain benefits for which they were not eligible.
Photos: De Blasio Administration Accomplishments 2014 - 2016
Click here to go to the photo album feeding the slide show of Mayor de Blasio Administration's Accomplishments 2014 - 2016.
NYC Department of Transportation: Filling Potholes & Repaving Streets
Mayor de Blasio then went on to tell us that 2,200 lane miles of NYC streets had been repaved. That the NYC DOT [Department of Transportation] had filled one million potholes since he took office two years ago.
Staten Island Ferry: Boat Upgrades & Service Expansion
The Mayor announced that the Staten Island Ferry would be getting three new boats, which apparently are better designed to withstand inclement weather. And that the Staten Island Ferry will begin running 24/7 every five minutes? Sometime soon.
NYCHA: New York City Housing Authority Building Improvements
The Mayor told us that approximately 400,000 people live in New York City Housing Authority housing [NYCHA]. He said that the New York City Housing Authority was started by former NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1934 during the Depression to help New Yorkers with housing. The de Blasio Administration has invested $300 million in New York City Housing Authority buildings to fix the roofs at Queensbridge Houses and Ravenswood in Queens, Stapleton Houses on Staten Island and Soundview and [I think he said] Edenwald Houses in the Bronx. And to provide wifi services so the lower income residents of New York City aren't left behind in what has been characterized as a digital divide.
Homeless Population Leveled Off This Year After Decade(s) Growth
The Mayor noted that there are a number of working families now living out of homeless shelters in New York City. We checked the Coalition of the Homeless website which showed that about 60,000 people in New York City currently live in homeless shelters. Given we have a population of 8.4 million residents that’s 0.7% [two thirds of 1%] of the population.
New York City Homeless Population
The Mayor talked about various efforts his Administration has been making to remedy this problem, including lobbying for the first 0% rent increase for rent stabilized apartment dwellers this past year. This was one of the contributing causes of the significant rise in homeless during the Bloomberg era, when the homeless population of New York City rose 75% from 31,000 to 54,000 and continued to rise in the first year of Mayor de Blasio’s first term, to 61,000.
According to the Furman Center at NYU, it is estimated that about one million New York City apartments are rent stabilized out of about two million rental apartments. Another one million apartments are owner occupied.
Actions Taken to Alleviate NYC Homelessness
During this past year the de Blasio Administration efforts to stem the rise in homeless have been successful, as the homeless population in NYC has held steady at between 60,000 to 61,000. The de Blasio Administration has worked to preserve existing rent stabilized apartments and to help move families out of the homeless shelters and into either public or private housing.
The Mayor said one initiative got underway to provide 15,000 supported apartments over the next year. He credited City Councilmember Hevesi and Levin with leading the effort. He also noted that NYC is adding 300 more beds to youth shelters to accommodate children under age 18 who are kicked out of their own homes. Many of them are LGBT.
Policing Schools with Improving Results
The Mayor talked about adding mental health professionals to help the police in their work on the streets as they can help manage some of those who don’t follow the rules, motivated by less clear reasons than criminals.
Advanced Placement [AP] which here-to-fore hasn’t been available at all high schools, will now be available system-wide. And the Administration is bringing computer science to all middle schools. He noted that a city cannot have equality if it doesn’t provide access to a quality education and opportunities to all.
As for crime, the Mayor told us that it’s down 29% since 2011 [he took office January 2014]. And that school suspensions are also down 36%, through an effort to curtail the criminal school-to-prison-pipeline.
NYC Retirement Plan For Small Businesses
As the demographics of the New Yorker population city age, the Mayor noted that less than half of all New Yorkers have a retirement plan, and worse, that about 40% of all New Yorkers have $10,000 or less in savings for their retirement. To help New Yorkers save for their retirement, businesses with ten employees or more will be eligible to join a New York City retirement plan, which I believe begins this year.
Big Investments in Targeted Neighborhoods
The Mayor talked about the efforts of the de Blasio Administration to fight inequality. To that end the de Blasio Administration has allocated $91 million to Far Rockaway to upgrade the Sorentino Recreation Center and build a new library and provide job training programs.
The Mayor noted that of the 62 counties in New York State, the residents of the Bronx face the greatest health challenges. The Mayor again referenced former NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, when he told us that NYC was adding 14 new health centers to the most underserved neighborhoods in the city – including one that becomes operational this winter in Mott Haven neighborhood in the Bronx.
The Mayor also noted that the neighborhood of Brownsville in Brooklyn has faced numerous obstacles to it being able to provide its residents with a safe, clean neighborhood with competitive schools and opportunities. To help get Brownsville moving again, the Mayor is expanding the NYPD’s use of ShotSpotter technology so the police can quickly respond to trouble. And they are adding a new neighborhood Health Action Center where residents can gain access to healthcare and SNAP benefits. And 5,000 middle schoolers in Brownsville will gain access to Single Shepherds, who are a mix between guidance counselors and mentors to help the middle schoolers through high school graduation.
Preparing & Enabling NYC Population for the 21st Century
Wifi. The de Blasio Administration has also repurposed the 7,500 payphones in NYC to become wifi hubs. The intent of this is to enable people of all demographics to access the internet to learn and communicate. The first is on Third Avenue in Midtown and it will become operational within the month. Another 500 will be ready by summer (?).
Weapons Reductions. The NYPD has a new 200 officer Gun Violence Suppression Unit which just indicted 18 gang members. Gun violence was down 3% and gun arrests were up 10%, last year.
Transit. And then there was transit. There are 85,000 metered parking spaces in NYC. Over time those will be equipped with smart phone enabled technology to allow motorists to pay for their parking space via their phone. He thanked CCM Ydanis Rodriguez for his leadership on this issue. The Mayor talked about increased sanitation department efforts to clean up the streets, roads and walls of the city.
New York City Economic Development
The Mayor told us about the growth of various industries around the city, including movie production, fashion design studios and white-collar office jobs. He noted that the city is at full employment with 4.2 million jobs in New York City, which is up over 5% or 220,000 since he took office in 2014. And he credited small business with fueling the jobs growth.
He told us that Citibike sold 10 million rides last year. And that his Administration is expanding the system by 2,500 bikes in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.
Brooklyn Queens Street Car & Governor's Island
The Mayor closed with two key announcements. The first was the announcement of the BQX or Brooklyn Queens Connector which will be a street car along the East River connecting Brooklyn and Queens along the waterfront. He noted that there are about 400,000 residents living there and about 40,000 of them live in public housing.
And the second was to provide regular daily transit to Governors Island, which is a 172 acre island, first settled by the Dutch in 1624. He wants it to evolve into a technology hub.
All in all it seemed an upbeat assessment by the Mayor of the current State of the City and the de Blasio Administration's efforts to move the city in the direction of more equality. The Mayor keyed off his 2013 campaign theme of the 'Tale of Two Cities' by highlighting his administration's efforts to work toward 'One New York' ... a global community of people helping one another.
The following is a ten minute video which you can watch in full or skip through containing excerpts of his speech.
Sources: Wikipedia.org, Firelaw.com, Coalition For The Homeless, NYU Furman Center and I fact checked things using other sources on the web related to some of the people and organizations mentioned above.
Video Excerpts From Mayor's Speech - Click Refresh Button If Video Not Showing
Queens Buzz Subscriptions
You can help us continue to provide you with independent, first-person, fact-based, contextural reporting by purchasing an annual voluntary subscription, which we've priced to accommodate all budgets.
Thanks for your encouragement and support.
Queens NYC Related Info
Click this link for promotions, discounts and coupons in Queens.
Click this link to search for something in our Queens Business Directory.
Site Search Tips. 1) For best results, when typing in more than one word, use quotation marks - eg "Astoria Park". 2) Also try either singular or plural words when searching for a specific item such as "gym" or "gyms".
Click the log in link below to create an ID and post an opinion.
Or send this story to a friend by filling in the appropriate box below.