New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at his first State of the City address
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at his first State of the City address

This past December The New York Times published a five-part series examining the staggering rise of homelessness in New York City through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl, Dasani. The Great Recession continues to devastate the poorest members of the New York City’s population, even as those at the top of the socio-economic ladder have bounced back. Dasani’s impoverished Brooklyn of urban decay and prison-like homeless shelters contrasts sharply with the rising tide of gentrification—bike lanes, artisanal gelato shops, and vintage wineries. According to the series of articles in the Times, New York has become the most unequal city in America.

Newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio aims to start stitching together this widening class divide as he clarified this goal in his first State of the City address on Monday, February 10. Reiterating a theme that dominated the tone of his campaign, Mr. de Blasio described the situation as “a tale of two cities, with an inequality gap that fundamentally threatens our future.” His landslide victory in November affirmed that his war on economic inequality resonates with a disillusioned New York populace. In Monday’s speech he declared, “We’re fighting to give everyone a fair shot, so that city government doesn’t set its priorities by the needs of those at the very top while ignoring the struggle of those born under a less lucky star.”

Bill de Blasio (Wikimedia Commons)
Bill de Blasio (Wikimedia Commons)

Mr. de Blasio proposed a minimum wage raise, restated his plan to fund universal pre-K by instituting a tax hike on the highest wage earners, and extended a hand to undocumented immigrants living in the city. The reception and implementation of these measures, echoed in President Obama’s State of the Union and Connecticut Governor Malloy’s State of the State address, could point the Democratic Party in a more progressive direction. A new tone of liberalism would provide a positive counterbalance to the radical Republican voices and votes that seek to deny the extension of unemployment benefits, block universal access to health care, and cut back food stamp programs.

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