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Mayor Bill De Blasio laid out his vision for the city’s future on Tuesday, describing the next phase of his ambitious affordable housing plan and his effort to mitigate what he frequently describes as the “tale of two cities.”

Delivering his second State of the City address, de Blasio detailed major economic development and transportation initiatives and pushed a legislative agenda that includes strengthening rent control and raising the minimum wage.

“Let me put it this way,” de Blasio said. “While the state of our city is strong, we face a profound challenge. If we fail to be a city for everyone, we risk losing what makes New York New York. We risk losing the very soul of this place.”

The mayor said the Sunnyside Yards in Queens—an enormous transportation hub that covers some 200 acres—should be buried and redeveloped, and that 11,250 affordable housing units could be built on top, putting a significant dent in his goal of building 80,000 such apartments over a decade.


The area is also in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

“We envision a plan that incorporates what a truly strong neighborhood needs,” like mass transit and parks, de Blasio said.

Such a project would be among the biggest ever undertaken in New York City, rivaling the redevelopment of Hudson Yards, construction of the World Trade Center and building of Rockefeller Center.

De Blasio, recognizing this, called his plans a “game-changer” and “an opportunity to keep our city affordable for thousands of New Yorkers, particularly to the borough of Queens.”

The mayor also proposed a major transportation initiative, saying his administration would work to create a “five-borough ferry system” linking together existing routes and creating new ones.

The Citywide Ferry Service would provide new landings and service in Astoria, the Rockaways, South Brooklyn, Soundview and on the Lower East Side. It would be “pegged” to about the cost of a Metrocard and would launch in 2017.

The mayor’s office said the city would commit to providing operating support and a $55 million capital commitment. A second phase would include additional funding and provide service to Stapleton and Coney Island.


The mayor said he intends to increase the minimum wage in New York City to $13 per hour by next year. With indexing—that is, connecting it to inflation—that figure would rise to $15 per hour by 2019, he said.

(This one-ups a proposal by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his recent State of the State speech to raise New York City's minimum wage to $11.50 by the end of 2016.)

The mayor also added two neighborhoods to the running list the city is targeting for rezonings meant to spur development and lead to new affordable housing.

In addition to East New York, Long Island City, the Jerome Avenue Corridor in the Bronx and Flushing West in Queens, de Blasio said he wants to upzone the Bay Street Corridor in downtown Staten Island and East Harlem.

Those areas, as well as nine others that are expected to be announced in the future, would all include "mandatory inclusionary housing." That would mean a zoning policy that requires all new development to include affordable units, likely a minimum of 20 percent and possible more, depending on the neighborhood.

The housing initiatives—which made up most of the mayor’s speech at Baruch College in Manhattan—also included a $200 million investment in the Lower Concourse area of the South Bronx. The money would go toward creating 4,000 affordable housing units, constructing new public open space, roads and other infrastructure upgrades.

The administration would provide a free legal defense to tenants in the rezoned areas if the city believes someone is the victim of landlord harassment.

The mayor also set a goal of ending homelessness among veterans by the end of the year, finding homes for the roughly 1,000 veterans living in shelters or on the city’s streets.

He said would help senior citizens, creating and preserving 10,000 units of housing for the elderly with the help of a $400 million capital investment and Section 8 vouchers.

De Blasio also called for developing 1,500 affordable live/work units for artists and musicians through a $30 million investment. The city would also convert underutilized city assets into 500 below-market workspaces that would serve as “cultural hubs.”

And he said he wanted to spur the development of 160,000 market-rate units, though he didn’t explain in detail how he would do so.

The mayor’s speech drew tempered praise from tenant advocates, some of whom have been calling for an end to a key tax incentive program that de Blasio hopes to have renewed.

De Blasio did not mention the program, 421-a, or others that expire this year.

A spokeswoman for the Real Affordability For All coalition said the mayor’s speech hit many key points, agreeing “that denser development is crucial for addressing the affordable housing crisis and reducing inequality.”


To read the full article, visit Capital New York