New York City residents have thrown in the towel. Gotham’s quality of life is plunging, but only 11 percent of registered voters turned out in last Tuesday’s local election. Nearly all incumbent members of the New York City Council skated to reelection.
New Yorkers are voting with their feet, abandoning the city instead of going to the polls to demand new leadership. Amazingly, more New Yorkers have fled the city since 2020 than turned out on Election Day.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The Big Apple could be a safe, thriving place to live. But our politicians have no vision of a better future, no priorities.
Last year, Mayor Eric Adams announced a plan, “Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent: A Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery,” which includes 70 initiatives. Seventy priorities mean no priorities at all. It proposes a “hub for digital game development” and a “one-of-a-kind cultural district on Governors Island.” These are hardly essentials when the city is headed off a fiscal cliff.
Later last year, Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul rolled out another “Roadmap for Future” of the city. Forty more initiatives. Blah, blah, blah.
Here’s a four-point agenda to turn New York around:
Adams has warned that the huge and continuing influx of migrants seeking shelter and services will “destroy” the city. City services for New Yorkers are being cut, including even fire protection and sanitation, to meet the expense.
That’s unacceptable. The city’s “right-to-shelter” legal obligation is a magnet. New York is the only city legally compelled to house all comers. That obligation originated more than 40 years ago, in a 1981 agreement between the city and homelessness advocates. All elected officials should back Adams in a legal fight to get it overturned. The city will continue to take care of its own, but not an unlimited number of newcomers.
In the meantime, future migrants should be housed in tents or barracks, not upscale hotel rooms many tourists can’t afford.
Shoplifting and subway crime are the major problems, not murders and rapes.
Shoplifting in NYC has surged 64 percent in the last four years, more than in any other city. In 2019, the New York state legislature changed the law, ensuring that even repeat shoplifters would never be incarcerated. In 2022, newly elected District Attorney Alvin Bragg vowed not to prosecute them. But the city’s law enforcement brass must figure out ways to make shoppers feel safer.
The subways are twice as dangerous as they were in 2019, on a per rider basis, according to Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute. Mentally ill homeless people terrorize riders without being removed, and then ultimately push someone onto the tracks or commit another serious crime. Social service teams and police must coordinate to remove these mentally ill homeless people and get them into treatment.
Improving public safety will help New York rebound. Foot traffic in the city’s business districts is down 33 percent from pre-lockdown levels. Office vacancies are 18 percent, the highest since the early 1990s.
The Big Apple ranks behind 18 other U.S. cities, including quiet Boston and remote Boise, Idaho, in future economic and real estate growth. Only Chicago, Detroit and San Francisco do worse.
New Yorkers pay the highest combined state and local tax burden in the nation. Businesses here are also getting taxed to death. A whopping 158 Wall Street firms have moved their headquarters since the end of 2019, fed up with crime and high taxes.
Hotels here are losing business because a 5.875 percent occupancy tax and stiff property taxes make rooms here more expensive than in other cities. New York can’t tax its way out of decline. It must cut taxes to rebound.
New York is home to 1.6 million adherents — the largest Jewish community of any city in the world. Attacks at The Cooper Union, on the Brooklyn Bridge and elsewhere make Jews wonder if they will be safe here. Police and prosecutors alike must act decisively to deter more attacks.
This agenda of four items is as different as night and day from the confusion and lack of focus sinking New York City.
The same over-promising, overspending, and lack of prioritization is dooming Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other cities.