October 2, 2016
By NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer
New York, NY – Last week I outlined a comprehensive agenda to grow our City’s economy by increasing access to affordable housing, supporting minority and women-owned businesses, fighting poverty, and strengthening our schools. I’d like to share that vision with you, and highlight four policies that I believe will provide opportunity for New Yorkers across the five boroughs and truly move our City forward.
Create a Land Bank to Build Permanent Affordable Housing No challenge is more immediate than our affordable housing crisis. Across the City, our neighborhoods are losing affordability – and the results are tragic. Today, nearly 60,000 New Yorkers will go to sleep in a homeless shelter – almost half of them children – and the NYCHA waitlist has stretched to nearly 260,000 names. If we want to address this issue, we need urgent action and new ideas.
That’s why I’m proposing the creation of a New York City Land Bank – a government-backed non-profit that, like a Land trust, has both the power and the resources to turn vacant lots into permanent affordable housing. A recent report from my office identified 1,100 vacant, City-owned lots that have sat unused for decades. Through a Land Bank, we can work with non-profit developers to create up to 57,000 permanently affordable apartments – moving New Yorkers off the streets, out of shelters, and into stable homes.
Uplift Working Families by Tripling the City’s EITC Contribution
Our economic challenges, however, go far beyond housing. Twenty percent of New Yorkers are living below the poverty line, and in some neighborhoods, that number doubles. According to a recent study, more than six in ten City residents – over four million New Yorkers – will struggle to pay rent, cover medical bills, or put food on the table this year.
The City however, can make a real difference in low-income New Yorkers’ lives by tripling our contribution to the Earned Income Tax Credit. This program is the most effective anti-poverty tool in the country, and we can greatly increase its impact for millions of New Yorkers – and pump millions of dollars back into our local economy.
Support the Minority and Women-Owned Businesses that Drive our Economy
Our 200,000 small businesses also have the potential to create wealth in all of our neighborhoods – but only if we give them the support they need. That includes helping our minority and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBEs) compete for – and win – City contracts. These businesses invest in their neighborhoods, create jobs, and expand opportunity in communities across the five boroughs – but right now the City only spends 5.3 percent of its $14 billion procurement budget with M/WBEs.
We must do more, and that’s why I’ve called for the City to dramatically increase its spending with M/WBEs. Whether its 30 percent or 35 percent – we can no longer accept the status quo. To accomplish this goal, we need a comprehensive approach that will help these firms succeed. First, the City should work with community banks to help M/WBEs that receive City contracts get the loans they need to take on larger jobs. Second, we must reform our invoicing system so City agencies pay their bills on time, every time, ensuring M/WBEs can make payroll each week. Last, it’s time for New York City to provide real mentorship to M/WBEs – not just a pamphlet that outlines the procurement process, but a robust program that supports these businesses through every step of growth.
Invest in our Students by Expanding and Accelerating Computer Science Education
We cannot, however, talk about economic success without focusing on New York City’s greatest asset: our 1.1 million school children. This year, our high school graduation rate cracked 70 percent for the first time – but we still have a long way to go to prepare our students to compete in today’s high-tech, global economy.
We must build a strong computer science foundation in our classrooms – but the City’s current program won’t be fully implemented until 2025, ten years after it launched. It’s time to double down on computer science by recognizing it as a formal discipline, guaranteeing jobs for teachers trained in computer science, and establishing fellowships with tech companies to fully prepare educators. This plan will truly make a difference – because if we empower and support our teachers, they’ll do the same for our kids.
The reality is, we’re working on an opportunity deadline – because if we don’t combat the economic challenges plaguing our communities today, we may lose another generation tomorrow. It’s time for New Yorkers to come together and build a vision for our City that will leave it better than we found it – for my kids, for your kids, and for all of the kids we will never know, in every neighborhood across New York.