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June 25, 2019

In State of the City, de Blasio promises protections for workers and tenants

January 10, 2019
Mayor Bill de Blasio at a presser announcing Fair Fares campaign at 125th Street subway station on Nicholas Ave, Manhattan, New York, Friday, January 4, 2019. (Shawn Inglima for New York Daily News)

Mayor de Blasio vowed to create new protections for workers and tenants in his sixth annual State of the City address, a sweeping speech focused on the difficulty of living in New York City and efforts to make it easier.

“Millions of people in this city and across this country are boxed into lives that just aren’t working. You haven’t been paid what you deserve. You haven’t been given the time you deserve. You’re not living the life you deserve,” de Blasio, in the second year of his second term, will say, according to prepared remarks.

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That, de Blasio said, is “no accident” — it’s because all the wealth is in the wrong hands, even as “working people have gotten more and more productive.”

“Brothers and sisters, there’s plenty of money in the world. Plenty of money in this city. It’s just in the wrong hands!” Hizzoner preached. “You deserve a city that gives you the share of prosperity that you’ve earned.”

Two of the marquee policies de Blasio is proposing to share the wealth — mandatory paid vacation for workers and an expansion of healthcare programs — were already rolled out earlier this week.

But the mayor also rolled out a slew of other proposals aimed at helping the working man and woman — including a revamp of the Department of Consumer Affairs, which will become the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection.

The agency will take up the cause of the city’s freelance and contract workers — a growing sector and one to which the new paid vacation law won’t apply.

“In this city, nannies, home health aides, housekeepers, drivers, freelancers—more than 200,000 New Yorkers—receive no benefits, no security. They keep this city running, and in return, they get the short end of the stick. And it’s not OK with them. It’s not OK with me,” de Blasio said.

The new Department of Consumer and Worker Protection will have a mandate to protect those workers, de Blasio said — and will do things like intervening when a home healthcare aide’s pay is withheld.

“Whether you’re an employee or a temp, whether you’re paid by check or cash, whether you’re documented or not, if you work in New York City then we work for you,” he said.

De Blasio also announced plans to create a universal retirement plan workers in the city who may not have one — allowing people to set aside part of their paycheck and carry the plan from job to job.

“If you’ve spent your lifetime working, you’ve paid your dues,” he said. “Retirement should be something you can actually look forward to.”

Like the mayor’s paid vacation plan, this idea, too, has already been proposed in the City Council — Councilman Ben Kallos has proposed such a program.

The mayor also announced a new effort to protect renters — going so far as seizing buildings from bad landlords — dubbed the Mayor’s Office to Protect Tenants. The mayor is set to create the office with a mid-speech executive order signing.

“When a landlord tries to push out a tenant by making their home unlivable, a team of inspectors and law enforcement will be on the ground to stop it in time,” he said. “If fines and penalties don’t cut it, we will seize buildings and put them into the hands of a nonprofit that will treat tenants with the respect they deserve.”

De Blasio also pledged to shave down commutes — at least on buses and city ferries, areas where he has more control than subways.

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NYC Ferry will launch new routes from Staten Island to Manhattan’s West Side, and from Coney Island to Bay Ridge. The city will also make significant bus upgrades, increasing the number of intersections where buses get a longer green light and adding more bus lanes.

“This country has spent decades taking from working people and giving to the one percent,” de Blasio said. “This City has spent the last five years doing it the other way around. We give back to working people the prosperity they have earned. And we are just getting started.”

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