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Di Blasio to seek health care for uninsured, paid vacations for all, faster buses

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday enumerated his goals for 2019 during his sixth State of the City address, including ensuring health care for uninsured New Yorkers and ensuring all workers receive paid vacation.

During his speech at the Upper West Side's Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space, which lasted more than an hour, de Blasio outlined several initiatives, many of which were met with raucous applause by the ticket-holding audience. The occasional phrase in Spanish was thrown in to emphasize certain initiatives, including health care for all. Much of what de Blasio touted had already been announced earlier in the week.

"These ideas, the things we did in 2018, they cut against the grain of conventional wisdom. ... These ideas were considered too radical or too costly or — shudder — too progressive," he said. "But we heard the voices of the people and we answered the call. So the lesson now isn't to rest on our laurels, the lesson now is to go bigger, be bolder, aim higher. There's more to do in this town."

De Blasio also addressed failing city buses, promising the MTA, Department of Transportation and NYPD will work to increase speeds by 25 percent by 2020, and "double the number of intersections where we give buses green-light priority."

De Blasio went on to address paid leave, referencing his proposed law from earlier this week that private employers with five or more workers would need to give workers at least two weeks' paid vacation. He said on Thursday that he will work with City Council and Speaker Corey Johnson, who was in attendance on Thursday, to pass the law. 

"Literally not a single city or state in this country provides this right. This would be the first time, right now, New York City would become the first city in the nation to mandate paid personal time for all our workers," he said. "It's the right thing to do. We deserve to be there for our families, the people we love. We deserve to be able to take care of ourselves — we all deserve a little more happiness, don't we?"

Additionally, de Blasio addressed some state government-run issues, including the MTA and marijuana legalization. He said he the state had until the next fiscal budget deadline on April 1 to come up with a plan to fix the beleaguered subway system, promising he doesn't "care if I have to pound on every door in Albany to get it done, I’ll be there." He also addressed marijuana, saying he would like to work with the state government to "legalize marijuana the right way," but didn't go into detail other than to say he would like to expunge arrest records and ensure "the grass roots, not the big corporations, run this new business." 

De Blasio also touched on topics like his Vision Zero initiative to prevent traffic-related deaths, said he would like to ban plastic bags and straws in the city, and promised to take buildings away from landlords who cheat their tenants.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

The Mayor's Office to Protect Tenants

De Blasio signed an executive order on stage during his address that created a new office to police bad landlords in New York City.

Universal retirement program

Under the proposal, a New Yorker who makes the city's median salary of $50,850 per year and invests 5 percent annually while earning an average net return of 4 percent would save $146,274 after 30 years, according to the mayor's office.

3-K expansion

Beginning fall 2019, the 3-K for All program will be expanded to District 8 (Country Club, Pelham Bay, Throgs Neck, Castle Hill, Soundview and Hunts Point) and District 32 (Bushwick).

Additionally, all kindergartners and first-graders in city public schools will receive free eye exams and any student who needs glasses will receive a free pair via an expanded partnership with Warby Parker.

Worker protections and benefits

The Department of Consumer Affairs will expand to include ensuring protections for the city's lowest-paid New Yorkers, de Blasio said. The department will be tasked with enforcing city laws like paid sick leave.

Health Care for All

De Blasio reiterated his proposal, announced on Tuesday, to launch a new health care initiative aimed at serving 600,000 city residents who do not have insurance.

Paid personal time

De Blasio said he will pursue legislation in the City Council that would require private businesses with five or more employees to offer 10 days of paid personal time.

Marijuana legalization

Legalizing adult use of marijuana may be a state issue, but de Blasio waded into the debate during his State of the City address by saying he would work with lawmakers to make sure arrest records are expunged and that "grassroots" companies run New York's industry – not big corporations.

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