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Opinion

De Blasio falls short on big priorities

His latest strategy risks ignoring the city’s far more significant problems.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers his sixth State of the City address on Jan. 10, 2019. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Mirror, mirror, on the wall . . .

In hoping to make NYC the “fairest big city in America,” Mayor Bill de Blasio Thursday unveiled a strategy aimed at focusing on what’s doable or expanding what exists to address issues like housing, transit and education. That makes some sense as this is his final term, especially since he has had some successes, like universal Pre-K. But the mayor risks ignoring the city’s far more significant problems. On those, his State of the City message didn’t go far enough.

When de Blasio talked of going after bad landlords and establishing an office to protect tenants, for instance, he ignored that former Public Advocate and new state Attorney General Tish James listed the deplorable New York City Housing Authority as the city’s worst landlord. Instead, he spent a single disappointing minute of his hour-long speech on NYCHA and homelessness combined.

And when de Blasio spoke of improving education, he meant adding more free “3K” classes for preschoolers and expanding efforts to provide free eyeglasses to children. Both are laudable, but without a mention of the future of failing schools and those in the city’s “renewal” turnaround program that’s had mixed results, or segregation in the school system, de Blasio’s plans fell short.

Within de Blasio’s road map are important programs that could benefit thousands of New Yorkers. Offering more preventive care and screenings within the city’s public hospital system and connecting city residents to primary care doctors could go a long way to improving city residents’ health, and limiting the need for emergency room visits. But the city must provide enough physicians and staff so care is readily available. Improving city bus service through dedicated bus lanes, better traffic signals, and tow-trucks to handle the cars parked where they don’t belong, could make an enormous difference, especially on crowded Manhattan streets and in outer borough transit deserts. It’ll only work if enforcement becomes a priority.

But focusing on small, albeit simpler, fixes without acknowledging and prioritizing the city’s enormous challenges won’t ever make NYC the fairest of them all.

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