As the field of candidates narrows, New York City residents report wealth distribution as a top issue.
Bill de Blasio stood alone Monday as the sole Democratic candidate in New York City’s mayoral race — his final opponent, William C. Thompson, Jr. announced that he would forgo a recount leaving de Blasio to square off against Republican challenger Joe Lhota in the race to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has led the city of 8.3 million for the past 12 years. Thompson conceded after de Blasio captured a clear 40 percent of the primary vote, above the threshold that would require a runoff election.
Bloomberg exits office with a mixed legacy, overseeing major development projects like the Freedom Tower and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn while also implementing more contentious bans on smoking, limits on the size of soft drinks and a stop-and-frisk policy that has been labeled by critics as a discriminatory one that targets Black and Latino youth for police searches.
Who will lead the Big Apple?
Many residents are still left with their heads spinning after a rollercoaster primary season that featured the controversial campaign of former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner. While he was never a front-runner, his campaign captivated media attention following a 2011 sexting scandal. Weiner, who captured 5 percent of the vote in the recent primary, was caught in a public relations storm in 2011 when he admitted to exchanging sexually explicit photographs with six different women.
“The only thing I heard about was the Weiner scandal. That was really funny and it almost made me want to vote for him,” said Dennis Liang, a New York City area resident, in a statement to Mint Press News.
The campaigning also featured bickering and infighting that are a predicate staple of any primary season. “First and foremost I think that over the course of this entire mayoral election, things are not going in the direction of reconciliation of respectful discourse. With the way that things are being done, the lack of respect among politicians, it’s disgusting. I really find it to be unacceptable,” Syed Zaidi, a recent college graduate from Queens borough of New York City, told Mint Press News.
As the dust settles, both de Blasio and Lhota’s campaigns will be in full swing. USA Today reports that Democrats enjoy a 6-to-1 voter registration advantage over Republicans in New York City. Despite the clear advantage, the last Democrat elected mayor of New York City was David Dinkins in 1989.
Many Democrats say they like de Blasio and believe he could be a good replacement for Bloomberg, who was twice elected as a Republican before shedding his party affiliation in 2007. “My family thinks [de Blasio] is a good man. We think there is a hope. With regard to the continuation or discontinuation of Bloomberg policies, I have no way of commenting on that until I see him in action. I thought [third-place Democratic candidate Christine] Quinn was going to win. The fact that she didn’t shows that New Yorkers are fed up with Bloomberg,” Zaidi said.
Regardless of who wins the general election, there are some major issues that many residents say they would like to see addressed, including, an overhaul of the city’s faltering public education.
“If you don’t have an educated public, you are not going to have an educated population. I know too many people who are laid off, due to the lack of teaching jobs,” Zaidi said.
Educational policy groups see this as part of a growing divide in New York City’s education. The city’s flagship public schools, ranked among the best in the entire country, aren’t lacking for cash, while schools in poorer communities struggle to get the funding they need, the Schott Foundation for Public Education claims.
“We need to revive interest in education. Some of my best friends who have been teaching for 40 years are now sitting at home unemployed. They want to get back in the system but they can’t. I’m not blaming that on Bloomberg, [former Republican Mayor Rudy] Giuliani or anyone in particular, but it’s a problem,” Zaidi said. “Being a student of the NYC education system, I’m just astounded that to see where my sister’s education is going.”
Where is the money going?
The distribution of tax dollars going toward myriad public infrastructure projects has left many New Yorker’s scratching their heads, confused and unsure of where their money is going and how it is being distributed.
“I would definitely say that we need to have better use on how our money is being used in the public sector,” Zaidi said. “Let’s put it this way: I have no idea where my money is being spent. That’s not because I’m not paying attention, I just don’t know where things are going. The fact that I don’t know is a shame.”
In New York, extreme wealth exists alongside extreme poverty and thousands of communities in underdeveloped areas like the South Bronx remain among the poorest areas not just in New York City, but in the entire country.
In New York’s 16th Congressional District, which covers parts of the Bronx, 41 percent of those represented live in poverty.
In fact, the Institute for Child Poverty and Homelessness reports than one-third of all family shelter applicants come from the Bronx and 92.8 percent of either Black or Hispanic families in the Bronx are experiencing homelessness at higher rates than families in other boroughs.
Drive just a few miles south on Park Avenue and you’ll find the residences of the city’s wealthiest residents. At 740 Park Avenue, a famed pre-war co-op, prospective applicants will only be considered if they can prove liquid net worth greater than $100 million, according to one report by Business Insider.
“You wonder where these hefty taxes go to. Do they go to maintaining trees in rich neighborhoods like Park Avenue? Does any of that money go to the part of Park Avenue that stretches into the Bronx?” Liang asked. “Or does it go to parts of the city where they have failing schools? Kids in the South Bronx are four times more likely to have asthma than kids in Manhattan because of air pollution. I think NYC overall turns a blind eye to the South Bronx. One of the thing that needs to be addressed is where the income tax goes to. I don’t understand.”