New York City has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the United States. Moreover, while poverty and unemployment rates are declining across the city, they remain high in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods, especially those in Brooklyn and The Bronx. These communities are also suffering from decades of divestment in public goods and services, such as education, housing, and transportation. While New York communities are struggling to make ends meet, City Hall continues to give away billions of taxpayer dollars to wealthy corporations, in the name of “economic development” and job creation — with little to no guarantees that the communities who need these jobs the most will actually receive them.
Through his $1.4 billion New York Works plan, Mayor de Blasio will incentivize private companies in the life sciences, tech, and other STEM sectors to create jobs in New York City. Yet, jobs in these sectors are largely inaccessible to the people who need them most. New Yorkers in need of high-quality, long-term employment — including those working in low-wage fields, receiving public assistance, or the unemployed — need levels of training to access those jobs that tech companies are not willing to provide. So these ready, willing, and able workers are often excluded from employment opportunities at these firms. When it comes to economic inequality, this tech-centric strategy will not address the “Tale of Two Cities.” What we’re seeing instead, is a “gentrification of the labor market”, in which the jobs created through public investment go to predominantly young, white professionals.
We need a “people-driven” economic development program that creates access to good jobs for the people who need them most. New York City must safeguard taxpayer dollars and transform its relationship with wealthy corporations by establishing formal mechanisms to ensure corporate accountability, community oversight, and transparency. The Mayor can combat income inequality by investing in training, education, and union apprenticeship programs that lead to good paying, permanent jobs with a real pathway to the middle class for New York’s low-income communities of color that are struggling with the highest rates of unemployment.
- Fund a “People Driven” Jobs Program: Direct the $1.4 billion allocated for NYC Economic Development Corporation’s New York Works program into neighborhoods with the highest unemployment rates. Reinvest the billions of dollars spent by the City on economic development subsidies and financial incentives for wealthy corporations into job readiness and public education programs, including union-sponsored workforce development programs and apprenticeships.
Commit to Job Equity: Include equity and diversity requirements into NYC Economic Development Corporation’s RFPs and RFQs to ensure that economically disenfranchised New Yorkers are prioritized, trained for, and hired into long-term, career oriented jobs. Companies receiving public subsidies should be required to fill and retain at least 50% of new or open positions from communities with the highest unemployment rates, CUNY graduates, and NYCHA residents.
Commit to Transparency and Accountability: Establish formal mechanisms to ensure corporate accountability, community oversight, and transparency.