From a tale of two cities to a tale of a new city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered his 2021 State of the City address on January 28, emphasizing the city’s plan to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Let me tell you a story about how things change, about the way we come back, about the way we build something better,” de Blasio said.
“Let me tell you a tale of a new city,” he remarked, harkening back to his “two cities” campaign theme, which promised to end inequity.
The Mayor’s 2021 agenda focused on using public health to drive a fair recovery for New Yorkers.
The plan prioritizes COVID-19 vaccinations to spur the recovery.
In the 28-minute video montage, which was pre-recorded and featured a series of images from the past year, de Blasio outlined an aggressive goal of vaccinating 5 million New York City residents by June.
He framed the vaccination effort as essential to reviving the city’s economy and restoring jobs.
“That is how we jumpstart a recovery for all of us. We will reach high levels of immunity to create a safer city, a city ready for a full comeback,” de Blasio said.
He noted that the city had record employment levels as recently as February 2020, prior to the pandemic. After COVID-19 hit, the city lost 900,00 jobs. Approximately 100,000 of those jobs have been recovered, he said.
He also vowed to fully bring back all public schools by September.
“We’ll close the COVID achievement gap with new approaches to learning, using the power of digital education and the strength of our educators to reach every child with an individualized approach,” he said. “It’s not just about academics, it’s also about the emotional needs of our children.”
The city will also provide mental health screenings for all public school children. Beginning in the communities hardest hit by COVID-19, the DOE will make social, emotional, and academic behavior screeners available for all students K-12, hire 150 additional social workers, and add a community school in each of these hardest hit neighborhoods. The first phase will serve approximately 380,000 students across approximately 830 schools.
De Blasio also outlined a series of police reforms, including the “David Dinkins Plan,” which expands the investigative power of the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB).
Among other things, it will allow the CCRB to initiate individual case investigations on its own, without an individual complainant and will grant full access to officers’ disciplinary records.
The plan is named for former Mayor Dinkins, who helped establish the CCRB in 1993.
The city will also expand its Cure Violence workforce and give community members a say in selecting police precinct commanders.
De Blasio said the initiatives were meant “to improve the relationship between police and community, to give people more confidence.”
“That trust and confidence ultimately mean more cooperation between community and police, and that is the way to reduce crime and violence,” he said.
De Blasio also unveiled a host of environmental policies, including: divesting the city’s pension funds from the fossil fuel industry, directly connecting New York City to clean Canadian hydropower and banning new fossil fuel connections by 2030.
In 2021, the city will also create additional bike lanes and make the Open Streets initiative permanent.
The address marked de Blasio’s eighth and final de Blasio’s final State of the City ‒ his run as mayor ends this year and he is unable to seek re-election due to term limits.
In a statement, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams noted that the pandemic slowed much of the progress of city policies, but said he was encouraged by de Blasio’s 2021 agenda, especially as it pertained to public safety.
“Tonight, I was glad to hear many of the Mayor’s proposals in this area, including further empowering the CCRB, increasing investment in the Crisis Management System, and giving communities a voice in the leadership of their local precincts,” Williams said in a statement.
“There is one year left for the Mayor to take some of the bold steps he should have years ago, and I am ready to move forward with him now if he does,” he added. “In this last year of the de Blasio administration, we have an opportunity to set the city on the right path to recovery, if we pursue bold, courageous policy proposals and shape, not bend to, political winds.”
However, some advocates said the mayor did not go far enough on police reform and called for the city to reduce the NYPD budget and fire officers for misconduct.
“During Mayor de Blasio’s bizarre pre-taped State of the City address tonight, he continued to pedal fairy tales about police accountability and the NYPD,” said Kesi Foster, spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform. “The Mayor said, ‘Where there is accountability, there is also trust’ but trust and ‘relationships’ between police and communities are distractions from the goals we should be striving for. Safety rooted in power and adequate resources for Black, Latinx and other communities, with freedom from police violence for all New Yorkers, are the goals – but the Mayor continues to let the NYPD and officers operate with impunity after killing, brutalizing, and sexually harassing New Yorkers.”
“The way to reduce police violence is to reduce the outsized power, size, budget, and scope of the NYPD and to fire police officers who abuse and discriminate against the people they say they serve,” Foster said. “Mayor de Blasio is playing games by announcing ineffective reforms that do nothing to reduce the illegitimate power or footprint of the NYPD and police violence in our communities.”