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Mayor’s State of City remarks focus on economy

Job creation and thrift were the two foremost topics on Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s mind as he laid out his State of the City address last week at Astoria’s Frank Sinatra High School for the Performing Arts.

“Even as we face difficult budget choices, which will require painful cuts, no argument about it, we will continue insisting that government remain on the side of every hardworking New Yorker,” he said.

Part of the cost-cutting efforts involve merging the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Administration for Children’s Services, a move City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) hailed as a step in the right direction.

“Typically when agencies merge, there aren’t a lot of job losses, but there are greater efficiencies, sometimes on the administrative side,” she said. “I think the question we’ll be looking at in the Council is how can this make us help young people in need better?”

The city will also start working toward reducing the amount of office space it leases with the goal of dropping 1.2 million square feet over four years. The plan includes moving 15 city Health Department offices to Gotham Center, the $316 million new building under construction at Queens Plaza in Long Island City.

Several of the mayor’s job initiatives should also have an effect on Queens, where immigrants make up about half of the population.

Bloomberg said he would expand job preparation classes for English language learners, increase summer job placements for students learning English and hold finance fairs to connect immigrant small business owners with lenders who speak their language.

In the wake of the massive earthquake in Haiti that may have killed as many as 200,000 people, Bloomberg announced he would create a public-private partnership of law firms, charities and community groups to help Haitians living in the city get temporary protected immigration status.

The mayor also announced a program to help guide more New Yorkers to responsible management of their personal finances, a $10 million mortgage assistance fund to help 1,000 middle-class families refinance their home loans, and a $750 million fund that would rescue apartment buildings at risk of foreclosure.

City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) hailed another pledge Bloomberg made to streamline the permit application process for small businesses.

“I think that’s a wonderful initiative that’ll be very beneficial to the small businesses of New York City and Queens,” he said. “Queens is all about small business. I was very happy to hear that.”

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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