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New York is not a big city. We are a patchwork of small towns woven into neighborhoods, stitched together to form boroughs, creating the fabric of what we call the city of New York.
Last month, the City Council put forth a series of proposals that will tap into the power of those neighborhoods and create greater opportunity for every New Yorker. We focused on some of the city’s biggest challenges, like chronic unemployment.
Many New Yorkers have discovered that the longer you are out of work, the harder it gets to find a job. So we are launching a new pilot program called New Skills, New Jobs. Participants will spend up to eight weeks in a paid training program at a company that has a full-time job opening, and upon completion of the program they will be hired on a permanent basis.
We also hear stories from people who have been turned down for a job just because they have been unemployed for too long. Some companies say it is their policy; we say it is discrimination. And just like we have done with other kinds of discrimination, we are going to make it illegal.
At the same time, we are going to empower people to invest in neighborhoods with high unemployment. There is a Lower East Side tech startup called Kickstarter that helps people raise money for community projects or business ventures. We are going to work with Kickstarter to help raise funds for projects in neighborhoods with high unemployment.
We will also create a $10 million, small business loan fund exclusively for businesses in high unemployment neighborhoods. And we will pay for it with federal tax credits, so it will not cost the city a dime.
Now it is impossible to talk about the challenges facing New Yorkers without talking about the rising costs of housing. One of the problems is that when the city negotiates affordable housing deals with developers, that affordability has a built in expiration date — usually 30 years.
So, working with the Council, the city Department of Housing is going to start requiring 60-year affordability in many of our biggest developments. And we will not stop there. Our goal will be permanent affordability, which means a new kind of deal with developers. As long as the city keeps renewing your benefits, you have to keep your housing truly affordable. We will make sure the people who built a community get to stay in that community.
Finally, the Council focused on ways to improve education around the city.
Every year nearly 3,000 5-year-olds in New York City do not enroll in kindergarten, and many of them have a hard time catching up with their classmates when they get to first-grade. You may be as surprised as we were to learn that kindergarten is not required in New York.
What kind of message do we send parents when we as a city tell them it is not necessary to enroll their kids in kindergarten? We are working with the state to pass a bill allowing New York City to make kindergarten mandatory so all our kids have the best possible start.
We are also rolling out a program called the Student Empowerment Partnership. Here is how it works: First we look at all the specific challenges facing students and their families in a particular community at every stage of their development. Then we bring together community groups, city agencies, parents, teachers, CUNY and the city Department of Education and see what everyone can contribute to help these kids succeed.
We will work together to strengthen every aspect of a child’s life, all with a focus on improving academic results and their long-term success.
To learn more about these and other initiatives, visit council.nyc.gov. Working together, we can harness the strength of our communities to build an even better city.
City Council Speaker
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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