City Councilman Al Vann this week blasted the Bloomberg Administration for a recent report that found nearly half the kids (47%) in his Bedford-Stuyvesant district live below the federal poverty level standards.
The Citizens Committee for Children study also found that despite the recent influx of wealthier people and trendy shops to the neighborhood, Bed-Stuy’s overall concentrated poverty rate rose from 38.0 percent in 2000 to 43.2 percent in 2006-2010.
The report comes on the heels of the latest State Labor Department unemployment statistics showing New York City’s unemployment rate increasing to 9.8 percent far surpassing the national unemployment average of 8.4 percent in the month of March. This includes a 10.8 percent unemployment rate in Brooklyn.
“The increasing poverty rate in our city, and especially in Black and Latino communities, is an issue that has been at the forefront of my committee’s agenda,” said Vann, chair of the Council’s Community Development Committee. “While the Bloomberg Administration has held big announcements to unveil anti-poverty initiatives for young children, the working poor and disconnected youth, the mayor has simultaneously cut programs and opposed policies that benefit these same populations.”
Calls to Bloomberg’s press office were given over to the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) for a response, where a spokesperson downplayed the State Labor Department statistics as based on a smaller and less reliable sample than overall job growth.
“We are encouraged that New York City’s private sector continues to add jobs, which is really the best sign of the health of the City’s economy,” said EDC Spokesperson Patrick Muncie. “Improving employment opportunities for all New Yorkers remains our top priority going forward, and we are continuing our work towards this important goal.”
Ironically, Vann’s war of words comes on the day that Bloomberg vetoed on City Council bill and vowed to veto another measure that requires some larger companies doing business with the city to pay a fixed livable wage – far above the state minimum wage – to their employees.
“Those bills – the so-called living and prevailing wage bills – are a throwback to the era when government viewed the private sector as a cash cow to be milked, rather than a garden to be cultivated,” said Bloomberg in announcing his veto.
“When it comes to creating jobs, government is not the architect of the economy – that’s the private sector’s job. I believe government has an obligation to set a minimum wage – but beyond that, private businesses should be free to make their own decisions,” he added.
Bloomberg noted that developers walked away from a deal at the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx because they would have been forced to bring in only businesses that paid a set livable wage. He suggested that the development would have brought hundreds of jobs to the Bronx, which has the dubious distinction of having the highest unemployment rate of any county in the state at 13.6 percent.
“I will not sign legislation – no matter how well-intended – that hurts job creation and taxpayers,” said Bloomberg.
But Vann, who co-authored the measures, said the mayor’s cuts to funding for child care and after-school programs – and opposition to laws that move working people closer to earning self-sustaining wages – have been devastating.
“In order to achieve any success in the fight against poverty, we need a stronger commitment from our mayor to policies and programs that we know are crucial to preventing and reducing poverty,” said Vann.