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New York Post

 

Mayor vs.The World

January 05, 2014

By Nicole Gelinas

Mayor de Blasio wants to end inequality. But what does that mean? In fact, at the heart of his target are two separate things, neither of which is inequality.

The first is the new challenge that come with being a premier global city in a scary world. The second is dysfunctional poverty. Loose talk may satisfy advocates, but it won’t solve either problem.

De Blasio sounded clear in his inaugural speech last Wednesday: “We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love.” He doesn’t want New York to be “the exclusive domain of the 1 Percent.”

Such phrases strike a chord with New Yorkers because we feel overrun and overwhelmed by global wealth. An apartment in those skyscrapers going up on 57th Street is just as out of reach to the person making $200,000 a year as to the one making $20,000.

You can work hard and work smart, but let’s face it: You’ll never be the daughter of a Russian oligarch or the “princeling” son of China’s ruling class.

Surging global tourism among the less elite is why New York has created hundreds of thousands of hotel, restaurant and retail jobs. That’s good — except that we’re not creating enough middle-class jobs, so our growth is disproportionately among less-well-paying jobs.

Yet there’s nothing the new mayor can do to stop this global demand. Like it or not, the world wants a piece of New York.

Why? Freer trade — unleashed by then-President Bill Clinton, a de Blasio hero — has created a global elite and a global middle class. The elite wants to buy here, and the middle class wants to visit.

The global elite want to own in New York because they’re afraid to keep their money close by. If you have to flee Moscow or Beijing or Paris because everyone there suddenly hates you, it’s nice to have a place to live — and a big investment — in the Big Apple.

Plus, five years’ worth of zero-percent interest rates make it impossible to make a good profit on any “safe” investment — except for real estate in global cities like New York and London.

Thanks to the Giuliani-Bloomberg success in improving public safety and quality of life, Gotham seems like such a can’t-lose investment.

But while de Blasio can’t stop the global economy, he can lessen its effects. New construction, even if it’s only for the rich, is a good thing. If you don’t allow new buildings for rich people to buy in, they’ll buy in an old one — pushing prices of non-“luxury” housing up even further. That’s what’s happened in London over the same last decade (no billionaire mayor necessary).

This doesn’t mean we have to let developers entirely define the city. For example, a new “billionaire’s row” on 57th Street is creating shadows in Central Park.

The solution isn’t to rail against the rich. It’s better zoning (height limits on construction near the park) to preserve a public good that everyone uses (the park).

That requires not crowd-pleasing rhetoric, but real action that will annoy powerful people.

But protecting New York from billionaires will do nothing to alleviate the other supposed “inequality” problem: multi-generational poverty.

Take Dasani, the 12-year-old homeless girl who became the star of Gotham’s political class since The New York Times featured her in a five-part series. She’s not homeless because other people are rich; she’s homeless because her mother and stepfather are unemployed addicts.

De Blasio conflates these two problems.

He wants to “require big developers to build affordable housing.” That’s fine for the lucky few who win the affordable-housing “lottery” (unless you work for a City Council member, you may be better off hoping you’ll discover you’re an oligarch’s secret love child). Plus, it will only work if developers can find rich people to buy the rest of their apartments.

And no housing is “affordable” to people who don’t work and who can’t even spend their government-benefits money wisely.

Likewise, de Blasio can mandate more generous sick-leave benefits on New York’s lower-paid jobs, another measure he promised last Wednesday. But employers who can afford to offer sick leave already do. Employers who aren’t serving the wealthy will just shy away from hiring new people.

De Blasio can’t fight the world’s wealthy and win — nor can he win his new war on poverty unless he acknowledges that the rich didn’t make the poor poor.

Original Source: http://nypost.com/2014/01/05/mayor-vs-the-world/

 

 
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