Gleaning an innovation agenda from de Blasio's State of the City speech - Brooklyn


Feb. 3, 2015 2:34 pm

Gleaning an innovation agenda from de Blasio’s State of the City speech

Ferries connecting remote neighborhoods with work, and other business notes from today's State of the City speech at Baruch College.
Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers his State of the City address, Feb. 3, 2015.

Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers his State of the City address, Feb. 3, 2015.

(Photo via

By 2017, New York City will have a ferry system connecting New Yorkers in remote neighborhoods like Red Hook with opportunity hubs like Dumbo, Williamsburg and Manhattan, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his State of the City speech today. The ferry rides will cost the same as a subway ride, he said, and will expand transit without the overwhelming expense of digging new tunnels for trains.

The ferry initiative was one of several proposed measures to boost entrepreneurship and job growth in Brooklyn and other outer boroughs.

“What is the role of transportation in making sure people have access to opportunity?” de Blasio asked, late in his speech. “Well, we’ve thought about that,” he said. When it takes an hour or more to get from your neighborhood to parts of the city with lots of jobs, it’s really almost too much to make that workable, especially with a family. New forms of transportation will spur new economic centers beyond Manhattan, de Blasio hopes.

Once the Mayor’s speech finally got going (after the introductory multimedia presentation, five separate speakers — including an intro by Fort Greene resident Sheryl Morse — and his personal thanks to local dignitaries (as well as his wife)), he opened with a story of entrepreneurship: about the company his grandma started as an immigrant here, 100 years ago.

He also used another entrepreneurship story, toward the end, invoking Henry Ford and his view that the Ford Motor Company would grow if its workers cold afford to buy Ford cars. That wrapped up de Blasio’s argument for an increased and indexed minimum wage.

In other words, the mayor appeared to be trying to make the case that a fairer, more affordable New York, one where its workers don’t feel anxiety about their ability to keep a roof over their heads, should be one where we also see more entrepreneurship and business growth.

Here are the points the mayor made to that end:

  • A city for everyone. As the city becomes pricier, it shuts people out. “If we do not act, and act boldly, New York risks taking on the qualities of a gated community,” de Blasio said.
  • Pre-K. Mayor de Blasio called universal pre-K his biggest accomplishment for bridging inequality for 2014. Who beat New York to that goal by a long shot? Oklahoma. Hear more on the value of early childhood education in this episode of NPR’s Planet Money.
  • One minute for tech. The Mayor’s shoutout to the tech industry was over almost before it started. “This is an industry that is going to do great things in this city,” he said. “We’re going to make sure it’s a five-borough industry.” We’re all for that. In terms of policy, he mentioned the city’s support for the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Brooklyn Army Terminal and plans to update workforce development programs so they better fit today’s economy. According to the mayor, the tech industry supports 300,000 jobs here.
  • Schools. Sixty-two schools have relaxed certain rules to encourage education innovation. We want to look into this more. “We created 62 prose schools — a fresh, new model where teachers and principals work together to set aside [Department of Education] and union rules that hinder innovation … so we can better serve our kids,” de Blasio said.
  • Housing. “We risk losing the soul of this place if it isn’t a place for every kind of person,” de Blasio said, before going into plans for more housing, more rent regulations, more requirements on developers and better enforcement of housing laws.
  • Live-work housing for artists. The mayor committed to create 1,500 new units of live-work spaces for artists, because, he said, among other things, they are a major driver of the city’s ever growing tourism economy. “We know that NYC is a place, with a legend, in fact, for hardworking people to come here with a simple dream to create something,” de Blasio said, preceding his policy goals for the creative community.
  • Increased density. One way to get more housing, de Blasio argued, is to increase density in some residential neighborhoods. He was cautious to argue that it would be done in a way appropriate to the neighborhood. It reminded us of the points SITU Studio made in its exhibt for MoMA.

The “tale of two cities” theme from his election campaign remained a theme of his State of the City speech. He closed with the idea that economic diversity is the source of New York’s greatness, and that after a period of dramatic growth in wealth, it’s time to make sure that that success doesn’t drive away many of the people who made it possible to get there.


“We have an idea at the core of who we are,” de Blasio said. “A promise: that ours is a city for everyone. That it will always be a city for everyone. In our time, we are charged with a sacred duty of keeping that promise.”

Watch the whole speech here (cued up to the actual remarks):

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