New York's deepest budget deficits are yet to come, Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned during Wednesday's State of the City address, but he promised ongoing investment in development projects to steer the city into a prosperous future.
During a 30 minute speech that covered the economy, gun laws, education and transportation, Bloomberg told the crowd at Staten Island's St. George Theater that spending cutbacks won't stop New York from transforming itself into a city of the future.
He said no new taxes were in store for New Yorkers. But he said reform of the city's pension system is a top priority for the new year.
Cuts will be made to government services and some capital projects will have to be slowed down or privately financed, he said.
“But now, the cuts we face are more severe than ever. Because of unfunded mandates and pension benefits, we face multi-billion dollar deficits for years to come. And there is no magic wand to make them disappear. There is no rabbit left to pull out of the hat. And there is no windfall coming from Albany or Washington this year. There is only us. Our resolve. Our courage. And our commitment to the fiscal discipline we have shown over the past nine years," he said.
Bloomberg says he doesn't want to see the city repeat mistakes of the 1970s, when vital city services broke down due to a lack of money.
The mayor said he is stilling planning development projects and other improvements meant to maintain the city's status as a world capital.
The mayor also announced establishing a new class of livery cabs that can take street pick-ups outside Manhattan, just like yellow cabs.
In an excerpt from Bloomberg's speech, the mayor says "whether you’re standing on 42nd Street in Manhattan, or 42nd Street in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, or 42nd Street in Sunnyside, Queens, you ought to be able to hail a cab.”
"It will give New Yorkers in all five boroughs another safe, reliable and convenient option for getting around."
The Taxi Workers Alliance responded that they were "stunned."
"Legalizing an illegal activity because it's been done for so long will immediately cut into fares, especially during the rush hours when yellow cab drivers who live in the outer boroughs pick up fares at the beginning or end of their shifts. And as liveries bring more riders into Manhattan, what guarantee do we have that the city will stop the illegal activities in Manhattan or the airports?"
Bloomberg did have good news: “Last January, I said we’d lead the nation in job growth, and you know what? We have. We have created jobs at nearly twice the national rate. And compared to the rest of the state our job creation rate is eight times as high."
An organization that promotes the rights of workers, the Living Wage NYC Coalition, said recovery has not come soon enough.
"Working poor New Yorkers are still waiting for the economic recovery the mayor referenced in his speech. His unmatched ability to turn the economy around was how his campaign framed the rationale for a third term but many struggling communities have yet to gain access to decent jobs and would not agree that we are headed in the right direction," spokesman Dan Morris said.
Bloomberg said the city has cut crime to "record lows."We kept the welfare rolls at historic lows. We cut fire deaths to their lowest level since before 1919. We raised graduation rates again – they’re up 27 percent over the past four years, compared to just three percent in the rest of the state. And that means 15,000 students who would not have finished high school did finish and earned a diploma that will change their lives for the better," he said.