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Poverty Persists Despite Bloomberg's Initiatives

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Despite promises from Mayor Michael Bloomberg in years past, the city’s poverty rate remains about as high now as it did five years ago. NY1’s Courtney Gross filed the following report.

In 2006, Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged to drastically reduce poverty in the five boroughs.

"For too long, this widespread poverty has been regarded as a troubling but inevitable condition of life in our city," said Bloomberg at the time.

Five years later, some New Yorkers like Martina Santos aren't seeing results.

"We are really in the ground, because we have to go to pantry to pantry, this pantry, another pantry, to put food on the table," said Santos.

Santos volunteers and stocks her fridge at the West Side Campaign Against Hunger, where use has jumped 47 percent over the last three years.

She is one of the one in five New Yorkers who now live in poverty, about the same number who lived below the poverty line in 2006, which was the first year of the poverty pledge.

Since then, Bloomberg has launched more than 40 programs that target everything from high school dropouts to the perennially unemployed. A quarter of them are called successful. A dozen have been discontinued.

Advocates claim the overall approach isn't working.

"If the mayor is going to judge the success the way that all programs should be judged by data, data, data, then we all must conclude that the anti-poverty initiative was not a success," said Joel Berg of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

The Bloomberg administration tells a different story. At a career center in Queens, officials say they are placing lower-income workers in higher-wage jobs.

In the next year, the city plans to place 1,500 New Yorkers at jobs from this center.

"We really try to make New Yorkers fully aware of what it takes to be successful," said Angie Kamath of the Department of Small Business Services.

The city considers this a victory. Other initiatives, like a program to get young inmates their high school equivalency degrees, have not had the same results.

However, the city's Human Resources Commissioner Robert Doar doesn't admit defeat.

In fact, he says the city is succeeding.

"He's absolutely, absolutely accomplished the mission of combating poverty,” said Doar. “That's what we do. We do it at HRA. We do it at other agencies in city government. It's a tough battle, though."

On the last point, Santos would definitely agree.

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