I go away on vacation and with the exception of the federal indictment of a congressman and a major agreement with the teachers union, it seemed like just another ho-hum week in New York politics.
I'm still sorting through the details of Mayor de Blasio's deal with the United Federation of Teachers but it's still unclear to me where a supposed $1.3 billion in health-care savings is being found between the union and the city. If the deal is indeed the pattern for the rest of the municipal contracts to be brokered that big giveback seems like an important point to be explained by both sides.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina acknowledged the fuzziness over that part of the deal when speaking to parents at a Manhattan high school over the weekend but then sort of reveled in it by telling the applauding crowd: "Where are the details? You guys are the details."
While some of the actual details will hopefully be explained this week, the mayor is pivoting to affordable housing, an issue that's at the top of the priority list for hundreds of thousand of New Yorkers.
After Ed Koch died last year, we were constantly reminded that one of his most important legacies was the creation of 150,000 units of affordable housing over his 12-year tenure. David Dinkins built on Koch's record while also carving out a new agency – the Department of Homeless Services – from the city's mammoth Human Resources Administration. While homelessness soared during his mayoralty, Mayor Bloomberg built or preserved roughly 165,000 units of housing during his dozen years in office.
But as much as mayors have done, New York's housing market is a victim of the city's own success. With crime plummeting and Wall Street largely booming over the last 20 years, New York is a highly-desirable place for newcomers hoping to stake their claim in an urban success story. While thousands of new units are being built or preserved, many others are being priced out of the lower ends of the market; the city's median apartment rent has soared by 75 percent since 2000. And with the city's public housing market already bursting at the seams, New Yorkers on the margin are finding it harder and harder to find a place to live.
Mayor de Blasio today is expected to talk about creating or preserving 200,000 affordable homes over the next ten years. It's a laudable goal in a boomtown that's seeing some of its longtime residents get kicked to curb. Let's just hope that there are more details in this housing plan than in Chancellor Farina's pep talk over the weekend.