What’s the Next Mayor of New York’s One Big Idea?

When Bill de Blasio ran for mayor of New York City in 2013, he was able to successfully distill his campaign into one big idea: creating universal prekindergarten. It reflected his larger theme of reducing inequality, and it was a promise he was able to deliver on not long after taking office.

The large field of candidates running for mayor this year have plenty of ideas, from cash relief to property tax reform. But there is not, as of yet, one bold proposal that stands out in a similar way.

“You’ve seen a stunning lack of original, big thinking from the candidates,” said Eric Phillips, a former press secretary for Mr. de Blasio.

The mayor’s race is widely viewed as the most critical New York City election in a generation as voters choose a leader to guide the pandemic recovery. But weakened tax revenues could make it difficult to start ambitious new programs.

Ahead of the June 22 primary, The New York Times asked eight leading Democrats and two Republicans to describe their one big idea for the city.

Andrew Yang wants to offer some poor New Yorkers $2,000 per year

Andrew Yang, the former presidential hopeful, has perhaps the most memorable proposal: A pared-down version of the universal basic income plan that he championed during the 2020 presidential campaign.

But instead of offering every American $1,000 a month, he proposes giving less than one-tenth of New Yorkers $2,000 on average per year.

Still, Mr. Yang says his plan would be the “largest local cash relief effort in the country,” though he is still trying to figure out how exactly to pay for it.

“We need to get cash in the hands of New Yorkers who need it most if we want our city to come back stronger than ever,” he said.

The program would cost $1 billion per year, and Mr. Yang suggested that the city could offset some of that by closing tax loopholes for large institutions like Madison Square Garden and Columbia University.

Eric Adams wants to create the ‘People’s Plan’

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, is proposing a “People’s Plan” with three components: tax credits for poor New Yorkers, free and low-cost child care for children under 3, and an app called MyCity to apply for benefits like food stamps.

Under Mr. Adams’ tax credit plan, which he is calling NYC AID, poor families would receive about $3,000 per year.

He also wants to give child care providers space in buildings owned by the city and offer developers incentives for charging them low rents.

“Nothing holds back a woman’s opportunity to move up in business or to be employed than the lack of child care in this city,” Mr. Adams said. “That is devastating families.”

The tax credit plan would cost about $1 billion a year. He said he would pay for it by cutting 3 to 5 percent of costs across city agencies, reducing the city work force, and increasing taxes on “ultramillionaires.”

Scott Stringer wants to expand affordable housing

Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, has a plan to offer what he’s calling “universal affordable housing.”

He wants to require new apartment buildings with more than 10 units to make 25 percent of them affordable to low- and middle-income families. And he wants to convert nearly 3,000 vacant lots owned by the city into affordable housing run by nonprofit groups.

“The big real estate developers hate this plan — and for me, that’s a badge of honor,” Mr. Stringer said.

Mr. Stringer criticized Mr. de Blasio’s record on affordable housing, accusing the mayor of negotiating with private real estate developers only to settle for “bread crumbs.”

Maya Wiley wants to make child and elder care more affordable

Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mr. de Blasio, has a universal community care plan to offer 100,000 families a $5,000 annual grant to care for children and older people.

The plan includes building “Community Care Centers” that would provide free child care, job training and activities for seniors, with a goal of reaching 300,000 New Yorkers in the first year.

“As mayor, I will help us create a caring economy, where we invest in families through child care grants, so families can take care of themselves,” she said.

Ms. Wiley wants to pay for the program, which would cost about $500 million, through local and federal funding, including by freezing the hiring of police and correction officers for two years.

Dianne Morales wants to create a ‘community first responders department’

Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit executive, has excited left-leaning voters with her plan to defund the police.

Ms. Morales wants to cut the $6 billion annual police budget in half and spend some of that money to create a “Community First Responders Department” to address homelessness and mental health crises.

Ms. Morales said that the police could not continue to “profile, criminalize, and kill Black people with abandon.”

“We need to keep the police out of interactions where their presence is likely to do more harm than good,” she said.

Kathryn Garcia wants to cut down on bureaucracy

Kathryn Garcia, the city’s former sanitation commissioner, says her overarching priority is to “make government work.”

Understand the N.Y.C. Mayoral Race

    • Who’s Running for Mayor? There are more than a dozen people still in the race to become New York City’s next mayor, and the primary will be held on June 22. Here’s a rundown of the candidates.
    • Get to Know the Candidates: We asked leading candidates for mayor questions about everything from police reform and climate change to their favorite bagel order and workout routine.
    • What is Ranked-Choice Voting? New York City began using ranked-choice voting for primary elections this year, and voters will be able to list up to five candidates in order of preference. Confused? We can help.

    She wants to cut homelessness in half and make repairs to public housing, and she would reform the city’s permitting system for small businesses.

    Ms. Garcia said she thought some candidates were promising programs the city could not afford, and that others knew very little about procurement.

    “The truth is, the radical big idea that New Yorkers desperately want is simple: Cut the bureaucratic nonsense and actually make city government work equally for everyone,” she said.

    Ray McGuire wants to use a ‘comeback plan’ to create jobs

    Raymond J. McGuire, a former Wall Street executive, has proposed a “comeback plan” that includes subsidies, tax relief and a jobs program.

    His “job accelerator” would cover half the salary for workers for one year at small businesses that suffered during the pandemic. He also wants to work with state leaders to let small businesses keep a portion of the sales tax they collect for one year.

    “We have one shot to get this right,” Mr. McGuire said. “If we don’t succeed in putting New Yorkers back to work then no amount of subsidy or spending on social programs is going to make a dent on the catastrophic consequences of mass unemployment.”

    Shaun Donovan wants to create ‘15-minute neighborhoods’

    Shaun Donovan, the former federal housing secretary, has offered so many plans — roughly 200 pages of them — that he jokes that choosing a favorite is like choosing between his sons.

    His top priorities are “equity bonds” — giving $1,000 to every child to help close the wealth gap for poor families — and “15-minute neighborhoods,” where every New Yorker would have access to good schools, transit and parks within 15 minutes of their home.

    “Not all New York City neighborhoods are created equal, and many New Yorkers lack adequate access to basic necessities like fresh food, quality health care, and reliable transportation,” Mr. Donovan said.

    Curtis Sliwa wants to reform property taxes

    Curtis Sliwa, a founder of the Guardian Angels who is running as a Republican, wants to reform property taxes and use the money to hire more than 3,000 additional police officers.

    Like Mr. Yang, he wants to make institutions like Madison Square Garden pay more taxes. He also wants to cap property tax rates and assess properties at their actual fair market value, among other measures.

    The city’s method of calculating property taxes has long allowed owners of multimillion-dollar brownstones in Brooklyn and high-rise co-ops by Central Park to pay less in taxes than working-class homeowners in the South Bronx, relative to the value of their properties.

    “My comprehensive property tax reform plan will finally deliver a fair, transparent property tax system to New York City and will generate enough new revenue to fully re-fund our police,” he said.

    Fernando Mateo wants to achieve ‘universal teen employment’

    Fernando Mateo, a restaurant operator who is also running as a Republican, said his big idea is a year-round jobs program for teenagers, ages 14 to 18, called “Alpha Track.”

    Mr. Mateo said he dropped out of school at 14, and that he wanted to improve the drop-out rate and prevent teenagers from getting into trouble.

    “This is about getting them out of their community and exposing them to what New York is all about — exposing them to corporate America, city agencies and small businesses,” he said.

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