NEW YORK CITY — Don’t expect turmoil in New York City to end after the chaotic and divisive 2020 Election.
The city still faces the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a looming budget crisis, an equally-dire fiscal crunch at MTA, massive social upheaval and a looming mayoral election over the next year.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is fond of calling the swirling crises the “perfect storm” — and much of his hopes for weathering it depends on another federal stimulus.
Chances of a requested $5 billion injection — plus even more for MTA — seem to have improved after Joe Biden’s projected victory in the presidential race, at least by de Blasio’s reckoning.
“The most important reality in terms of getting a stimulus is having a president who cares about New York City and cares about cities all over the country, and Joe Biden certainly will be that president,” de Blasio said last week.
But the forecast isn’t all clear skies.
It’s not as if lawmakers haven’t had plans for another federal stimulus.
House Democrats passed the HEROES Act — a $3 trillion stimulus — months back but it was dead on arrival to a Republican-controlled Senate.
De Blasio and other Democrats hoped the election would flip the Senate to their party’s control, but that remains unclear amid the unsettled outcome of two likely special elections in Georgia.
Last week, de Blasio predicted that Biden as president would be able to finagle a stimulus out of a Senate “that is certainly no worse for New York City than the one we have now, likely to be at least a little better.”
Without a stimulus or state-approved borrowing power, de Blasio has warned that the city would need to lay off 22,000 employees and cut services.
So far, cost-saving measures have kicked those back but it’s an open question as to how long.
A federal stimulus could also provide aid for the third of New York City small businesses experts warn could close because of coronavirus strain.
MTA Off The Rails
Transit leaders for months have beat the drum of doom.
They warned in August that “draconian” service cuts, hours-long waits and more painful choices were on the horizon without $12 billion in federal aid.
The Riders Alliance recently projected that straphangers could experience regular hour-long waits if MTA doesn’t receive a stimulus. MTA Chairman Patrick Foye called the prospect “horrific” during a recent interview on WCBS 880.
“It would have a horrible impact on our customers from the quality of life point of view,” Foye said. “Remember, that while we’re approaching, carrying 3 million customers a day on subways and buses, ridership is down dramatically, that still remains to be the case. And the people that we are carrying are for the most part, first responders and essential employees. The other horrific consequence would be the impact on the New York City regional economy if we had to make these cuts, which no one at the MTA wants to, wants to put in place.”
New York City’s Democratic congressional leaders have pressed President Donald Trump and Republicans for transit funds, but so far have remained unsuccessful.
A New Mayor, New Lawmakers
De Blasio is in his second and final term — and 2020 likely will define his legacy. He led the city has it bore the brunt of the coronavirus, had its economy largely collapse and became a flashpoint amid a national reckoning over race.
An already-crowded mayoral field will build off or — more likely — contrast themselves with de Blasio during the 2021 contest.
The candidates include Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former HUD head Shaun Donovan, former head of Veterans Affairs Loree Sutton, former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and former top city lawyer Maya Wiley.
Most mayoral candidates are Democrats, but there are signs Republicans have expanded their political holds in part of the city.
In Staten Island, it appears Republican Nicole Malliotakis is on track to prevail over incumbent Democrat Max Rose for the 11th Congressional District — although Rose has not yet conceded.
A Malliotakis victory would add the GOP to New York City’s congressional delegation at a time when Democrats hope to pass an expanded stimulus.
It also runs parallel with other GOP wins in Staten Island and southern Brooklyn for state legislature races. Republican Vito Bruno declared victory over Democratic State Sen. Andrew Gounardes for a southern district seat. Likewise, Republican Michael Tannousis won the race for Malliotakis’ Assembly seat covering parts of Staten Island and southern Brooklyn.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently said GOP lawmakers expanded their seats in the state legislature by taking advantage of fears of crime and unrest in New York — a remark some considered to be criticism of de Blasio.
Indeed, police reform and violence in the city likely will be hot-button issues in the city next year. The city has to submit a police reform plan to the state by April and a spate of violence continues largely unabated.
But Cuomo and other political leaders still projected hope as Trump leaves the White House.
“After the darkness, division and hate of the past four years, America has spoken and rejected more of the same,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Today we go forward in hope and progress.”