Ever since reports emerged linking former Congressman and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner (D) to another sex scandal, news media have opted to heavily recycle stories about Weiner’s sex life. One story printed in the Washington Post read, “The reporters — and most of New York, really — wanted to talk only about Anthony Weiner.”
Of course, the details of Weiner’s affairs do not actually affect the vast majority of New Yorkers. While they may not be tabloid-worthy, there are a number of real policy issues, from poverty to climate adaptation, facing New York right now:
1. Stop and frisk and racial profiling: On Tuesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed measures to curb racial profiling and expand oversight for the city’s controversial stop and frisk policy, setting up a fight with the City Council to attempt to override. In fact, Bloomberg’s defense of the program is to claim police stop whites too much and “minorities too little.” However, stop and frisk is overwhelmingly used to target innocent African-Americans and Latinos.
2. Immigrants in poverty: NYC’s immigrant population faces many obstacles, particularly for the undocumented. The city has taken recent steps to help its undocumented youth get jobs and pursue higher education. At the same time, the city’s aging immigrant population is slipping into poverty. While just under half of the city’s population over age 65 is foreign-born, the Center for an Urban Future found that two out of every three elderly people living in poverty are immigrants. “Many in this group are not only poised to strain the social safety net but fall through it entirely,” the study concludes.
3. Public housing cuts: The New York Times reports this week that, for the first time, there are more New Yorkers on the waiting list for public housing than there are even public housing units available. There are more than 200,000 people waiting for a little over 5,000 vacancies each year. Meanwhile, federal budget cuts from sequestration will only force more into homelessness: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that more than 100,000 families will be cut from housing choice vouchers, affecting as many as 6,000 New Yorkers.
4. Heat wave sends energy-use skyrocketing: Last week, a brutal heat wave with temperatures as high as 107 degrees Fahrenheit also meant record NYC demand for electricity to power air conditioning. Still, many people in New York lack access to AC, and the poor, elderly, and children are especially vulnerable. A study from May found heat-related deaths in Manhattan could increase by 20 percent over the next decade. Four people died, all in their 80s, during last week’s heat wave alone.
5. Public transit demand: Public transit use has jumped 150 percent in New York from 2002, driven in part by changing demographics and gas prices. From ridesharing to bikesharing, NYC is experimenting with new initiatives to complement the growing stress on public transit. Meanwhile, Superstorm Sandy continues to impact the city’s subway system, with years worth of repairs still underway. It’s no wonder the city is quickly moving to fortify itself from another storm.