Via the New York Times
Via the New York Times

The New York Times has released an article on a recent poll they conducted which indicates that roughly half of New York City residents are barely able to make ends meet. In The Bronx, that number is at 36%. The Bronx also leads New York City with the percentage of residents (25% of respondents) who do not feel confident that local government elected officials are not addressing the multitude of problems facing our borough.

The article says:

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“Half of New York City residents say they are struggling economically, making ends meet just barely, if at all, and most feel sharp uncertainty about the future of the city’s next generation, a new poll shows.

The poll, conducted by The New York Times and Siena College, shows great disparities in quality of life among the city’s five boroughs. The stresses weighing on New Yorkers vary widely, from the Bronx, where residents feel acute concern about access to jobs and educational opportunity, to Staten Island, where one in five report recently experiencing vandalism or theft.

But an atmosphere of economic anxiety pervades all areas of the city: 51 percent of New Yorkers said they were either just getting by or finding it difficult to do so.

Even in Manhattan, three in 10 said they were just getting by. (Fifty-eight percent said they were doing all right or thriving financially — the highest response of the five boroughs.)”

Although folks are struggling and facing these economic uncertainties, the poll and The New York Times goes on to suggest that residents are also are optimistic about their situations.

Some of the findings in the poll indicate the following about the perceptions of Bronx residents:

  • 48% feel that the availability of goods and services that meet their needs is fair or poor
  • 33% think that finding decent employment is poor
  • 44% feel that the chance a family member may be incarcerated is very likely or almost certain
  • 36% feel that as a borough to live in, The Bronx has improved.

In the first 3 questions above, Bronx residents represented higher percentages than the other 4 boroughs whereas the 4th question posted above, The Bronx came in second only to Brooklyn, indicating that overall, residents do feel the borough has improved more so than counterparts in Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan.

With all the fanfare about how great Brooklyn is and how much The Bronx should be like Brooklyn or is the next Brooklyn, the polls showed how we share more in common than we think.

For example, the article continues on in saying:

“In some respects, the poll echoed the “tale of two cities” theme of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2013 campaign: Residents of the Bronx and Brooklyn shared the most pronounced sense of economic insecurity, and the lowest confidence in local government and the police — a distinctly different experience from the rest of the city.

In those boroughs, nearly three in five residents said they were straining to make ends meet. In the Bronx, 36 percent said there had been times in the past year when they did not have the money to buy enough food for their family; only one in five said they and their neighbors had good or excellent access to suitable jobs.

But if the city appears divided into broad camps of haves and have-nots, it was, perhaps surprisingly, the less privileged segments of New York that shared the most positive outlook on the future.

Four in 10 Brooklyn residents said their neighborhood was getting better, and 36 percent of Bronx residents said the same. Manhattanites and Staten Islanders were most likely to say things were getting worse in their area.”

These findings shouldn’t come as a surprise to our borough.

When it comes to employment, our Borough President has been more focused on not only bringing in low paying retail jobs (and supporting sweetheart deals such as FreshDirect which uses our tax dollars and doesn’t provide living wages for most of its employees) but there has been no real effort to create a more skilled workforce amongst our residents to get the jobs they need to get ahead in life.

The housing situation where residents feel insecure and are unable to provide for their families will only get worse by speeding gentrification with supporting market rate luxury housing in the poorest of our neighborhoods.

Do I have all the answers and solutions? Nope.

But what this article and poll tells me is that we are doing some things right and other things we could be doing so much better. We need to create training opportunities for our residents to create a workforce that can be secure enough in their households. We need to create truly affordable housing for residents not to be so overburdened and have to decide whether or not to pay the rent this month and eat or not eat and pay the rent.

There’s a growing movement to bring in tech jobs into our borough but those jobs won’t do our residents much good if they do not possess the required skills to compete for those jobs. Models such as that with Per Scholas and Doran Jones on 138th Street in Mott Haven is a perfect example on how we can collaborate with those who want to do business in our borough in a responsible manner that is mutually beneficial and takes the community into account first.

As for development, we need to look at developers such as WHEDco who provide a more holistic approach to development and actively engage the community and assess its needs before plopping a building down such as their Bronx Commons development in Melrose slated for groundbreaking before year’s end.

This article is an eye opener and is something we can all look at the data and come together as a think tank that can put solutions out there to these issues. We already know what works and doesn’t work so let’s look at things from different angles and continue to improve the outcomes for all The Bronx so no resident is left behind.

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