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Quinn to Take on Middle Class Squeeze in Final State of the City Speech

By Jill Colvin | February 11, 2013 8:20am
 City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called for mandatory kindergarten during her State of the City speech.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn called for mandatory kindergarten during her State of the City speech.
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City Council/William Alatriste

NEW YORK CITY — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will outline plans designed to strengthen and build the city’s shrinking middle class in her final State of the City speech Monday, her office said, before she launches her expected bid for mayor.

The speech, to be delivered at City Hall, will focus on a new City Council study that shows the city's middle class has been shrinking as a percentage of the city’s workforce. The study also details some of the growing challenges that middle-income families face.

“For the past eight years, the Council has worked to improve the lives of middle class New Yorkers. We’ve focused on making neighborhoods safer, improving schools, and supporting small businesses," Quinn said in a statement released to reporters along with the report ahead of the speech.

"Clearly the middle class wants to be here, but it’s getting harder to stay,” Quinn said.

Despite declining median middle class incomes, for instance, the report shows that housing costs continue to rise in the city, with rents up by more than 6 percent and condos up a whopping 47 percent since 2001. Further, the city’s middle class unemployment rate stands at 6.2 percent, three times higher than it was in 2008, according to the report.

It also shows how it is becoming increasingly difficult for workers with only a high school education to enter the middle class.

“This report demonstrates the need to address long term housing costs, develop opportunities for middle class workers, and to help create a New York City that middle class families continue to seek out as a place to call home,” Quinn said.

Ester Fuchs, a public affairs professor at Columbia University, said in a statement from Quinn's office that the report identifies the most serious challenges that the city's next mayor will face.

“New York City's future will depend on leaders who understand how to keep New York City's middle class population growing while developing the economic and social policies that move our low income population into the middle class,” she said.

Quinn is facing a crowded field of Democratic challengers for mayor, including Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, Comptroller John Liu, and former Brooklyn City Councilman Sal Albanese.

In last year's speech, Quinn called for mandatory kindergarten for all city kids and tried to distance herself from Mayor Michael Bloomberg by calling for a more collaborative approach to governing based on community outreach.