MIDTOWN — In a speech that took direct aim at the "Tale of Two Cities" narrative that launched Mayor Bill de Blasio into office, Comptroller Scott Stringer criticized City Hall for not being "engaged" on issues that would improve equality such as minority contracting, affordable housing and dealing with the homelessness crisis.
"We cannot settle for a city where aspiration is limited by what you look like, how old you are, or where you come from," Stringer told city business leaders gathered at a breakfast for the Association for a Better New York. "We must aspire to be a city where everyone has an opportunity to succeed."
Stringer, often mentioned as a possible mayoral contender in next year's elections, did not give a direct answer when asked if he's running.
"No one should be thinking about '17. Everyone should be hands on deck trying to elect Hillary Clinton president and a Democratic state Senate," said Stringer.
But in laying out an economic vision for the city that criticizes de Blasio's efforts at tacking inequality as incomplete, Stringer seemed like a candidate testing the waters.
"No one politician owns that theme because its fundamental to the future of the city," Stringer said about inequality. "I think my record shows I've actually been able to make a difference on these issues."
Stringer said the city is in a period of economic growth that has created 550,000 private sector jobs and 57 percent more tech jobs since 2007.
But many of the new jobs are low wage and young people, low-income New Yorkers, women and minorities, have not shared in the city's growth.
Affordable housing is growing more scarce and minorities and women are not getting a fair share of city contracts. Homelessness, in spite of $1.9 billion in spending, is reaching record highs.
"The city has not created enough tools to combat the issue and deal with the urgency," Stringer said of the homelessness crisis.
To address the problems, Stringer proposed the creation of a city land bank where nonprofits would partner with local government to try and develop the 1,100 vacant plots of land across the five boroughs to create more affordable housing.
"The city is not moving fast enough to deal with a crisis like this," Stringer said of homelessness and affordable housing.
"You cannot just show up in a community and expect people to go along with a one-size-fits-all plan," Stringer said.
The mayor should work more closely with neighborhood residents to make sure the rezoning plan meets their needs. More transparency is needed on the city's spending on homelessness.
The city must also get banks and insurance companies to issue loans and bonds to minority firms to help improve the 5.3 percent of $14 billion in spending that MWBE firms were awarded, an amount Stringer called "dismal."
In order to help people out of poverty, Stringer also proposed tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit.
The comptroller even criticized de Blasio's $81 million public-private partnership to bring computer science to every public school student by 2025. De Blasio is holding a press conference in The Bronx Thursday to announce that $20 million private donations had been raised for his computer science initiative.
"It’s a terrific idea, but the program is not planned to reach all city students until the year 2025, 10 years after it launched. Ten years ago this little gadget here — this iPhone — did not exist. And 10 years from now, who knows where we’ll be," Stringer said.
Asked about Stringer's remarks at his computer science press conference, de Blasio issued a sharp rebuke.
"I think people who don't run things often have a simplistic analysis of the reality," the mayor said, explaining that it would take "tremendous effort" to roll out the program to all 1.1 million New York City schoolchildren.
Despite his refusal to discuss whether he will run for mayor, the Rev. Johnnie Green, president of Mobilizing Preachers and Community, a statewide clergy group that wants to unseat de Blasio, said Stringer sounded like a candidate.
"As far as I'm concerned, he's running," said Green, pastor of Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem.
"Somewhere between his campaign, inauguration and today, Mayor de Blasio lost his way. After Stringer's speech today, I would hope he'd run because he would be a formidable foe," Green added.