Five things to know about Mayor Adams’ State of the City address

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In his State of the City speech Wednesday, Mayor Adams touted many of his policy achievements so far, such as overseeing a year-over-year decrease in some crime categories and presiding over an expansion of the local job market.

But the address, his third since taking office in January 2022, also focused more on quality-of-life issues than a signature policy, though new proposals were announced, including a program to build some 12,000 affordable housing units on city land and declaring social media a public health crisis (more on what that actually means later).

Here are five highlights from the mayor’s 45-minute address at Hostos Community College in the Bronx:

Little mention of migrant crisis

Since thousands of mostly Latin American migrants started streaming into the city in spring 2022, Adams has spent his press briefings speaking about his administration’s efforts to care for the new arrivals while calling attention to the immense fiscal strain the crisis is putting on city resources.

But in Wednesday’s speech, Adams rolled out no new initiatives or proposals for alleviating the crisis.

Instead, he spent just over a minute listing off some statistics about the crisis — more than 172,000 migrants have arrived in the city since spring 2022, nearly 70,000 remain housed in local shelters and the Adams administration has helped file about 20,000 claims for asylum and other protected status.

“We have done our part, but we need others to do their part. The federal government must step up and step in,” Adams said, repeating his frequent plea for more financial aid and quicker approvals of work permits for migrants.

Critics of the mayor were disappointed his address did not contain any new city-level policy announcements related to the pressing issue.

“Announcing nothing new to improve the lives of new arrivals or longtime immigrant New Yorkers, he has chosen to only recycle his arbitrary, shortsighted strategies that deny shelter and dignity to vulnerable families in need,” New York Immigration Coalition Executive Director Murad Awawdeh said, referring to the mayor’s controversial 30- and 60-day shelter stay limits for migrants.

Leaning on Albany

Some of the proposals baked into the mayor’s speech can’t come to pass unless state lawmakers in Albany step in to help him.

That included a push for replacing 421-a, an expired state law that gave real estate developers tax breaks in exchange for making some units in their buildings affordable. Adams argued renewing that law is critical for addressing the city’s lack of affordable housing, but many Democrats in the state Legislature are skeptical, arguing the expired incentive was overly generous to wealthy developers.

Another Albany-dependent effort Adams highlighted in his speech is shutting down the city’s plethora of illegal weed shops. To do that, Adams said he needs Albany to tweak state law in such a way that city government agencies can more easily shutter the shops permanently.

Finally, Adams said he also needs the Legislature to afford him another four years of mayoral control, the mechanism that allows him to control the city’s public schools.

“We need Albany’s help,” the mayor said at one point in his speech.

Gov. Hochul, an ally of the mayor, has backed the mayor’s request, which also requires the Legislature’s approval.

New agency in the works for delivery regulations

Adams revealed in his speech that he’s in negotiations with the City Council about creating the Department of Sustainable Delivery, a new agency that would regulate the city’s commercial delivery industry.

Among other duties, the agency would be tasked with regulating delivery trucks, electronic bikes and scooters, the use of which has exploded since the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for food and package deliveries. E-bikes use lithium-ion batteries, which have recently caused a number of fatal fires in the city after being stored inside people’s homes.

The Department of Sustainable Delivery, Adams said, “will regulate new forms of delivery transit and ensure their safety.” Adams did not say when the new agency will be up and running, but remarked this would be the first such agency in the U.S.

Mayor Adams extends olive branch to Speaker Adams

The mayor’s working relationship with City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams has hit a low point in recent weeks. That’s in part because the Council is gearing up to override the mayor’s vetoes of two public safety bills that would ban solitary confinement in city jails and require NYPD officers to be more transparent about the way they conduct low-level stops of civilians.

But in Wednesday’s remarks, the mayor called the speaker his “sister” and noted that they went to the same high school in Bayside, Queens.

“I love you, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. “Our mommies are looking on us, sister. You know, who would’ve thought that two Baysiders from South Jamaica, Queens, would be in this position of running this city. We can’t fail, we cannot fail, and we’re going to succeed.”

Social media crisis declaration

For months, Adams has attributed some recent crime patterns, like a spike in car thefts and gang violence, to trends on TikTok and other social media platforms.

To that end, he announced in his speech that Ashwin Vasan, his Health Department commissioner, is designating social media as a “public health crisis.”

“We’re treating social media like other public health hazards,” he said.

An advisory released by the Department of Health later in the day showed the declaration doesn’t change much in the immediate.

According to the advisory, Vasan’s declaration doesn’t include any mandates, but encourages educators, school staff, caregivers and youth development groups to implement “tech-free times” and “discussing social media use in an open-minded way with children and youth.”

In State of the City speech, Adams pushes plans for more housing, closing illegal weed shops and boosting jobs in NYC

Parents are also encouraged under the declaration to “delay giving children access to a smartphone,” while Congress “should consider building on existing legislative proposals to further protect children and youth from predatory practices by social media companies,” according to the advisory.