There are a number of issues facing New York City and its residents. Many are longstanding, some have stemmed from the pandemic and others have been exacerbated by it.

But the one that concerns New Yorkers the most is affordable, safe housing, according to a new survey conducted by the City, NYC Speaks.

More than 62,000 New Yorkers filled out the public issues-oriented survey after it was launched by Mayor Eric Adams and his administration six months ago. Adams says the results, which communicate the public’s priorities on issues such as public safety, housing, transit, mental health, broadband, workforce policy, child care and climate change, will inform the priorities and policies of his administration.

The survey was published in 11 languages and answered by residents across every ZIP code in the city, the City says, adding 27% of respondents were Black, 14% were Asian and 29% were Hispanic and 33% of respondents were white. Every age group above 18 and every income bracket responded to the adult survey.

Across all income levels and races, New Yorkers named housing as their first priority for creating safe neighborhoods, with the exception of AAPI-only respondents ranking “more police presence” first and housing second.

New Yorkers continue to prioritize housing as an issue overall, emphasizing a need to preserve affordability while making housing safer, the survey found.

NYC Speaks Co-ED Dr Shango Blake. Photo: Supplied.

In regards to public safety, adult respondents supported a multi-faceted approach to public safety. Those earning less than $35,000 a year emphasized a need for more police while those earning over $35,000 a year prioritized mental health and first responders. 

Increased police presence is a top priority for middle-aged New Yorkers and homeowners, the survey found.

Meanwhile, youth respondents placed greater emphasis on public design and improving police-community relations, over increased police presence. 

Black respondents earning under $35,000 year cited access to economic opportunity as a top priority for neighborhood safety. 

NYC Speaks Co-Executive Director Dr. Shango Blake said that the survey was the largest public policy survey in New York City history. “We’re proud to release this data today but this is just the first step in the process,” Blake said. “We look forward to launching the Community Conversations to engage the community on our findings and build a stronger, more thriving city.”

Building off the results of the survey, NYC Speaks will launch “Community Conversations,” in partnership with 50 community-based organizations, the city’s three public library systems and YMCAs, where New Yorkers can discuss the quantitative data and provide insight into the final NYC Speaks Action Plan — which will outline a course of government action for the Adams administration this June. Registration for the Community Conversations is available here

Comptroller Brad Lander. Photo: Supplied.

Comptroller Brad Lander said New Yorkers knew best what was happening in their communities, and how the city could best show up for them to secure healthy and prosperous neighborhoods.

“NYC Speaks is an ambitious effort to bring New Yorkers from all walks of life into that conversation, and I’m eager to dig in on the data about what they have to say about how to make our neighborhoods safer, secure more affordable housing and build a robust economy where everyone can thrive,” Lander said.

“I look forward to working with Mayor Adams and the City Council to bring the voices of New Yorkers into the work to ensure city government can be a vehicle for our shared prosperity.”

Highlights from the survey include:

Housing

  • Across all income levels and races, New Yorkers named housing as their first priority for creating safe neighborhoods, with the exception of AAPI respondents earning under $35K/year ranking “more police presence” first and housing second.
  • New Yorkers continue to prioritize housing as an issue overall, emphasizing a need to preserve affordability while making housing safer.
  • Housing resources were cited as a top choice for content in a centralized app and website of City services. 

Safety

  • Adult respondents supported a multi-faceted approach to public safety.
  • After housing, adults earning less than $35K/year emphasized a need for more police while those earning over $35K/year prioritized mental health and first responders. 
  • Increased police presence is a top priority for middle-aged New Yorkers and homeowners. 
  • Youth respondents placed greater emphasis on public design and improving police-community relations, over increased police presence. 
  • Black respondents earning under $35K/year cited access to economic opportunity as a top priority for neighborhood safety. 

Transportation

  • More than affordable fares or shorter wait times for public transit, New Yorkers across all races and ethnicities want the City to help themfeel safer while riding public transit. 
  • Safety and maintenance were top priorities for all respondents, while non-white and Hispanic respondents prioritized less expensive fares over shorter wait times. 
  • Nearly one third of female respondents and older demographics expressed wanting to feel safer when riding or walking to/from public transit. 
  • Black + Hispanic New Yorkers emphasized investments in vehicular infrastructure over public transit. 
  • Investment in public mobility infrastructure was prioritized among those earning over $50K/year.
  • Youth respondents across race and ethnicity groups want to see closer access to public transit from their homes, particularly among AAPI. 

Public Infrastructure

  • Adults in the outer boroughs most want to see affordable recreation centers while youth across the city most want to see affordable, high-speed internet access regarding neighborhood public infrastructure investments. 
  • Making libraries/schools accessible for community use was increasingly prioritized among elderly age groups and those earning under $35K/year. 
  • Households earning less than $35K/year were most likely to prioritize citywide benefits over that of individual neighborhoods. 

Mental Health / Healthcare

  • More than 1-in-5 New Yorkers prioritize providing mental health professionals and social workers in every school.
  • Youth respondents also supported more resources for victims of domestic violence and those suffering from addiction and support services. 
  • A majority of respondents support a public option for child and elder care across race and ethnicity groups. 

Education

  • New Yorkers prioritized diverse staff, funding for programs serving disadvantaged students and mental health services as key investments in our public education system. 
  • NYC youth would like to see more support services available and more voice in decision-making. 
  • Respondents prioritized equitable resource distribution and representation among staff as ways to improve learning outcomes for students of color. 

Food Access

  • New Yorkers want to see greater access to fresh foods at home and school, with expansion of government nutrition programs like SNAP.
  • Respondents indicated a leading factor in building healthier communities is increasing access to healthy and affordable foods.
  • NYC youth prioritized access to healthy foods and recreation, particularly affordable hot food and healthy food in schools. 

Environment

  • Following historic flooding after Hurricane Ida, New Yorkers expressed support for investment in flood protection for homes. 
  • Respondents also favored making energy upgrades to public/affordable housing and expanding programs to make energy upgrades more affordable for low-income homeowners. 
  • Youth prioritized helping communities buy their own energy-efficient systems and technology as a way of ensuring environmental justice. 

Economic Mobility / Job Access

  • New Yorkers cited affordable education, workforce training and free childcare as top priorities for economic mobility. 
  • NYC youth support a multi-faceted approach to ensuring every New Yorker can find a job that pays well, with an emphasis on education and training. 
  • Adult respondents favored expanding minimum wage and paid leave benefits to more freelance / gig workers. 
  • Adult respondents prioritized expanding legal services for immigrant communities while youth respondents favored expanding sanctuary protections and language resources. 
  • All income, age, race and ethnicity groups ranked employment opportunities as the primary way the City can support formerly incarcerated individuals. 

Racial Justice

  • New Yorkers support an approach to equity and racial justice that spans interventions of institutional reform, financial investment and education. 
  • More than half agreed NYC should provide reparations. 83% of Black respondents were in favor vs. roughly one third of AAPI respondents. 

Civic Engagement

  • Adult respondents showed a preference for a varied approach to civic engagement centered around transparency, accountability and community-led planning. 
  • New Yorkers favor investments that support small businesses and prioritize community voice in approving/incentivizing large new development projects. 
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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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  1. build more lowincome housing for all low incomes in affluent neighborhoods, brooklyn and beyond

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