March 23, 2017
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you so much.
Well, I want to tell you, Elaine, thank you and thank you for speaking with such passion about this city. And Elaine is saying things that I am hearing from people all over this city. You’ve been in your apartment 40 years – that is amazing – but I have spoken to so many people including today at a senior center on the Upper East Side and a senior center in Astoria, Queens and I hear the same exact thing everywhere I go; people who are worried about being priced out and forced out of their neighborhood and forced out of their city, people who love this city and who have contributed so much to this city and need help. And Elaine, what you said, getting to the end of the month and having almost nothing left – this has become the common situation including for folks who have worked hard their whole life.
So that is what we are trying to address with the mansion tax. And the response I am getting from New Yorkers in general and specifically from senior citizens it is very clear and very strong. They are going to fight for this mansion tax. Now, I need you to know that people understand if we don’t do something differently in this city the status quo is just not going to work for our senior citizens. That is the reality. And our seniors are becoming more and more of the population of our city with every passing year. So, the blunt reality is the laws we have right now do not support our senior citizens sufficiently and we have to do something different and a mansion tax is that kind of change we need. Let me thank my colleagues who are here; our Finance Commissioner Jacques Jiha, our Housing Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer thank you for all you do and particularly all you do to make sure that seniors get affordable housing. Both of your departments lead the way in that. And I also want to note, we would have been joined but she is in session, by State Senator Liz Kruger who is a strong supporter of the mansion tax proposal and we appreciate her help.
So, why are we here? 432 Fifth Avenue – I’m sorry Park Avenue – 432 Park Avenue; home to some of the wealthiest people on the earth, literally. And this is a building that you can see from all over the City. It is an example of ostentatious wealth. It’s also an example of a missed opportunity – a 96-story missed opportunity because when this building was built of course was no mansion tax in place to create affordable housing for our seniors. It still serves though an example of what could be. This building alone would have raised us $30 million for affordable housing for seniors. One building, through the mansion tax, would have produced $30 million. And that would have been based – ad this is stunning to me – on the sale of just 62 condominiums. But it would have meant enough money to subsidize affordable housing for 2,000 seniors. One luxury building taxed properly would have allowed 2,000 seniors to live a decent life in this city.
So this is an example of how we have to change the rules to favor our seniors. Now, the grand total of people who will be helped by the mansion tax, 25,000. 25,000 seniors would get subsidized affordable housing. To give you a visual, that is many more people than you could fit into Madison Square Garden. And because it is going to reach so many people and have such a big impact it is also going to gain a lot of support in the coming days. And that is going to make a big impact in Albany. When I lay out the logic that this tax only applies on purchases of over $2 million; that the average typical home being purchased is $4.5 million, it is really clear really quickly to our legislators that we are asking only those who have done very well to contribute so seniors can get affordable housing.
I was in Albany yesterday, part of a rally. Senior organizations like AARP – and everyone knows what a huge impact AARP has in Albany – labor groups, progressive groups gathered together with Speaker Heastie and leader Stuart-Cousins and members of the Senate and Assembly and momentum is building for the mansion tax. In fact, yesterday, a member of the Senate and specifically a member of the IDC, Senator Diane Savino, introduced the mansion tax in the Senate as the lead sponsor. And Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz had previously introduced it in the Assembly and it went into the Assembly one house budget. That indicates the kind of movement that is now happening on this issue. Today I was in senior centers giving out this simple flyer calling on seniors to call the State Senate and call the Governor to make clear that we need this mansion tax and we need it included in the budget. So look, I’ll conclude with this and then a few words in Spanish.
I said in Albany, what we should remember the entire 2016 election was about the question of income inequality. It was about the anger people felt that their economic circumstances weren’t good enough and their demand that something change. The mansion tax is an example of that kind of change – asking the one percent to give a little more so 25,000 seniors can have a better life. This is the kind of thing that can win in Albany and we’re going to fight hard for that victory.
In Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, I welcome questions on this topic.
Mayor: Okay, Mara. You’re smart – I’m here to talk about this.
Mayor: Mara, I’m here to talk about this. If you want to ask question about this –
Mayor: I’m here to talk about this. If you want to talk about this great, if not we’ll take questions another way, another time.
Does anyone want to ask about the mansion tax?
Mayor: Same thing. Guys you can ask all you want. Here’s what we are here to talk about.
Last call, anyone want to talk about mansion tax
Mayor: About mansion tax.
Mayor: I’m going to do this again one more time. This is how we set things up guys. You don’t want to be a part of it you don’t have to come. We’re here to talk about something that would reach 25,000 seniors. Everything else you want to talk about you’ll get answers to through our press office. If someone has a question on this ask about this, if you don’t that’s cool.
Do you have a question on this [inaudible]?
Mayor: Okay – that is great guys. I’m done, thank you.