Mayor Bill de Blasio is home from the campaign trail — just as New York starts to absorb the statistical impact of having had an absentee mayor over the past few months.
The city’s not in crisis. But on many critical measures that the mayor has stated are his own priorities, from cutting pedestrian deaths to building more units of affordable housing, the progress it was making has stalled out.
The statistics come from the Mayor’s Management Report — an annual portrait of the city in numbers, produced so that readers can judge, on an objective basis, whether New York is getting better or worse. The latest figures, released last week, cover the fiscal year that ended June 30.
First, the good news: Crime remains down. For the last fiscal year, the murder rate was down 8 percent, to 278 murders, continuing the 13 percent decline over the previous four years (and mirroring the nearly 30-year trend). The overall crime rate was down 2 percent, also in line with recent history.
But there are some worrying signs on crime. Gun arrests were down 8 percent, to 4,300. They were nearly flat for the previous four years.
There’s no indication that New Yorkers are carrying fewer illegal guns; in fact, with “gang”-crime incidents having soared 43 percent in one year, after increasing by just 5 percent the previous four years, the risk is more guns on the street. For the current calendar year, shootings are up 6 percent.
Then, there’s the other type of preventable street violence: traffic deaths. Last year, they rose for the first time in half a decade, by 4 percent, to 218, after dropping 16 percent over the previous four years.
Pedestrians, whom the mayor’s “Vision Zero” initiative is supposed to protect, were particularly affected, with 120 people dying, compared to 107 the year before. Bicycle ridership was down slightly, for the second year in a row — and anecdotal evidence suggests cyclists are getting too scared of reckless drivers to take the risk.
At the same time, traffic violations issued to motorists, at 711,000, were flat — after jumping 23 percent over the previous four years. With more people dying on the streets, you’d thing police would be out issuing more violations to dangerous car and truck drivers.
In another area of public safety, building construction, de Blasio has never made much progress in cutting construction deaths: 11 people died on constructions last year, one more than the number of victims five years ago.
Yet the Department of Buildings issued far fewer violations to construction sites last year — down 38 percent from the previous year, reversing a five-year trend of tighter enforcement.
At sites where dangerous “incidents” occurred, 87 percent were found after the fact to have violations, up from 73 percent the year before. That suggests that more inspections before an injury or death occurred may have prevented injuries or deaths.
Quality of life? Noise is New York’s No. 1 complaint to 311 — and excessive noise exacerbates inequality, as it prevents kids from learning and harms health.
Yet the police have sharply curtailed the number of noise summonses they issue: The figure fell by 36 percent last year, to 1,160, continuing a trend of looser enforcement. During the Bloomberg era, the city regularly issued 14,000 noise summonses a year.
This isn’t because things are quieter. Last year, noise complaints rose by nearly 3 percent, to almost 458,000.
Public corruption and child endangerment? It now takes 605 days for the city to complete a background check on certain vendors and employees — up from 533 days the year before, and double the time it took when de Blasio took office.
Private waste haulers, a notoriously corrupt and law-breaking industry, are enjoying a reprieve of sorts: The number of summonses issued last year was flat, continuing a five-year downward trend. Yet complaints against private haulers were up 20 percent last year.
And on affordable housing — another signature de Blasio issue: Last year, the city’s efforts to save or build lower-income and middle-class apartments fell by 21 percent, to just 25,100 units that started the construction or preservation process, reversing the previous four-year trend, which saw a 52 percent rise.
In ending his presidential bid last week, de Blasio promised to “redouble my efforts to improve the quality of life of everyday New Yorkers.” He’s got a lot of work to do — just to make up for the past few months.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.