Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York, vowed recently that he would “create an environment for growth”—starting with public safety. “The prerequisite to prosperity is safety,” Adams declared. This week, he rolled out a plan to convert hotels to housing in order to tackle the city’s cost-of-living and homelessness crises.
With these moves, Adams follows the preferences of those he seeks to represent. New Yorkers are deeply concerned about the cost of living and crime, according to a new survey of America’s 20 fastest-growing metros conducted by the Manhattan Institute and Echelon Insights. Roughly three in four New Yorkers say that they are concerned about the cost of housing, high taxes, and public safety and crime rates. Homelessness was not far behind, with 71 percent expressing concern. These proportions exceed those for concern about Covid-19, jobs, schooling, or traffic—though New Yorkers are worried about those, too—and far surpassed the level of concern in other cities, especially those in the Sun Belt.
New Yorkers were more concerned about taxes than were residents of any other city. This past year, New York City earned the distinction of having the highest state and local top income-tax rates in the country. Jobs are also a larger concern in New York than they are in the rest of the country. The city’s labor market has fallen harder and recovered slower than nearly anywhere else in America. If New York City’s recovery had kept pace with the country’s, New York would have 375,000 more jobs than it has today. Unsurprisingly, nearly half of city adults say good jobs are hard to find, and two-thirds cite future job prospects as a key factor in deciding whether they want to stay put.
Housing costs remain a major concern in Gotham. Large majorities of New Yorkers support making it easier to build more homes to keep up with demand, including with faster permitting, more transit-oriented development, and more backyard apartments. Notably, not everyone views more housing as a driver of more affordable housing; if asked to choose, more people support an approach that subsidizes new housing rather than removes barriers to building it, though many expressed uncertainty.
More than half of New Yorkers are concerned about the quality of their local schools and school curricula—again, a bigger share than in any other city we surveyed. Sixty-two percent support encouraging more charter schools, with even more (72 percent) favoring greater choice in schooling. A majority (58 percent) also supports removing lessons based on critical race theory from public school curricula, a hot-button topic that has sparked tensions between school administrators and parents.
While 41 percent of New Yorkers rate their own quality of life as “good,” 34 percent say it’s just average—and New York lags on that measure relative to other cities, particularly those in the Sun Belt. When asked about quality-of-life issues in the broader city—such as graffiti, littering, and public urination—nearly three-quarters of New Yorkers support empowering the New York City Police Department to be more responsive to these issues. Similar shares want cops to remove homeless encampments if the homeless are offered services and shelter.
Our New York City survey respondents, half of them Democrats, were generally united in prioritizing public safety. While they were split on the question of defunding the police, most want a larger police presence in their area—only 12 percent say they want to shrink the number of cops on their beat. More than seven in ten support recruiting more police officers with college degrees, and even more favor greater community policing. This reinforces the results of our earlier polls conducted during the mayoral race, which showed that nearly two in five New Yorkers who say they support defunding the police want an increased police presence in their own neighborhood.
“New Yorkers want to be safe,” said Eric Adams recently. “They want their children educated; they want [jobs]. . . . They could care less if you call them left or right.” Our survey comes to the same conclusion. A growing metropolitan majority appears ready to cross racial and ethnic divides in support of commonsense solutions to fundamental local concerns. A “do the basics” approach to tackling crime, cost, and classroom issues earns consistent support across New York City—and across the country. With the city inaugurating a new mayor in January, it remains to be seen whether this moderate, multiethnic mainstream can flex its political muscle in the Big Apple.
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