New York Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a retirement plan for private-sector workers and a new light rail system in his State of the City speech on Thursday, while indicating that social inequality was decreasing under his administration.
The Democratic mayor of the United States' biggest city has been in office for a little over two years. He came to power promising to narrow the inequality gap that he said had created "a tale of two cities" after three four-year terms of his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.
De Blasio pressed that message again in his keynote speech on Thursday: "We see the 'Tale of Two Cities' transforming into 'One New York,'" he said during the speech at a performing arts center in the Bronx.
New York has a glamorous reputation but is home to many poor neighborhoods. Rising real estate prices have made the city less affordable for many residents.
A plan to build a $2.5 billion light rail system linking Brooklyn and Queens, leaked to the news media a day earlier, was the boldest element in the speech for a mayor who has tended to favor social policy over infrastructure.
The 16-mile (26-km) track would run from the borough of Queens' Astoria neighborhood, tracing a line along the East River and New York's Upper Harbor, to link up with Brooklyn's Sunset Park section. It would pass through popular Brooklyn neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Brooklyn Heights.
The mayor also called for the city to develop a retirement system for private-sector employees, addressing the low rate of retirement savings, especially among low-income workers.
"We absolutely do not accept a status quo where people work all their lives only to be left with nothing," said De Blasio, echoing previous calls for a better deal for workers.
He also outlined plans to develop Governors Island, an underutilized area of land in the Upper Harbor off the southern tip of Manhattan that had been used as a military base until the city acquired it in 2010.
De Blasio highlighted his push for a $15 dollar minimum wage, a movement that has gained traction with Democrats nationally, and called for his initiatives to introduce paid parental and sick leave to be adopted nationally.
De Blasio shifted the speech to 7 p.m. (0000 GMT) from its usual daytime spot in the hope of reaching more New Yorkers.
(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)