How to Strengthen New York City's Middle Class

David Giles explains the economic extremes that now characterize New York City and offers four suggestions on how to retain and strengthen its middle class.

"Looking at New York's recent history, an outsider might be forgiven for thinking the city doesn't really want a middle class or else somehow assumes that they're an inexhaustible or fungible resource, as Bloomberg's comment on the report's release date, Feb. 5, seemed to suggest. But here is a question for the mayor, and others who share his nonchalance: The feeling that "they come and they go" may be true at the moment – but what happens when middle class residents don't even want to stay anymore? Will there be others to replace them?

In case the path toward a permanent exodus is not one New York wants to travel, here are some suggestions, per the report (see p. 48), for strengthening the city's middle class:
• Start making some big investments in the city's six community colleges. Community colleges are a gateway to the middle class for increasing numbers of city residents. Enrollment has increased by 22 percent over the past 10 years while total funding, adjusted for inflation, has increased by just five percent during that same period.
• Develop a comprehensive strategy to diversify the economy and support the growth of middle-income jobs. If there's anything the present financial crisis has taught us, it's that Wall Street cannot be depended on to sustain a great city like New York. We should be nurturing the city's entrepreneurs, artisans, freelancers and small manufacturers."



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