Time to Raise New York City’s Trailing Minimum Wage?
Good morning. It’s Wednesday. We’ll look at what has happened to the $15 minimum wage in New York City. We’ll also get a preview of plans for a 25,000-seat stadium for the city’s Major League Soccer team.
In 2016, supporters of a $15 minimum wage rallied at the State Capitol in Albany.Credit…Mike Groll/Associated Press
New York City’s $15 minimum wage, a trailblazer a few years ago, now trails other cities, a reality that has made higher prices all the more painful for workers. Minimum-wage earners would have to work a total of 111 hours to afford the monthly rent on a one-bedroom apartment, according to a survey released last month by United Way of the National Capital Area. That’s two weeks and almost four days — more than half a month — at 40 hours a week, well above the standard yardstick for how much someone should spend on housing. I asked Patrick McGeehan, who covers the New York economy, to discuss the minimum wage picture in New York.
The $15 minimum wage seemed almost ahead of its time when it took effect nearly four years ago. What happened?
Back in 2016, New York became one of the first states to put its minimum wage on a path to $15 an hour. It set a schedule of annual increases that brought New York City’s minimum wage for most workers to $15 at the end of 2018.
But that’s as far as the state law went, so it’s still at $15.
Meanwhile, other cities that indexed their minimum wages to account for inflation have gone past $15. In January, Seattle’s will go up to $18.69 and Denver’s will rise to $17.29.
I expected you to answer that question by saying “inflation is what happened.” Why wasn’t the raise in New York indexed for inflation?
Republicans in the state legislature, supported by business groups, balked at any mechanism to take the minimum wage higher than $15. If it had been set to rise along with the cost of living, as it is in some other states and cities, lawmakers in Albany might never have had to deal with the issue again.
Haven’t workers already fallen behind? Who has the power to raise it?
The pay of low-wage workers in New York City has lost about 15 percent of its buying power since the last mandated increase four years ago. A part-time Chipotle employee I interviewed, Alexchayanne Diaz-Larui, said his latest raise of 25 cents an hour did not keep pace with inflation. He said state lawmakers, who set the minimum wage, should raise it to at least $20 an hour.
State Senator Jessica Ramos, a Democrat from Queens, plans to reintroduce a bill to raise minimum wages across the state that would take the city’s minimum to $21.25 by 2026. Ramos said she did not know if Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has just been elected to her first full term in office, would support it. A spokeswoman for the governor pointed out that the state had announced an increase in the minimum wage upstate but declined to comment on the effort to raise it in the city.
But some workers are getting raises, aren’t they? How is that happening?
New York City did raise the pay of drivers for big ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft, but it did that by setting minimum per-trip payments to them. New York State raised the minimum wage for home care workers in the city and surrounding suburbs to $17 an hour in October. But a general increase would require an amendment to state law.
There’s a chance of rain this morning, and temperatures will reach the high 40s today. The evening will be partly cloudy, with a low in the high 30s.
In effect until Nov. 24 (Thanksgiving Day).
‘Significant economic headwinds’ and budget gaps loom
New York City’s fiscal outlook is darkening. With Mayor Eric Adams declaring that the city “faces significant economic headwinds,” City Hall is now projecting a combined budget gap of $13.4 billion for the next three years, up from the $12 billion it estimated in June.
My colleague Dana Rubinstein says the picture is worsening as Adams finishes his first year in charge of a city that is struggling to leave the pandemic behind. Mayors are often defined by major projects that demand significant spending commitments. But Adams finds himself trying to tighten the city’s belt, with only limited success.
In September, the mayor ordered city agencies to cut city-funded expenses by 3 percent this year and 4.75 percent next year. That trimmed the budget gap for the current fiscal year by $1 billion. But not every agency complied. The Department of Sanitation reached only 39 percent of its two-year savings targets, and police department reached only 41 percent, city officials said. The Fire Department hit 98 percent.
One program that is facing a cut of about $12 million is the Behavioral Health Emergency Assistance Response Division, or B-Heard, which dispatches mental health specialists in response to 911 calls. Officials said the program was not spending the money budgeted for it and could cover the same service area with fewer units.
Jordyn Rosenthal, the advocacy coordinator for Community Access, a supportive housing nonprofit, said the city was undermining the program.
“All of the trends are going in the wrong direction,” she said. “When the program first started, response times were under 14 minutes, and now they’re over 18 minutes. And potentially, why that is happening is that there are longer wait times because there aren’t enough teams to respond.”
The latest Metro news
Making it in New York: Faced with bureaucratic delays, tens of thousands of Venezuelan migrants are slipping into the city’s underground economy.
Bear hunting permitted: Starting next month, New Jersey will again allow hunters to use guns and bows to shoot bears on private and state-owned land.
Tent shelters: The city is dismantling an emergency migrant center on Randalls Island. Dozens of homeless men moved out, headed for a Manhattan hotel.
Giuliani: Federal prosecutors in Manhattan will not bring charges against Rudolph Giuliani in a long-running investigation into whether he violated lobbying laws.
A 25,000-seat soccer stadium across from Citi Field
New York City is getting its first professional soccer stadium.
Soccer officials and Mayor Eric Adams will announce the deal this morning. My colleagues Dana Rubinstein and Ken Belson write that it will give the New York City Football Club a 25,000-seat home of its own across from Citi Field in Queens, the home of the Mets. The team — which won its first Major League Soccer cup last year — has been playing at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. It will now move to Queens, playing most of its games at Citi Field until the new stadium is ready in 2027.
The stadium is one element of a larger project that includes a 250-room hotel and 2,500 below-market apartments, which city officials say will be the city’s largest development of affordable housing in several decades. The project amounts to Adams’s first major economic development initiative and comes as he prepares to close out his first year in office.
The team will pay for the construction of the stadium, in contrast to many stadium deals, including one for the Buffalo Bills negotiated by Gov. Kathy Hochul that provides about $900 million in public money. The New York City Football Club will also pay rent of as much as $4 million a year on the city-owned land in the Willets Point neighborhood. Subsidies for the project are largely limited to infrastructure improvements at the site, city officials said.
The stadium project will have to go through the city’s land review process, which sometimes hinges on support from the local City Council member — in this case, Francisco Moya, a Democrat from Corona, Queens, who is all for it. He has been pushing for a soccer stadium in Queens for years.
I boarded a flight from Miami to New York after a particularly depressing day and then spent the next three hours rehashing the awfulness of it all.
Miraculously, we arrived at La Guardia at 8 p.m., as scheduled. I practically crawled off the plane and made my way to a long taxi line. Eventually, it was my turn, and I got into a cab. After a minute or two, the driver asked if I liked music.
I said that I did, and he turned on the radio. When I said I was enjoying it, he suddenly cranked up the volume and a light show began.
The cab, I noticed, had a miniature disco ball hanging from the inside roof, and the driver had a cow bell that he was striking in time to the music.
The flashing inside and outside the cab created a spectacle that made other drivers we passed look at us with surprise and glee. Horns honked, thumbs went up and laughter ensued.
I sang, laughed and bounced joyfully all the way home. What started as one of the worst days of my life ended up as one of the best.
Thank you, Zach.
— Marjorie Purnick
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at email@example.com.