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As City Planning report points to inadequate regional housing and transportation, a reminder of the mayor's limited power to address inequality

A new report from the Department of City Planning, The Geography of Jobs (also at bottom), describes the challenges posed by inadequate housing and transportation systems, analyzing trends since 2000.

The overview:
One-fifth of NYC’s workforce lives outside the city, representing a dynamic flow of incommuters traveling to work in all five boroughs. 80% of the 4.7 million people employed within NYC live within the five boroughs. The other 20%, representing nearly 1 million workers, are housed outside of the city, elsewhere in the Region (“incommuters”). Manhattan, the Region’s densest employment center, is geographically central to the Region’s labor market and supported by a wide range of transportation infrastructure specifically designed for core access. So, it is no surprise that the majority of in-commuters from the Region are traveling to jobs in Manhattan. However, there are also strong commuter relationships between other NYC boroughs and their geographic neighbors. Notably, two-thirds of NYC in-commuters from the Region who work in the Bronx reside in the Hudson Valley, and Long Island residents are as likely to commute to other NYC boroughs (combined) as they are to travel to Manhattan. There are also nearly 300,000 NYC residents who commute out from the city to jobs located in the Region (“out-commuters”), representing 7% of employed NYC residents. Bronx and Queens residents represent the largest shares of NYC outcommuters.
The report contains four major insights, which I'll summarize.

First: NYC as jobs center

From the report:
INSIGHT ONE: Employment growth continued to concentrate in NYC and job gains in all five boroughs drove the Region’s growth after the Great Recession. Though job growth slowed in the last few years, NYC continued to outpace all other parts of the Region.
Brooklyn, the report notes, "grew private sector employment quickest in the Region (+4.5% per year)," which is four times the national average since the 2008 Great Recession.

Second: some sectors thrive

From the report:
INSIGHT TWO: The Region experienced varied growth across sectors. Office gains—the highest value employment—concentrated in NYC, while institutional sectors served as the largest source of employment and wage growth elsewhere in the Region. Industrial and local services sectors supported economic gains after the Great Recession, but that growth is slowing.
Office employment has shifted away from finance and insurance, toward sectors like information. Since the Great Recession, Manhattan added 142,600 office jobs, while Brooklyn added 31,200--though I'd be surprised if those are net gains rather than new jobs replacing departed ones. (Did Brooklyn really add space for 31,200 office jobs?)

Another area of growth is institutional: education and healthcare jobs. Brooklyn has added more than 100,000 such jobs since 2008, a growth rate of 5% per year.

Industrial employment has declined over the last two decades, but there's been modest job growth since 2012, with jobs in the transportation and warehousing (delivery!) and construction sectors on the upswing, with manufacturing still in decline.

Services employment has grown steadily, especially in leisure and hospitality, notably accommodations and food services. "NYC captured 56% of the job gains in the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector, mostly in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as changing consumer habits and increased tourism fueled growth," according to the report.

Third: NYC a magnet for the young

From the report:
INSIGHT THREE: NYC gained young workers, while the rest of the Region’s labor force is aging. NYC and North NJ account for most of the Region’s new housing development, particularly post-Great Recession. Areas gaining labor force correlate with areas adding housing.
Outside the city, only areas nearby or on commuter rail corridors was there growth. Brooklyn gained the most younger workers (94,400), growing at a rate of 11%.

Though nearly 458,000 new housing units were permitted in the Region from 2009 to 2018, that represents only a 5% growth rate. New York City accounted for 43% of units permitted (197,000), while northern New Jersey accounted for 40% (183,000). Growth was mainly in buildings with five or more units:
This suggests a post-Great Recession trend toward housing production in locations where land is more expensive, and in building types that are more costly to construct, with less housing production overall.
Fourth: an imbalanced region

From the report:
INSIGHT FOUR: Shifts in the geography of job growth, housing production, and resident labor force change are tipping the balance of employment and housing within the Region, with implications for affordability, commuting patterns, and transportation infrastructure.
Since regional housing supply has not kept up with job growth, that should "eighten affordability challenges and create headwinds to further business growth," according to the report. New York City has adding 362,900 more net new jobs than new housing units in two decades.

Northern New Jersey, by contrast, produced more units than jobs, "which has implications for trans-Hudson commuting." On Long Island, "employment gains exceeded housing production."

A warning:
While this symbiotic relationship enables the city and Region to grow, and meet the needs of its residents and businesses, recent changes in the housing/jobs balance and commuting patterns increase the strain on transportation networks. The characteristics and geographic patterns of recent growth highlight the importance of the Region’s transit infrastructure and have significant implications for prospective long-term investments. The addition of jobs as well as housing in highly accessible, transit-oriented locations outside the city (and the Manhattan core) offers an opportunity to relieve pressure on transit networks while improving access to job opportunities for the rest of the Region.
In other words, it's regional.

A macro issue

The report made me think of a 9/30/19 article in City and State by Ben Adler, headlined The least powerful man in New York, subtitled "Bill de Blasio promised to end inequality. He didn’t. But a mayor never could."

Calling de Blasio’s mayoralty "largely successful," given economic growth, universal pre-K, and generally low crime, Adler suggests that frustration with the mayor largely does not concern issues like ethics or his gym commutes:
So here’s a different explanation: When it comes to his core promise of reducing inequality and unaffordability, de Blasio is seen as unsuccessful because he has been unsuccessful. In 2013, when de Blasio ran for mayor complaining of the “tale of two cities,” a household at the city’s 80th percentile of income earned 6.2 times what a household at the 20th percentile did. In 2017, the last year for which data was available, that inequality ratio had risen to 6.7 times, according to the NYU Furman Center’s analysis of American Community Survey data. In September, the Manhattan Institute noted that the city’s Gini coefficient – the most widely used measure of income inequality – had also increased slightly during de Blasio’s tenure.
Though de Blasio picked a good issue to run on--the "tale of two cities"--the issues, Adler points out, are regional:
The city government lacks the power to take money from rich people and give it to or spend it on the poor, to dictate where suburbanites or private-school parents send their kids to school, or to force localities across the region to provide their fair share of affordable housing. The city cannot raise taxes without the state government’s approval, and it therefore cannot raise the funds to, for instance, embark on constructing the 181,000 units of new public housing that would be needed to house everyone on the system’s waiting list. Indeed, the city can’t even raise the revenue necessary to properly maintain its current public housing stock.
Maybe he should have set his sites on the governorship, not the presidency.

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