Mayor proposes financial help during crisis

October 30, 2008 7:53:36 AM PDT
To help New Yorkers weather the economic downturn, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday he wants to relax tax deadlines for some property owners and create a Web site for laid-off financial workers to provide job listings and other assistance. At a news conference at City Hall, Bloomberg outlined a series of immediate steps to ease the financial burden for New Yorkers struggling to deal with the upheaval on Wall Street.

"There will be no magic bullet or easy fixes," Bloomberg warned. But, he added, "We will survive this crisis."

Citing the precarious financial situation, Bloomberg recently declared that the city needs him to stick around for four more years and announced that he plans to run for re-election.

The billionaire businessman convinced the City Council to change the city's term-limits law so that he could do so, sticking to his argument that the financial emergency calls for his leadership and expertise.

Bloomberg has ordered agencies to cut spending by 2.5 percent this fiscal year and another 5 percent the following year to help bridge growing budget gaps.

The projected deficit for next fiscal year, which begins in July, is expected to be at least $3 billion when the city releases its latest figures next week.

In addition to calling for spending cuts, the mayor had also asked city departments to come up with ways to help individuals get through upcoming tough times.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Bloomberg said "the panic is probably over" in the financial markets, but he said the next wave is already being felt citywide as businesses feel the pain of fewer customers.

One way his administration intends to soften the blow is to help property owners with the payment schedules on their taxes.

Bloomberg wants to adjust the deadlines for properties valued at $250,000 or less so that property owners would pay smaller amounts once a quarter rather than large payments twice a year, as they do now. It would require council action to do so.

And while New York City has not seen the same rates of foreclosures as the rest of the nation, the administration is also planning to use $24 million in federal funding to purchase foreclosed properties and turn them into affordable housing.

The city is planning to launch a yearlong public awareness campaign to inform New Yorkers about how to take control of their finances, with a first phase focusing on dealing with debt.

Bloomberg also plans to create a Web site targeted for entry-level and mid-career professionals who have recently lost their jobs in financial services.

It would provide job listings, freelance consulting opportunities, help with health insurance, plus continuing education and training resources.

The city comptroller projected earlier this month that the city could lose 165,000 jobs over the next two years, including as many as 35,000 in the financial services industry.


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