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Commentary By Seth Barron

De Blasio's Pre-School Plan Is Funded by a Fantasy Budget

Cities, Cities New York City, Tax & Budget

Mayor de Blasio announced another “historic” initiative Monday, promising to expand universal full-day pre-school to every 3-year-old in New York City by September 2021. The cost of implementing this plan, leaving aside technicalities such as finding space for tens of thousands of tots and training thousands of teachers to teach them, will come in somewhere in the area of $1.1 billion annually.

The city already spends $200 million on its EarlyLearn program (which has had its own challenges with declining enrollment) and plans to add another $177 million, to expand “3K for All” to another eight high-need districts. That leaves a mere $700 million for Albany and the federal government to cough up in order to fulfill Mayor de Blasio’s re-election campaign promise.

Will they pay up? The mayor isn’t too worried about that aspect of his plan. By 2021, he said, there will have been two congressional elections, as well as a presidential election. “We don’t know what we will be dealing with — could be very similar, could be very different,” mused the mayor. “We’re gonna hold out hope.”

Imagine a business owner announcing a massive expansion with no clear idea of where his financing is coming from — people would call him a conman, a liar or worse. But when an elected official presents schemes and dreams with no way to pay for them, he and his minions praise him as a visionary.

This isn’t the first time that Mayor de Blasio has built airy castles for our admiration. Recall his “100,000 good-paying jobs” plan, which is supposed to grow employment in New York City by 2.8 percent — over 10 years. The city’s robust private sector added 56,000 jobs in the last 12 months on its own, without special economic development projects in pet neighborhoods or subsidies to trendy industries.

Or how about the BQX streetcar plan that the mayor trumpeted last year, as a way to link Sunset Park to Astoria and make the dream of efficient waterfront transit a reality? At the time, de Blasio promised the streetcar would pay for itself 10 times over and create billions of dollars in added value. Now it turns out, according to a leaked memo, that the BQX faces much higher hurdles than were made public, and may never happen at all.

Even the mayor’s signature campaign promise — building more housing — is only stumbling along. Yes, he cajoled the City Council into passing new laws on zoning. But when it came to the gritty work of convincing neighborhoods to sign on to his plan, the so-called “community organizer” and “housing advocate” was nowhere to be seen: So far, only one neighborhood has been approved for new housing under the mayor’s grand rezoning plan.

Rushing an announcement to close Rikers Island to preempt a blue-ribbon commission’s report he claimed never to have seen, building 90 new homeless shelters supposedly to be paid for in part with federal and state funds, pie-in-the-sky plans to build a massive platform over Sunnyside Yards, constantly setting ever more utopian goals for reducing carbon emissions: Mayor de Blasio will never let reality get in the way of making grand promises.

This piece originally appeared in the New York Post


Seth Barron is associate edtior of City Journal and project director of the Manhattan Institute’s NYC Initiative.

This piece originally appeared in New York Post