Here's Why I Followed the NYC Mayoral Race When No One Else Did


Unlike many of my peers (and most New Yorkers), I've been following the NYC mayoral race closely since the beginning of the year, and not just because of Daily Intelligencer's entertaining commentary on The Racie for Gracie. The race to become the next mayor of New York City featured surprisingly substantive debates on issues that are important for every millennial living in New York City or planning to move there.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, an outspoken progressive Democrat, defeated Republican Joe Lhota in a landslide on Tuesday, largely due to his focus on issues relevant to millennials. Whether or not you support de Blasio, you can't deny he's managed to shine a spotlight on issues that make a difference in the daily lives of NYC's millennials.

Here are three millennial issues that mattered in this race:

1. Stop and Frisk

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio vaulted to the top of the pack of Democratic mayoral candidates this summer on the back of his support for reforming "stop and frisk," a controversial practice that allows the NYPD to stop and perform a frisk search of people they suspect may commit a crime. "Stop and frisk" disproportionately affects minority communities.

Young people are most likely to be affected by "stop and frisk" searches. A recent study by the Vera Institute of Justice found that 71% of young people living in high-crime areas had been frisked at least once, and nearly half had been stopped more than nine times.

"Stop and frisk" became a major issue in the NYC mayoral race, with Bill de Blasio proclaiming his support for reforming the practice and his Republican opponent Joe Lhota defending the practice.

2. Outer Boroughs

According to a profile in the Atlantic, "de Blasio has branded himself the candidate of the outer boroughs, channeling residents' resentment of the Manhattan-centric prosperity of the Bloomberg years."

While most new New Yorkers initially move to Manhattan, it's no secret that outer boroughs like Brooklyn and Queens have become millennial hotspots. The Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn all have lower median ages than Manhattan and Staten Island.

Both de Blasio and Lhota channeled significant effort into appealing to voters in the outer boroughs. 

As public advocate, de Blasio sought to highlight the challenges faced by businesses in the outer boroughs compared to those in Manhattan.

For his part, Lhota visited Staten Island three times as often as de Blasio did since the mayoral primary, seeking to shore up support in a traditionally Republican borough.

3. Income Inequality

Bill de Blasio staked his own mayoral candidacy around concerns about rising income inequality in NYC, in sharp contrast to outgoing billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg (although Bloomberg did heavily invest in anti-poverty programs).

From the outset, de Blasio framed his campaign around "a tale of two cities," appealing to concerns about the widening divide between the rich and the poor in New York. De Blasio has proposed raising taxes on the rich to pay for universal pre-kindergarten programs.

As Gothamist points out, "Regardless of whether you like de Blasio, he has turned the issue of income inequality into one of the most important points of his campaign, and started a much-needed conversation about the shrinking middle class, the increasing poverty rate, and lack of affordable housing."

Lhota countered de Blasio's concerns about inequality by emphasizing the importance of job creation to help raise the economic welfare of struggling New Yorkers.

As a whole, millennials have struggled with unemployment, crushing student loan debt, and high poverty rates. The mayoral race's focus on job creation and income inequality can make a difference in the lives of millennials living in NYC.