Hunger and Historic Inequality as New Yorkers Hope for a “Sandy Stimulus”

Boat in the streets of Broad Channel, Queens, NYC
Boat in the streets of Broad Channel, Queens, NYC

Boat in the streets of Broad Channel, Queens, New York. (Photo: Nick Berkowitz/CC/Flickr)

Like everyone else, New York City has seen the economic down turn hit the working classes at an unrelenting rate. The Food Bank for New York City recently released a report showing just how bad wide-spread hunger has gotten throughout the city.

since 2007, the size of the City’s emergency food network has shrunk by 25 percent, forcing food pantries and soup kitchens to stretch their resources in order to cope with an increase in demand as a result of the Great Recession. More than three-quarters of food pantries and soup kitchens reported that the number of New Yorkers coming to them for relief increased over the previous 12 months, forcing many food pantries and soup kitchens to turn away hungry New Yorkers due to food shortages.

According to the report, 63 percent of food pantries and soup kitchens reported they have run out of food to produce adequate pantry bags or nutritious meals at some point during the previous 12 months, up from 40 percent in 2007. Additionally, while the number of food pantries and soup kitchens reporting they turned participants away has remained similar to 2007 levels, 83 percent reported in 2012 that a lack of food is the main cause compared to 70 percent in 2007.

(read the full report here)

Meanwhile, a report released last week by the Fiscal Policy Institute found historic economic inequality throughout New York City.

A new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute shows that various income measures all point toward the same conclusions:  In recent years, polarization has intensified; and New York has been one of the national leaders in this undesirable trend. The top one percent share of income dipped during the recession, but has started to rise again in the recovery. Further, no state is more polarized than New York and no large city is more polarized than New York City, (using the broadest measure of income polarization, the Gini index, as estimated by the US Census Bureau).

As residents cope with not only an economy but a city, in shambles, around 1.8 million New Yorkers are currently claiming food stamps. As the city's barbell economy has left the working classes out of the loop, many are hoping what locals have started dubbing the "Sandy Stimulus." The state is hiring approximately 5,000 temporary workers as part of a clean up effort with Governor Cuomo requesting over $40 billion in federal recovery money, and Mayor Bloomberg reportedly requesting $9 billion in federal aid for Sandy related recovery. As the Gothamist reports

With so much damage done, the private sector is also scrambling to rebuild after the storm. And according to at least one economic group "reconstruction and related purchases and hiring may range from $140 billion to $240 billion and increase US economic growth by 0.5 percentage point next year, assuming $50 billion in losses."

The city's booms often leave middle and working class New Yorkers out of the picture, and Sandy itself only illustrated that further. As the city, state and local businesses recover from Sandy (and brace for new climate change realities), New York City once more has an opportunity to reshape itself, hopefully with all of us in mind this time around.

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