The Other New York • Comments by Victor Gotbaum, Executive Director, District Council 37, A.F.S.C.M.

The Other New York • Comments by Victor Gotbaum, Executive Director, District Council 37, A.F.S.C.M.

The old theme notwithstanding, it’s not East side-West side that separates New Yorkers.

It’s inside and outside. Inside meaning those residents who depend on the city to provide their basic services: health, education, housing, child-care, income, recreation and other special services. The outside population lives in or commutes to the city, earns its income here, enjoys the cultural and other advantages, but can afford to take care of itself. It shops anywhere for options.

The distinction is economic. You don’t sit in municipal clinics if you can afford a private doctor. You don’t put your kid on a waiting list for a preschool program in the park if you can enroll the child in a nursery immediately.

We all note New York’s remarkable progress toward fiscal health. But the inside population has paid the heaviest price for this progress. Budget cuts have been slicing directly into the quality of their lives for the past five years. They wait longer to see doctors, to fill prescriptions. Their children’s class sizes are larger. Support and guidance services that used to help the ambitious poor and the infirm poor have been eliminated, or are overrun by increased demand and decreased staff.

A university system that educated waves of immigrants’ children free now charges for tuition.

The standard of living for 800,000 people on welfare goes down monthly as prices outdistance their checks.

The real separation in the city is personal. You’re one or the other. A have or a have-not.

It used to be that the poorest, most recently arrived New Yorkers could realistically hope that they or their children would move up. Humble origins were a badge of honor in this town. It’s not the same any more. It gets harder and harder for the inside population to move out of their poverty and they know it. Times are more complex. The sweat of your
brow is no guarantee any more.