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New Yorkers are feeling less satisfied and more uneasy today than they were only six years ago, according to a survey done by the Citizens Budget Commission.

The results of the CBC’s 2023 Resident Survey released March 19 reveals that Big Apple residents rate their quality of life much lower than they did in a 2017 poll.

Only 30% of New Yorkers rate the quality of life as excellent or good, down from 50% in polls done in 2017 and 2008, with one-third saying their quality of life was poor, according to the survey entitled “Straight from New Yorkers.”

“New Yorkers are feeling much less safe, with only 37% rating public safety in their neighborhood as excellent or good, down from 50% in 2017,” the CBC’s vice president for research Ana Champeny said in testimony before the City Council.

The CBC said the survey provides a comprehensive and statistically valid post-pandemic view into how New Yorkers feel about their quality of life and government services. The 2023 survey replicates the one the CBC did in 2017 and the city’s own poll done in 2008.

Can’t get no satisfaction
Only 37% rate public safety in their neighborhood as excellent or good, down from 50% in 2017. New Yorkers feel only marginally safer riding the subway during the day now as they felt on the subway at night in 2017.

Of households earning under $35,000 annually, 29% rated their quality of life excellent or good, slightly higher than those earning between $35,000 and $99,999, but lower than those earning over $100,000.

Households with income over $200,000 remained the most satisfied, with 45% rating quality of life as excellent or good.

Generally, New Yorkers felt better about their neighborhoods as a place to live in with 50% rating it as excellent or good.

However, New Yorkers generally say public safety in their neighborhood is low, with 37% rating it as excellent or good, down from 50% in 2017. Those rating public safety in their neighborhood as excellent or good range from 28% for Hispanics to 36% for Blacks and 47% for Whites.

The ratings of government services dropped by half, with 24% rating the quality of government services as good or excellent, down from 44% in 2017.

Still, over 50% of New Yorkers rate particular services as excellent or good, including fire protection, household garbage pickup, 311 and bus services.

Only 11% believe the government is spending tax dollars wisely, down from 21% in 2017.

“In reviewing resident survey data, it’s important to consider the context — coming out of the pandemic, employment just recently returning to pre-COVID levels, and increasing affordability challenges,” the CBC said. “What is clear, however, is that tremendous progress is needed in many areas, especially for certain populations and in certain neighborhoods.”

The CBC noted the city leadership’s priorities generally aligned with those of its residents, including safety, housing, and clean streets, parks and public spaces.

Escape from New York
The survey held a few surprises, said John Hallacy, founder of John Hallacy Consulting LLC, most notably in the area of satisfaction in the quality of city services.

“It was revealing to see that the rat control category [27.4%] scores higher than public housing [17.3%] or public transportation [12.6%],” Hallacy told The Bond Buyer.

But he said one thing was very clear — people are worried about their safety.

“Everyone is concerned about crime — that is quite clear,” he said. “Some 78,000 left the city last year. We know that there are myriad reasons for the trend. The study reveals that some of these factors may have contributed to this outcome. More improvement is essential.”

The city lost nearly 78,000 residents in 2023, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The exodus shrank the population to 8.26 million people, according to estimates released on March 14.

Only Manhattan saw a population rise, as it added 3,000 residents. Brooklyn lost 28,000 people, Queens lost 26,000 while the Bronx lost 25,000. The Census Bureau estimates don’t include the estimated 180,000 migrants that have arrived in the city since 2022. Statistics for Staten Island were not available.

In 2022, the city lost more than 126,000 residents. From April 2020 to July 2023, the city lost almost 550,000 residents, or more than 6% of its population.

There has been a marked decline in the public’s perception of safety, Ana Champeny, the CBC’s vice president for research, said in testimony before the City Council on March 20.

“New Yorkers are feeling much less safe, with only 37% rating public safety in their neighborhood as excellent or good, down from 50% in 2017,” she said, noting that “Hispanic respondents to the survey give the lowest rating, with 28% rating public safety as excellent or good; and in a borough breakdown, only 28% of Bronx residents rate their neighborhood public safety as excellent or good.”

New Yorkers in 2023 feel about as safe in the park during the day as they felt walking in their neighborhood at night in 2017, she said, adding that “71% of New Yorkers report feeling safe in parks and playgrounds during the day, the highest rated safety item on the survey — however, this is still a 16% decline from 2017.”

White and Asian residents rate daytime safety in parks and playgrounds higher at 81% and 78%, respectively, while 70% of Blacks and 58% of Hispanics felt safe or very safe in parks during the day.

Something wicked this way comes
The ratings on mass transit safety were sharply lower, however.

The rating of safety on the subway declined sharply from 2017, with a 40% drop in the daytime subway safety positive rating and a 52% decline in nighttime subway safety positive rating, the survey showed. 

Only 22% of those polled said they felt safe on the subway at night, however 49% reported feeling safe on the subway during the day. 

“Both the City Council and the Adams administration should incorporate this type of in-depth, statistically valid feedback into management systems and policy development,” Champeny said.

“This data should complement and be viewed alongside city service performance metric and CompStat data to get a sharper picture of service quality and results to help drive the needed progress,” she said.

The CBC surveyed 6,600 households covering all of New York’s neighborhoods, income brackets and race and ethnicities. They gave direct feedback on their priorities in response to specific questions and in rating various aspects of quality of life and many different services.

The city is one of the biggest issuers of municipal bonds in the nation. In the second quarter of fiscal 2024, the city had about $39.7 billion of GOs outstanding.

Additionally, the city’s Transitional Finance Authority has about $47.7 billion of debt outstanding as of the second quarter of fiscal 2024 while the Municipal Water Finance Authority has around $32.3 billion of outstanding debt.

The city’s general obligation bonds are rated Aa1 by Moody’s Ratings, AA by S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings and AA-plus by Kroll Bond Rating Agency.

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