A civic engagement group called NYC Speaks released results on Tuesday of what was being billed as New York City’s largest-ever policy survey.
Officials said that 62,000 respondents offered their opinions on a range of issues from public safety and infrastructure to education and racial equity. In one of the more revealing findings, adults who were asked to pick three public safety priorities chose affordable housing and reducing homelessness most often.
Those priorities were followed by sending “trained mental health first responders instead of police officers” to those experiencing a mental health crisis. Increasing “the number and presence of police officers in the community” was the third most-often selected response.
Spearheaded by the Adams administration, the $2 million effort, which includes future civic engagement around the survey findings, is being funded by philanthropic groups that include the Ford and Robin Hood Foundations.
The results of the survey, which was intended to give communities input on policy making, are being publicized as Mayor Eric Adams approaches 100 days in office. In that time, the Democrat has taken a more aggressive approach to policing and ordered a crackdown on street homelessness, both of which have sparked criticism from advocates and progressives.
Adams has also sought to tackle the root causes of crime by increasing funding for summer youth jobs by 50% and pushing for the expansion of the earned income tax credit program, two policies that experts said will help poor New Yorkers.
The 87-page report on the findings and the data was first shared with Gothamist ahead of its public release on Tuesday. HR&A Advisors, a consulting group, coordinated with 80 community leaders to help craft survey questions. In addition to the report, raw data from adults surveyed has been made available on a website where users can filter on location and other demographic categories.
As part of the unprecedented outreach effort, the survey group engaged 18 community-based organizations that helped with door-knocking campaigns in all five boroughs as well as the education department, which administered the survey to 18,000 youth respondents aged 14 to 17, and the public library system. The survey was also distributed through email blasts.
As required under a city law, the 27-question survey was translated into 10 foreign languages spoken in New York City.
Organizers credited Adams with being the impetus for the survey.
“Eric Adams often said that he was the blue collar candidate,” said Dr. Shango Blake, the co-executive director of NYC Speaks. “And he really leaned in on wanting to work collaboratively with New Yorkers around solving the problems of New York.”
Sheena Wright, the city’s deputy mayor for strategic initiatives who spearheaded Adam’s transition team, said the findings from the survey will be used to shape policy.
“This community-generated data will be used to inform the City’s Strategic Plan and will help build lasting infrastructure to ensure civic engagement is integrated into all the work we do,” Wright said in a statement.
“We are excited to work with the diverse New Yorkers that make up our city to co-design policies and priorities that serve all New Yorkers,” she said.
The survey also captured differing priorities according to race and income.
For example, Asian adult respondents who earn less than $35,000 a year most often cited increasing police presence when asked how city government could make their neighborhoods feel safe.
On the issue of public transit, white New Yorkers most frequently picked better maintained subways and buses, while Black New Yorkers favored “feeling safer while riding public transit.” Black and Hispanic New Yorkers were also found to prioritize investment in roads over mass transit and were also least interested in closing streets to pedestrians, according to the report.
In an example of differing priorities between generations, adults surveyed cited the creation of recreation centers as a top priority, while teens said they would most like to see high speed internet in their neighborhoods.
John Mollenkopf, director of the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York Graduate Center who has worked on surveys with the city, praised the effort.
“I've been advocating for decades that the city create an ongoing panel survey with a large sample to understand what people's concerns were, what their experiences with public services were and what their life situations were like,” he said.
Although the survey is now complete, the initiative is not over. José Serrano-McClain, co-executive director of NYC Speaks who is also a partner at HR&A Advisors, said the group is now planning the next phase, which will present the data to residents at 100 events across the city, with an eye toward underrepresented communities.
The goal is to spur conversations among New Yorkers about what kind of policies they want to see from the Adams administration, Serrano-McClain said.
“We are doing something that almost never happens, which is that we are bringing this data back into those communities,” he said.
An earlier version of this story misstated the number of community organizations that helped in the outreach campaign. Also, the survey was designed with the help of 80 community leaders, not groups.