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The latest unsolvable problem on Mr. Bloomberg’s agenda is poverty. Despite the city’s admirable economic recovery since 9/11, with incomes rising faster for New Yorkers than the rest of the country, chronic poverty remains and is growing. Perhaps the most distressing figure: Some 30 percent of the city’s two million children are living in poverty. Thousands of children still sleep in homeless shelters on any given night. These statistics conjure images not of a big-hearted, progressive city, but of Dickensian London.
 
To try to put an end to this madness, Mayor Bloomberg has created the Commission for Economic Opportunity, led by Time Warner chairman Richard Parsons and Geoffrey Canada, creator of the respected nonprofit Harlem Children’s Zone. The commission is comprised of well-known, philanthropy-minded New Yorkers such as William Rudin and Merryl Tisch, as well as academics and former government officials. Overseen by Linda Gibbs, the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, the commission aims to get to the roots of unemployment—specifically, to work out ways that City Hall can aggressively create conditions that make it easier for adults to find steady and lasting work. The commission’s members have been analyzing data, visiting social-service centers and talking with experts. A full report is due soon.
 
The proof, of course, will come over the next several months, as the city tries to implement the fruits of the commission’s labor.
 
 
New York, College Town
 
New York is now the nation’s largest importer of college students, according to statistics which show that among freshmen who leave their home states to attend college, more come to New York than any other state, including California.
 
It wasn’t always so. As recently as 1992, New York had to share that title with Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Since then, New York has experienced a surge in enrollment, led by the startling success of New York City, which is home to more college students than any other city in the nation, even Boston. For example, for the past three years, when the Princeton Review asked high-school seniors, “What ‘dream college’ would you most like to attend, were prospects of acceptance or cost not issues?”, more chose New York University than Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Brown, Columbia, Duke or Cornell.
 


Driven by the city’s success, institutions of higher learning located around the state and on Long Island have also benefited from increased enrollment. With luck and planning, cities such as Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo can emulate the city’s success in retaining graduates after their four years are up. Private universities are one of the upstate region’s largest and fastest-growing employers; private higher education contributes an estimated $21 billion to the state’s economy.
 
New York’s status as the country’s most sought-after destination for collegians is no accident. Smart municipal government has transformed New York City into the place where the best and the brightest yearn to be.

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This column ran on page 4 in the 7/24/2006 edition of The New York Observer.

 
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