Grace Rauh, NY1 News
One in five New Yorkers was living below the poverty line in 2010, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
"There is a worldwide recession. It's certainly hurt the country. It hurts New York," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The numbers are on the rise. Last year, 20.1 percent of New Yorkers were living in poverty. In 2009, it was 18.7 percent.
Nationally, poverty is a growing problem as well, but the rate is not as high as the one in the five boroughs. Last year, 15.1 percent of Americans lived in poverty, up from 14.3 percent in 2009.
The mayor tried to defend the city's anti-poverty programs in the face of the new figures.
"New York City does have one of the strongest social safety nets in the country," said Bloomberg.
Thirty percent of all children in the city were living in poverty in 2010, along with 27.9 percent of Hispanic New Yorkers and 23 percent of black New Yorkers.
"It's really, really bad, but there are things that we can do," said Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams. "And that's what frustrates me. I don't think the mayor is using the tools that he has as well as he should."
Some New Yorkers are taking aim at City Hall in light of the new numbers. They say that the rise in the city's poverty rate means it is high time to adopt what is known as the "living wage bill." The legislation would set a higher minimum wage for projects that receive city subsidies.
"These numbers show that the administration has been implementing failed policies that reward developers and corporations while forcing poverty wage jobs on the general public," says Ademola Oyefeso of the RWDSU/Living Wage NYC Coalition.
Administration officials say they have studied the legislation and project that while it would have a small impact on wages, it would come at a price.
"And likely in New York, that price would probably be several thousand people, also among the most vulnerable, who would likely lose their jobs," says Seth Pinsky of the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
As far as City Hall is concerned, there are more effective ways to give vulnerable New Yorkers a leg up.