- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Bill de Blasio, who was elected mayor on a promise to fight New York City’s income inequality gap, said Thursday that new data indicating Manhattan is the most economically stratified place in the nation is further proof of the “crisis” that threatens his city.

Manhattan’s top five percent of households earn 88 times as much as the poorest 20 percent, according to data released by the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. That gap, which translates to more than $860,000, is the largest in the nation.

About 1.7 million of the city’s 8.4 million residents live below the poverty line, according to the data from 2013, the final year of ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term.

“It’s not an acceptable state of affairs,” de Blasio said after an unrelated event in the Bronx. “It’s something we have to grapple with.”

De Blasio’s underdog campaign struck a chord last year with many poor of working-class voters who felt forgotten by what they believed were Bloomberg’s Wall Street-centric policies.

De Blasio, a Democrat, touted his administration’s early steps to fight the problem, including approving paid sick day legislation, establishing free universal pre-kindergarten and proposing a higher minimum wage for city residents. He also said he believes that more and more elected and civic leaders believe that the inequality gap poses a threat to all.

“We have an inequality crisis in this city,” he said. “We have an inequality crisis in this nation. If we don’t address it, it is at our peril.”

But while he said his administration has used “every tool available to local government” to combat the problem, he needs help from Washington, particularly in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

“The big missing link here is we need a federal government committed to addressing income inequality,” the mayor said. “We don’t have it now. If we don’t have a Congress willing to take on this issue, it will undermine this nation.”

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