Press Releases February 27, 2024

5BORO Institute Releases Major Report on Child Care in New York City

New York, NY – Today, the 5BORO Institute released a major new report focused on strengthening child care in New York City and improving access and affordability for families. The report, Investing in families and our future: A policy roadmap to address New York City’s child care needs now, lays out the crisis facing our current child care system in NYC and calls on our leaders to implement policy changes that will benefit families, providers, and our city at large. 

To have a thriving economy that encourages young families to live and work in New York, our city needs accessible, high-quality child care for children under five. And yet, quality child care is far too often inaccessible, as licensed child care seats exist for less than half of NYC children under the age of five. It is also unaffordable, with more than 80% of New Yorkers unable to afford care for even one child. Despite the high fees that families are paying, child care providers are struggling to raise enough revenue to survive; there are 1,400 fewer child care providers in the city now than in 2015. 

This is not just a problem for child care workers or families. Failing to address this crisis will have lasting ramifications for our city: in 2022 alone, the city is estimated to have lost $23 billion in economic activity as a result of parents leaving the workforce or downshifting careers to meet child care needs. This is leading to an exodus of young families, and especially young Black families, who can no longer afford to raise their children here. Losing families hurts our city’s future – there are economic impacts, like a decline in public school enrollment and funding and a decreased tax base – but also more fundamental challenges, as New York becomes a city for the wealthy and no longer one for the middle and working class.

Ultimately, the best policy answer is a system that guarantees free or low-cost high-quality child care for all families. While we cannot shy away from the fact that universal child care would be expensive, we also cannot ignore the fact that our city is already bearing heavy costs because of a lacking child care infrastructure. 

As outlined in this new report, there are steps the city can and must take today to lay the foundation for a future with universal child care; these are also steps within the city’s power to pursue that would immediately benefit families and child care providers. The city must also act to address challenges facing its existing publicly-funded child care and early childhood education system, including the 3-K and Pre-K program. Failing to support and stabilize existing services would compromise the limited safety net we have in place. 

This report calls on the city to:

  • Shore up the city’s existing child care infrastructure with streamlined governance, focused efforts to fill vacancies in key city functions that support child care, and improvements in core operations
  • Connect more families to care with a reinvigorated outreach campaign and more accessible information about care options
  • Expand and simplify access to free and low-cost care in partnership with the state
  • Make it easier for child care providers to do business by making it easier for providers to obtain and maintain the necessary permits to operate, easing regulatory burdens, and providing more direct operational and business support
  • Bolster the child care workforce by supporting current child care workers and growing the pipeline for the future
  • Create more physical space for child care by supporting the development of new child care spaces and adaptation of existing spaces, including the potential to repurpose vacant public school space
  • Bring employers into the conversation and encourage them to take steps that would benefit their employees’ child care needs

5BORO is hardly the first group to speak out on this topic – dedicated child care policy advocates and child care providers have been raising attention to these issues for years. 5BORO is proud to lift up many of their ideas in this paper. However, with this paper, 5BORO hopes to bring something new to this conversation by offering a solutions orientation; setting both a long-term vision and defining specific actions that policymakers can take now; and leveraging the insight and expertise of child care experts and advocates, as well as stakeholders who are not normally part of this discussion, including business community leaders, the real estate industry, and others in the private sector. Innovation and investment are required to fix our biggest challenges, and this report does not shy away from this reality, but there is work that policymakers can start to do right now. With this paper, 5BORO has identified policies that are low or no cost, implementable, and backed by evidence of success from other cities. 

Fixing child care in New York City will take a broad coalition – 5BORO’s latest report aims to bring new allies to the table and give city leaders renewed inspiration to take action. 

“The future of our city depends on the availability of affordable, high-quality child care,” said Grace Rauh, Executive Director at the 5BORO Institute. “5BORO’s new report highlights the challenges we face today, but more importantly, identifies real solutions that city leaders can implement now to begin building a better child care system for New York. We look forward to partnering with leaders in government and across sectors to turn this roadmap into reality.” 

“High-quality, accessible, and affordable childcare is not only critical to the cognitive and intellectual development of our children, but to ensuring New York City remains a place where families and business can thrive,” said Richard R. Buery, Jr., CEO of Robin Hood, New York City’s largest poverty-fighting philanthropy. “We fully support the recommendations made in the 5BORO Institute’s child care policy report.  As a city, we are at an inflection point.  We need our leaders to act now to expand access to quality child care and pay the people who do this critical work the living wages they deserve.”

“We know one of the greatest challenges facing working families today is the ability to find and afford quality child care,” said Henry Garrido, Executive Director of District Council 37 and 5BORO Board Member. “From our nonprofit and private sector members who work in child care centers and need a living wage, to those who rely on accessible day care options while they carry out their service to the City of New York, it’s clear the system has failed caregivers and children alike. 5BORO’s report is a roadmap for commonsense solutions that require collaboration and commitment across sectors, and DC 37 is proud to advocate for these changes on behalf of our membership.” 

“Increasing access to affordable, high quality child care will play a critical role in attracting and retaining residents and jobs for New York City,” said Maya Kurien, REBNY Vice President of Advocacy and 5BORO Board Member. “Public officials must take action to help providers expand locations and operations to better serve the needs of New York City families.”

“Access to affordable childcare is critical for today’s workforce; without it, we risk losing the top talent we need to grow our local economy,” said Jessica Walker, President and CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and 5BORO Board Member. “The changes outlined in this report will help attract and retain the middle- and working-class residents we need to keep New York inclusive and strong.”

“5BORO’s new report draws attention to a critical but often overlooked issue preventing New York from reaching its full potential: the dire condition of New York City’s child care infrastructure,” said Julie Samuels, President & CEO of Tech:NYC and 5BORO Board Member. “New York’s tech sector is committed to building a workforce that reflects the city more broadly. To do that, we need to ensure that new families have the support needed to live and work here — including robust childcare options. We encourage the City to heed the recommendations outlined in the report, including streamlined rules for providers to obtain the permits necessary to operate in the city and expanded investments in free and low-cost care.”

“New York City has made great strides towards a universal early childhood education system,” said Susan Stamler, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses. “In this moment, with childhood poverty rates rising and so many families deciding to leave New York City as it becomes less affordable, it is essential that we continue that momentum. This roadmap from 5BORO Institute offers clear solutions to the barriers that have held us back.”

“It is well proven that early care and education is a critical resource for families, providing young children with essential developmental and educational supports while their parents maintain connections to the workforce offering economic stability and mobility,” said Jennifer March, Executive Director of Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. “We applaud the analysis and recommendations advanced by the 5BORO Institute.  There is no question that protecting investments in and expanding access to early care and education must be prioritized to lay the foundation for a universal system that meets the needs of young children and their families.” 

“New York’s child care system, or lack of, isn’t working for anyone,” said Rebecca Bailin, Executive Director of New Yorkers United for Child Care. “As 5BORO’s comprehensive report demonstrates, the only real solution is public investment in universal child care. And that starts with reversing cuts to our city’s 3-K and Pre-K for All. Investing in free child care for all is good for families, good for our economy, good for business and good for New York. As a grassroots organization made up of parents and would-be parents, we look forward to working together with 5BORO for affordable and quality child care so New York City can be a great place to live for families.”

Read the report at


About 5BORO Institute

The 5BORO Institute is a cutting-edge, action-oriented think tank advancing creative solutions to strengthen New York City. We exist to solve New York City’s most challenging problems. We believe our city must remain vibrant, dynamic, and diverse — a home for New Yorkers to thrive in and a destination for dreamers, strivers, immigrants, and innovators.

We partner with policymakers, government agencies, and community leaders to tackle complex issues with innovative thinking on behalf of New Yorkers. To ensure our ideas lead to action, we make accessible research, develop clear roadmaps, and work with New Yorkers to build support. Our diverse issue interests include governance, housing, climate, child care, and mental health. In the last year, we have released major reports on housing and the government workforce in NYC, and have been vocal on other topics impacting New Yorkers, including support for migrants and preparing for the threats of climate change. As with our previous reports, the goal of our child care report is to catalyze cross-sector dialogue about real solutions to the challenges facing our city today. 

Learn more about 5BORO Institute at

This report was co-authored by Grace Rauh, Executive Director at 5BORO Institute, and Emmy Liss, 5BORO Child Care Policy Advisor. Emmy Liss worked for the NYC Department of Education from 2015-2022 and served as the Chief Operating Officer for the Division of Early Childhood Education with oversight of the city’s 3-K and Pre-K programs. She currently consults with government leaders and other organizations tackling challenges in early care and education and does related writing and research work. The report was edited by Tasfia Nayem, 5BORO Chief of Staff.