The de Blasio era has passed its halfway point and the city is doing well in many fundamental ways but there remains an undercurrent of doubt and opposition amongst the citizenry that will not go away. A recent Marist College poll pegged his approval rating at 38 percent, a new low, while many citizens surveyed said that he did not deserve reelection.
However, in New York City, crime is down and tax revenues are up. Mr. de Blasio managed to resolve the long-ignored contracts that municipal unions were denied by Mayor Bloomberg. Mr. de Blasio selected a union-friendly and teacher-friendly chancellor, Carmen Fariña, a DOE veteran, to head the Department of Education. He convinced her to come out of retirement to steer the DOE toward better education and away from the Bloomberg bottom line.
Mr. de Blasio has addressed the issues of crime and the homeless, and filled more potholes than his predecessor. The Department of Transportation repaired 460,493 potholes last year, which was a 78 percent increase over the last year of the Bloomberg era. So why is the administration suffering “slings and arrows” instead of being blanketed with laurel leaves?
Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries, said, “[A] perception … at a minimum … that the administration is not as engaged in the running of the city as it should be and in some areas has lost control” has cost the mayor support with the citizens of the city. He committed errors of political judgment when handling law enforcement issues. He believes that he was elected to do “big” things and he has succeeded in doing big things like preserving affordable housing units, ending the stop-and-frisk policy and delivering universal pre-K program as promised.
Mr de Blasio blames the perception of poor performance to his opposition which consists of powerful interest groups that are threatened by his agenda. However, his agenda and the way he works alienated Governor Cuomo and turned off regular New Yorkers who don’t mind ideological ideals as long as they are balanced with plain talk and practical politics. The mayor’s strident idealism makes the people think that he is out of touch and obsessed with the latest national issue when he should be making New York a safer and more affordable place.
He recently hosted a gathering of political “gray panthers” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the election of Mayor John Lindsay, a progressive reform mayor with national ambitions who is remembered for his failure to control the city and for the Great Blackout. Mr. de Blasio said, “We know of Mayor Lindsay’s extraordinary contributions to harmony and to the possibility of a city where everyone really could live together. It’s important to honor that history. Whether it is the conventional wisdom or not, it is the truth.”
It would be wise to incorporate a good dose of conventional wisdom with extraordinary contribution to harmony.
Every issue cannot be resolved with an additional program or taxpayer money.
The mayor’s plan to have the Blackstone Group, a private investment firm set to purchase Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan, set aside affordable housing units cost the city $225 million in subsidies. In return, 5,000 apartments or almost 50 percent of the units would be kept “affordable” for the next 20 years.
That means a family of three earning $128,000 a year can get a two-bedroom apartment in Stuy Town for $3,200 a month. That is not affordable for middle class and working class New Yorkers. It cost the city a lot of money.
Mr. de Blasio is an articulate and capable spokesperson for people in need but he must also take practical action and remove the homeless from the sidewalks and subway cars and get our subways to run on time and preserve our public housing. The mayor recently pushed a plan for quality and affordability through zoning but that plan needs more work.
Mayor de Blasio enjoys a strong base of support within the Democratic Party and is a leader who will work to bring social justice to the city. He needs to be able to work with Mr. Cuomo to get the most for the city from Albany which traditionally shortchanges the five boroughs. We cannot afford to wage war with our state government. He can use the New Year to streamline his agenda and work on his message so that the people will know that he can and will do what is best for them at all times.
Happy New Year.