Let’s take a close look at who’s whining about Bill de Blasio. It’s the usual suspects – right wingers, some developers, and representatives of the 1 percent, those who have had things their own way over the past two administrations. Their main complaint is that de Blasio – who has been mayor for about two months - is doing exactly what he said he’d do when he was running for mayor.
The mayor negotiated a deal on the Domino Sugar refinery site in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The developer agreed to increase the number of apartments affordable to New Yorkers with low and moderate incomes. He also agreed to increase the number of two and three bedroom apartments, which will accommodate more families than studios or one bedroom units. And those affordable apartments will remain affordable rather than reverting to market rate rents in the future. The developer will get a zoning change, allowing him to build up to 55 stories, about 20 stories higher than current zoning permits.
The mayor has been up to Albany to advocate for the funding of universal pre-k. This was one of his major issues during the mayoral campaign. Pre-k has been shown to be particularly important for young children from low-income households.
The mayor wants to fund pre-k and expand after school programs by raising taxes on wealthy New Yorkers. Governor Cuomo would rather make it part of his budget. But the budget is an annual document, subject to the whims of the Legislature and the economic situation. Raising taxes would ensure that pre-k was properly funded into the future.
De Blasio noted that the public schools are being shortchanged in the face of an expanding and competing charter school system. Those supporting charter schools are upset that de Blasio revoked $200 million in funding for charters and denied three charters space in public school buildings.
The original premise of the charter school movement - to be laboratories for innovation and “best practices” that could be replicated in the larger public school system – is a forgotten and unfulfilled promise. What we witnessed over the Bloomberg years was preferential treatment toward the charters in terms of access and resources, particularly for those backed by Wall Street dollars. The mayor campaigned on returning the focus to the other 95 percent of the students in the system.
Bill de Blasio ran as a progressive, but when progressives are appointed to positions in his administration, some people are alarmed. What did they think he was going to do – reverse his politics once in office?
An appointment that probably raised hackles among right wingers is that of Steven Banks as commissioner of the city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA). As the attorney in chief of the Legal Aid Society, Banks is a long-time advocate for low-income New Yorkers.
Over the past several years, the Community Service Society has advocated to increase opportunities for young people on public assistance to participate in full-time education programs. HRA policy blocked this. We look forward to a reversal of this policy by a leadership that sees HRA’s role as helping those in need, not punishing them.
For many years, $75 million annually out of the New York City Housing Authority’s inadequate operating subsidy went for police services. The mayor ended that in his preliminary budget. Now that money will now be retained by NYCHA for operations and repairs.
Also, Mayor de Blasio has followed through on dropping the city’s appeal on the stop-and-frisk case, keeping another campaign promise. He maintains that the correct usage of stop-and-frisk should be within the bounds of the Constitution.
Mayor de Blasio was given a mandate by the voters. So far, he’s acting on it just as he said he would.