In 25 years, Bill de Blasio has a good chance of being David Dinkins: a mayor of New York who is better remembered than he looked when he left office.
There would be considerable irony, or perhaps symmetry, in that trajectory. De Blasio, whose two terms as mayor end at midnight on Dec. 31, had his first real job in politics as a 29-year-old junior assistant to Mayor Dinkins. It was a crucial time for de Blasio, both personally and professionally: At City Hall, he met the woman he wanted to marry, Chirlane McCray, and he had a seat in the front row to what was commonly perceived at the time as a failed mayoralty. A few decades later, however, Dinkins finally got the credit for beginning to turn around the city’s crime wave, and his personal decency in the face of racist attacks now rightly occupies a larger portion of his legacy as New York’s first black mayor.
Maybe de Blasio does not have to wait that long for a reputation renewal; some free reviews are already appearing. De Blasio’s successful longshot campaign in 2013 had two major themes – that he would be a populist antidote to 12 years with the empire. Michael Bloomberg, and that he would narrow the city’s gigantic income inequality gap. On the other front, some data suggest that de Blasio delivered. His first, and still greatest, political victory, the creation of universal kindergarten, was an important part of his push for a multi-billion-dollar wealth transfer to working-class New Yorkers. “For societies like mine, any move in the right direction of education means that we can potentially level the playing field,” he said. Robert Cornegy Jr., a city council member from central Brooklyn.
De Blasio also pushed for raising the minimum wage, extending paid sick leave and freezing rents. “When you think about the increases in benefits for working families, the increased number of contracts for women and minority-owned companies – it’s all part of an economic justice platform, and he achieved that,” he says. Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, a state legislator from Brooklyn and one of de Blasio’s most consistent supporters. There would be even more on the ledger, claim the Blasio loyalists, whose governor Andrew Cuomo had not undercut the mayor on any occasion. “The people of New York City didn’t get a lot of shit they should have gotten because of him,” he says Peter Ragone, a former Cuomo agent became tenacious de Blasio adviser.
It is true that Cuomo was de Blasio’s worst and most powerful enemy. But the mayor stumbled many times all alone. ThriveNYC, a mental health initiative run by McCray, was a billion-dollar dud. Graduation of elementary schools and test scores crept up, but a $ 773 million education program to help the weakest schools sputtered, with only about a quarter of the targeted programs improved. “In the end, this was a very bad mayoralty,” he says Scott Stringer, who was city inspector for the last eight years and often entangled with de Blasio. “Cross-border corruption. The city’s housing policy was put back five years. All with a record budget surplus and very good economic years.”
De Blasio was nowhere near the socialist he was caricatured to be, but he despised the city’s business establishment, and it mostly hated him back. “Some good infrastructure projects came out of this administration, which I will attribute to deputy mayors and commissioners,” he said. Michael Brady, the Executive Vice President of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. “But when it comes to quality of life issues, there was no game plan that came out of City Hall. Homelessness is still a huge problem. Drug use and sales are out of control.”