Architects of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s criminal-justice approach are latest high-profile departures
By Ben Chapman and Katie Honan
By Ben Chapman and Katie Honan
With his refusal to crack down on crime and inability to get schools and restaurants fully opened, Mayor Bill de Blasio has reached new depths of incompetence at exactly the wrong time. It’s one thing to be a dud when there is room for error, but this is an emergency, and the future of New York is growing ever more gloomy.
The mayor’s performance is so awful and the quality of life in such sharp decline that many New Yorkers who fled the pandemic have no plans to come back. Fears that the city is headed for a cliff are contagious and are leading to more frequent calls for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to remove de Blasio from office.
With no reason to believe the mayor is capable or determined to make things better, it’s tempting to join the chorus. The siren song is all the more seductive when you realize de Blasio’s term doesn’t end until Jan. 1, 2022, leaving him plenty of time to do more damage.
I am among those who relish the thought of de Blasio getting ejected from City Hall. In an instant, New York would be rid of its worst mayor ever.
Alas, reality interrupts the reverie. Despite the reasons to wish Cuomo would act, there are even better reasons to hope he doesn’t. Here are three.
First, de Blasio would be replaced by the public advocate, Jumaane Williams, who stands first in line of succession under the City Charter.
De Blasio is the first public advocate to be elected mayor, and his lack of experience at running anything has been revealed as a fatal flaw. Williams has that same lack of experience and a history of extreme anti-police activism that is exactly what the city doesn’t need during a surge in murder and shootings.
New York desperately needs a mayor who treasures the NYPD, not another one who trashes it. And on other critical issues, such as taxes and education, there is no reason to believe Williams would be an improvement.
Reason No. 2 for not supporting a Cuomo intervention is Cuomo himself. He is part of the reason people are fleeing.
He signed into law the so-called bail reforms that helped fuel the crime surge. He has been missing in action on reopening schools, effectively giving the teachers union a veto by saying, “Teachers have to feel safe.” He never gave subway or hospital workers that option.
The biggest mark against Cuomo is his calamitous policy of sending infected COVID patients to nursing homes, and his heartless refusal to own the death and grief it caused.
The Empire Center is suing his office to get the facts about how many nursing home residents actually died of the virus. Shamefully, the governor and his Health Department are hiding the data, almost certainly because it would reveal how they manipulated statistics. They also concocted a phony report to blame staff members for spreading the killer virus.
They concede that COVID killed some 6,600 people in long-term care facilities, but conveniently changed their counting method as the numbers soared. The best guess is that at least 10,000 died after getting infected in the facilities.
Moreover, Cuomo’s entire tenure leaves much to be desired. He’s been in office since 2011, and New Yorkers across much of the state were voting with their feet long before the pandemic over high taxes, rampant corruption and poor public services.
Reason No. 3 for resisting a quick hook for de Blasio is the terrible precedent it would set. The only comparable case came in 1932, when FDR, months before he was elected president, forced the flamboyant — and utterly corrupt — Mayor Jimmy Walker to resign.
That was the height of the Depression and Walker admitted to taking large amounts of cash from business owners while denying they were bribes. He agreed to leave office with more than a year remaining in his second term.
The big difference now is that there are no known criminal investigations of de Blasio, let alone pending charges. The feds probed pay-to-play allegations in his first term, but didn’t indict him, largely because they couldn’t find evidence he put any money in his own pocket.
Being a lousy mayor isn’t a crime, and the idea of substituting the decision of a governor for the will of voters simply because the mayor is widely seen as failing is generally repugnant. Once you start down that road, how do you resist the urge to regularly undo elections?
De Blasio, it should be noted, won both of his terms in landslides. Although turnout was only about 25 percent in both 2013 and 2017, he got nearly 800,000 votes the first time and about 725,000 the second time.
Those are very respectable numbers, similar to those Michael Bloomberg got in his first two elections and far above the 585,000 votes Bloomy got while winning his third term.
So the fault lies with those New Yorkers who voted for de Blasio, or not at all. Their choices surely are making life worse for most of them as well as for the rest of us.
Voters will get another chance next year. Until then, a great Ed Koch line seems appropriate for our suffering.
After his 1989 defeat as he sought his fourth term in City Hall, Koch was asked if he would ever run again. No, he said, then added, “The people have spoken and they must be punished.”
It’s the Big Ten election.
In some ways, the political battle over a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg changes everything. In another way, it changes nothing.
The race for the White House still depends on the outcome in the same handful of swing states. Most are in the heartland — and have colleges in the Big Ten athletic conference.
As CNN recently reported: “President Donald Trump got his football wish: The Big Ten college football conference will begin playing in late October. Trump had been pushing for the league, which has schools in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, among others, to start playing and had talks with the league. The league previously announced a suspension of its schedule.”
Trump’s intervention came after Joe Biden ran ads showing empty stadiums and blaming the president for the shutdown. “Let’s get back in the game,” the ad concluded.
Unfortunately for Biden, Trump did just that by helping to get the Big Ten to play ball.
Reader Judith Levine believes New York’s rot is not limited to Cuomo and de Blasio, writing: “We also have two useless senators. In fact, is Kirsten Gillibrand still a senator?
“The city is in its death throes and not a peep from them. Chuck Schumer comes out of his hole every Sunday to rail against Trump, then goes back into hiding. They have done nothing for the city or state.”
As many New Yorkers have discovered since the start of the pandemic, Mayor de Blasio does not know how to lead the city.
For weeks now, I’ve been the unpopular parent on the playground predicting with certainty for anyone who cared to listen that our children would not enter a public-school building in New York City this year. And sadly, I may be proved right. For the second time this month, Mayor Bill de Blasio has delayed the start of in-person school, largely because of a staffing shortage.
New York City has done what seemed impossible in April: It flattened the coronavirus curve and now boasts a positive-test rate of about 1 percent. In theory, the low case-positivity rate might have meant that public-school principals and teachers would feel comfortable opening up this fall. Many do not, however, and the mayor has utterly failed to overcome the problem.
He could have spent the summer months convincing the stakeholders that staggered schedules—with some kids learning at home each day—smaller classes, and improvements to air-circulation systems, along with commonsense precautions such as masks and frequent hand-washing, would be sufficient for an on-time start. He could then have worked with the Department of Education to make sure that these precautions were in place and that teachers knew what to expect.
Alternatively, he could have decided weeks, if not months ago to start the school year completely remote and announced that the city would gradually move toward in-person learning if conditions allowed for it.
But the mayor chose neither of those paths. He set deadlines that he refused to put in the work to meet, sowing chaos and ongoing frustration for families and teachers alike. How on Earth did he not foresee a staffing shortage? De Blasio has failed our kids and is teaching them a lesson about political leadership that I hope they never forget.
Our children have endured six months of hardship and fear and Zoom calls and canceled plans, and far too many have lost loved ones to this virus. The start of school, though, was a bright spot on the horizon for my family and so many others.
But even as I told my children that September 10 (the first first day of school) was right around the corner, I tried to manage expectations. As many New Yorkers have discovered since the start of the pandemic, our mayor has not demonstrated the ability to manage large-scale operations or the energy to get things done. To put it bluntly, de Blasio doesn’t know how to lead New York City. Even worse, he doesn’t seem to care. At his news conference on Thursday, he did not apologize for the delay and asserted, oddly and insensitively, that because most public-school parents are low-income and live outside of Manhattan, they “understand the realities of life” and are “not shocked when something this difficult has to be adjusted from time to time.”
Until last year, I was a political reporter at NY1, a local TV news station. I’ve known de Blasio since I first moved to New York in 2007 and he was a Brooklyn city councilman. I covered his long-shot campaign for City Hall in 2013 when he shocked the political establishment, coming from far behind in a crowded Democratic primary to win the general election easily.
It didn’t seem obvious to me in the early years of his administration that we’d end up where we are today. In fact, the mayor’s initial focus was on helping parents and children, as he came into office with one big ambitious idea that he immediately executed: creating universal public prekindergarten across the city. The program was widely considered a great achievement; for my family and so many others, it meant children could get an early start on their education and parents could save money they would have otherwise spent on child care. It was one of the few local programs that I felt very tangibly made my life easier as a working parent raising children in the city.
Yet de Blasio largely lost steam after he got pre-K done. And then he got distracted. He’d get driven most mornings from Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side to his old gym in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where he’d have a leisurely workout before heading into City Hall at 10:30 or later. He decided he wanted to run for president last year and set off for South Carolina and New Hampshire and Nevada, often drawing only a handful of curious Democrats to his events, giving them his time and full attention—a striking contrast to how he dealt with constituents back home. At one point, two public-housing residents flew to Iowa to confront the mayor outside a campaign stop in Sioux City. They knew the best way to reach the mayor of New York was to go to Iowa.
In the early days of the pandemic, he dithered over tough but critical decisions such as whether to shut down the school system. He gave terrible and potentially fatal advice, encouraging New Yorkers in mid-March to get one last drink at their neighborhood bar before they closed their doors. He even squeezed in a farewell trip to his gym hours before it was forced to shutter to comply with a state order.
During the Black Lives Matter protests in the city this summer, de Blasio, who ran for office as a police reformer, tried to look away, claiming not to have seen the viral videos of police violently clashing with protesters. When an NYPD police vehicle drove into a crowd of demonstrators—a terrifying scene that was caught on camera—he initially defended the police. Former aides and allies of the mayor denounced him. Past and present members of his own administration staged a protest outside City Hall.
For now, though, New Yorkers are stuck with the guy. We have another 15-plus months with de Blasio, who isn’t term-limited out of office until the end of 2021.
There could not be a more important moment for capable and inspiring leadership from City Hall. Our city has been through hell. Yet he’s proven time and again that he’s not up to the task required. As some New Yorkers pack their bags for the suburbs or upstate, he says he’s not going to “beg anyone to live” here. His refrain throughout all of this has been that “New Yorkers are resilient.” We are. But we expect our leaders to do the work that allows us to pick ourselves up and help the city recover. We can’t do it on our own.
City Hall has had since March to prepare for the start of the school year. For weeks, the unions have been sounding alarm bells about safety concerns and staffing shortages. The mayor says that’s what compelled him to push the start of in-person learning back yet again. But the fact that there aren’t enough teachers isn’t something that happened overnight. It’s been a clear and obvious problem on the horizon for some time. The city’s independent budget office estimates the public school system will need nearly 12,000 extra teachers to adequately staff in-person and remote learning.
For some reason, I’m not optimistic that’s going to happen by September 29, the third attempt at a first day of in-person school for my children. I unfortunately predict more chaos for students and teachers and principals.
As I told my children, they are going to get a real education this fall. It just won’t be the usual school curriculum. Instead, they are being taught a powerful lesson about the crucial importance of voting and having a strong, effective leader at City Hall.
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|Residents of the Harmonia holding signs outside the shelter in Murray Hill, Manhattan |
today. Photo: STEFAN JEREMIAH
When I read a story like the one re-posted below about disabled New Yorkers ousted from the Harmonia on East 31st Street in Manhattan, I can't help but wonder why? And How does the Mayor get away with this?
Also, how many of these ejected people are non-white? Don't black/brown lives matter? Where did these people go?
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher TrialsDe Blasio abruptly boots over 100 disabled people from Midtown shelter
With little warning, City Hall moved more than a hundred disabled New Yorkers out of their Midtown shelter to make way for the homeless who were booted by Mayor Bill de Blasio from an Upper West Side hotel.
Frustrated and fearful residents of the Harmonia, a former hotel located on East 31st Street, lined the streets with their belongings Thursday as they awaited their sudden transfer to other shelters in the Big Apple’s sprawling system — with some saying they are being moved to Brooklyn and Queens.
“We’ve been living here for two years. We’ve accumulated so much stuff and they want to just bring one bag. I feel mad,” said Moises Oliveras, 44, who suffers from a host of medical issues and lived at the shelter with his wife, Maria.
“They use us like chess pieces. Moving us around like that.”
The Oliverases only found out Wednesday that they were being moved, just a day after City Hall quietly acknowledged its decision to stop housing the homeless in the Lucerne Hotel.
“We’re human beings, man. And they treated us like garbage,” Oliveras added.
An undated fact sheet posted online reports that more than 170 families call the Harmonia home, though it’s unclear how many lived in the facility as of Thursday. The Post observed dozens of residents standing outside near the facility preparing to move.
“It’s unfair. It’s last notice. Everyone is running around. We were just told this yesterday,” said Lisa Feliciano, 49, a childcare provider who has lived at the shelter for eight months with her daughter.
“My daughter suffers from depression. This isn’t helping. She’s going to college! She’s supposed to take a class at six tonight.”
The clear-out happened despite de Blasio telling reporters three different times during his daily press briefing on Thursday that there was plenty of space in the shelter system to accommodate those who had been living in the Lucerne Hotel on West 79th Street.
“There was a lot more space in our traditional shelters,” Hizzoner said. “We had space available in the places where services are provided, where we expect to be able to do the best to support homeless folks. We never intended to be in hotels on a long-term basis.”
The Department of Homeless Services relocated 10,000 New Yorkers from congregate shelters where social distancing is virtually impossible to hotel rooms as part of an emergency $78 million effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
That total included the nearly 300 recovering addicts moved to the Lucerne.
Complaints quickly followed as many in the posh neighborhood reported they spotted their new neighbors harassing pedestrians, panhandling, and even relapsing — using drugs, and sometimes overdosing — in public.
One group hired powerhouse attorney Randy Mastro, a former top aide to then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, to make its case to City Hall.
Crime statistics showed jumps in reported robberies and burglaries in the neighborhood, though violent crime indicators remained flat or declined.
Still, with pressure mounting, de Blasio quietly toured the site and explained his decision to close it down Wednesday as a response to the conditions that he described as “not acceptable”.
City Hall’s about-face earned scorn of its own from Upper West Side politicians and residents, who argued that de Blasio folded and the campaign against the shelter was an affront to the famously liberal neighborhood’s values.
“We are deeply disturbed that the Mayor is caving to political pressure to move homeless New Yorkers out of temporary pandemic shelter at the Lucerne Hotel in a way that will displace 150 adult families living at the Harmonia, none of whom deserve to get caught up in this politicized process,” read the statement cosigned by a slew of prominent Manhattan Democrats, including Borough President Gale Brewer, powerful state Senator Liz Krueger, and longtime Assemblyman Dick Gottfried.
And that’s not the last of the headaches. The Legal Aid Society threatened to sue City Hall on Thursday over the move.
“Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pathetic and shortsighted surrender to Upper West Side NIMBYism has unsurprisingly disrupted the lives of other vulnerable New Yorkers at various shelters around New York City, all in the midst of a public health crisis,” said the group’s top lawyer, Judith Goldiner.
The Department of Homeless Services defended the move in a statement late Thursday.
“We are coordinating closely with our provider partners, who are doing extraordinary work under challenging circumstances,” said spokesman Isaac McGinn. “No one will be turned out into the streets under any circumstance.”
Additional reporting by Craig McCarthy and Julia MarshMayor De Blasio Responds To Criticism About Decision To Move Homeless People Out Of Upper West Side Hotel
Hundreds of homeless people are being moved from an Upper West Side hotel after neighbors in the area complained about an increase in crime and about quality of life issues. Mayor de Blasio is responding to criticism about the decision; CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer has the story.NYC Mayor de Blasio slammed for plan to move homeless out of Upper West Side hotel