Saturday, September 19, 2020

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio: A Teacher of Failed Leadership


                                                                            Grace Rauh

My New York City Kids Are Getting an Education in Failed Leadership

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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Thursday, September 10, 2020

City Hall Suddenly Ousts 100 Disabled From Their Midtown Shelter


Residents of the Harmonia holding signs outside the shelter in Murray Hill, Manhattan
     today. Photo: 

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?

Just askin'.

 Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ Blog

Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

De 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 Marsh

Mayor 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
Elected officials and Upper West Side residents blasted Mayor de Blasio for plans to relocate homeless people from a local hotel where they have been housed during the coronavirus outbreak.

“The mayor should be ashamed of himself,” NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams thundered at a Wednesday rally outside the W. 79th St. hotel, called the Lucerne.

“On so many levels, you fail. Step up! Be a leader! Stand tall for all New Yorkers!” he yelled, addressing Hizzoner.

The city announced Tuesday that 300 men would be relocated from the Lucerne to shelters on Sept. 20. Homeless people were also set to be transferred out of an unnamed Queens hotel.

In the spring, fear of coronavirus spread prompted the Department of Homeless Services to move about 10,000 homeless people from shelters to hotels. City officials said from the start that the relocations would be temporary.

But the policy prompted a backlash from residents of nabes including the Upper West Side, where two other hotels near the Lucerne have also been housing homeless people. Saying the new neighbors have caused a spike in quality-of-life problems, a group of locals threatened to sue the city.

Now some other Upper West Siders are saying the mayor caved to NIMBY-ism gone wild.

“It is sad that in our neighborhood, a bastion of great privilege and of liberal family values, that the temporary presence of these homeless individuals who were moved here in the midst of a public health crisis of unprecedented proportions divided our community so intensely and caused some to respond with fear and anger,” said local Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat.

Joshua Goldfein of the Legal Aid Society threatened to “sue to protect our clients" if the city tries to move homeless people back into “congregate” shelters where people share spaces. A DHS spokesman previously said individuals would be moved from hotels “to alternative non-congregate shelter locations.”

Speaking at a Wednesday press conference, de Blasio rejected accusations he is applying a double standard in favor of well-heeled anti-homeless activists on the Upper West Side.

This gets back to a much more fundamental reality,” he said. “We want to always be focused on what’s healthy and safe for the community and folks that are homeless.” 09, 2020

Earlier this spring, the city moved thousands of people experiencing homelessness from crowded shelters to hotels to protect them from the coronavirus. In some neighborhoods, that created a lot of controversy — especially on the Upper West Side. This week, the mayor decided he would move some men out of the neighborhood. Then the backlash ensued.

City Will Move Men from Upper West Side Hotel to Family Shelter in Manhattan

Earlier this spring, the city moved thousands of people experiencing homelessness from crowded shelters to hotels to protect them from the coronavirus. In some neighborhoods, that created a lot of controversy — especially on the Upper West Side. This week, the mayor decided he would move some men out of the neighborhood. Then the backlash ensued.