Bill de Blasio’s long march towards peace with his city
It might be bad for the people of New York, but de Blasio seems to think it’s good for him, for the security of his heritage, for the influence of his voice and, perhaps most importantly, for his. peace of mind.
“Look last night for God’s sake. Jesus! It was like a bad debate in high school. It was so mean, ”he said of the last town hall debate that aired the day before. “It was like, is that really healthy?” Is it really as good as it gets? “
De Blasio traces the perimeter of Prospect Park Lake, the Parkside Avenue cars visible through the trees, moving from one dirt road to another, heading north past the boathouse. Blasio’s next person, in his thirties, sees the mayor from afar and looks away, tilting his head to the left as he walks. Another woman passes and takes a double take, placing the mayor before stepping forward without comment. Only one person stops de Blasio on his walk that day, a young musician who asks de Blasio about the arts and culture of the city.
“I mean, the people who are corrupt and the people who are really not there to help people, go get them. But there are a lot of decent people. And don’t try to find things that aren’t there, ”said de Blasio, turning the conversation back to himself. “So if my sin is, I’m going for a walk, I’m like, really?” Think about it! What annoys people is [me] take walks. “
There’s, of course, more than the walks: de Blasio spent much of the pandemic in his own little battles with Cuomo. He frustrated parents with a confusing and changing plan to reopen public schools. After George Floyd’s murder last summer, former city hall workers staged a series of major protests outside his office and he now faces a worrying increase in crime in his final months. A public opinion poll in May showed its approval rating to be over 50%, a rare above-water moment still touted by its staff. Recent polls show it well below this figure.
In January, de Blasio and his associates had what they now call a “reset” meeting. The mayor, worried about losing his “bully chair” in this summer’s mayoral race, said he wanted to relaunch the “Tale of Two Cities” campaign that brought him to power in 2013 with a message on endemic inequalities after 20 years under Michael. Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani, helping de Blasio gain broad support from the black community. His fear that one of the candidates would come forward as a viciously anti-de Blasio candidate, as he did with Bloomberg, never came out as clearly as he suspected, nor in his opinion, a candidate emerged with a clear and dominant vision. “I think it was an entirely amorphous election. If they embrace what I did, so much the better. If they don’t, fine, ”he says. “The question is: the things that we started” – his issues with signing up to universal pre-K and paid sick leave, for example – “have they proven to continue to function and make sense, and I think “They will. I think they’re going to have a long life, these ideas. And I’m at peace with that.”
To some extent, de Blasio has come to come to terms with New York’s special relationship with its mayors, who function in public life as irrepressible and vivid personalities – characters to love, hate, ponder and laugh at. It seems important, given the sensitivity of the city, that the next mayor could, for example, be the city’s first smoker for decades (Kathryn Garcia) or a man who, as a means of self-criticism, writes entries diary in third person (Eric Adams). “This strange animal that is the mayor of New York, he is unlike anything else. I’ve worked with mayors all over the country,” he said. “They come up to me and say, ‘I don’t. can’t believe what’s going on or what’s happening to you. I mean, it’s almost like a line of sympathy at every meeting to say, “What’s going on?”
Often during his tenure as mayor, this constant razor wire between love and hate, thrilling and impossible, seemed to annoy rather than enamorate his mayor. Today, it seems to delight him. There is a story he tells about a city council meeting to discuss a proposed bike path on 11th Street in Park Slope. De Blasio supported him and one of the “old people” who did not stood up at the meeting. “He points to an accuser and says, ‘You don’t know what 9th Street is like!’ I’m like, ‘Man I’m living two blocks from you, I really feel like I know what it is on 9th Street! ‘ “
“It was like I was of a totally different nationality. I mean, he just thundered, ‘You! You! You intruder!” It was fabulous! He said.
A former mayor staff member recently described Bill de Blasio’s town hall as an encapsulation of the human condition, which is less grandiose than it looks. “The pendulum was still swinging,” the person said. “There were days he was confident and days he was riddled with doubts. There were days he felt he truly embodied what New York City needed from a mayor. And there were days he lost that.
In 2013, in the first campaign, when de Blasio was at the bottom of the polls and freed from the burden of expectations – “We were lovely losers,” he says – Bill Clinton called him a day after seeing a front page photo of the candidate and his family dancing in a parade: “‘I saw the photo in the New York Times. ‘ De Blasio falls into an impression of Clinton. “And you seem to be having so much fun over there.” This is what people expect from a candidate.
“He’s one of the great masters. You think I would have written it, ”said the mayor. “I think I heard it, but I didn’t understand it.”
“We are entering the home stretch” he says. “I am giving you a warning. We will end up at the stump. It’s an hour and 15 minute walk and de Blasio has walked 2.53 miles.
The official story of the strain, according to the director of forestry for the New York City Department of Parks, is that a large oak tree fell ill and had to be felled during the height of the pandemic. The Department of Parks suspected oak blight disease, bacterial leaf blight, and symptoms of a disease called hypoxylon canker. They tried to save the tree, but couldn’t, and it fell last August.
It was during one of his walks that de Blasio discovered what happened to the tree where he and McCray celebrated their wedding.
“The has been a tree, ”he said. “His part of a tree now. I went there one day in the middle of Covid and everything was horrible and I walk near my tree to console myself and my tree is no longer there! he says. “Recalling the great line from Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders:” I returned to Ohio and my town was gone. “”