As Mayor Bill de Blasio takes office this week, he brings several new cabinet appointments that are changing the landscape of the city. The reaction to his appointments have been mixed, from his pick for police commissioner to his pick for schools chancellor. One thing is for sure though, de Blasio’s cabinet is diverse, with representation from Blacks, Latinos, women, seniors and the LGBT community. Here is a look at a few of his key appointments so far.
Police Commissioner: Bill Bratton
Background: Recently served as commissioner over the Los Angeles Police Department and was the NYPD commissioner under Mayor Rudolf Giuliani in the 1990s. He has twice served as president of the Police Executive Research Forum and in 2009 served as president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. As chief of the New York City Transit Police, Boston Police commissioner, New York City Police commissioner and chief of the LAPD, Bratton revitalized police morale and cut crime significantly in all four posts. In New York, he led the development and deployment of CompStat, the command and accountability system that has revolutionized policing all over the world.
PROS: With years of experience under his belt, Bratton knows New York City law as well as its Police Department. He also has experience working in major cities. De Blasio said he chose Bratton because of his policing style.
“He’s focused on preventative strategies, proactive strategies, innovation, the use of the latest technology, but also good old-fashioned understanding that communication at the grassroots—the cop on the beat talking to the neighborhood resident—is fundamental to protecting our city,” he said.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said Bratton was a “wise choice” because of his experience working with communities.
“His vast experience and commitment to working with communities to improve safety will allow the de Blasio administration to attack persistent crime challenges head-on while maintaining success where progress has been made,” said Adams. “I look forward to working with him in Brooklyn and helping him include the valuable knowledge of anti-violence and community groups on the ground to make our streets safer.”
CONS: While Bratton was NYPD commissioner during his first run, the city saw the birth of stop-and-frisk. Critics say that during his time as commissioner, the NYPD began victimizing communities of color. Bratton has said he believes in the “broken window theory,” which dictates that if petty crime is not dealt with, it will lead to bigger problems. The theory moves away from de Blasio’s pledge to end stop-and-frisk.
“Asking Bill Bratton to come back and stop racial profiling and stop-and-frisk is like asking an arsonist to help you put out fires,” said former Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron. “For Bill de Blasio to run a campaign on a platform of stopping racial profiling and stop-and-frisk and then select William Bratton to become the new police commissioner is hypocritical. Bratton is the architect of racial profiling
CONCLUSION: While Bratton might have the experience, his past tactics in policing come into question. As the city moves into a “new direction” with de Blasio, police-community relations is a number one issue for many New Yorkers who have suffered at the hands of the NYPD. All eyes are watching for Bratton to change the course of the NYPD.
Schools Chancellor:Carmen Fariña
Background: Carmen Fariña brings 40 years of experience in New York City public schools. She began her career as a teacher at P.S. 29 in Cobble Hill, later rising to become a principal at Manhattan’s P.S. 6 and the superintendent of Brooklyn’s District 15. Fariña was appointed deputy chancellor for Teaching and Learning in 2004, and later went on to become a vocal advocate outside of government for comprehensive early education and parental involvement in school policy.
PROS: Polls show that education was a main concern for many during the mayoral campaign. With charter schools, standardized testing and Common Core at the forefront of issues, New Yorkers are looking for new leadership. Fariña is one of the first school chancellors in recent years who officially qualified for the job. (Previous chancellors in Michael Bloomberg’s administration had to get waivers.) Fariña also helped put together de Blasio’s plan for universal pre-K and expanded after-school programs for middle school students.
“Carmen won’t just be my chancellor as mayor; she’ll be my chancellor as a public school parent. For years, I’ve watched her innovate new ways to reach students, transform troubled schools and fight against wrongheaded policies that hurt our kids. Carmen has worked at nearly every level of this school system. She knows our students, teachers, principals and parents better than anyone, and she will deliver progressive change in our schools that lifts up children in every neighborhood,” said de Blasio.
CONS: Fariña was taken out of retirement, leading many to question if she is capable of leading the nation’s largest system at her age. During her announcement, no concrete answers were given on whether she would improve or eradicate issues that that are a top concern for school parents. There are also concerns about how she will handle the state’s newly implemented Common Core curriculum, which is not going over well. She must also work with union teachers who have not had contracts since 2009.
Mona Davids, president of the New York City Parents Union, said she hopes Fariña respects all parents as the real stakeholders in children’s education.
“Although the chancellor is not independent and serves at the pleasure of the mayor because of mayoral control, we hope Chancellor Fariña will always be a strong advocate for parent rights, Early Intervention Programs, students with special needs and English Language Learners—always putting children first before adult interests,” Davis said.
CONCLUSION: While Fariña seems to be a promising choice because of her background and credentials, she definitely has her work cut out for her undoing the work of a school system many believe has been broken and noninclusive for 12 years. However, her organic growth with New York City public schools could be the answer to the prayers of those looking to get the best out of the system that serves 1.1 million students.
Corporation Counsel: Zachary Carter
Background: Carter is an accomplished attorney who has spent his career in the private and public sectors ensuring that all people are treated equally under the law. As United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York for six years, Carter led an office that shut down dangerous gangs of inner-city crack dealers, exposed securities fraud boiler rooms allied with organized crime, and prosecuted international criminal organizations engaged in human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
Carter has rightly earned a reputation as a dogged defender of New Yorkers’ civil rights. He led the prosecution in the Abner Louima case and the federal prosecution of those responsible for the death of Yankel Rosenbaum during the Crown Heights riots.
PROS: One of de Blasio’s first Black appointments, Carter brings his work with several of the city’s most controversial issues to the administration. He’ll be the person fighting de Blasio’s legal battles as he moves forward with his progressive format for the city. Signs are already showing promise for Carter, as he said during his announcement that he plans to drop the appeal on the stop-and-frisk case and settle the “Central Park Five” case.
“Zach Carter has been a fighter and a conscience for this city throughout his career. He’s shown his character, his toughness and his resolve prosecuting dangerous criminals and protecting those who have been wronged. We are honored to have him represent this city and our administration,” said de Blasio.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said Carter’s announcement is an unprecedented and huge step for progress.
“I am sure he will serve the city with utmost integrity, fairness and due diligence to the obligations entrusted in him,” he said. “I salute the mayor-elect’s appointment and shared this with him when he called me this morning that I felt that his selection of Zachary Carter demonstrates very good judgment.”
CONS: While Carter might be the answer to the city’s prayers in terms of righting many wrongs, many cases could come across his desk that pertain to things that have happened over the last 20 years. The job could be overwhelming and prevent legal battles that could come his way. With an uncertain future for stop-and-frisk and the new “shop-and-frisk” accusations, settling lawsuits could set a new tone for the NYPD and any agency that is found being abusive. His actions could cause a backlash from the NYPD.
“These unions, representing the vast majority of the sworn members of the NYPD, previously filed a motion to intervene in the district court whose decision has since been stayed until the conclusion of this appeal,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association. “However, the outcome of this appeal will directly affect the reputation of all New York City police officers and the daily activities and collective bargaining rights of 29,000 sworn members of the Police Department, including their training, discipline and their very safety.”
CONLUSION: Carter seems to want to bring the city out of its many years of injustices, which is definitely a sign of de Blasio’s efforts to steer the city in a more progressive direction. However, Carter’s actions could cause backlash from those the city needs the most, including the NYPD, questioning the impact and effectiveness of his decisions.