On Tuesday night’s episode of “The Daily Show,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke with host Jon Stewart about his increased national profile. The mayor talked about spreading and implementing his progressive agenda, hitting the usual points on minimum wage and taxing the wealthy. He spoke about his desire for the country to see the benefits of a progressive agenda.
But how is he doing in the city that he’s actually overseeing?
According to the most recent Quinnipiac University poll, it’s a resounding “meh.” When asked, 46 percent of New York City voters said that de Blasio’s involvement in national affairs is distracting him from his City Hall duties, with 44 percent approving of the job he’s doing (his lowest rating since taking office). New Yorkers’ ratings of the mayor’s handling of crime and public schools are also down.
Among Black voters, de Blasio’s approval rating is 68 percent (a 7 percent drop from January). With Hispanic voters, 48 percent approve of the mayor’s job (a 6 percent drop from January). As for white voters, nothing has changed in six months. Fifty-six percent of white voters disapprove of the job de Blasio’s doing (down from 57 percent in January).
“Is Mayor Bill de Blasio distracted from his day job by his role as a national liberal spokesman? New Yorkers lean yes: Some wish he’d concentrate on City Hall and almost as many applaud his outspokenness,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Assistant Director Maurice Carroll in a statement after the release of the poll numbers. “The mayor’s job approval hits a new low and he’s lost a lot of ground on his handling of crime and the schools, two key areas for any mayor.”
Crime has been on the minds of many New Yorkers recently with the uptick in shootings and murders. According to the recent story by the local news website DNAInfo, 57 of the city’s 76 New York Police Department precincts have seen spikes in serious crime during a four-week period ending May 24, compared with the previous four weeks. Local daily papers such as the New York Post have clamored for the reintroduction of stop-and-frisk as it was practiced under the Michael Bloomberg administration.
In another recent poll by Quinnipiac University, the mayor found himself at odds with most New Yorkers. De Blasio supports an end to the “broken windows” style of policing, in which police issue summonses for so-called quality-of-life crimes. According to their numbers, 57 percent of New Yorkers (including 50 percent of Black voters) support this style of policing, and 55 percent of New Yorkers (51 percent of Black voters) approve of the job Police Commissioner William Bratton is doing. Whereas the majority of Black voters approve of Bratton, they give an unfavorable review to police in general, at only 39 percent approval.
Last month, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries chastised the mayor for not supporting a law banning chokeholds by police after the death of Eric Garner. He also said the mayor shouldn’t get credit for ending the way stop-and-frisk was practiced during the past 12 years.
“The Movement got rid of stop-and-frisk,” Jeffries said at a rally in Harlem last month. “What you’ve done, based on the actions of the Rev. [Al] Sharpton and activists and legislators and families and so many others who compelled, who pushed that federal court to declare stop-and-frisk unconstitutional, what you’ve done, you’ve implemented a federal court order. That’s all that happened.”
But de Blasio’s supporters are standing by him and praising the mayor for his vision for caring about groups that aren’t the financial and economic elite.
“Mayor de Blasio has been consistently following through on his campaign promise to address economic inequality and ensure New York is a place where working people can thrive,” said 1199SEIU President George Gresham to the AmNews. “From pre-K for all, paid sick days and affordable housing, to greater rights for immigrant New Yorkers, curtailing stop and frisk and supporting a living wage, Mayor de Blasio is showing the kind of bold, principled leadership that our city and our country desperately needs.”
Working Families Party State Director Bill Lipton chalked up some of the disapproval of de Blasio’s performance as mayor to the perception of who’s being catered to under his reign up to this point.
“New Yorkers came out to vote for Mayor de Blasio and a progressive City Council two years ago because they wanted our city to start working for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected,” Lipton told the AmNews. “And on issue after issue, working families have seen the mayor and the Council deliver. Whether it’s universal pre-K, expanding paid sick leave, guaranteeing a living wage for thousands more workers or ending the abuse of stop and frisk, the mayor has proven the naysayers wrong—and proven to everyone that it’s possible to govern this city for all New Yorkers, not just the 1 percent.”
At the beginning of his term, de Blasio’s first major public kerfuffle involved residents of Manhattan’s Upper East Side complaining about snow plows not coming through their area fast enough. The story not only hit the New York Post but also made its way to “Channel 7 Eyewitness News.” Around the same time, the AmNews published a piece about the lack of snow plows making it harder for Bronx residents to get around, but the Bronx didn’t get as much attention as the neighborhood that some of the wealthiest New Yorkers call home.
The Rev. Michael Walrond Jr. of the First Corinthian Baptist Church (who called the AmNews unsolicited after hearing from the mayor’s office that we were working on a piece about his administration’s progress) said that de Blasio needs more time to implement his agenda and speculated on whether similar questions about the former mayor were raised by the media.
“I think it’s ironic that these questions are being raised and wonder if they were raised under Bloomberg,” Walrond told the AmNews. “Twelve years under Bloomberg, we had the highest rate of homelessness since the Great Depression. I think we have to measure him [de Blasio] against the promises and the progress towards things like universal pre-K. It shouldn’t be expected to be done in 18 months, but I think steps have been made.”
What Walrond said was very similar to what a spokesman from the mayor’s office told the AmNews.
“This is a mayor who keeps his promises,” said de Blasio spokesperson Wiley Norvell. “He pledged to provide free, full-day, high-quality pre-K for every child. This fall, more than 70,000 children—every eligible 4-year-old—will have a seat waiting for them in a pre-K classroom. He pledged to end the stop-and-frisk era. Stops are down 90 percent from just a few years ago and the city has reformed its low-level marijuana arrest policy—all while keeping crime at historic or near-historic lows.”
Highlighting accomplishments such as universal pre-K, a minimum wage increase, paid sick leave, construction of affordable housing and the largest municipal ID program in the country, Norvell told the AmNews that the goal of the administration is to bring the city together under one vision and disregarded the ups and downs of minor (and major) controversies during de Blasio’s short time in office.
“The mayor promised to expand paid sick leave, and he expanded the law to more than a half-million additional New Yorkers,” continued Norvell. “He promised to build and protect 200,000 affordable apartments over the coming decade, and we are already ahead of schedule—moving forward on more than 17,000 in our first year. Across the board, the de Blasio administration is focused on fighting inequality and creating more opportunity for New Yorkers in every neighborhood. Just 16 months in, we are making progress on the issues New Yorkers care about and sent us here to deliver on.”
The Rev. Herbert Daughtry, national presiding minister of the House of the Lord Churches (who also called the AmNews unsolicited after being notified of the creation of this piece), said, “It’s been a long time since I read or heard an agenda that has been put forth that prioritizes or at least considers the neediest in our society.” Daughtry feels that de Blasio is addressing the New Yorkers who were left behind for most of the beginning of the 21st century.
“For a while, we were running away from the label of liberal,” said Daughtry. “He’s making an attempt to try and bring some reform.” Daughtry did mention, however, that he questioned the mayor’s reappointment of Bratton as police commissioner.
“First, right off the bat, Mayor de Blasio’s administration has moved in a markedly different direction than the Bloomberg dynasty,” said activist Omowale Clay.
Clay, a co-founder of the December 12th Movement, the Brooklyn-based community organization told the AmNews, “The actions and policy directions taken on stop and frisk, Central Park Five, pre-K, minimum wage, wealth inequality and NYCHA are reflective of his historically progressive ideological bend. However, New York is real estate and the mayor’s housing goals are shaded by those interest. The mayor’s choice and defense of Commissioner Bratton also reflect the defense of those same interest. The jury is still out on health care and his defense of mayoral control of education is wrong. Bottom line … de Blasio’s first 16 months are mixed but more positive than negative.”
Union leaders and activists have pleaded with the public to see de Blasio’s progressive agenda through while his approval ratings continue to fall. Despite accomplishments such as the implantation of universal pre-K, the municipal ID, paid sick leave and the construction of more affordable housing, the public perception of the mayor is that he is more focused on a national agenda than a city agenda. His administration has two and half years to convince those in the five boroughs that his changes and his way of governance are the right course for New York City.