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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

In State of City speech, de Blasio sets informal tone

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio waves

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio waves to the audience after delivering his first State of the City remarks at LaGuardia Community College in Queens on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

Viewed through the lens of the day's spot news, there were two key angles in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's first State of the City speech.

For one, de Blasio called for the issuance of municipal ID cards -- this year -- to help the undocumented out of the "shadows" of city life.

For another, he dug into his position that top city earners must be taxed to support pre-K -- even as powerful state Senate GOP leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said he would keep it from coming to a vote. Overall, the presentation Monday at LaGuardia Community College, on the industrial side of Long Island City, struck some political regulars in the audience as informal, low-key, even mild.

Less than five weeks into de Blasio's term, the public was hearing a variation of his inaugural address and subsequent public statements. To the degree all these "state-of" speeches are public shows, this one contrasted sharply with the years of fanfare-filled Bloomberg events that had more than a bit of the feel of the presidential version.

A former City Hall staffer and consultant noted the 42-minute speech was devoid of shout-outs to his new deputies and commissioners, of guests to be honored from the audience, and of any sneak preview of his first budget proposal due out Wednesday. "It was 'love me, trust me,' " the spectator said. "That's him."

But de Blasio earned plaudits from others among City Hall's permanent cadre of lobbyists, lawmakers, consultants and bureaucrats who came out for the event. "Mercifully short, and he stuck to his goals," said one elected official, citing his call for a hike in the minimum wage above the state rate. Added a longtime consultant: "He had an ease greeting people that Bloomberg didn't -- and he didn't butcher names like Bloomberg did."

Even as de Blasio repeated previous themes and goals, there were interesting changes of emphasis.

Aware that big players in Albany oppose his tax proposal, de Blasio added to his usual pitch a key piece of the story of state aid to city schools. "If there are extra resources in the state budget, we must remember that the State Court of Appeals ruled several years ago," he said, "that the children of this city deserve billions more in educational resources, and now is the time to provide it."

Having said before that he favored an ID card plan, de Blasio pushed expectations forward Monday by vowing: "We will reach out to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status issuing municipal ID cards available to all New Yorkers this year . . . "

For relevant details, watch tomorrow's budget release.

Defending his campaign theme of "two New Yorks," de Blasio sought to quell fears of battling economic inequality.

"There are some who have taken issue with our commitment to this cause -- who say that income inequality is just a fact of life, and that attempts to remedy it are simply sowing the seeds of class warfare," he said. "But we know better. We understand that allowing the income gap to stretch further isn't simply a threat to those at the bottom -- but to every New Yorker."

The appearance at LaGuardia, which many immigrants attend, also continued de Blasio's efforts since his inauguration to link his policies to those of Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, who served in the 1930s and 1940s.

The new mayor was even introduced by Katherine LaGuardia, granddaughter of the "Little Flower," a nickname he referenced in his speech.


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