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Bill de Blasio vows to build diverse administration

New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio leaves

New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio leaves City Hall after meeting with outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York City. (Nov. 6, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who rode to a landslide victory on a wave of populist support, Wednesday vowed to build an administration of experienced managers who mirror "the glorious diversity of this city."

At a news conference, de Blasio named a four-person transition team to help him select the commissioners, deputy mayors, coordinators and other officials to oversee a sprawling metropolis of 300,000 employees and a $70-billion budget after he is sworn in on Jan. 1.

De Blasio began his day with a "cordial" hourlong meeting at City Hall with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who de Blasio said offered "helpful advice" about the transition.

"Today is now the first day of an eight-week sprint to prepare our new administration," de Blasio said at the news conference, held the day after he trounced Republican Joe Lhota, 73 percent to 24 percent. "We are hitting the ground running."

Gone from de Blasio's rhetoric was the sharp criticism he expressed against billionaire Bloomberg, which characterized much of his "everyman" bid to succeed him.

Interviewed later Wednesday on CNN, Bloomberg said he has "a big vested interest in making Bill de Blasio an even better mayor than I was."

"I'm going to live in New York City, and I want Bill de Blasio's administration to be successful," he said.

De Blasio's transition team will be led by Jennifer Jones Austin and Carl Weisbrod. Laura Santucci, 31, the outgoing interim executive director of the Democratic National Committee and a special assistant in the Obama administration, was named executive director, and Ursulina Ramirez, 29, deputy public advocate under de Blasio, will be the team's deputy director.

Austin, 45, heads the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies and was a deputy commissioner during Bloomberg's first term at the city's child welfare agency. Among other roles, Weisbrod, 69, was the founding president of the city's Economic Development Corporation and executive director of the city's planning department.

De Blasio said his wife, former Dinkins administration aide Chirlane McCray, is the "most important voice in my life" and will play a key role in his mayoralty. "In terms of a formal role, in terms of what kind of specific issues she may focus on, that's going to take some time to work out," he added.

Meanwhile, on a radio show Wednesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ducked when asked about de Blasio's plan to hike taxes on the wealthy to help fund universal prekindergarten. "That's a January conversation," Cuomo said.

While the governor said he's "there" with helping de Blasio expand pre-K, he said the question is how to finance it.

De Blasio suggested Wednesday that he'll use his huge margin of victory to press Albany for the tax increase. "The people of this city have spoken. The mandate is clear. It's our obligation to create a city in which our prosperity is shared, and there's opportunity for all," de Blasio said.

The mayor-elect, however, sought to tamp down expectations. "We're also going to be clear about the realistic challenges we face," de Blasio said. "We're going to say to people, 'This will take time for sure.' "

Before he gets down to business, de Blasio said he will head to Puerto Rico Thursday for the Somos conference of Hispanic lawmakers and spend a few extra days of "downtime" there with McCray.

With Yancey Roy

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