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De Blasio marks 100 days, sets education goals

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio greets

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio greets audience members after delivering remarks in the Great Hall at Cooper Union on the 100th day of his administration on Thursday, April 10, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

Mayor Bill de Blasio toasted his 100th day in office Thursday with an address showcasing accomplishments in expanding paid sick leave, winning concessions from real estate developers, securing funds for universal prekindergarten and revamping the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy.

In a populist speech that invoked Abraham Lincoln, Robert F. Kennedy, Plato and Ralph Kramden of "The Honeymooners," de Blasio called his approach "grassroots, people-powered government" battling "some people who have a stake in the status quo and don't want to see these changes."

He didn't name names.

"This administration is a product of movement politics," said de Blasio, who last fall became the first Democrat to win City Hall since 1989 by casting modern New York City as a Dickensian tale of two cities.

De Blasio spoke at Cooper Union's Great Hall, a cavernous basement that has hosted presidents, governors and mayors and helped birth the NAACP and the women's suffrage movement. Introducing de Blasio, Cooper Union president Jamshed Bharucha noted that the nearly 6-foot-6 de Blasio was speaking from the same podium where another tall man once spoke -- 6-foot-4 Lincoln -- in an address that helped launched his presidential campaign in 1860.

De Blasio repeatedly referenced the auditorium's storied history and mentioned the word "progressive" at least 21 times in 58 minutes.

"One of the most distinguished individuals to ever grace this stage, Abraham Lincoln, said right here at Cooper Union: 'Let us have faith that right makes might,' " de Blasio said.

He made no mention of his bruising behind-the-scenes battles his administration waged with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who bested him on charter schools, which de Blasio generally opposes, and stymied his key campaign pledge to pay for pre-K classes by taxing high-income New Yorkers.

Instead, de Blasio touted the $300 million in the recently released budget as "the most state funding for pre-K in the history" of the state and city.

Although light on specifics, de Blasio promised "there's much more to come" on education, including keeping good public school teachers from quitting, reducing class size, moving schoolchildren out of trailers and limiting high-stakes testing.

The mayor also had managerial bragging points. He cited the number of potholes filled by his city Transportation Department crews -- 289,000 in the first quarter of the year, compared with 115,000 last year -- as "really extraordinary" achievements.

At the start of the speech, de Blasio reminisced about playing Kramden during last month's Inner Circle roast, hosted by the city's press corps, and summoned up a trademark phrase of Jackie Gleason, the entertainer who originated the 1950s sitcom character.

"If Ralph Kramden were standing here," de Blasio said of his mayoralty, "he would say at this moment: 'How sweet it is.' "

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