New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio previewed his final four years in office on Tuesday, outlining a left-leaning agenda including taxing the rich, providing mental healthcare for all, and registering 1.5 million more voters to “re-democratize a society that is losing its way.”
In an annual State of the City address lasting about 70 minutes and delivered partly in Spanish, the 56-year-old Democrat promised to be the municipal “antidote” to the Republican president in the White House.
“We can’t create a more just society if we don’t confront the decline of Democracy that we’re experiencing in this city, in this state, all over this nation,” de Blasio said from the stage at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. “We can’t afford to become a pseudo-democracy because of unsustainable and growing inequality. There’s a point at which extreme inequality makes a mockery of a democratic society. That point, sadly, is not too far away.”
The speech comes three months after the mayor won reelection to his second and final term, with about 66 percent of the vote.
Expect more subsidized housing, tougher emission standards for polluting buildings, a goal for more third graders reading on level and other programs to, as de Blasio promised in his election-night victory party, make New York City the nation’s fairest big municipality.
“We can no longer tolerate a status quo in which there are quote unquote good schools and quote unquote bad schools depending on where you live,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio also said he wants to change how local campaigns are financed, elections are run and voters are encouraged to turn out at the polls.
The mayor, who wants more public financing of elections, was dogged during his first term by persistent questions about how he financed and fundraised for his own political campaigns, tactics criticized by both state and federal prosecutors, who nevertheless said that the tactics did not violate the law.
He said he believes President Donald Trump has “aligned himself with Russia” and that “we know the people who are trying to steal our election won’t stop. They’ll be coming back. But we’ll be there to make sure they won’t succeed.”
De Blasio vowed to lobby Albany for money to fix the state-controlled subways and hopes “the money raised in New York City stays in New York City” — a reference to frequent raids by the state for non-transit purposes.
Outside the Kings Theatre, barricaded demonstrators shouted over one another on both sides of Flatbush Avenue. The pleas were inaudible inside the stately former Vaudeville venue, where a playlist of Gotham-themed classics like Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” blared in a Spanish version.
“We don’t wanna die!” jail guards chanted. Nearby, a Rikers Island surveillance video projected on a LED-display truck cycled a recording of an inmate ambushing a guard Saturday and breaking his neck. The guards and their labor union want de Blasio to bring back solitary confinement, which de Blasio has moved to eliminate as inhuman and counterproductive.
“We will not allow our correction officers to be assaulted, period,” de Blasio said. “You gotta do more!” a heckler shouted, escorted out by an usher and the NYPD.
Across the avenue, tenants of the city’s public housing agency, NYCHA, handed out fliers depicting a drawing of forlorn people huddling for warmth next to an open oven. “STATE OF NYCHA: FREEZING!” Their demand, for billions for boilers, comes a week after the revelation that 80 percent of the city’s 400,000 public-housing tenants lost heat this winter for an average of 48 hours. In the speech, de Blasio promised new roofs, boilers, and other improvements “so people can lead a decent life.”