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Most de Blasio posts yet to be filled

Mayor elect Bill de Blasio. (Dec. 7, 2013)

Mayor elect Bill de Blasio. (Dec. 7, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

With five days left before his inauguration as New York's 109th mayor, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has appointed just three of the nearly 50 agency heads he'll need to help run America's biggest city.

De Blasio has also named three deputy mayors, a top lobbyist for the city and his chief of staff. But unless he announces a slew of picks in the coming days, he will have made fewer pre-inauguration appointments than any mayor dating back at least to John V. Lindsay in 1966.

So far, de Blasio has announced picks to head three agencies: the Police Department, William J. Bratton; the Administration for Children's Services, Gladys Carrión; and the Office of Management and Budget, Dean A. Fuleihan.

The remaining vacancies include commissioners for fire, sanitation, law, housing, buildings, parks, transportation, jails and cultural affairs. Also, agency heads for health and mental hygiene, the Health and Hospitals Corp., the housing authority, housing preservation, homeless service, taxis and limousines, and emergency management.

Asked last week about the timeline for one of his most crucial picks, a schools chancellor, de Blasio defended the pace of the appointments, saying he wanted to make the right choice the first time. He said he'd have an announcement on chancellor "soon," but declined to commit to a schedule.

De Blasio was scheduled to remain today in Connecticut, where he has been on a getaway since Christmas Day. His transition office declined to answer questions about the pace of the process, how many appointments will be made before de Blasio takes office, and which are imminent. But in a written statement, spokesman Phil Walzak said: "We expect more announcements in the days ahead. Regardless of the timing of individual appointments, we will ensure a smooth transition at all City agencies that delivers on Mayor-elect de Blasio's promise of a diverse, competent and progressive government."

It's difficult to compare administrations: The responsibilities and even the names of city agencies change over the years. Michael Bloomberg was the first mayor in a generation to get control of schools, and each new mayor decides how many deputies, assistants and advisers to hire.

By the time they took the oath of office, Ed Koch had made about 17 major appointments; David Dinkins, about 20; Rudy Giuliani, about 29; and Bloomberg, about two dozen. News articles from the 1960s and 1970s say Abe Beame and Lindsay each had made dozens of appointments before their inaugurations.

Kenneth Sherrill, a Hunter College professor emeritus of political science, said a deliberative search process is better than rushing to fill posts.

"I tend to think that it is quality over quantity," he said. "It's certainly much better than screwing up who the commissioners are. In a rush to make appointments you really can screw up -- especially in the first term."

Richard Ravitch, a former lieutenant governor, said the "permanent civil service" will keep the city running while a new mayor makes his choices.

"The government isn't disrupted by an election," he said.

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