Michaud: Suburbs need Bill de Blasio's love, too
So the "two New Yorks" campaign finally worked, this time for Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio.
Fellow Democrat Fernando Ferrer tested the theme in his 2001 and 2005 mayoral campaigns, without success. But eight years later -- with a Great Recession partly blamed on Wall Street excesses behind us and many New Yorkers still struggling to regain their economic security -- "two New Yorks" resonated with voters.
It now falls to de Blasio to lift up those New Yorkers who've felt poorly served -- or lacked the proper connections -- during Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 12-year tenure. People living in badly maintained public housing, occupying Wall Street or beset by mental problems and sleeping on the sidewalk. People who are stopped and frisked, whose kids attend city schools, or who work multiple jobs to afford the rent or child care. Certainly, their voices should be heard at City Hall.
But I hope that de Blasio will consider a third New York as well -- the many of us who inhabit this amazing city's suburbs. On Long Island, in Westchester, in New Jersey and in southwestern Connecticut, we're here with our shoulders pressed against New York City like lovers on a park bench. We don't need the city to be livable as much as we need it to be visitable, commutable.
The third New York will be watching very closely to see how de Blasio manages safety, crime and transportation.
Clearly, we aren't the mayor's constituents. We don't vote in city elections. What we do is travel to the city, work there and spend money. We visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Bronx Zoo and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. We take out-of-town visitors on Circle Line tours and to see Broadway performances. We send teens into the city to shop the boutiques or take summer classes in fashion design.
Not too many years ago -- when the last Democrat ruled City Hall -- some of these things became impossible. Or, at least, they became unpleasant. Beggars with paper cups or squeegees were everywhere. Take a wrong turn, and suddenly you were no longer safe. Nobody wants to return to days of high crime and poverty -- least of all city residents.
Can de Blasio relax police tactics that some say make life feel like a police state, while also keeping the streets safe? During his campaign, he spoke in favor of community policing and against "the stop-and-frisk era." He mentioned names of two potential police commissioners -- Bill Bratton, who served as Rudy Giuliani's first police commissioner, and Philip Banks III, the chief of department in the New York City Police Department. Both are law-and-order veterans, but floating names during a campaign isn't the same as a swearing-in.
Suburban New York also cares deeply about railroads, subways, buses and taxis. The mayor doesn't run the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but he nominates board members, the city subsidizes the MTA's budget, and the city transportation commissioner sets policies. The city is paying to build an extension of the No. 7 line to the Javits Convention Center. Those levers give the mayor influence, if not control, to ensure service is sufficient, clean, efficient and affordable.
Mayor-elect de Blasio would be wise to find a seasoned transportation commissioner who can reassure the third New York that we can get in and out of the city, after a blackout or even a superstorm.
I'm not someone who moved to Long Island to "escape" city life. I moved to New York from another state so I could accept the city's invitation. The new mayor would be wise to keep the lines open.
Anne Michaud is the interactive editor for Newsday Opinion.
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