As Mayor de Blasio puts the final touches on a big speech that he’s going to deliver at Cooper Union this afternoon, it’s a chance not only for him to take a pre-k victory lap, but also an opportunity to light out to new territories that haven’t received as much attention in his administration so far.
De Blasio has spoken strongly about some of the city’s big issues like the economic chasm that divides New York’s richest and poorest residents but he’s still struggling to seize on the small-bore issues. Bill Clinton, the man who swore de Blasio into office in January, often smartly seized on those little things, turning his State of the Union addresses into a filibuster of a “to-do” list.
The mayor is clearly learning of the limitations of some of what he wants to achieve because of an obstreperous alpha-dog governor who is barking in front of the gates of Albany. In an interview with The New York Times, de Blasio already seems to be shifting strategies by cutting the state house out of his plans, saying: “We are going to focus on what we can do for our own people, with our own tools.”
And there are plenty of things – big and small – that can be done without having to travel to the legislature for help. Ask Michael Bloomberg. He focused on the granular – creating the highly-effective 311 system – but also thought big: rezoning about 40 percent of the city.
The mayor also seems to be learning that you don’t get points from the public or the media for having good intentions. (That’s the road to hell, remember?) De Blasio has looked mayoral when he’s had to talk straight – briefing the city after snow storms or speaking after the explosion of a building in East Harlem. He’s struggled badly when he’s had to spin or duck away from questions that he hasn’t wanted to answer.
After 12 years of a technocratic billionaire in City Hall, it’s been fascinating to watch a self-declared ideologue run the city who’s learning as he goes along. It will be interesting to hear his speech at noon, which we’ll be bringing to you live on NY1.