Saturday, December 20, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: Playing It Safe in City Hall

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While Mayor de Blasio is trying to create one of the most diverse administrations in city history, he's being downright conservative when it comes to law and order.

The mayor today is expected to appoint Daniel Nigro as his new fire commissioner, a 65-year-old veteran of the department who retired from the FDNY in 2002.

Nigro was an instrumental figure when the department took control of EMS as well as being front and center after the 9/11 attacks when he became Chief of Department in the death of Peter Ganci.
Still, Nigro has been away from the department for a dozen years and it's interesting that the mayor couldn't find anyone currently in the department to lead New York's Bravest. It's also worth noting that Hizzoner resisted calls to replace the current commissioner, Sal Cassano, with an African-American candidate or a woman.

De Blasio wouldn't even be breaking ground if he had picked a black Fire Commissioner; John Lindsay made history when he selected Robert Lowery in 1966 and the department's second black commissioner, Augustus Beekman, was appointed by Ed Koch.

But perhaps mindful that he's less popular with white, blue-collar residents of the city, de Blasio went with a candidate who will surely be liked by the rank and file. The firefighters union has already put out a strongly supportive statement about Nigro while other old hands in the department are full of praise for him. It's clear that this is a safe decision by a mayor who's sometimes pushed the edge of the envelope.

The same goes with Police Commissioner Bill Bratton; the mayor wanted to assure jittery residents who didn't want a return to "Fun City" that a serious lawman was taking the helm of the NYPD. Nevermind that he was the first police commissioner to de Blasio's nemesis, Rudy Giuliani, who de Blasio blasted as racially insensitive during last year's mayoral campaign.

But de Blasio is a student of history – as well as a former member of the last Democratic administration to run City Hall. David Dinkins had a black police commissioner, Lee Brown, and a Latino boss of the FDNY, Carlos Rivera, and neither is going down in the annals of city history as great leaders. Rivera even stabbed Dinkins in the back by resigning and endorsing Giuliani in the heat of the 1993 mayoral campaign.

With a passel of appointees who aren't men or white, de Blasio has given himself the political insulation to pick two white 60-something men to run the nation's largest police and fire departments, which are both still struggling to become more diverse. Even progressives have their conservative moments.

Bob Hardt

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