While New Yorkers didn’t exactly come out in droves to re-elect Bill de Blasio, let’s remember that one million-plus voters still headed to the polls and overwhelmingly gave the mayor four more years.
Some of de Blasio’s landslide transcends politics and reflects where we are as a city. New York 2017 is hardly a utopia but it sure beats New York City 1990 where almost everyone I knew had a mugging story and “no radio” signs adorned most cars that were parked with crossed fingers. It’s no coincidence that three mayors were voted out of office from 1977 to 1993.
Bill de Blasio’s New York is the product of a lot of panicked politicians – from David Dinkins to Michael Bloomberg – as well as tens of thousands of residents and civil servants who were fed up and worked hard to right a foundering ship.
The two big arguments to flee the city – high crime and bad schools – have eroded over a generation. But it’s clear that education still has a long way to go, especially in our poorer neighborhoods where classrooms are often separate and unequal.
Enter Bill de Blasio in 2014 – perhaps the luckiest man in decades to become mayor of New York. Inheriting a city like a man who won a fancy new car, de Blasio made himself comfortable in the driver’s seat street while crime was down and the economy was chugging along.
And to his credit, he didn’t screw it up. Four years ago, his many critics warned that the sky would fall on our heads and “Fun City” wouldn’t be so much fun anymore if de Blasio took office.
We still have problems that are holding us back including homelessness and a lack of affordable housing – two crises that are largely because New York is a victim of its own success. But if only the very rich and very poor live in the five boroughs, New York will become just a Disney World with more hotel rooms, theaters, and museums.
While the mayor seems to understand many of these problems, he’s struggling mightily at looking like someone who enjoys the job – or even wants it. A press conference at City Hall yesterday should have been a happy victory lap for de Blasio but he couldn’t help but be our chider-in-chief, hectoring a New York Post reporter and looking more annoyed than thrilled that he has “a mandate” to run the city for another four years.
Part of being Mayor is having the ability and charisma to lead the seven million other people who didn’t vote for you and try to convince them that we’re all in this together. Luckily for the mayor, with an even more cheerless governor in Albany and a scowling President who acts more like he’s from Tucson than Queens, de Blasio is Mayor Santa Claus in comparison.
With his strong win, de Blasio needs not to let things get to his head, keeping his eyes on the prize while avoiding dabbling in national politics at a time when the city deserves as much attention as it can get. It was a big night for the mayor but it will be an even bigger day for New York if the mayor can lift up the flap to the tent and invite everyone else in with a smile. I’ll try to believe in Santa Claus at least for one day. Ho ho ho.