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Bill de Blasio: A Mayor for the New Economy

New York City's new mayor has laid out a radically inclusive economic agenda.
 
 
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Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/lev radin

 
 
 
 

After 20 years of rule by Republicans, and three terms with a businessman mayor who referred to billionaires like himself as a  "godsend," New Yorkers this Tuesday elected Bill de Blasio, a self described "unapologetic progressive" who ran on a simple message of confronting inequality.

"For all those who had their doubts about the ability of such a campaign to win a broad swath of support, just look at the numbers," City Council member Brad Lander, a de Blasio ally, told Commonomics shortly before the election.

De Blasio, the city's public advocate, defeated Joseph Lhota, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, by a landslide: 73 to 24 percent. At his victory party (held, fittingly, at a Brooklyn Armory-turned-YMCA rather than a swanky Manhattan hotel), the 6'5" Democrat stood on the stage with his multiracial family and a bevy of campaign volunteers and took aim squarely at what he'd repeatedly called "a Tale of Two New York Cities."

"The people of New York have chosen a progressive path," he said. "We will bring an end to inequality in this city."

New Yorkers know what de Blasio's talking about. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Big Apple has become a safer and more economically vibrant place, for some. New York now boasts a larger share of the world's super-rich than any city on the planet. With help from City Hall, developers have built 40,000 new buildings and brought an affluent buzz to yet more neighborhoods, but 400,000 affordable housing units have been lost; homelessness has never been worse, and some of the city's poorest are still in temporary housing a year after Hurricane Sandy.

Mayor Bloomberg banned trans-fats and workplace smoking, brought in bike lanes, and did his best to limit the sale of sugary drinks. Life expectancy is up and infant mortality down, but one in six residents is unemployed or underemployed, and a decline in crime has been accompanied by race-based police tactics that have bitterly divided the boroughs.

De Blasio's campaign ran on two pledges: to tax those earning more than $500,000 in order to fund universal pre-kindergarten for the city's children, and to rein in police  stop-and-frisk tactics that have disproportionately targeted young black and Latino men.

His platform also included a good dose of " commonomics." As public advocate, de Blasio supported the drive for paid sick days and a living wage in New York City. On the campaign trail, he pledged to do more to raise incomes and improve housing access for the working poor. He also talked about eliminating tax breaks for large corporations (notably including big developers) and instead creating a "Unified Development Budget" to "spread subsidies throughout the city." He promised to establish "economic development hubs," not just in the fashionable design and high-tech sectors, but in every sector of the economy, and to establish a new revolving loan fund that would free up credit for small and neighborhood businesses—"to fulfill the role abandoned by most banks."

Still, it's one thing to campaign, quite another to govern. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has made it clear that he won't approve de Blasio's tax on the super-rich. Furthermore, the mayor-elect disappointed some when he announced on November 6 that one of the co-chairs of his transition team would be Carl Weisbrod, a well-connected real estate developer who ran the 42nd Street Development Corporation, which was responsible for what critics call the "Disney-fication" of the theater district. Weisbrod was also the president of Trinity Church's real estate company, the same company that called the cops on Occupy.

 
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