Now that the ball has dropped in Times Square, ringing in another New Year, we are hoping that the new mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, does not drop the ball at City Hall, and remembers the promises he made to voters while campaigning.
So, without further ado, here are a few matters we think should be at the top of the mayor’s to-do list:
1) Come up with a concrete plan for the building of new affordable housing units and the preservation of the city’s existing but dwindling stock of it. While running in the primary against several other tenant-friendly Democrats, de Blasio spoke of affordable housing as a way to combat the “tale of two cities” or rather the lack of a place for the middle class in New York. He even specifically mentioned Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village as a place in need of protection, along with other communities like it from speculative developers. We hope he remembers saying this, because we certainly do as do all the tenants who elected him.
2) Create more classroom seats — and not just by shutting down existing schools to make room for re-branded ones. The top concern of public school parents around the city—along with the fact that school system itself has become a “testocracy” — is classroom crowding. On the East Side of Manhattan, the problem has started to subside somewhat with the opening of two new schools, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. In addition, we hope this mayor will find creative solutions to helping failing or struggling schools rather than simply slating them for closure and re-branding them by sticking differently named schools, including charters, in their buildings.
3) Find a new head for NYCHA. Following the announcement that NYCHA Chair John Rhea was stepping down on Monday, it’s imperative that the city find a replacement soon. Granted, de Blasio was no doubt already on this, considering Rhea’s poor job performance over the past four years he held the position. Under his tenure, the Housing Authority sat endlessly on funds allocated by elected officials for security upgrades at numerous public housing developments. At the same time, the agency cried poverty and hatched the revenue-making scheme of putting market rate buildings on top of existing NYCHA properties’ parking lots and common areas. This includes local developments like Campos Plaza, where tenants also saw numerous delays for the implementation of their much needed surveillance camera system.
4) Quit meddling in the workings of other branches of government. While we absolutely believe the mayor is entitled to openly endorse whoever he wants for the position of City Council speaker or any other job, the fact that he has quietly contacted members of the Council to try and get them to vote for his favorite is concerning. It is important for the Council to maintain its independence from the mayor’s office, so we hope that in the future, de Blasio refrains from any actions that appear to be efforts to manipulate its operations.
5) Be transparent. No matter what decisions he ends up making, the public has a right to know what’s going on, whether it’s the real reason behind a push for a development project in a particular neighborhood or a well-intentioned project spearheaded by the city that turns out to be a failure, like the ill-fated CityTime accountability system. The public shouldn’t have to rely on subpoenaed records and FOIL requests from reporters frustrated by politicians evading questions about everyday City Hall business. So, we hope this mayor, who like any other is bound to make some mistakes, will be transparent, because if he does, they won’t seem like such a big deal when they happen.