Riding a progressive wave into office last year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio quickly tried to translate his landslide victory and high approval ratings into an agenda to transform the city and make it more affordable for all New Yorkers. Key to this plan was his push to raise taxes on the city’s richest residents, which he said would secure funding for the universal prekindergarten push that he had campaigned on.
Then he learned what many of his predecessors in City Hall have learned: Albany lawmakers don’t actually care how popular you may think you are.
Unlike his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, de Blasio didn’t have countless millions to spend to try to nudge Albany lawmakers toward his point of view. His power resides in the unions and progressive ideologues that can throw a great rally, but generally they fail to sway the Republicans who control the state Senate.
De Blasio’s dealings in the Capitol have proved to be mixed, at best. He got prekindergarten funding, but not at the level he wanted and without a tax hike. And his charter school rivals gained a powerful new ally in Gov. Andrew Cuomo, derailing efforts to promote traditional public schools.
This year, the future of de Blasio’s administration is in many ways in the hands of the state government. Affordable housing and education have been identified as two of his top priorities, and their fates are up to Albany’s “three men in a room.”
Rent regulations are also set to expire. Generally a deal is cut and things go on as they have in the past. But, any hope de Blasio had of strengthening those laws evaporated when he was unable to secure a Democratic majority in the state Senate.
On education, de Blasio is also handicapped, and not just on funding. Mayoral control of the schools is up for consideration and the Legislature could use reauthorization as a negotiating chip.
On the bright side, the mayor has been effective in solidifying his power on the city level. He is working hand in hand with the City Council to get legislation passed, thanks to his deft work in getting Melissa Mark-Viverito installed as speaker.
One area where he excels is in his affordable housing deals through partnerships with developers who get more market-rate space in return. The strategy of building higher has won over the real estate industry, the prospect of more jobs has kept labor happy, and progressive advocates are looking forward to a more affordable city. It seems like that is a win, win, win.
He has also limited opposition from fellow offcials— Scott Stringer and Carlos Menchaca notwithstanding. But has been hit—rightfully so—for the numerous rookie mistakes he has made.