NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio hit the 100-day mark Thursday by touting his efforts to close New York City’s income gap, and lashing out at the “powerful interests” whom he said have tried to hinder him from accomplishing his agenda.
As CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, de Blasio said the “people’s voice” will not be muzzled.
The mayor stood on the historic stage of Cooper Union Thursday, the same site where Abraham Lincoln delivered a famed 1860 speech.
“In the last 100 days, we’ve been inspired by the support of so many New Yorkers,” he said.
The mayor’s address contained little in the way of new proposals, but it attempted to place his administration’s agenda within the framework of the city’s liberal history while re-energizing his grassroots base.
“The tale of two cities that we’ve been living for years and years threatens who we are and threatens what kind of city we will be,” he said. “Restoring a progressive New York — that’s our vision and it’s what has driven the steps we take and it’s what drives the steps we will take ahead together.”
He pledged that his next months in office would focus on creating affordable housing and revamping the city’s Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts. He also boasted of his push to provide universal pre-kindergarten for city children.
“In these last weeks, we secured the most state funding for pre-K in the history of New York state for the city of New York,” de Blasio said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature rejected his plan to tax the city’s wealthiest residents and offered instead to fund pre-K through the state budget.
De Blasio, however, got all the money he asked for, $300 million, and says all will be forgotten when the first of 50,000 4-year-olds start going to class this fall.
“We have to attract the best and brightest, continue to train them and make them better, hold them to high standards and keep them,” he said.
De Blasio also touted the expansion of paid sick leave, the first bill he signed into law.
“Paid sick leave is one of those simple but fundamental things we do to help people weather the storms of their lives,” he said.
He also noted his decisions to reform police conduct and emphasized a drop in overall crime throughout the city.
“Comparing the first quarter of this year to the first quarter of last year, murders are down 9.5 percent, shootings are down 3.4 percent, robberies are down 7.2 percent,” he said.
Through his “Vision Zero” plan, the mayor is working to decrease traffic deaths by increasing enforcement and reducing speeds.
In his speech Thursday, he said traffic deaths are down 26 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the first quarter of last year.
During the speech, the mayor also took on his opponents, vowing to prevail in his effort to impose his progressive agenda on New Yorkers.
“It will not surprise you that we’ve experienced some resistance from some powerful interests,” de Blasio said. “There are some people who have a stake in the status quo and don’t want to see these changes.”
The audience, composed of de Blasio’s friends, commissioners and supporters, applauded when he said he will take on the naysayers no matter what.
“Our responsibility is to look that in the face and continue or work, and deepen our work,” de Blasio said, “because the real power – the real power resides with the people.”
The mayor has suffered through some negative publicity since he took office. Two days after de Blasio announced the Vision Zero traffic safety program in February, a CBS 2 camera caught his motorcade speeding and running stop signs. The mayor then refused to talk about it.
De Blasio was also criticized for his handling of two snowstorms and fielded tough questions about inadequate snow plowing efforts on the Upper East Side and Staten Island.
“We did not expect one of the snowiest winters in the city’s recorded history,” he said in his speech Thursday, getting a laugh from the audience. “But I’ll tell you, our sanitation workers and all the city agencies involved did a remarkable job of keeping this city clear.”
The mayor also saw his plan to charge rent to charter schools scuttled when Cuomo put the kibosh on it, and his demand for power to increase the minimum wage in New York City went nowhere. His promises to ban horse-drawn carriages and cut pork-barrel projects from the City Council budget have also yet to go forward, Kramer noted.
De Blasio’s first crisis came when a gas explosion flattened two East Harlem apartment buildings, killing eight people. Observers believe he effectively projected leadership and compassion, devoting city resources to helping those impacted by the blast.
As for his frequent tardiness to public events, sometimes arriving anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes late, the mayor has said “we’ve got a lot going on.”
“We have a lot that we have to deal with each day,” he told CBS 2’s Kramer last month. “A lot of unexpected things come up each day and we make sure that we deal with all of the people’s business and we make sure when we get here we are fully prepared.”
Kramer asked New Yorkers to give de Blasio a grade.
“I would put him somewhere in C,” said Hank Lewis of the Bronx. “I just don’t think he’s been very good because of what happened in the wintertime, the schools, and the snow cleanup, and stuff like that.”
“I give him a B,” said Pete Nevarez of the Bronx. “I mean, I think he’s doing OK. Give him a chance – it’s still early.”
“I would give him a C,” added Terrence Hamilton of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. “He’s doing good work, but I want to see the horse carriage thing.”
A New York Times/Siena College poll released Monday found that 49 percent of those polled liked how he was performing, while 31 percent disapproved.
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