Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a likely mayoral candidate in 2013, can now be counted as a firm critic of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s handling of Hurricane Sandy.
“You remember the recent diplomatic phrase, ‘leading from behind,’” Mr. de Blasio mused on Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s radio show last night. “I think many times the mayor was not exactly on the front line. He was no Chris Christie, let’s say that.”
New York voters actually rated New Jersey’s governor extremely favorably in a recent survey on the topic, so Mr. de Blasio’s comment didn’t exactly come out of left field. After Mr. Hikind, a frequent critic of Mr. Bloomberg’s, accused the mayor of being “afraid” to go to the communities struggling in the storm’s aftermath, Mr. de Blasio concurred and elaborated.
“He showed a tremendous unwillingness to be where the people were and where people were in need,” he explained. “I went to the city and I said a lot of our seniors in the big buildings–whether it was public housing, whether it was the Mitchell-Lama buildings down in Coney Island and other areas–a lot of them went one week, two weeks, more without heat or hot water. No one from the city ever came to knock on the door. No one ever came to check to make sure they could get their medications when electricity was out, pharmacies were closed. So the mayor’s attitude was very much hands-off.”
In Mr. Bloomberg’s defense, over the past couple weeks he repeatedly toured the damage and held press conferences in hard-hit neighborhoods. Additionally, the mayor did launch a program of medical teams going door-to-door in high-rise buildings, but Mr. de Blasio argued their outreach was insufficient.
Regardless, Mr. de Blasio’s criticism reflects a new political reality that the 2013 mayoral race is underway again after the weather-induced hiatus. Indeed, one of his chief electoral rivals, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, went on Mr. Hikind’s show last week to similarly allege Mr. Bloomberg hasn’t spent enough time “being out there” in the city.
“It could be very, very soon,” Mr. de Blasio said of next year’s campaign. “Attention is starting to turn. Understandably, the attention has rightfully been on the hurricane and its aftermath in the last few weeks. But I think in the coming weeks, particularly when we get into the new year, attention is going to turn very intensely to the fact that we’re going to choose a new mayor. We’re going to choose a new leader after what will be 12 years of Michael Bloomberg. As you and I would be the first to say, some joys and sorrows in the Bloomberg years. I think, for many people, particularly in the outer boroughs, [there's] a real sense that City Hall is not paying enough attention to our neighborhoods. For many, many people in this community–and I’m thinking about what happened with childcare vouchers, among many other issues–a sense of really being left behind. This is going to be a chance to debate where we need to go as a city, which I look forward to.”