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De Blasio Opted for Quiet End to 2016


de blasio spotlight mic

Mayor de Blasio (photo: Edwin J. Torres/ Mayor's Office)


At the end of 2015, his second year in office, Mayor Bill de Blasio held a two-hour roundtable with members of the media to promote his administration’s accomplishments, reflect on his tenure, and field whatever questions the 20-or-so assembled journalists wanted to ask.

There was a multi-page handout from City Hall with “de Blasio Administration” and “YEAR TWO ACCOMPLISHMENTS” across the cover page, followed by sections on “Housing & Homelessness,” “Management & Economy,” “Education,” “Public Safety,” and more.

De Blasio approached the end of his third year as mayor quite differently.

The administration promoted some of its accomplishments on social media, but as 2016 came to an end there was no City Hall roundtable or document of accomplishments circulated to the press. The mayor didn’t even make a December 30 appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show in his usual Friday morning slot. Instead, Public Advocate Letitia James made the 10 a.m. segment.

At a December 29 press conference in Times Square to discuss NYPD security for New Year’s Eve, the mayor did take about 27 minutes of media questions on a variety of topics, including his reflections on the year and plans for the year ahead. Prior to that, the administration released a promotional video on Twitter that quickly raised several questions, including how it could be the only summation of the year put out by City Hall.

The approach by de Blasio and his team makes some sense given how difficult 2016 was for the mayor, whose year was dominated by controversy, including law enforcement investigations into his behavior and that of his allies, a disappointing attempt to influence the presidential election, a growing homelessness crisis, and other challenges. De Blasio’s never strong relationship with the press corps also soured in 2016 as the mayor became more frustrated with the questions and coverage he was getting, and thus moved to limit how often he takes media queries.

People close to de Blasio said they were more than ready to see 2016 end, though it’s not clear that 2017 promises to be better. Much rests on the fate of those law enforcement investigations and the two grand juries that are reportedly hearing evidence related to actions taken by de Blasio associates. The mayor has maintained that he and his allies acted legally and no one in de Blasio’s close orbit has been charged with a crime.

Still, de Blasio’s decision not to discuss and promote in more depth the progress made during 2016 and his three years in charge is somewhat surprising, as the end of the calendar year is a natural time for summing up, reflecting, and looking ahead. A detailed end-of-year discussion is also an opportunity to highlight whatever good news and accomplishments the mayor may want to bring attention to, present relevant data points, and clarify and defend administration policies.

City Hall wasn’t without things to boast, and the de Blasio administration did email a recap of accomplishments to a list of community leaders and allies on December 19, but it was not sent to members of the media or promoted publicly as a document.

A spokesperson for de Blasio acknowledged the email, which was forwarded to Gotham Gazette by a recipient, but did not reply when asked why it was not sent to members of the press.

“We communicate directly all the time with neighborhood stakeholders, city leaders, activists and agenda allies,” emailed Eric Phillips, de Blasio’s chief spokesperson. “It’s important to keep those involved in our work aware of our progress and aware of what we need to do in the days ahead.”

Phillips also cited “the many continuous days of social media we did sharing this work” when asked why the administration did little to publicly discuss its accomplishments as 2016 concluded.

At a December 20 press conference, Gotham Gazette asked de Blasio if he planned to hold a year-end roundtable like the year before. “I don’t think we’ve thought about that yet. So we’ll think about that,” de Blasio said, before calling on another journalist.

Phillips didn’t answer when asked how many stakeholders received the December 19 email.

Before a bulleted list of more specific markers of progress, the email, which came from Melissa Diaz at City Hall, includes an introductory note:

Colleagues,

Three years into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure, New York City has never been more prosperous than it is right now. 2016 has been a year of record job growth, significant gains for students on state exams, a second historic rent freeze, driving crime to historic lows, protecting thousands of working families by standing up to bad landlords – and hundreds of other successes.

Our record of delivering for New Yorkers across the city is clear. New York City continues to be at the forefront of fighting for working families, particularly in our city’s unique and diverse economy. As an administration, we have continuously stood alongside those families to create a better and fairer New York, and we look forward to continuing this work in 2017.

In 2016, we built on our record of progress, which is attached and below. As we wrap up 2016, I encourage you to share these achievements with your networks, family, friends, and online.

De Blasio and his spokespeople, both in government and his re-election campaign, regularly point to low crime, more affordable housing, a strong city economy, and universal pre-kindergarten when discussing the mayor’s record. The December 19 email also includes details about city investments in mental health care, NYCHA, transportation, and more (see the full text below).

Meanwhile, de Blasio has repeatedly acknowledged the need to improve his performance in reducing the city’s homeless population. The issue of homelessness was a major focus at the end of 2015 as well -- the December 21, 2015 discussion at City Hall included significant time on the homelessness crisis and efforts de Blasio was leading to combat it. The mayor is still promising more, saying that early in 2017 he’ll outline a more clear vision for New Yorkers.

During the December 29, 2016 press conference, Gotham Gazette asked de Blasio if it would be the last time in 2016 he would take media questions, what mistakes he’d made in 2016, and what he planned to do differently in 2017.

“So, on the first point – this is the last press conference of the year,” de Blasio said. “You know, obviously, at any point you guys can ask about anything about this year or next year, anything you want. So, we put out a lot of information over the course of the year about what we think we’ve achieved and the challenges we’re trying to face and that’s going to be an ongoing conversation.”

He continued:

“[D]o I think I’ve made mistakes? Do I think my team has made mistakes? I think that all the time. I’m very tough on myself. I’m very tough on my team. I think my team will attest to the fact I’m very tough on my team. I want perfection from myself. I want perfection from them.”

“But I make mistakes all the time and then I try and fix them. I try and figure out how I can do better. But I don’t make it a point to sort of self-flagellate nor to exaggerate when something goes right. I try and keep an even keel. I would say [inaudible] sort of snapshot the year, I feel good about the most important things and I feel, still, frustrated that despite a lot of efforts around homelessness we haven’t gotten where we want to go.

“So, the easy answer is – I’m thrilled crime is going down while stop-and-frisk continue to go down. I’m thrilled that we’ve built more affordable housing at a record pace. And I’m thrilled that the graduation rate has gone up. These are the things that are the most important to everyday New Yorkers and it’s the first obligation of government. But I’m very dissatisfied when it comes to a lot of strategies we’ve put into play to address homeless that still haven’t gotten us where we want to go.

“I’m seeing some real hope now particularly around HOME-STAT. And you saw the report last week. That could be a game changer if it continues that kind of progress. And the shelter census has started to go down a bit which is a good sign. But there’s a whole lot more to do. But that continues to be the number one frustration.”

A little more than a year prior, at the end of 2015, de Blasio gave an opening statement of a few minutes, then responded to dozens of media questions on what he had learned since becoming mayor, what he wished he’d done differently, his goals for 2016 and beyond, and a variety of other topics. The discussion was initially centered on the multi-page handout of accomplishments given to each member of the media.

De Blasio was also asked about his relationship with Governor Andrew Cuomo, the presidential race and his attempts to play on the national stage, and whether he was taking any additional measures to ensure ethical behavior in his administration. A portion of de Blasio’s statement and then several media questions centered on his administration’s fight against homelessness.

“I feel very good about what’s been accomplished over the first two years of this administration,” de Blasio said in his introductory remarks at the 2015 roundtable. “There’s a lot more to do. I think my central message about the future is there’s a lot of our agenda that we have to deepen and implement more fully going into the third and fourth years. But I certainly feel very good about the progress we’ve made over the first two years. And it has really given us a foundation for everything we have to do thereafter.”

Yet, as the third year ended and the fourth year began, de Blasio did not create an opportunity to delve into the progress his administration has made on a variety of goals, open himself up to detailed questions, or attempt to set the tone for 2017.

Still, de Blasio has overseen continued drops in crime and his first press conference of the new year, on Wednesday, will focus on those numbers.

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Colleagues,

Three years into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure, New York City has never been more prosperous than it is right now. 2016 has been a year of record job growth, significant gains for students on state exams, a second historic rent freeze, driving crime to historic lows, protecting thousands of working families by standing up to bad landlords – and hundreds of other successes.

Our record of delivering for New Yorkers across the city is clear. New York City continues to be at the forefront of fighting for working families, particularly in our city’s unique and diverse economy. As an administration, we have continuously stood alongside those families to create a better and fairer New York, and we look forward to continuing this work in 2017.

In 2016, we built on our record of progress, which is attached and below.  As we wrap up 2016, I encourage you to share these achievements with your networks, family, friends, and online.

THE CITY OF NEW YORK

OFFICE OF THE MAYOR

NEW YORK, NY 10007

Mayor de Blasio believes all New Yorkers deserve a chance to succeed in the greatest city on earth. That means every child gets a quality education, every community is safe, and every New Yorker has an affordable place to call home. In 2016, we built on our record of progress.

ü  Equity and excellence in all schools, preparing our students for the 21st century economy.

o   About 70,000 kids enrolled in Pre-K, more than triple the 20,000 children who attended before the Pre-K for All expansion.

o   103 reading coaches hired, trained, and on the job to get our students reading at grade level.

o   City students scoring much higher on English exams, now in lockstep with NYS peers.

o   Dedicated counselors called “Single Shepherds” for 16,000 students from middle school to college.

o   100 schools selected to receive over $3.5 million in new direct funding to build school-wide college and career readiness culture.

o   High school graduation rate over 70 percent for the first time ever.

o   Eliminated CUNY application fee for qualifying high school seniors.

o   Lowest-ever high school dropout rate, and the highest-ever rate of students enrolling in college.

ü  Modern approach to public safety – safer streets, safer every day.

o   January was the safest January on record – followed by the safest summer, safest September and safest October.

o   Expanded neighborhood policing, launched force-wide trainings on implicit bias, alternatives to physical force, and conflict de-escalation à Stop-and-Frisk has declined by 97% from an all-time high in 2011.

o   Arrests are down, murders and shootings at historic lows, record low numbers of robberies, burglaries, and auto thefts.

o   Vision Zero efforts made 2015 the safest year on New York City streets since 1910, and 2016 is on course to be even safer.

o   Opened a state-of-the-art, fully redundant 911 call center to protect the city’s essential emergency response system in the event of disaster.

o   Distributed more than 7,000 kits of naloxone, a lifesaving medicine that reverses opioid overdose.

ü  Easing financial burden, tackling the affordability crisis, and creating opportunity.

o   Fought for New Yorkers struggling to make the rent or find affordable housing.

§  Two consecutive rent freezes (2015 and 2016), keeping rent stable for 2.5 million tenants.

§  150,000 people benefited from the expanded use of emergency rent assistance.

§  Stood up to bad landlords using all available tools – such as withholding rent and increasing funding for New Yorkers to access legal services – to hold landlords accountable.

§  Evictions down by 24 percent, meaning 21,000 people are still in their homes.

§  Replaced voluntary rules with a mandatory affordable housing requirement in new buildings.

§  On track to build and preserve 200,000 affordable housing apartments over the coming decade, benefitting half-a-million people. This year, the Mayor has secured 15,105 apartments to date. We’ve secured 55,309 affordable apartments since taking office, an all-time high for new, affordable construction.

o   Fought for New York City’s homeowners.

§  Proposed a $183 water credit on the water bills of over 664,000 homeowners, in keeping with the City's past efforts to ensure bills stay as low as possible.

§  Saved 35,000 homeowners tens of millions of dollars in flood insurance premiums by working with FEMA.

o   Bolstering an economy with good-paying jobs, creating opportunities for people to get ahead.

§  Created 60,000 new jobs in 2016 so far, and nearly 277,000 jobs since the Mayor took office.

§  Unveiled a $500 million initiative, LifeSci NYC, to spur 16,000 new, good-paying jobs and establish New York City as a global leader in life sciences research and innovation.

§  Prohibited City agencies from inquiring about salary history as part of the hiring process.

§  Signed a personnel order to provide paid parental leave to approximately 20,000 New York City employees – putting the City at the forefront of city and state policies around the country.

§  Ensured all custodial workers in public schools make the prevailing wage.

o   Fought for New Yorkers who need to get to work on time.

§  Eligible workers can now use pre-tax income to pay for their commuting costs, saving commuters $800 to $1,000 dollars a year.

§  Added 18 miles of new protected bike lanes.

§  Expansion of CitiBike to more New Yorkers, adding thousands of new bikes and hundreds of stations in 2016 across Red Hook, Brownstone Brooklyn, and Harlem.

§  Filled the administration’s one-millionth pothole and made a historic investment in repaving, reducing the need for future pothole repair.

§  Repaved city streets equivalent to the distance between New York City and Miami, Florida.

o   Committed to holistic investments in NYCHA communities, home for 400,000 New Yorkers.

§  Across-the-board improvements for safer, cleaner, and more connected communities throughout New York City.

§  Comprehensive roof repairs.

§  Security enhancements, including lights, cameras, and new doors.

§  Technology investments such as broadband and Wi-Fi.

o   Fought for the city’s most vulnerable.

§  HOME-STAT fully operational: outreach workers are identifying, engaging, and transitioning homeless New Yorkers to services and, ultimately, permanent housing.

§  Nearly 48,000 New Yorkers moved into permanent housing and avoided or exited shelters through permanent housing programs.

§  About 12,000 more households have been able to receive services from the HomeBase homelessness prevention program in each of the past two years.

ü  Launched NYC Well, a 24/7 phone, text, or chat connection to mental health and substance misuse services.

o   Convened 1,000 houses of worship to talk about mental illness and addiction, reaching 250,000 New Yorkers.

o   Created a system to screen and treat 80 percent of pregnant women and new moms, with a goal of screening and treating ALL pregnant women and new moms for maternal depression.

o   Mental health support for every school in the city.

o   Placed over 100 Mental Health Service Corps (MHSC) members in neighborhoods with the highest need across the city.

o   Launched the first, city-based movement for mental health – Cities Thrive. More than 80 cities have committed to mental health as a municipal policy and programming priority and to federal advocacy.                  

ü  Progressive Governance.

o   For three years running, added to the City’s financial reserves, preparing us for any potential shocks to the system.

o   Defended New York values. We are #AlwaysNewYork.

o   Stood up for the 65,000 hourly employees in the fast food industry who deserve fair notification on their work hours.

o   Funded major improvements in city parks and purchased the last site needed to complete the 28-acre Bushwick Inlet Park, fulfilling a promise made to the families of North Brooklyn.

o   Expanded graffiti removal, introduced sidewalk power washing in commercial corridors citywide, expanded Sunday and holiday litter basket service, and expanded highway shoulder and ramp cleanup.

o   Shattered enrollment expectations for the country's most ambitious municipal identification program, IDNYC.

o   Opened the Damian Family Care Center in the Bronx to serve 10,000 community residents.

o   Launched the nation’s first government-led citywide ad campaign affirming every New Yorker’s right to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity.

###



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