Gotham Gazette

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'Didn't Quite Hit The Need': Bill De Blasio's Complicated Two-Term Legacy as Mayor of New York City

Bill de Blasio city hall

Bill de Blasio at City Hall, Dec. 30 2021 (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)

Bill de Blasio rode into office on the big promise of ending “the tale of two cities” by reducing the gaps between the haves and have-nots. He was the first Democrat elected to lead New York City since David Dinkins won his one and only term in 1989. De Blasio, a former aide in Dinkins’ City Hall, pledged a progressive correction to the 20 years of Giuliani and Bloomberg rule that were marked by aggressive “broken windows” policing, friendliness to big business and real estate developers, and streaks of liberal governance in a city that has grown more and more diverse and Democratic over time.

Running against the excesses, inequities, and policies of the Bloomberg era, de Blasio promised the dawn of a new progressive era in New York City. He brought together a multi-racial coalition to win a tough Democratic primary by a surprisingly large margin, avoiding a runoff, then the general election in a landslide. He inherited a city with a booming economy and low crime, but exploding socioeconomic inequality and communities of color deeply resentful of the police; with flush municipal coffers but expired municipal labor contracts; with record tourism but a growing homelessness crisis and crumbling public housing. 

De Blasio pledged to institute universal pre-kindergarten to give students an earlier learning foundation and aid struggling families that needed assistance. He promised to reform the police department, end the abuses of stop-and-frisk policing, and create a new culture of accountability and mutual respect among cops and communities — and all while keeping crime trending downward. He set out to ease the pressures of gentrification and displacement by building and preserving affordable housing on a large scale across the city. He promised to infuse equity into the work of every city agency and initiative, to turn the massive municipal government toward lifting up the most vulnerable and making life easier for everyone in the working and middle classes.

Either during his 2013 campaign or in the early months of his administration, de Blasio also pledged to improve struggling schools without closing them or turning to charter schools, be a friend to organized labor, significantly reduce traffic deaths, expand park space in low-income neighborhoods, strengthen the social safety net, prevent hospital closures and expand community health centers, fortify CUNY, reduce arrests for marijuana possession, increase contracts for minority- and women-owned businesses, ban horse carriages, and more.

Along with flush coffers, de Blasio had a City Council that he was largely in lock-step agreement with, particularly in his first term after he helped to secure the selection of progressive Melissa Mark-Viverito as the Council Speaker. Through both terms, de Blasio and the Council advanced de Blasio’s agenda, with the Council several times pushing him further in a progressive direction to move priorities of its own, like closing the Rikers Island jails, which Mark-Viverito convinced him to do, and providing half-priced Metrocards to low-income New Yorkers, which the second City Council Speaker he worked with, Corey Johnson, insisted on.

After two terms, Bill de Blasio leaves office with a long list of promises kept, to varying degrees, many accomplishments, and, undoubtedly, a 'fairer' city than he inherited. He has done a great deal on early childhood education, worker protections, and climate change. But he has come significantly short of creating the progressive city many who elected him hoped he would leave after eight years in charge, struggling to address several long-standing crises like homelessness, public housing, and street congestion. City schools have improved overall, but hundreds of thousands of mostly Black and Latino children remain segregated and behind.

For the most part, de Blasio only seemed to enjoy his job in his first and last years. He leaves many New Yorkers believing that he was a bad and distracted manager of city government. Indeed, he attempted to have a national profile from early in his tenure, launched a misguided and embarrassing effort to influence the 2016 presidential race, ran a misguided and embarrassing campaign for president in 2019, then returned to deliver a 2020 State of the City address, early in his seventh year as mayor, with the theme “Save Our City.”

That agenda focused on small businesses, affordable housing, climate change, and more in a fairly explicit acknowledgement that de Blasio had not been bold enough on major challenges facing New Yorkers, especially those with limited means.

Soon after that February 2020 speech, the COVID-19 pandemic devastated New York City.

De Blasio’s tenure ends with half his second term overtaken by the pandemic, which, though New York City was abandoned by federal negligence, he nevertheless struggled to prepare for, react to, and adapt to. Many New Yorkers have credited him for a relatively strong finish based on his work to boost covid vaccination rates and keep schools open. He leaves the mayoralty also having failed to curb pandemic era spikes in gun and road violence, both part of national trends.

De Blasio has repeatedly cited universal prekindergarten, neighborhood policing, and the city’s ThriveNYC mental health initiative as his top three achievements. “I think these were three areas where we rewrote the playbook, I believe in my heart, and I think they'll be built upon much more going forward,” he said, in a December Q&A at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute with Professor Joseph Viteritti.

And he has taken pride in the fact that there has been quantifiable improvement in the lives of the poorest New Yorkers. “If you had to crystallize what I came here to do, it was to fight inequality and reverse what had been a long trend of more and more money going to those who are already doing very well and less and less reaching the hands of working people,” he said in a December 13 appearance on NY1’s Inside City Hall. “And look, we've gotten a huge number of people out of poverty. Over half-a-million New Yorkers have come out of poverty during my administration – more to come. So, that, to me – you know, that sense of satisfaction, that was the mission.”

Over eight years, de Blasio, like any mayor, faced challenges large and small — some inherited, some of his own making; some that grew over time and others that came out of nowhere. Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump both loomed large over de Blasio’s tenure, giving him far more trouble than help, including during the pandemic. He battled, mostly unsuccessfully, with Uber and Eva Moskowitz; horse-carriage drivers and police unions. Even when he appeared right on the merits, de Blasio often failed to build the necessary political coalitions to win political battles.

While he made significant progress on a number of fronts he made limited advancement on various elements of the city’s multi-faceted housing crisis, including much-needed property tax reform, as well as in dealing with fundamental issues like school segregation, public transit availability and reliability, and workforce development.

Whatever the crisis or opponent, de Blasio often — though certainly not always — proved his own worst enemy, struggling to build alliances, getting mired in ethical scandals and misguided political pursuits, being unnecessarily combative with the press corps that covers him, and attacking problems either too late, too timidly, or (nearly) not at all. In the end, de Blasio was an incrementalist addressing crises in dire need of bold action, a landscape he often diagnosed properly but could not treat effectively. By many accounts he was a mix at various times of a micro-manager, indecisive, and aloof.

De Blasio was almost always in campaign mode, sabotaging himself and many other New Yorkers in prioritizing his political standing over fixing problems. He struck divisive stances that even other Democrats rejected, promising to be a class warrior taking on the wealthy on behalf of everyone else, but while he vilified a subsection of elites, many of his most progressive early supporters felt he went nowhere near far enough on issues like affordable housing and police reform. He often preferred talking about things under the control of other levels of government. He governed with both imperiousness and softness.

While he does have a long list of accomplishments accrued over eight years with mostly low crime and flush city coffers, de Blasio leaves office deeply unpopular overall, having ticked off the rich and let down the poor, alienated the right and the left, and frustrated the middle with his lack of attention to basic city services. To many, he never overcame the reputation for tardiness, and the disrespect it shows, that he cemented for himself in his first months in office.

“Every mayor has a volcanic experience. None of them has a calm time,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran Democratic consultant, who worked in the Koch administration. “When you sit in the chair in City Hall, one of the things you can expect is that your life will never be the same. Bill de Blasio, I feel it appears that he always thought this would be some kind of ceremonial activity. But it wasn't. He had major challenges.”

Success and Failures
In his eight years in office, de Blasio achieved mixed results on fulfilling his biggest promises.

“Being mayor is a very difficult job. I don't think that can be overstated,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, a fellow Brooklyn Democrat. “I do think there are a lot of things that the mayor could rightly get a hat tip for. Part of the problem is some of those same things never quite seemed to actually hit the mark fully, didn’t quite hit the need, didn’t quite get there soon enough.”

Universal pre-kindergarten was approved early on in de Blasio’s first term, with funding help from the state (but not via the tax increase on the wealthy that de Blasio had sought to pay for it), and it is widely hailed as the most significant achievement of de Blasio’s tenure. He has since launched an expansion of the program to three-year-olds, leaving the city on the path to adding two full years to the public school system, a massive accomplishment set to serve roughly 100,000 kids per year across the two grades, potentially narrow achievement gaps, and helping parents both save money on child care costs and earn more in the workforce.

The use of stop-and-frisk policing undoubtedly reached a nadir, but the practice had already been on the wane before de Blasio took over, in part due to pressure he helped exert, and it hasn’t been completely ‘ended,’ as he sometimes likes to claim. The NYPD recorded 9,544 stop-and-frisks in 2020, down massively from the Bloomberg era peak of 685,724 in 2011, though questions remain about racial disparities and whether officers are documenting all of their stops. According to an analysis of data from 2019 by the New York Civil Liberties Union, Black and brown New Yorkers continued to be stopped at a disproportionate rate and two-thirds of stops were of innocent people.

The NYPD has been subjected to new rules and regulations, greater oversight and accountability, but not always at de Blasio’s behest and sometimes despite him. A massive rift that grew between de Blasio and many police officers in 2014 never healed. On the other hand, the mayor further eroded or lost the trust of many New Yorkers during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, when he repeatedly defended the NYPD in the face of egregious evidence of misconduct. There’s little proof that de Blasio significantly improved police-community relations despite his persistent claims that he has. He cites his neighborhood policing program as a top success but has never shown proof of its efficacy.

De Blasio appeared to never really take charge of his police department, culminating with a final NYPD commissioner, Dermot Shea, who repeatedly contradicted and undermined the mayor while misleading the public.

De Blasio’s administration saw years of success in continuing to reduce crime to record lows, a trend partially undone by spikes during the pandemic that were also seen nationally. Meanwhile, the administration, along with the City Council, significantly reduced arrests and summonses by decriminalizing low-level offenses, and the city’s jail population fell during de Blasio’s tenure. That became part of a plan to close the Rikers Island jail complex, as other criminal justice reforms were also instituted, including at the state level. The administration and City Council crafted a plan to close the Rikers jails and build four new modern jails in each borough but Staten Island.

But violence at Rikers continued to escalate even as the population declined and in de Blasio’s final year in office more than a dozen detainees died in custody. The jail complex has also been under a federal monitor since 2015, after the city settled a class-action lawsuit brought by the Legal Aid Society and several private attorneys which was later joined by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. In his latest report issued earlier this month, the monitor, Steve Martin, issued a scathing criticism of the Department of Correction and its failure to institute reforms and called for an overhaul of its leadership, staffing and disciplinary practices.

De Blasio went more than four years without visiting Rikers Island, only going in his final year as inmate deaths and public pressure mounted.

The de Blasio administration launched a massive housing program and created new zoning regulations to encourage the preservation and construction of rent-restricted housing. The city has financed the preservation or construction of 200,000 over the eight de Blasio years, but the city’s program has been criticized for focusing too much on communities of color for added density while also failing to reach the deepest levels of affordability needed with a sizable enough portion of the units in the plan.

New tenant protections and anti-eviction measures, particularly a right to counsel in housing court, were launched to help keep people in their homes, and have proved successful. The mayor’s appointments to the Rent Guidelines Board approved one-year rent freezes for roughly 2 million rent-regulated tenants in 2015, 2016, and 2020, while increasing rents by lower rates than previous years when they did so.

De Blasio also took more ownership of issues at the New York City Housing Authority than his predecessors, though still without the required level of urgency. The public housing authority, home to more than 400,000 mostly Black and Latino New Yorkers, had been underfunded for decades, particularly because of lack of federal investment, and its housing stock has continued to crumble as residents have dealt with unfulfilled repair needs, mold, lead paint, broken elevators and boilers, and other major problems at an inhumane scale. In 2011, the agency’s capital needs stood at $17 billion. They have since risen to about $40 billion.

In late 2018, almost five years into his tenure, de Blasio unveiled “NYCHA 2.0,” a program to fill about $24 billion of that maintenance and repair backlog through new development on unused NYCHA land, the sale of air rights, and the transfer of management to private developers. Soon after, in the wake of the yearslong problems, a federal monitor was also put in place to oversee ongoing reforms. The mayor has been slow to pursue implementation of his new blueprint.

Homelessness bedeviled de Blasio throughout his tenure despite a massive infusion of funds and several attempts at course correction. The outgoing mayor has said it is his biggest area of mistake and regret, and while he has put into place several important programs to improve the crisis, from the right to counsel to new vouchers and shelters, it is another area where he did not appropriately scale his plans to the degree of the problem.

More than 45,000 New Yorkers stay in shelters every night, a number that has dropped amid the pandemic era eviction moratorium and enhanced programs by the city, and over 100,000 children experience homelessness each year. Thousands of people live on the streets and subways, many struggling with severe mental illness, and de Blasio has been unable to produce results in helping them.

De Blasio attempted an ambitious mental health initiative, helmed by First Lady Chirlane McCray, but it struggled due to a lack of focus on implementation, metrics, and results. Because ThriveNYC, an umbrella “roadmap” of various programs and funding initiatives, was a signature initiative heralded with much fanfare by the mayor and run by his spouse, it was especially expected to show results. But, for quite some time the administration did not show what it was measuring or give clear indications of the programs’ impact. Though some have credited the administration for expanding the city’s mental health care offerings and reducing stigma around seeking mental health care, the overarching program became a punching bag for critics, as well as a symbol for de Blasio’s tendency for grand pronouncements with limited follow-through.

De Blasio also launched a public health initiative meant to give the uninsured better access to regular health care at public hospitals and clinics, including through a primary care physician that so many uninsured New Yorkers, especially undocumented immigrants, often lack.

He declared New York a “sanctuary city” to protect undocumented immigrants from federal immigration authorities. And he launched the IDNYC municipal identification program to give the undocumented a form of identification for use in many everyday settings, including city services, as well as cultural institutions.

Early in his tenure, de Blasio settled long-expired municipal labor contracts that had been a source of uncertainty. Those contracts, like other de Blasio fiscal practices, were seen by most experts as either solid or manageable with significant long-term questions. The mayor has touted them as investments in the city’s working and middle classes, with due compensation for municipal workers providing essential services and aspiring to good quality of life in New York City.

De Blasio enjoyed prosperous financial times, as the economy grew for an unprecedented stretch for most of his tenure, until the pandemic. Jobs boomed, incomes increased, inequality fell — in part because of a state increase in minimum wage that he helped champion into existence — and city revenues steadily grew. This allowed de Blasio and the City Council to massively expand the municipal workforce and grow the city’s budget by more than $30 billion, from $72.7 billion to $102.8 billion, or a 41.4% increase. The final jump in spending was boosted by federal pandemic relief funds.

Still, de Blasio’s fiscal stewardship was mostly given solid marks, though there were always concerns, right through his final budget adjustment in November. Those concerns include that he was not setting enough aside for a rainy day nor insisting on enough efficiencies from his agencies, and growing city government too large, with too many long-term commitments while doing little to make structural reforms to those obligations.

The pandemic’s devastating impact on city finances highlighted the fact that de Blasio had not put aside as much in reserves as watchdogs had suggested, though he was able to rely on a solid cushion, and the federal government eventually came to the rescue. Still, as he leaves office, there are multi-billion-dollar deficits in the budget plan and major questions about short- and long-term obligations, with significant uncertainty around the city’s economic recovery that will impact tax revenue.

The mayor’s Vision Zero program to eliminate traffic fatalities progressed slowly and surely over most of his tenure, only to see much of that success reversed in his final two years. De Blasio’s approach to street safety redesigns and traffic calming measures was both appreciated and called too timid by advocates and other experts. The mayor launched a new ferry service as an alternate mode of transportation, but some pointed out that it largely served wealthier residents rather than low-income communities and relied on massive per-ride subsidies to keep the ticket cost artificially low. He launched busways, built bike lanes, and expanded the CitiBike bike-sharing system, but was again regularly criticized for taking a very modest approach to transit improvements and public realm shifts toward more eco-friendly and mass transit options.

After a battle with the City Council, de Blasio agreed to launch the Fair Fares program to provide discounted Metrocards to low-income commuters, the type of program that appeared to fit perfectly in the mayor’s mission to reduce inequality but came to exemplify his stubbornness, lack of attention to subway and bus riders, and prioritization of his own signature projects.

Overall, de Blasio paid far too little attention to the subways and buses, in part because he rightly saw the MTA as more of a state responsibility. But also because he was not a subway or bus rider himself, and made no effort to experience the city like his constituents on a regular basis (he also avoided walking around city neighborhoods). De Blasio had no real vision for the subway and bus systems, instead mostly tinkering on the edges with the ferries, which will in a sense be a lasting legacy given he built out an additional mode of getting around the city, but also serve as a reminder that he did virtually nothing to pursue a subway extension along Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, or anywhere else. He spent far more time on his failed BQX streetcar plan than looking at the Triboro RX proposal.

He had to be dragged into supporting congestion pricing, which the city still does not have, though it appears on the way in a few more years, and into making bus improvements, where as mayor he could have relatively quick and significant impact. He leaves office having done little for the city's hundreds of thousands of mostly lower-income, Black, Hispanic, and Asian bus commuters. Like on other issues, he took some more aggressive steps later in his tenure and after immense pressure from others, launching a series of busways. They, too, will be part of his legacy, but exemplify his many uncertain attempts to solve intractible problems.

Aside from early childhood education, de Blasio has received some of his biggest plaudits for his climate record. Though many advocates would have liked him to move more quickly and aggressively, he leaves office with several major achievements in the fight against climate change. His administration moved to electrify the city vehicle fleet, increased the use of sustainable energy sources and took major steps to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions from public and private buildings, as part of a Green New Deal for New York City. He initiated major climate resiliency projects and, in one of his last moves before leaving office, signed legislation on December 22 that bans gas hookups in new residential and commercial buildings. The gas ban will be phased in after December 2023 and, by 2027, all new buildings will have to be fully electric.

Earlier this year, in January, the mayor and Comptroller Scott Stringer also announced that the city’s pension system would divest $4 billion from fossil fuel industry holdings, following through on a pledge made in 2018. The mayor and comptroller also pledged at the time to double pension investments in climate solutions from 1% to 2%, or roughly $4 billion over three years.

“Besides pre-K, there were some things that we did in the first term that were both incredibly meaningful local policies but then I think pushed the envelope to create meaningful statewide policies,” said Emma Wolfe, de Blasio’s chief of staff and deputy mayor for administration, in a December 16 appearance on the What's The [Data] Point? podcast from Gotham Gazette and Citizens Budget Commission, in reference to minimum wage and paid family leave policies. “What more could you want for in terms of a feeling of achievement or accomplishment on behalf of regular folks?”

One important de Blasio-led achievement was the city's strong showing in the 2020 Census, where the mayor invested significant resources in a robust operation to get as many New Yorkers as possible counted, even during a pandemic. The city's strong response rate will help ensure it gets its share of federal resources and representation.

De Blasio convened two Charter Revision Commissions, including one this year focused on racial equity and justice that is likely to leave a lasting impact on city government. It recently voted to put three questions to city voters on the 2022 general election ballot that would, if passed, add a preamble to the City Charter, mandate a citywide racial equity plan and establish new racial equity oversight bodies; and create a new measure of the “true cost of living” in New York City.

[NYC Racial Justice Commission Approves Three Proposals for 2022 Ballot]

Earlier in his tenure, de Blasio’s first charter commission led to the creation of a new Civic Engagement Commission, enhancements to the city’s public matching campaign finance system, and term limits for community board members.

De Blasio’s own ethical entanglements leave a large stain on his legacy. He skirted, blurred, and crossed the bounds of campaign finance law and conflicts of interest rules, though he emerged legally unscathed. But prosecutors and other enforcement entities chastised him repeatedly for his violations and he leaves office with a pile of unresolved legal bills.

Almost from the start of his tenure his interests seemed to lie outside the city, with a thirst for a national role that fell flat ahead of the 2016 presidential election and culminated with a disastrous run for president that lasted four months in 2019. Months before his term was up, he began to publicly tease a bid for governor that appears likely to launch in early January.

He seemed to dig in his heels on distractions, for instance his 12-mile near-daily drive (pre-pandemic) to the gym in Park Slope, which he previously represented on the City Council. He almost never admitted error or fault, casting blame near and far, regularly throwing his aides and commissioners under the bus or pointing at the governor, the president, the media, and others.

“He seemed wholly disinterested in being mayor for the last six years of being mayor,” said Dr. Christina Greer, professor of political science at Fordham University.

The mayor’s acrimonious relationship with former Governor Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, served as a constant source of slights, big and small. While de Blasio was far more often the victim than the aggressor, he also took turns prioritizing his own ego or agenda, or avoiding the work to build a coalition to win a battle with the governor. The relationship started to quickly deteriorate early in de Blasio’s tenure when he repeatedly insisted that Cuomo back tax increases during an election year for the governor, which Cuomo wanted no part of but still offered the mayor a significant sum of state funding to fulfill de Blasio’s top campaign promise of universal pre-kindergarten.

Cuomo’s ultimate downfall in part vindicated de Blasio, who had long-warned of the governor’s abrasive tactics and bullying style. The dysfunction of the relationship, largely Cuomo’s fault, was detrimental to New Yorkers, especially during the covid crisis.

“Universal pre-K was critical but part of what bumped him off was his lack of a relationship with the governor, and the fact that he appeared always to be so ambitious, but that ambition was more important to him than actually accomplishing things that mattered,” Sheinkopf said. “The presidential campaign was also an abject disaster because it alienated whatever goodwill he had left.”

Greer echoed the critique about the mayor’s failure to coordinate with the governor on every level. “Their inability to get along when it came to transportation and weather, or any sort of policy that would help New Yorkers. It was a constant oneupsmanship with the two of them and the only people who…got the short end of the stick were New Yorkers,” she said.

“What can you say about him?,” Sheinkopf added of de Blasio. “You can say that he was well-intended. He was entirely political. He didn't understand the ramifications for his actions. He was not a good manager. He was not, unlike Koch, a great cheerleader for the city…He could have been a cheerleader for more than just social equity and in that he also failed.”

Universal pre-kindergarten was a resounding success and remains the mayor’s signature achievement. From an initial enrollment of about 19,000 students before he came into office, the number of children enrolled in pre-K rose to a peak of 69,510 by the time the mayor’s program was at full capacity in 2017, according to the Mayor’s Management Report. In the 2021 fiscal year, the number fell to 58,469, a likely effect of the pandemic.

“His biggest success by far was universal pre-K,” said Greer. “I don't think we can underestimate the effect that that will have on the city for generations.”

In 2017, the mayor announced an expansion called 3-K for All, which will reach 40,000 children in the city’s 32 community school districts in the current school year.

Along other indicators, the de Blasio education department has also shown consistent success. For children in grades 3 to 8, English language proficiency increased from 28.4% in fiscal year 2014 to 47.4% in fiscal year 2019 while math proficiency increased from 34.2% to 45.6%.

The high school graduation rate increased from 66.0% in FY14 to 78.8% in FY2020. The number of students taking advanced placement exams increased as did the number of students graduating ready for college and careers. Between FY14 and FY21, the administration created 55,313 new school seats through new school construction.

De Blasio made a massive investment over the years to turn around underperforming schools through his “Renewal” program. But, after four years and more than $773 million spent, the initiative showed uneven results and the mayor abandoned it in early 2019. He launched a successful Community Schools initiative which improved attendance, graduation rates, and test scores by providing more resources to students and families at their schools.

His “Equity and Excellence” effort pushed to raise student achievement through the expansion of Advanced Placement classes to every high school, providing all students with Computer Science classes in elementary, middle, and high school, and ensuring all students take Algebra by the 9th grade. He also launched the “Single Shepherd” program to provide guidance counselors to families at the highest-need schools though the program was later curtailed because of budget cuts.

Over his tenure, the mayor repeatedly clashed with charter school operators and advocates, as he called for greater oversight of the sector and pushed to limit its growth, which he said came at the cost of the larger public school system and its 1 million students. He fought particularly pitched battles with Eva Moskowitz, a former City Council member and founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools. In the end, something of a stalemate arrived as the mayor lost many early battles but with a Democratic takeover of the State Senate, the cap on charter schools in the city, which has been hit, has not been raised. De Blasio has often credited a subset of charter schools separate from the bigger networks, but still did not support more of those types of schools, despite some of their successes in educating young students of color.

Among the mayor’s failures was his inability to both improve many struggling schools or address what remains the most segregated school system in the country. Many argued that integration would be a major school improvement tool, but de Blasio never wanted to own the issue. He took some steps, often delayed and at the behest of local leaders, while declining to take aggressive action even after reluctantly empaneling a “School Diversity Task Force” that offered him a roadmap to better integrated schools with universal enrichment programming. He sat on its most sweeping recommendations for years.

De Blasio sought to do away with the Specialized High School Admissions Test, which determines admissions to eight of the city’s specialized high schools where Black and Hispanic students are severely underrepresented. But that measure, at least for the three largest specialized high schools, requires state approval and did not see movement in the Legislature after major blowback and de Blasio’s inability or unwillingness to engage the public and create a political coalition to win support for the plan. He admitted he had approached it poorly, especially with regard to engaging the city’s Asian communities, and vowed to go back to the drawing board but never did.

In the final weeks of his tenure de Blasio announced that the city would phase out Gifted and Talented programs, which have a very small number of seats across the city and disproportionately low Black and Hispanic enrollment, in favor of an accelerated learning model for all students. That too was delayed and half-baked and will likely be unsuccessful as incoming Mayor Eric Adams has pledged to expand the programs rather than phase them out.

As he sought to raise funds to promote his political agenda, de Blasio repeatedly ran afoul of ethics and conflicts of interest regulations, though he avoided any formal consequences.

Early in 2014, he created an outside nonprofit called UPKNYC and later retooled it as the Campaign for One New York to boost policies he hoped to achieve. The group raised cash from donors who also had business with the city, without the same contribution limits that would apply to a campaign for city elected office, raising concerns at the minimum of an appearance of pay-to-play politics. He eventually shut the Campaign for One New York down amid scandal in 2016.

During some of that same period the mayor also sought to tap his donors to steer contributions to help flip the State Senate to Democratic control, raising red flags about coordinated attempts to evade contribution limits by funneling large sums of money through certain “housekeeping” accounts.

Both sets of actions were flagged by investigators.

The activities of the Campaign for One New York group caught the attention of local regulatory agencies and prompted separate state and federal investigations. Though the mayor himself was never charged with a crime, prosecutors did chastise him for violating the spirit, if not the letter of the law. De Blasio appeared to benefit from a Supreme Court ruling that raised the bar for what qualifies as political corruption — though he had used his office in exchange for political donations, he did not put any of the money in his own pocket. Three of his donors eventually agreed to pay fines to settle charges brought by the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics that they had given illegal gifts to the mayor by donating to the Campaign for One New York.

“It's hard to imagine when last we had a mayor, of whom prosecutors said that his behavior was outrageous, but not sufficient to indict but close to it,” said Sheinkopf.

Much of de Blasio’s first term became mired in ethics scandals and questions about his fundraising activities, the investigations into his behavior and that of his close associates, and the access his administration gave to the mayor’s donors and lobbyist allies. De Blasio became further convinced that the media and others were out to get him and both receded and became more antagonistic. He repeatedly argued that he had done everything based on the advice of both legal counsel and the Conflicts of Interest Board, and regularly argued that because he was raising money for progressive causes, the tactics he used were justifiable. De Blasio repeatedly misled the public on these matters.

As the New York Times reported earlier this month, the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board formally warned the mayor in a letter in July 2014 against soliciting funds from people with business with the city. When he ignored the warning and again engaged in the practice, the Board officially reprimanded him in another letter in September 2018. The de Blasio administration fought a lengthy court battle against the Times to prevent the disclosure of those letters but the State Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, ruled against him.

The Board never punished de Blasio, nor did the city Department of Investigation, which had concluded that the mayor violated conflicts of interest regulations. Despite being explicitly warned by the conflicts board against raising funds from people with pending business with the city, the mayor told DOI investigators he was unaware of the restriction, according to a report by news outlet The City.

De Blasio’s legal defense was in large part paid for by the public, though he had said it wouldn’t be, and for some of those investigations that applied to campaign activity and he could not bill taxpayers, he wound up owing the firm Kramer Levin & Naftalis more than $300,000, a figure which has since risen to about $435,000 after interest, according to The City. Now quite a few years after accruing those bills, de Blasio has yet to settle them, raising questions about why Kramer Levin, a firm that also has a major lobbying practice, has left the debt outstanding.

The mayor did plan to create a legal defense fund to raise the needed money and the City Council passed a law that would allow him to do so with firm restriction on contributions. But he never created such a fund, perhaps because of the pandemic, which he has blamed for failing to resolve the bills.

[Read: De Blasio’s Record on Ethics and Transparency (2017)]

The mayor’s fundraising transgressions, viewed as deeply unethical by a variety of experts, didn’t end there. Before he launched his run for president, he created a federal political action committee, Fairness PAC, and a state political action committee, NY Fairness PAC, that were ostensibly meant to aid Democrats in national and state elections respectively. But the mayor seemingly used both PACs to fund expenses for his presidential campaign, allowing him to circumvent contribution limits and spend higher amounts without reporting them as campaign expenditures. His campaign pledged to amend his federal financial disclosures after The City reported on the discrepancies, but the mayor’s campaign was nonetheless flagged at least twice by the Federal Election Commission for the odd fundraising arrangements. 

Policing, Public Safety and Race
Mayor de Blasio was lauded when, in his first term, he dropped the Bloomberg administration appeal of a federal court ruling that found the NYPD was using stop-and-frisk in an unconstitutional, racially-biased manner.

He attempted to revamp the city’s approach to public safety through neighborhood policing, meant to encourage familiarity between police officers and the communities they patrol, and precision policing that directs resources to crime hot spots around the city and targets gangs and crews. When in 2015 the City Council argued that the new paradigm required the hiring of 1,000 new police officers, de Blasio first pushed back, only to accede to the demand and even go further to add another 300 officers.

From the start, police reform advocates were wary that the mayor would follow through on his campaign promises of being a reformer. As a proponent of so-called “broken windows” policing, which requires cracking down on low-level offenses to prevent major crimes, de Blasio hired a pioneer of the practice, Bill Bratton, as his first NYPD commissioner. The mayor attempted a rebranding as “quality of life policing” and he and Bratton did make significant adjustments to how the city was policed, particularly in the reduction in arrests.

“At the end of the day, most people will have the stance that what de Blasio was known for when he first started his administration was more posturing and campaign promises than an actual shift in policy and approach,” said Mark Winston Griffith, former executive director of Brooklyn Movement Center and a spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition group.

The mayor’s first major test on policing came when a white police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, killed Staten Island resident Eric Garner, who was Black, by holding him in a chokehold banned by police rules. Garner’s death and his repeated cries of “I can’t breathe” were caught on video and galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement across the nation. But Pantaleo remained on the force for the next five years before being fired by the police department. De Blasio blamed the slow disciplinary process on a Staten Island District Attorney’s Office investigation followed by a pending U.S. Justice Department probe, an excuse that didn’t pass muster with police reform advocates.

After a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo, de Blasio said the matter was “profoundly personal” for him and spoke of conversations he had with his biracial son, Dante, about interacting with police. “With Dante, very early on, we said, ‘Look, if a police officer stops you, do everything he tells you to do. Don't move suddenly. Don't reach for your cell phone,’” de Blasio said. "Because we knew, sadly, there's a greater chance it might be misinterpreted if it was a young man of color."

A few months later came what may be one of the few defining moments of de Blasio’s tenure and his approach to the NYPD. In December 2014, NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were shot and killed on duty in their patrol car in Brooklyn by a man who had traveled there from Baltimore. Police unions, already angered by the mayor’s earlier comments about warning his son about the police, blamed what they saw as the mayor’s anti-cop rhetoric. “There's blood on many hands tonight," Pat Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said at the time. "That blood on the hands starts at City Hall in the Office of the Mayor.” At the hospital the night of their killings and at Ramos’ and Liu’s funerals, dozens and hundreds of officers turned their backs to the mayor in protest.

For observers, every cautious move de Blasio made afterwards regarding the police seemed to be informed by that series of incidents and the notion that he had ‘lost the police.’ Out of the killings of Garner, Ramos, and Liu, and how he handled them, de Blasio was seen by many as anti-police and by many others as unwilling to hold the police accountable. Since de Blasio’s campaign had made him an apparent police reformer to both sides of the equation, those most alienated were the New Yorkers hoping he would overhaul the NYPD.

“When you see that the people, the very people who are enforcing the law are not expected to face the same level of accountability and are expected to not face discipline when they do something wrong, it makes the entire system feel hypocritical and corrupt,” said CPR’s Griffith. “And at the end of the day, de Blasio, I think his legacy, he will be known really more for his attempts to maintain the status quo than to change the system.”

For nearly seven years, the mayor argued that neighborhood policing was a success. But he had virtually no concrete causal evidence to support his assertion. It was only in November this year that the city released the results of a study on neighborhood policing by the RAND Corporation, based on surveys conducted in November 2020 and May 2021, in the middle of the pandemic. Broadly, the surveys, of more than 1,000 people each, found that people who lived in areas with higher crime were less likely to trust the police or engage with them than those who live in neighborhoods with lower crime.

Among de Blasio’s greatest successes was bringing crime down to historic lows over most of his tenure before the pandemic upended the trend, and doing so while the police department scaled back arrests and summonses.

There were 111,335 “major index crimes” — meaning the major felony categories of murder, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny and car theft — in 2013, the year before de Blasio took office. That number was down to 95,593 in 2020. There have been 98,580 major crimes this year so far.

Murders dropped to an all-time low of just 292 in 2017, but have skyrocketed in the wake of the pandemic, a trend that’s also reflected nationally. There were 468 murders in 2020 and there have been 464 this year as of December 19. Though shooting incidents fell from 1,339 in 2013 to 967 in 2019, they also increased dramatically in the next two years. In 2020, there were 1,490 shootings and, in 2021 through December 19, there have already been 1,526.

There are fewer interactions between New Yorkers and the criminal legal system, in part because of reforms passed by the City Council that decriminalized several low-level offenses. In total, criminal summonses fell from 424,940 in 2013 to just 55,589 in 2020; arrests decreased from 393,809 to 140,413 in that same time. Consequently, the city’s jail population has also fallen significantly. In 2013, the average daily jail population was 11,696. In November of this year, there were 5,373 detainees in city jails. The plan to close Rikers necessitates reducing the daily population to 3,300 by 2027.

Though he came into office as an ardent reformer, bent on confronting a police force accused of rampant abuse of power, de Blasio has little to show in terms of tangible improvements in police-community relations, especially after he so forcefully defended the NYPD amid violent crackdowns on Black Lives Matter protesters in 2020.

“I really think that that was one of his worst moments as mayor,” said Neal Kwatra, founder of Metropolitan Public Strategies. “And I think it was because there was such a profound disconnect between what and how people were feeling and he brought an incredibly, I thought, academic and cold approach to that reality.”

De Blasio did react to the resurgence in that movement by working with the City Council on several pieces of legislation, agreeing to some cuts to the NYPD budget, and establishing his racial justice commission that is putting city charter change proposals to voters on the 2022 ballot.

Among the series of legislation ushered into law in 2020, de Blasio signed a new “disciplinary matrix” system to give more clarity to the NYPD accountability process for officers who break the rules, and a law, vehemently opposed by police unions and their allies, making police chokeholds illegal and also banning the compression of the diaphragm, as Officer Derek Chauvin had done in killing George Floyd. That law, along with bail reforms passed at the state level, led to a great deal of pushback from law enforcement entities and some calls for officers to pull back from pursuing criminals.

Overall, de Blasio’s approach left him in something of a triangulated no man’s land where he is seen as both anti-cop by many of those to his right and a timid police reformer to many of those on his left.

That view was also acutely apparent in his stance on the state bail reforms. Since their 2019 passage, de Blasio has continued to repeat his calls, first issued in 2015, for the state Legislature to include a ‘dangerousness’ standard for judges to order defendants held pre-trial either without bail or by setting bail high enough that most would be unlikely to be able to pay. De Blasio allowed his police commissioner, Shea, to assail the bail reforms, without evidence, for causing a spike in gun violence. That rhetoric, to some, played into fear-mongering narratives about progressive criminal justice policy that de Blasio had often been trying to dispel about his own policies and record.

“The danger there has been that the quote-unquote ‘progressive’ thought in governing takes a hit for things that actually never happened,” said Public Advocate Williams, an ardent police reformer, referring more specifically to defunding the police. “And so, you get blamed for the way certain things are going on in the city when what people were asking for never really happened.”

Economic Inequality
Though de Blasio couldn’t come close to eradicating the tale of two cities, income inequality did decrease during his tenure, thanks in part to his own policies, measures by the state and federal governments, and a booming economy that led to low unemployment. 

Besides UPK, which is considered the mayor’s single strongest achievement that addresses inequality in multiple ways, the city has approved other policies that have also served to make life easier for working people.

In 2014, the mayor signed a law to provide paid sick leave to roughly 500,000 workers of private businesses with five employees or more. It was later expanded over the years and, in 2020, when the state passed its own paid sick leave law, it was aligned to include more categories of businesses and workers. In 2015, the mayor signed an executive order to provide six weeks of paid family leave to about 20,000 managerial class city employees, helping to build momentum toward state approval of a paid family leave policy a year later.

In 2013, the state minimum wage was $7.25. The mayor, by executive order in 2014, raised the living wage in the city to $13.13 an hour for commercial tenants at city-backed projects receiving subsidies of more than $1 million. At the same time, de Blasio was among those who lobbied the state to increase the minimum wage for all workers in New York. In 2016, the mayor signed another executive order raising the minimum wage for city employees and city-contracted workers to $15 an hour by 2018. That same year, the state approved a phased-in $15 minimum wage, which took full effect in New York City in 2019, drastically lifting the bottom line for more than 1 million workers and almost immediately helping lift many out of poverty.

The mayor also settled all union contracts for municipal workers after taking office, which included significant raises and economists have cited as a positive measure for the city’s 300,000-plus union workforce.

“There is no precedent in terms of what other mayors have done that improved the living standards for people in the bottom half of the income distribution then the way that Bill de Blasio did so,” said James Parrott, an economist at The New School.

The effects of all those policies seem evident, even if New York City is still deeply unequal and a very high percentage of New Yorkers is struggling to make ends meet. According to the city’s own poverty measure, which is more expansive than the federal poverty rate and is released by the Mayor's Office for Economic Opportunity, the number of people living in or near poverty in the city dropped by 521,000 from 2013 to 2019. By the city’s measure, the number of people in actual poverty fell from 20.5% in 2013 to 17.9% in 2019, while those living near-poverty fell from 47.2% to 40.8%. According to U.S. Census data, based on the federal poverty measure, poverty in New York City fell from about 21% in 2013 to 16% in 2019.

An analysis of tax filings provided to Gothamist/WNYC by the Independent Budget Office, a nonpartisan city agency, found that New York City residents in the bottom half of the income distribution – making between $4,400 to $37,800 annually – saw their share of income distribution grow from 7.5% to 8.7% between 2014 and 2019, meaning a slight decrease in income inequality in the city pre-pandemic. But, the analysis excluded the top 1%, whose income surpasses $804,300 and who depend on capital gains through the stock market, and people in the bottom 10% who earn below $4,440, since both skew the data so significantly.

“I think history will judge Bill de Blasio much more kindly than the current era has,” said Kwatra, a longtime political strategist who has also worked in government. “There's still a long way to go. But that is tangible evidence that during his tenure, especially those first four years, you saw an actual impact on inequality in the city of New York, which you didn't see in any of the other major American cities. I think that's an unqualified success that he can and should count as a part of his legacy.”

In a report released this month, titled “The Tale of a More Equal City,” the de Blasio administration took stock of its efforts to ‘transfer wealth’ and reduce inequality in the city. “Progress has occurred not in one single area of focus, but by addressing inequality wherever it existed in the lives of everyday New Yorkers, from early education to health care to the workplace to Broadband access in our communities,” the report states.

In the report, besides the direct wage and pay policies, the administration cites a series of measures that have also put money back in the pockets of workers. That includes creating the Office of Labor Policy & Standards, later folded into the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, to oversee worker protections; the Freelance Isn’t Free act of 2017, which has helped freelance workers recover $2.1 million in owed compensation so far; the Fair Workweek Law which provides scheduling protections to fat food and retail workers; approving “source of income” protections for tenants; a law banning New York City employers from asking about the salary history of job applicants; a law providing workplace protections for domestic workers; the launch of ActionNYC, providing legal assistance to immigrants; launching NYC Free Tax Prep services; the expansion of the Summer Youth Employment Program, a universal baby bonds program launched this year; investments in jobs pipelines and workforce development; increasing contracts awarded to Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises; and many more.

Though the city controls virtually no tax policy beyond real estate rates, de Blasio did also try, albeit unsuccessfully, to push for income tax hikes on the wealthy at the state and federal levels. In part because of how much power over New York City lies in Albany, New Yorkers never got to see the full de Blasio vision put into action, for better or worse.

After years of inaction de Blasio created a commission to propose reforms to the city’s antiquated, inequitable, and some say racist property tax system — of which some changes would need state approval. In another telling de Blasio vignette, the commission released its final report on December 29, 2021, two days before de Blasio was due to leave office.

The pandemic reversed some of the progress made till 2019 though its effects were mitigated by massive amounts of federal aid. Low-wage workers lost jobs at far higher rates than higher-wage workers. A survey released in February by anti-poverty organization Robin Hood, in conjunction with Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy, found that Black and brown New Yorkers were more adversely affected by the pandemic than white New Yorkers; about two-thirds of New Yorkers struggled to pay the rent; existing food insecurity was exacerbated but less so for whites; among other findings.

The Built Environment
In his eight years in office, de Blasio did not create major conspicuous changes to the city’s skyline, unlike his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, whose tenure saw the construction and completion of One World Trade Center and laid the foundation for Hudson Yards, among other major projects. But de Blasio has nonetheless left a lasting mark on the city’s built environment in new housing, transit, and street infrastructure, repurposed industrial areas, climate resiliency projects, even art installations. A series of neighborhood rezonings -- otherwise known as community development plans -- he passed will not show their full impact for years.

As one of his first major policies in 2014, de Blasio launched “Housing New York,” a massive ten-year housing program meant to build and preserve 200,000 units of rent-restricted housing by 2024. In 2017, after exceeding its projected pace, the mayor expanded the program’s goal to 300,000 units by 2026.

On Wednesday, December 22, the mayor announced that his administration had accomplished the first goal well ahead of schedule, with 200,000 rent-restricted units constructed and preserved by the end of his two terms, including more than 66,000 new homes and more than 134,000 preserved units. According to the mayor’s office, 46% of the units were for New Yorkers earning less than $42,000 annually or $54,000 for a family of three.

While the bulk of the plan was in preservation of rent-regulated apartments through city-financed deals with property owners, there were other key steps. One was enacting two technical changes to land use regulations – Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA). MIH would mandate that developers who need city approval to build taller buildings with more density would have to build a specified number of rent-restricted units. It would also apply to larger neighborhood rezonings. ZQA, on the other hand, was meant to promote growing retail and commercial space, and to help create senior housing and mixed-income housing.

There has been broad criticism of the plan for its focus on low-income communities of color rather than building out density in richer, whiter neighborhoods. And the plan, many say, did not create enough units for people at the lowest levels of affordability and failed to create sufficient housing for people experiencing homelessness. While de Blasio did adjust the plan in response to this criticism, he remained largely steadfast in his belief that it needed to create affordable units across many income levels.

The mayor proposed, and saw approved through the City Council, major neighborhood rezonings in areas including East New York in Brooklyn, Downtown Far Rockaway in Queens, Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, East Harlem and Inwood in Manhattan, the Bay Street corridor on Staten Island, Gowanus in Brooklyn, and SoHo in Manhattan, with the final two coming in the last month of the administration and the only two that were in wealthier areas of the city.

His administration also successfully ushered through the rezoning of East Midtown, meant to rehabilitate a 78-block section of Manhattan with crumbling office space. While major pieces of that rezoning, which also included transit improvements near Grand Central Terminal, have already come to pass, the pandemic has put the future of midtown in a precarious position as most companies turned to remote work. There is now talk of converting unused office space to affordable housing stock, something that the incoming mayor has also proposed.

Other rezonings the administration eyed or proposed either failed to get approval or did not materialize, including in Bushwick, Flushing, Long Island City, and Southern Boulevard in the Bronx.

The rezonings will, or are meant to, spur the building of thousands of units of both market-rate and rent-restricted housing. In many cases, those restrictions will be permanent, ensuring long-term affordability. And they were accompanied by hundreds of millions of dollars of investments in communities for green spaces, new schools, small businesses, and broad economic development.

But de Blasio and Alicia Glen, who served as his first deputy mayor for housing and economic development, also took a broader approach to rezoning and development, using public land to encourage growth of office space, light manufacturing, commercial and retail space.

Key examples include the rezoning of the 300-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard, repurposing the industrial site for offices for startups, food production and green manufacturing, among other uses; there is the rezoning of the south side of Governor’s Island to create a climate sciences hub, university space, offices and more; Garment District rezoning in Manhattan to allow commercial space previously reserved for the fashion industry to be converted to office space.

There are other projects that were funded or completed under de Blasio and Glen, including the One Vanderbilt supertall in Manhattan, funding for the Delacorte Theater and the Lasker Rink in Central Park, the Universal Hip Hop Museum and the Hunts Point Food Market in the Bronx.

The built environment stretches beyond housing, of course. Under the mayor’s Vision Zero program, street infrastructure has been a particular focus, even though transportation advocates say the mayor has not done enough.

Between fiscal years 2014-2021, the city installed nearly 540 miles of bike lanes, including 126.3 miles of protected bike lanes, and added more than 18,000 bike parking spaces citywide. From 2014 to 2021, the administration increased the number of bus corridors from 6 to 17, increasing the number of bus lane miles from 38 miles in FY13 to 145 miles in FY21.

De Blasio’s NYC Ferry system is one of his proudest achievements and docks now dot the coastlines of the boroughs. While major questions have been raised about the high per-ride subsidies the city pays for transporting a mostly wealthier-than-average clientele, the expense of the boats, and more, it has proved a popular new service.

Under de Blasio, the city Parks Department completed more than 900 projects, including pieces of a community parks initiative to improve green space in lower-income areas, and several signature new projects.

The Covid Crisis
By the time of de Blasio's departure from office more than 35,000 New York City residents died from COVID-19.

De Blasio faltered in his early response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, ignoring guidance from aides and experts to quickly close down the city in early March 2020. Even before that, he (along with then-Governor Cuomo) ignored warning signs from overseas, and struck a foolishly optimistic tone as the virus bore down on the city.

In February 2020 and into March of that year, de Blasio encouraged New Yorkers to go about their everyday business and attend public events. As it was becoming obvious things were headed in a bad direction, he encouraged people to go to the movies. As things were closing down in a public health emergency he even encouraged New Yorkers to go to their favorite bar.

“The early missteps were terrible. There are lives lost because we made very bad decisions early on,” said Public Advocate Williams.

But, as the covid situation worsened, de Blasio was slow to act, even if he wound up ahead of some other leaders, like then-Governor Cuomo. But even then, he sent mixed messages — hours before he imposed a shutdown on gyms, he worked out at the YMCA in Park Slope in keeping with his years-long routine. He has not been back since.

In the absence of an organized federal response, officials and the public were looking to the mayor and Cuomo to take urgent action. Here, again, the feud between the two -- largely perpetuated and worsened by Cuomo -- would cost New Yorkers dearly. The city became the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States but still the city and state wasted crucial time in putting into place restrictions.

The governor boasted of New York having “the best health care system on the planet right here” but took few early measures to expand capacity. He dismissed de Blasio’s calls for a “shelter in place” order and spent several days mocking the mayor before recognizing that he had to put such an order in place (he rebranded it to try to avoid the appearance of a loss).

The early missteps eventually gave way to elements of a well-organized response on things like emergency food, and New York City under de Blasio has had some of the most-lauded policies on vaccine mandates and schools, though his policies of course also have some vocal detractors. Still, throughout the pandemic and its several acute crisis waves, de Blasio was regularly caught flat-footed and reactive, ignoring most guidance even from panels he had assembled on a variety of sectors like transit and small businesses. Plans for reopening schools in fall of 2020 and much more were always late and under-developed.

In July this year, as he sought to have municipal employees return to work in person by September, de Blasio imposed a mandate requiring workers to either show proof of vaccination or be tested weekly. He then strengthened the mandate, requiring vaccinations for all city workers by November. Enforcement followed as thousands were placed on unpaid leave, but the policy was successful as vaccination rates for city agencies saw an immediate and drastic uptick, and the city workforce is up to 95% vaccinated as of the mayor’s final days, he reported.

In August, the administration began enforcing a new “Key to NYC” policy, mandating vaccinations for access to indoor dining, entertainment, and fitness. Then, in December, de Blasio announced a major expansion to the policy, including a first-in-the-nation vaccine mandate for roughly 184,000 private employers of virtually all businesses, which took effect on December 27. His successor Eric Adams, a fellow Democrat whom de Blasio supported in the election to replace him, has said he will keep the mandates in place.

“I think especially in the last six months, you could make the case that Bill de Blasio has been one of the best leaders in the country on covid from mandates specifically, which were essentially pioneered in New York City and then adopted by the federal government,” said Kwatra.

“On both pre-K and covid, the current Democratic presidential administration is following Bill de Blasio’s lead,” he added. “I think that's pretty remarkable and pretty impactful.”

by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this piece.

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