In 2004 de Blasio was a paid adviser to John Edwards’s presidential campaign. And in this year’s mayoral race, his rhetoric about “a tale of two cities”—a line he has used to critique growing income inequality—has echoed Edwards’s rhetoric from 2004 about the “two Americas.” Yet while serving on the City Council, he frequently found himself on the wrong side of progressives in his district (admittedly not hard in ultraliberal Park Slope) and was sometimes blasted for favoring developers and real-estate interests over community concerns about congestion and quality of life.
For example, he sided with a developer in opposing the designation of the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site—even as nearby residents said that the city was ill equipped to carry out the cleanup on its own. He pushed to allow luxury housing in Brooklyn Bridge Park. And he was one of the primary backers of the controversial redevelopment of Atlantic Yards into a basketball arena for the Brooklyn Nets—a nearly decade-long fight that pitted local residents against powerful real-estate interests.
“He said that it was necessary to stop the tide of gentrification, but everyone knows this was the most gentrifying thing to ever happen to Brooklyn,” says Lucy Koteen, a local political activist who backs current City Comptroller John Liu. “He is not wrong about the ‘tale of two cities.’ But look at his record. Did he help level the playing field, or is he on the side of developers who have gotten rich displacing people?”
After being elected public advocate—essentially, a citywide ombudsman—in 2009, de Blasio spent time criticizing Bloomberg for failing to fulfill a pledge to reduce New York’s homeless population. He also asked corporations to pledge not to spend freely on elections in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
But he wasn’t a fire-breathing liberal on all matters. Back when Liu looked like a legitimate candidate for mayor and someone who could also compete for liberal votes—he has since seen his poll numbers bottom out in the wake of a fundraising scandal—de Blasio sometimes tacked the other way. In 2010 he told the Association for a Better New York, a group of city elites that has worked to influence local policy since the 1970s, that “punishing Wall Street, taxing Wall Street into oblivion, couldn’t be worse for New York City, and I oppose that,” and said he was against any new taxes. He courted real-estate money and even moved to Bloomberg’s right rhetorically by pledging to end what he said were onerous regulations on business and development.
“It is the Ronald Reagan debate question: ‘Are you better off than you were four years ago?’” he told the New York Observer in 2012. “The Bloomberg equivalent is an easier environment for business than it was 10 years ago. Is it easier for business to navigate the city government than it was 10 years ago? A lot of people in the business world will say no, it is actually harder.”
“Bill de Blasio is much closer to Machiavelli than to Marx. He is not a left-wing crusader or ideologue,” says one Democratic operative who has worked closely with de Blasio and is unaffiliated in this race. “He lives for the game.”
I don't believe de Blasio is a "progressive" any more than I believed John Edwards was.
Edwards had been quite a conservative southern senator before he tracked left in his presidential races.
And de Blasio has been quite helpful to the real estate industry, has been open to helping the charter school operators (Norm Scott thinks they've gor some kind of wink, wink deal on charters paying rent and other issues, which is why the charter people aren't up in arms over his rise in the polls.)
I have no doubt he can be bought by those very same interests once he is elected.
While I am supporting Bill de Blasio for mayor, it's not because I like him or trust him.
It's because, for me as a teacher, he is the best candidate with a shot to win the race.
But I am under no illusions that de Blasio is actually progressive or will go very far to overturn Bloomberg's ed deform policies.
I suspect Eva Moskowitz will get almost as much help in a de Blasio administration that she does in the Bloomberg administration after her hedge fund backers get around to explaining things to de Blasio (with cash envelopes or promises of such, of course.)
The truth is, she would get even more help in a Quinn administration.
And Thompson - well, there are few bigger political whores than Thompson.
Have cash, you have Thompson.
Just ask Wayne Barrett.
So de Blasio, for me, is the best of a bad bunch.
I was a Liu guy, but I knew he had been destroyed early on by the campaign finance fraud investigation, so I can live with de Blasio.
But make no mistake, we'll have to keep a close watch on him.