The mayor and the “tale of two cities”


It’s Thursday – Christmas Eve, if you want to think of it that way. We will examine the legacy of Mayor Bill de Blasio at the end of his term. We’ll also find out what went through the mind of a physics professor when he opened a package and saw money inside – a lot of money.

But first, around next week. Michael Gold and Mihir Zaveri are on the bridge to be here while I take a few days off and 2021 gives way to 2022.

The end of the year is in sight. There will be assessments of the second year of the coronavirus pandemic and of President Biden’s first year in office – and, in New York City, of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s eight years at City Hall.

The mayor’s legacy is complicated, experts say. In short: Police checks are on the decline. Officers on patrol now have body cameras, just like the detectives, sergeants and lieutenants who work in the streets. But 70 percent of public schools remain separate. The number of single adults living in shelters has jumped 65%. And the buses run at eight miles an hour, just like when he took office.

Its flagship achievement was the Universal Preschool, a popular program that could serve as a national model. De Blasio also cited the poverty rate, which had fallen to around 18% in 2019 – before the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the city’s economy – from 20.5% in 2013.

De Blasio’s campaign for mayor that year revolved around a “story of two cities” – the inequality that increasingly divided New York along the fault lines of fabulous wealth and wealth. crushing poverty. My colleagues Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Jeffery C. Mays write that not only has the poverty rate fallen under his watch, but the city has also built affordable housing.

Yet the pandemic, which continues to upset officials at all levels, has been simply catastrophic for poor New Yorkers. And the mayor himself said his biggest flaw was how he handled the homelessness crisis.

Allies like Bertha Lewis – the president of the Black Institute and a key figure in helping de Blasio win the support of progressives in 2013 – wanted him to use the all-out strategy that made preschool a reality to solve others problems. They now say he often seemed unwilling to risk the political capital necessary to do so. He waited until the end of his second term to phase out the gifted and talented student program to elementary schools and to open supervised drug injection sites.

De Blasio was an immediate contrast to his predecessor, billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg, as he promised to end policies he said favored the wealthy. But his attempt to get a tax on millionaires or their second homes failed in Albany. And the rich people continued to prosper. Forbes calculated that seven New Yorkers became billionaires last year, bringing the total to 99, second in the world to Beijing.

A lower-cost MetroCard proposal seemed to match de Blasio’s goals. He loved it so much when David Jones – president of the Community Service Society of New York, an anti-poverty organization – reported that the mayor had appointed Jones to the board of directors of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency’s State that manages the metro.

“Almost immediately after that he started to pull away from it,” Jones said.

De Blasio argued – unsuccessfully – that the state government should buy into the program because the transit company is a state agency. But the then governor was de Blasio’s nemesis, Andrew M. Cuomo.

Jones said that around the same time, the mayor organized the city’s funding for a heavily subsidized ferry system that is primarily used by affluent white New Yorkers.

“If you are able to provide a subsidized ferry system to the middle and upper classes, very few of whom are people of color, what is so difficult about providing almost the same amount of money to the very poor? Jones asked.


It’s partly cloudy with temperatures in the thirties. There’s a good chance it’ll snow late at night as temperatures set in in the mid-1930s.

parking on the alternative side

In effect until tomorrow (Christmas Eve).

New York Briefing on Covid

The recent increase in coronavirus cases has caused officials to weigh the political risks of dealing with a health crisis when restrictions could delay economic recovery. Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Bill de Blasio, like President Biden, are resisting another round of closures. The same goes for de Blasio’s successor, Eric Adams.

Hochul announced another record-breaking coronavirus cases on Wednesday, but did not say New Yorkers should cancel vacation plans.

Of the more than 28,000 cases, 17,221 were from New York City, where the public hospital system announced restrictions on visitors. Dr Mitchell Katz, chief executive of the system, said visitors had been linked to an outbreak at one of the city’s 11 public hospitals.

Cases are increasing in the city’s prisons, where only 38% of those detained have been vaccinated. Vincent Schiraldi, the correctional commissioner, told city prosecutors the seven-day positivity rate topped 17% on Monday, down from 4.8% the week before. Citywide, the rate was 11.2 percent on Monday.

Here’s what came to my mind when I read Corey Kilgannon’s article on the silver cardboard box sent to the physics department at City College New York: That totaled $ 180,000?

“It’s something I’ve never seen,” Professor Vinod Menon told me. “I’ve only seen that kind of money in a movie.”

The next thing that came to his mind was, “I wanted to see how much was in there. Of course he did.

And after that? Menon, alone in the physics department office, called for backup – in particular, Susan Perkins, College Dean of Science. He told her, “I have something in my hand and I need someone to be there when I look at it. “

Shortly after, officials from the campus public security bureau were alerted. Menon said they interrogated him and took the money to a safe place.

As Corey wrote, the package remained in the physics office for months – during the pandemic, Menon spent his time on his lab campus, in a different building – and efforts to identify the sender came to nothing. A letter containing the money said it was a donation to help needy physics and math students at City College.

I asked if he was worried opening the package. I meant something like, “It could have been spinning.”

He said no such thought crossed his mind. “We get packages all the time,” he said. “These are things related to the lab: a bunch of lenses, mirrors, a stand to hold the mirrors, things like that. The chemicals have a large sign on the box. But it didn’t have that.

Metropolitan agenda

Dear Diary:

Eight winters ago, I crossed the country overnight to visit my sister during her freshman year of college. When I arrived, I was wearing a Southern California east coast winter clothing idea: a black long-sleeved sweater and olive corduroy pants.

The next morning, the rays of the sun hitting the windows of my sister’s dormitory woke us up, two tired sardines. She dressed me in layers of puffy outerwear as if preparing a toddler for ski school.

My wedding was approaching and I hadn’t started looking for a dress yet. My sister found an ad for vintage clothes on a bulletin board, and after a short shaky hike with snowflakes on our shoulders and stuck to our eyelashes, we turned onto West 17th Street.

The address on the second floor was dark, but there was a pink chiffon evening dress hanging from the balcony.

I said we should run away. My sister, with a few months in New York under her belt, ushered me into the drafty, unlit lobby of the building and up the stairs.

The light shone under a door like a mirage. But the store was real, and the first dress I tried on was perfect. We pulled out yards of lace and yellowing fabric in a large garbage bag.

– Sarah de Crescenzo

Illustrated by Agnès Lee. Send your submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.


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