NEW YORK—During his campaign, Mayor Bill de Blasio portrayed himself as man of the people, saying he would work to ameliorate the gross inequality and what he called the ‘tale of two cities’. Just ten days into office he tried solidify that image by visiting Staten Island, the ‘forgotten borough’ as he likes to call it.
“Throughout the campaign I said all boroughs are created equal and we’re going to be a five borough government,” he said at a roundtable with Staten Island residents at Goodfella’s Pizzeria on Friday.
“So we got our work cut out for us to help small businesses to have an easier time. There’s a lot of homeowner issues to deal with and we obviously have the Sandy issues to deal with. The most important thing today was to show people that this is going to be a major focus of my administration.”
The community representatives at the meeting, a handpicked bunch of friends and supporters during his campaign, complained of arbitrary fines, lack of city help after Sandy, losing money on Bloomberg’s smoking laws, and arbitrary fines that require a trip to Manhattan to pay.
“The fact that they have to go into Manhattan to deal with some of the fines is unacceptable. We have to find a way to make a lot of the services available more locally,” de Blasio said, without specifying exactly how that would be accomplished.
He promised he would be “going out here a lot” as would the leaders in his administration. And well he should.
As a democrat, de Blasio is in the minority on the island, which explains why he lost Staten Island to Joe Lhota by about 6,000 votes. In order to smooth out relations with the conservative majority, he promised to be a proactive Mayor and make sure Staten Islander’s didn’t feel like they are, well, on an island.
“We have to show them by our actions that we’re going to truly be focused on Staten Island. We’re going to work incessantly to make life better for Staten Islanders and that NYC government is going to respond to them more effectively than in the past. That is the challenge I give myself.”
For some this was music to the ears. Charles Greinsky, a longtime supporter of de Blasio described 12 long years of neglect by Mayor Bloomberg. “I feel a new way coming,” he said as de Blasio got up from the table.
Co-owner of Goodfella’s, Scot Cosentino, was not so quick to draw conclusions. “It all remains to be seen. You know, I think he has some really good intentions, said some really good things and he’s really willing to listen. That’s always the first step.”
Holly Kellum is a special correspondent in New York.