Mayor de Blasio made a surprise departure from New York City yesterday—just one day after the assassination of NYPD officer Miosotis Familia while she guarded a violence-plagued Bronx corner—in order to attend anti-capitalist protests in Hamburg, site of the G-20 summit. A few hours after de Blasio’s plane departed, a train derailed in Penn Station, where extensive track work is scheduled to begin this weekend. It was the third derailment at Penn since March; the incidents have become so commonplace that New Jersey Transit commuters reportedly showed little surprise when their train car slid off the track.
The mayor has indulged his inflated sense of his own importance before: he loves to attend summits, conferences, rallies, and protests where he can pontificate about inequality. He particularly enjoys hobnobbing with international mayors. Soon after his inauguration, de Blasio met Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and burbled about their common goals. “It’s absolutely amazing by the way, 3,000 miles apart, we have come up with such a similar vision of what our cities need,” said de Blasio. “What we want to do now is constantly communicate as we implement this vision and help each other figure out what’s working and what’s not.”
Last September, after an Afghan immigrant had perpetrated a series of bombings in New Jersey and New York City, de Blasio, Hidalgo, and newly elected London mayor Sadiq Khan penned a joint op-ed titled, “Our Immigrants, Our Strength.” The essay made the false claim that “militant violence is astonishingly rare” among immigrants; the line was stricken from later editions.
Following President Trump’s election, de Blasio became particularly besotted with the potential of mayors to change the world. In this new era, de Blasio told the U.S. Conference of Mayors convention last January, “the role of mayors will be amplified. It’s a time where actual, tangible work is going to be more important than ever.” A few days later, at a protest on the night before Trump’s inauguration, de Blasio announced that “mayors are gathering from all over the country in a common cause . . . Mayors all over the country are signing this pledge for common action—that the next 100 days will be days of action together.” He then introduced a “dynamic, progressive leader from the heartland,” Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges, who echoed de Blasio’s grandiose rhetoric, asserting that President-elect Trump “will have to get through all the mayors in all the cities in this country if he wants to get to our beloved communities. When he comes for our artists, who are going to be more important now than ever with their voices of dissent, he’s going to have to get through me!” This inspiring vision of mayors as bulwarks against tyranny has no basis in history or law.
De Blasio’s meaningless and absurd promise to ensure that New York City adheres to the Paris Climate Accords underscores a fundamental truth about his mayoralty: he has no interest in what his job actually entails. Mayors do important work: they administer streets, schools, and police, and they manage a municipal budget. De Blasio has little interest in such banalities; he imagines that mayors are the true rulers of the world, because, as he told the Conference of Mayors, they “represent the majority of Americans.”
Meantime, homelessness in New York City is up 40 percent, and the subways are a disaster. De Blasio shrugs, effectively dismissing these concerns as outside his purview, or not really problems at all. In a radio interview today the mayor, calling in from Germany, complained that street panhandlers who aren’t “in dire economic need” are making the homelessness problem seem worse than it really is. So instead of dealing with these pedestrian issues, he rushes off to the barricades in Hamburg to fight capitalism, or “fascism,” as his spokesperson put it in a tweet earlier today. Does de Blasio not recognize that Wall Street tax revenue pays for expanded summer youth-employment programs, free suntan lotion at city beaches, health care for illegal immigrants, and the unmatched police force that keeps New York City the “safest big city in the country,” as he likes to say? The mayor should swallow his overweening pride and try doing his job.
Photo by Diana Robinson