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Back to work, Bill: The challenges that await a (hopefully) newly engaged Mayor de Blasio

2019-09-20

It’s too much to hope that Mayor de Blasio will return to his day job humbled after 127 groan-inducing days spent trying to convince national Democrats he was the answer to their presidential prayers. But we do expect fresh focus on festering problems; his legacy and the city’s future hangs in the balance.

The economy is healthy for now, and crime continues trending down. On those two crucial scores, de Blasio has gotten and continues to get high marks.

Scratch deeper and there’s rot inside the wood.

New NYCHA CEO Greg Russ, who collects $402,628 a year, is on the clock, with a federal monitor rightly breathing down his neck, to fix roofs and elevators and boilers, abate lead and mold, and kill rats by the tens of thousands. De Blasio’s been disengaged for months. In the next two years and change, public housing as we know it either wheezes and enters into a death spiral or, through aggressive transformation, lives to see another generation.

Despite a shrinking population, violence is spiking at Rikers Island jail complex, while a necessary plan to replace the godforsaken complex with modern detention centers in four boroughs awaits an up or down vote in the City Council. De Blasio must answer legitimate concerns about a badly chosen Bronx site and convince legislators to move forward.

Pedestrian and cyclist deaths are up, and traffic enforcement is down, putting de Blasio’s Vision Zero at a crossroads.

By just about every imaginable measure, the homelessness crisis the mayor promised and promised again to fix continues to worsen. It demands creative new strategies that break out of the ideological box de Blasio and Commissionr Steven Banks have put themselves in.

If current trends hold, de Blasio’s promise to get all third graders reading at grade level by the year 2026 is a decade behind schedule. He must accelerate lackluster gains, learning from schools, including charters, that do the best work. And he should answer recommendations of a diversity advisory panel by reforming entry criteria and vastly expanding access to, not eliminating, gifted and talented education.

A property tax commission de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson created owes the city its reform blueprint. The mayor then must lead the charge in Albany for a system that’s equitable and comprehensible. Today, the tax is anything but.

Meantime, small businesses are grousing about the prospect of new mandates being piled on their already aching backs. Paid vacation time was a (light) applause line on the campaign trail. If de Blasio wants to move ahead with it here, he needs to make the case with persuasive data, so far woefully lacking.

As the end approached for them, Mike Bloomberg and staff had countdown clocks showing how much time remained to make big things happen. De Blasio’s magic number is 832. Make every damn one count.