On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio gave his Eric Adams speech.
Two weeks ago, Adams, the Brooklyn Beep and likely mayoral candidate, said newcomers should “go back to Ohio, go back to Iowa.” De Blasio seemed to channel Adams when he presented his “plan to save our city.” No, not to save us from Hizzoner himself. But from whom and what, exactly? Well, Santa Claus and the evil capitalist class.
It’s a good thing that no one listens to the mayor, because this rhetoric is dangerous.
You could tell that de Blasio doesn’t mean to accomplish anything important in the next 22 months in the first few minutes of his State of the City speech, after he rightly lauded Corrections Officer Jahi Semple for helping to subdue a knife-wielding man on a LIRR train in December.
But the assailant wasn’t just any knife wielder, de Blasio reminded his audience. He was a participant in SantaCon, the city’s one-day-a-year pub crawl for people dressed up like Santa (and elves). SantaCon, “always an interesting time of year,” de Blasio editioralized to chuckles.
SantaCon is annoying, sure. But for the city’s elected officials, it’s a useful foil, and now a year-round one.
No elected official, it seems, has ever actually spoken to a member of SantaCon, but it’s commonly thought that its participants are white suburbanites — hardly a protected class.
It’s also easy to use it as a somewhat inaccurate stand-in for gentrification, no different from Adams criticizing Iowans because he knows there are so few Iowans here.
De Blasio didn’t laud the police officers protecting New York’s subway system against a cowardly mass-scale vandalism spree two weeks ago, even though it’s a far more harmful pastime than SantaCon.
After drunk Santas, New York’s main enemies are … “the forces of greed” and “bad landlords.” The mayor didn’t explain who “the forces of greed” are. Presumably not the financial firms that employ half a million New Yorkers.
The “landlord” slur, though, was pretty clear. De Blasio didn’t need this language to present his policy proposals on helping with security deposits and the like.
And he didn’t dilute it by saying something like, “most landlords are good, hard-working New Yorkers” — presumably including himself, as a twice-over property owner in Brooklyn.
All he is doing is encouraging anger at a small class of people. The mayor went so far as to say that in today’s Gotham, landlords pose a bigger danger than “street thugs.” This is inaccurate. Just two weeks ago, Queens landlord Edgar Moncayo was allegedly pushed to his death by a tenant.
As for what peril property-owning “greed” poses? One-third of Gothamites are rent-protected; they can’t be evicted unless they can’t pay the rent for months on end. The city already has tools to punish owners who don’t keep their buildings to code; some of the worst offenders are owners with contracts with the city to provide homeless housing.
Another third are homeowners. If de Blasio is really against “greed,” he — and Adams — would point out that if they don’t want to see their neighborhoods change, longtime homeowners from Harlem to Astoria are certainly free to sell at below-market prices to newcomers, leaving profits on the table when they cash out. Why not a voluntary push for longtime homeowners to sell Brooklyn brownstones at 1990 prices? It would be greedy not to!
As for de Blasio’s actual ideas? Some are bad — like a proposal to commit $500 million in city pension-fund money to local small businesses. The city’s pension funds, facing a $43 billion shortfall, shouldn’t be giving out below-market loans.
Some are fine, like training 100 police officers to ticket truck drivers when they run over bicyclists.
And some are just virtue-signaling, like banning city purchases of “unnecessary plastic bottles” — who decides when a bottle of water is necessary?
De Blasio’s real goal is to keep his family on the payroll past his sell-by date — by getting his wife, Chirlane McCray, elected Brooklyn borough president. Thursday, to open her husband’s speech, McCray presented a new feel-good project, guaranteeing all new parents home visits to prevent post-partum depression. Who could argue with that?
But Brooklyn, as Adams already understood and de Blasio now grasps, is world headquarters for gentrification fears. So as McCray hugs babies, de Blasio, through dark language about bad landlords, “greedy” forces and Santa, will do the dirty work.
This piece originally appeared at the New York Post
Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images