Nicole Malliotakis, GOP mayoral hopeful, is a solid candidate — assertive, personable, authentic, empathetic and in command of the facts, as Tuesday’s debate proved. She’s not going to beat Mayor de Blasio. But she hasn’t made a fool of herself — and she’s done a service in pinning the mayor down where he’s weak.
New York has changed de Blasio more than de Blasio has changed New York.
New Yorkers, though liberal, are quite conservative in one way — when things are going OK, they’re not going to make a radical change mid-course. And right now, things are going well. Compared to last year, the murder rate is down a whopping 24.5 percent, with robberies, rapes and other crimes down as well.
That’s partly because New York has changed de Blasio more than de Blasio has changed New York. Though he styles himself a progressive, he was channeling his inner Giulani Tuesday night.
He bragged that New York is “the safest big city in America,” boasted of “2,000 more cops on patrol” — hardly a good strategy if the cops are racist aggressors — and said whenever crime rises in a precinct, he throws more police resources at that area.
Overall, he met Malliotakis’s questions about his crime strategy as if they were attacks on the NYPD.
De Blasio ran against the police four years ago. But he’s now so comfortable with the NYPD that he at crucial times lets them answer for him. Why did the mayor build a Trumpesque wall around Gracie Mansion, as Malliotakis politely inquired? None of her business, or the public’s. It was the NYPD’s decision.
This is untrue — and it’s bad progressive politics. Elected mayors manage local police, just as the elected president manages the military, not the other way around. But as long as crime stays down, progressives will get their way on other issues, like a higher minimum wage — so they stay silent about who’s in charge.
With crime at record lows and the economy doing so well that debate moderators asked exactly zero questions about the mayor’s jobs program, what’s a Republican candidate to do? Malliotakis didn’t succumb to the obvious temptation and conjure up a nonexistent crime crisis. Instead, she went more subtle — and succeeded.
She hit de Blasio on his absurd policy of housing homeless people in downmarket hotels for $4,000 a month, or “$1 million every two days” collectively. With “no kitchen,” hotel rooms are “not liveable,” she said. “Doesn’t that not make sense?”
With crime at record lows and the economy doing so well that debate moderators asked exactly zero questions about the mayor’s jobs program, what’s a Republican candidate to do?
She noted the vast majority of the mayor’s “affordable housing” program is an illusion. It’s for people who make well above middle-class wages and can afford some type of housing, whether the mayor supports it or not.
She also attacked the mayor on infrastructure. Talking about the city’s department of design and construction, which oversees building projects, she asked, “why does it cost $2 million to build a bathroom in Brooklyn? Why was it $6 million to convert a building for 18 [pre-k] kids, three times over budget? It’s gotta end.”
As for the subway crisis: Malliotakis misses the small picture. She still wants to give $400 million of city money to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to pay for emergency repairs — even though the MTA, run by the state, not the city, should have been making such repairs all along.
But she grasps the big picture: “that’s your job to plan for long-term economic and population growth,” she said. True enough. No mayor can claim to build any housing without planning for how to move the new people around underground.
Again, the state is in charge of the MTA — but maybe Gov. Cuomo would do a better job if the mayor showed that he was mildly interested in the topic.
Of course, de Blasio tried to hit Malliotakis where she is weak: her vote in 2016 for President Trump. True, it is wise, if you are one of the 18.4 percent of New Yorkers who voted for Trump last year, to keep that information to yourself (we have a secret ballot for a reason).
Still, though, it has long been obvious that Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate. And of New Yorkers’ myriad immediate problems, from transit woes to housing prices to construction deaths to how we treat people in jail awaiting trial, Trump is responsible for none of them.
As Malliotakis reminded New Yorkers Tuesday, voters unhappy with their city must look not to Washington, but to de Blasio.
This piece originally appeared in the New York Post