Nobody likes disturbing a mayor during the “sheva brachos” of his inauguration. But a dastardly deed has been committed in the city, and residents await the traditional reassurance that comes with a personal mayoral statement.
However, ever since the abduction and brutal murder of Reb Menachem Stark, Hy”d, Thursday night that shattered the Orthodox community — and all decent New Yorkers — Mayor Bill de Blasio’s voice has been missing from the uproar.
What is needed most at this time is a clear-minded condemnation of the tragedy by the mayor, a full court press conference to separate fact from myth, or even just to articulate a plain pledge that the administration is committed to pursuing the murderers until justice is done.
The Jewish community must not feel, as they’ve felt several times in the past, that they are alone in this.
The mayor’s silence is a shocking blow. Where has Mr. de Blasio — self-described in numerous conversations as a friend of the community — been as half the shivah has been completed? Why has the mayor allowed rumors to fly on social media, blogs and tabloids without clearly conveying in regular news updates where the investigation is holding, who and who not are suspects and what they believe are the motives?
The community has been traumatized by the tragedy. Why hasn’t the mayor yet issued his condolences, either through a shivah call, or at the very least, a public statement?
New Yorkers expect leadership from their mayor, and the Jewish community knows better than most that Mr. de Blasio, the city’s public advocate until last week’s inauguration and a former city councilman representing parts of Boro Park, possesses that quality. We need to see it on display now.
It is not as if Mr. de Blasio had no chance to get into the nuts and bolts of commenting on police work, busy as he is with a city-stopping blizzard and a record polar freeze.
Many other elected officials have issued strong statements, either with a press release or on social media. Not only did he not lead the call, several emails to the mayor’s media team have gone unanswered.
On Sunday, dozens of elected officials, Orthodox community representatives, and leaders of various other ethnic communities came to Brooklyn’s Borough Hall on short notice to condemn a heinous murder, urge on the homicide investigation, and protest the besmirching of the reputation of a good man by a tabloid hungry for heart-stopping headlines.
The event, hosted by Brooklyn’s new borough president, Eric Adams, featured a strong address by Letitia James, Mr. de Blasio’s successor in the public advocate’s office. Missing from the mix was Mr. de Blasio, an old friend who has long stood shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish community on a whole range of issues during his council days, from afterschool vouchers to Iran sanctions and a Saudi Air boycott of Israelis.
Mr. de Blasio also passed up an opportunity to comment on Monday, when he was asked about the Stark investigation by a reporter. Inexplicably, the official video of the 54-minute press conference, which usually cuts off after the mayor leaves the room, ends after the question but before the answer.
When a mayor gets out ahead of the press, providing information directly to the public, there is a comfort level gained by eliminating rumors and innuendo. The lack of communication here is noticeable, with rumors flying and innocent people being fingered as suspects.
Even more disconcerting are the ubiquitous leaks by anonymous law enforcement sources to the media about how the probe is progressing and who the latest suspect is. The New York Post has taken a salacious lead in giving the shadowy scandalmongers a comfortable home, with other papers following at a more professional distance.
These leaks must end, both for reasons of responsibility to the innocent and respect for the dead, as well as to preserve the integrity of the NYPD. That will happen when Mr. de Blasio instructs his police commissioner to crack down on the case.
In his inaugural address last Wednesday, Mr. de Blasio enunciated a whole litany of issues he plans on pushing, punctuating the list with exclamations of “We won’t wait. We’ll do it now.”
It is especially important for Mr. de Blasio to get involved here. His absence has been conspicuous and disturbing.
Mr. Mayor, we can’t wait. Let’s do it now.