Public Advocate Bill de Blasio returned Sunday to the birthplace of his political career, promising leaders of an array of Jewish organizations that while he may not always agree with them, he will always have an open door for their concerns.
It was all most of them needed to hear from de Blasio, who is seeking to replace the term-limited Mayor Michael Bloomberg — who they say has not met with any of them for more than a year.
“This community was crucial to my campaign for public advocate,” de Blasio, who started his career representing parts of Boro Park, told the approximately 30 people gathered in Leon Goldenberg’s Flatbush office.
“We’re going to run a citywide campaign and we’re going to go to a runoff and we’re going to win a runoff,” said de Blasio, who is bunched in the polls in second place with several other candidates. By far, the front-runner is City Council Speaker Chris Quinn, whom several of the attendees criticized for not having met substantially with them since she announced her candidacy.
De Blasio compared himself to the friendship President Harry Truman had with businessman Eddy Jacobson, who ended up playing a pivotal role in convincing Truman to recognize the Jewish state in 1948.
“This community will be crucial,” de Blasio said. “Bloomberg came to you in ’09 and didn’t tell you why you were crucial. I could tell you up front, because the community is growing — and growing in political impact.”
On issues from child abuse to metzitzah b’peh, leaders of organizations representing the spectrum of chessed projects and Torah grilled the candidate on how he would respect religious rights. While he said that in all instances the health and safety of children come first, he would never close the door to dialogue.
“If this community stands up,” he said, “and says, ‘We want a different kind of leadership; we want a kind of leadership that is actually connected to us, where when we want a hearing in City Hall, it’s a given that we are going to get it.’”
Former comptroller Bill Thompson, another mayoral candidate, held a similar event later Sunday afternoon at the Avenue Plaza Hotel.