With a little more than a month left to the New York City mayoral primary, a growing number of pundits and poll results are pointing at Bill de Blasio as the next to emerge from the Democratic pack as a potential runoff partner to frontrunner Christine Quinn.
But with the increased attention comes a mounting alarm from business interests and Bloomberg administration stalwarts, who fret that the city’s public advocate has a thin understanding of economics. They are also expressing doubt that he values the Big Apple’s reliance on Wall Street to cover the budget, which at more than $70 billion is larger than that of many nations.
“He has a very 1960s, 1970s vision for the city,” Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson told The New York Times, referring to the era when the city teetered on the edge of bankruptcy.
“If you prefer the version of the city that existed then,” Wolfson said, “he’s your guy.”
Wolfson, the architect of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s successful third election, barely hid his disgust for the former councilman, who told the Wall Street Journal that he would have dealt with the Occupy Wall Street protests differently than Bloomberg. De Blasio said he would “build spaces” for the Occupy protesters to share ideas.
“We’re going to build Occupy Wall Street recreation centers?” Wolfson sneered. “That’s great. That’s outrageous. That’s a joke.”
In the race, in which surveys suggest voters like Bloomberg’s policies on the economy and law enforcement but not his uncaring persona, de Blasio is seeking as much change as possible. His expansive education policy — universal preschool — smacks at one of Bloomberg’s core principles: how to pay for it. And he has taken every opportunity to slam the mayor for this or that policy.
“The sages are onto something when they suggest that the election, and de Blasio’s campaign in particular, is a test of the city’s appetite for change,” wrote Bill Keller, The New York Times’ former editor, in an op-ed this week. “It is in a sense a referendum on the Bloomberg years.”
“De Blasio is the candidate most emphatic about turning away from the Bloomberg model,” Keller said.
For the Orthodox community, de Blasio is a mixed bag. While as a councilman representing parts of Boro Park he has been forthcoming, and he made lasting friendships with community groups, he has made a progressive tack to the left.
This was signified Tuesday by the announcement that George Soros, a billionaire hedge fund pioneer and philanthropist of leftist groups endorsed de Blasio.
While Soros couched his backing for de Blasio as support for the public advocate’s plan to tax wealthy New Yorkers in order to raise money to expand pre-kindergarten and after-school programs, he is seen among pro-Israel groups more for his funding of J-Street.
In a statement to Hamodia which sidestepped the question of Soros’s anti-Israel activism, spokesman Dan Levitan said that de Blasio “has been one of Israel’s staunchest defenders against terrorist threats and the daily danger its citizens live in.”
Levitan also mentioned how he has used his office of public advocate to stop Saudi discrimination against Israel and “to combat a nuclear Iran.”