NYC’s Mosaic Poring Over de Blasio’s Transition Team

NEW YORK -
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio speaks Wednesday at the “Talking Transition” tent set up in Manhattan, unveiling his list of 60 transition team members. (Ross Barkan/Politicker)
Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio speaks Wednesday at the “Talking Transition” tent set up in Manhattan, unveiling his list of 60 transition team members. (Ross Barkan/Politicker)

When mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday that he was adding 60 more members to his transition team, there was a scramble on the part of the city’s diverse religious factions, media pundits and interest groups to discern from the names the direction he plans on taking the Big Apple.

De Blasio has rarely been seen in public since his landslide victory earlier this month. But in remarks to reporters, he gave a brief glimpse into his methods of populating city government and revealed that he has interviewed three candidates to take over the nation’s largest police force.

De Blasio said he met with Bill Bratton, a former NYPD commissioner under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; Philip Banks, the department’s top chief; and Rafael Pineiro, the department’s first deputy commissioner.

The mayor-elect said he was impressed with all three but would not discuss the nature of their conversations. He said Wednesday he plans to meet with all three men again.

Both Bratton and Pineiro have taken the unusual step of openly campaigning for the job.

“I make my decision based on looking at a candidate’s records, getting to know them as individuals, looking for alignment on values, looking for the ability to communicate in shared vision,” de Blasio said. “So whatever people choose to do publicly is their business. I’m going to make my decision based on my conversations.”

De Blasio’s newly enlarged transition committee — at 60, it is up from Giuliani’s 19 and Bloomberg’s 56 — includes several religious leaders, labor and social justice activists, members of the Dinkins and Bloomberg administrations, developers, criminal justice experts, corporate leaders and nonprofits heads.

Overall, experts say that the list is more establishment-friendly than street-level, which was probably designed to calm the city’s business sector.

“Given the kind of vision that de Blasio articulated in his campaign and given his opponents’ willingness to depict him as a Maoist, this team has a rather elitist tinge,” Ken Sherrill, a Hunter College professor, told Politicker. “This committee seems designed to reassure the political establishment. For what was depicted as a radical shift to the left, this doesn’t look like one.”

Several key supporters also made the list, including union leader George Gresham and former Clinton administration official Harold Ickes. Almost half of them are donors, with at least 20 having business before the city.

But Sherrill said that not much can be read into the makeup of the transition team, which he says is not a governing body.

“Part of the purpose of transition committees is to reassure the permanent government that they won’t be excluded,” he said.

“They’re not shaping the city,” Crain’s New York cited an expert as saying. “And you don’t hire people through a 60-person committee. Those real tasks and responsibilities happen within a much tighter circle of close advisers.”

Catholic groups sent out a press release decrying the fact that there was not a single priest on the list, which also includes two Orthodox Jews in a city where Jews make up about 15 percent of the population.

“There are two ministers, two rabbis and one imam on the transition committee. There are no Catholic priests,” the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue said in a statement Thursday.

The two Jews on the list are Moshe Hellman, the president of Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services, and Michael Miller of the Jewish Community Relations Council.

“Catholics make up 52.5 percent of New York, yet they have no clergy representation,” Donohue said. “This is not an oversight. Every attempt was made to include persons from virtually every sector of New York. This was clearly done by design. Looks like de Blasio’s politics of inclusion has its limits.”

De Blasio, a Democrat who will take office Jan. 1, was raised as a Catholic but does not practice today.

An email sent to the transition committee by Hamodia was not returned.

De Blasio spoke at “Talking Transition,” a glitzy soaring temporary structure erected in lower Manhattan and funded by liberal philanthropist George Soros and 10 philanthropic foundations. The 15,000-square-foot tent has a message wall where residents can post sticky notes and use computers to register their thoughts about the challenges facing the city. De Blasio briefly toured the facility and said his team would review the input.

De Blasio also chided a reporter for suggesting his rare media conferences meant he was not being transparent.

“The work we have to do to organize the leadership of our administration, to put together our legislative agenda, to put together our approach to the budget — it requires a lot of hands-on work and it’s exactly what I should be focused on,” he said.

(With reporting by AP)