Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that he was appointing Lilliam Barrios-Paoli as deputy mayor for health and human services, whose responsibility will be to oversee agencies charged with housing the homeless, expanding community health clinics, and cutting red tape in social services.
Barrios-Paoli, the commissioner of aging in the Bloomberg administration, has wide-ranging experience in both the public and nonprofit sectors.
She has managed five city agencies under three mayors, where she was credited with innovative reforms, such as opening special senior centers specifically for the visually-impaired population.
In her nonprofit work, she served as president and CEO of Safe Space NYC, which helps families facing such issues as poverty, abuse and medical problems. She’s also been an executive at the United Way of New York and helped establish the September 11th Fund.
Under de Blasio, who has made a “tale of two New Yorks” a central theme of his campaign, the agency of health and human services is bound to play a much larger role than previously.
“Lilliam has dedicated her career to protecting the most vulnerable New Yorkers,” the mayor-elect said at a press conference Thursday announcing the appointment. “No one understands better than she the consequences of this tale of two cities we are living.”
“I totally believe we live in a tale of two cities, and it is our job to make it a tale of one city,” Barrios-Paoli said Thursday. “I have spent the bulk of my career trying to work on behalf of the poor. There but for the grace of G-d go all of us.”
Councilman David Greenfield, who worked closely with Barrios-Paoli as chairman of the council’s Aging Committee, called the selection an “outstanding choice.”
“I have worked alongside Ms. Barrios-Paoli … and have always viewed her as the best commissioner in the Bloomberg administration,” Greenfield said in a statement. “She deeply cares about seniors and needy New Yorkers.”
This is the fifth appointment so far by de Blasio, who has already named a police commissioner and first deputy mayor. The remaining top administration slot is schools chancellor, a post that will control de Blasio’s top campaign promise, to introduce a free pre-kindergarten program for all public school children.
“There are still nominations coming in,” de Blasio said Sunday. “I think, by definition, education chancellor is one of the most crucial decisions to make.”
Dennis Walcott, the current chancellor, has had a successful tenure, with warm relationships with both public school and private school advocates. However, de Blasio has promised to appoint an educator to run the nation’s largest school system, which uses a $25 billion budget to educate 1.1 million students.
While Mayor Michael Bloomberg has expanded school choice by approving charter schools — which are taxpayer funded but run privately, with less union input — de Blasio wants them to pay rent for using municipal buildings on a sliding scale, pushing them to self-fund more.
Other differences between the current and incoming administration is on private schools, including yeshivos. Bloomberg’s policies compelled some yeshivah parents to wage costly court fights to win public funding on special education and has yanked several afterschool programs that have benefited them.
De Blasio, as part of his education overhaul, has said he will restore the afterschool vouchers and will have an open door for the Orthodox community on all issues.