De Blasio Fighting Bad Ol’ Days Perception

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday shakes the hand of Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan) as he signs bills into law. (Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office)
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday shakes the hand of Councilman Mark Levine (D-Manhattan) as he signs bills into law. (Demetrius Freeman/Mayoral Photography Office)

Mayor Bill de Blasio is having a really bad summer, unable to shake a media-driven perception that the Big Apple’s crime-and-vagrant-filled days are returning.

Homicide and homelessness numbers are up only modestly but that hasn’t stopped almost daily tabloid pictures of bedraggled men bathing in public fountains.

All of that comes amid a series of political setbacks, including a dispute with Uber that made him the target of millions of dollars in attack ads and an about-face on hiring new police officers that seemed like a cave to his police commissioner and City Council. And, most notably, there was de Blasio’s diatribe against the governor, which only heightened the tension between the two men that has now spilled into a turf war amid a deadly Legionnaires’ outbreak in the Bronx.

While the mayor’s allies have steadfastly defended his record, de Blasio’s sudden losing streak has taken a toll, sending his poll numbers plunging.

“He should be very worried,” said Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College. “He’s in some trouble and you can’t just say, ‘In two years I’ll be fine.’”

De Blasio’s own aides believe his ill-fated dispute with Uber inflicted the biggest wound.

A City Hall proposal to cap Uber’s growth, citing concerns about traffic congestion, led the ride-hailing service to blanket the city with ads that accused de Blasio of turning his back on the minority residents of outer-borough neighborhoods who struggle to find traditional yellow taxis.

The administration appeared caught off-guard and eventually punted, extracting a few concessions from Uber in exchange for tabling talk of a cap. That crisis may have passed, but the mayor is locked in near-daily feuds with Gov. Cuomo that show little sign of relenting.

Cuomo has frequently thwarted de Blasio’s agenda. The mayor, who had largely bit his tongue, eventually broke his silence and blamed the governor for acting “sometimes about revenge.”

Though many of the mayor’s allies defend de Blasio’s criticism of the governor, saying he needed to send a signal that he wouldn’t be bullied, it is clear that his decision to fight back hasn’t reduced tensions. The two administrations have even held competing news conferences during the Legionnaires’ outbreak that has killed 12 people.

Discussions were held before the outbreak to plan an event where the men would make a joint appearance as a public display of reconciliation, but those talks have been postponed.

“De Blasio’s report card right now for 2015 isn’t looking great and who thinks he’ll have more luck in Albany next year considering the enemies he’s made there?” asked Jeanne Zaino, political science professor at Iona College.

There are myriad signs that de Blasio can rally. His support among his base — namely blacks and Latinos — has slipped but remains high.

“This is not the death knell by any stretch of the imagination,” Zaino said. “But it should be a wake-up call.”