Two years after becoming New York’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years, Bill de Blasio has become the target of activists and advocacy groups who helped him get elected.
The self-described progressive won their support by pledging to combat income inequality, create affordable housing, end stop-and-frisk police tactics in minority neighborhoods and ban horse carriages in Central Park.
Now the activists are confronting de Blasio, saying they’re disappointed with his performance. They’ve joined a growing list of critics, including Republicans who blame him for a rise in homelessness and an uptick in homicides, even though they remain near a record low. Then there are the tax-weary wealthy, charter-school advocates and the Times Square merchants upset about panhandlers.
Last week, about 100 people gathered in front of a midtown Manhattan hotel as lobbyists walked inside to attend a $1 million fundraiser for de Blasio’s 2017 re-election. “He’s got to go,” they chanted.
“We feel betrayed,” said Donny Moss, 43, an animal-rights advocate who helped organize the protest.
Two years ago, Moss was among scores of activists who took to the streets to disrupt events staged by de Blasio’s opponents for the Democratic mayoral nomination. They say it’s inhumane to subject horses to exhaust and the risks of collision as they pull buggies through streets.
Moss said he backed de Blasio because he vowed to rid Central Park of carriages on his first day in office. Now the mayor says he can’t find enough City Council votes.
Animal-rights advocates and minorities helped de Blasio win the election by 46 percentage points, the largest margin ever for a non-incumbent. Exit polls reported he received about 96 percent of the black vote.
Now, only 50 percent of black voters approve of de Blasio’s performance, a Marist poll reported Tuesday.
“I don’t understand the polls,” said Herbert Daughtry, 84, a pastor and civil-rights activist for 57 years. “Here’s someone who has prioritized people who need the most help. He’s encountering resistance not only from people who have always been against him but also from former supporters who just don’t understand when they have a mayor who’s shown compassion. I don’t look for perfection. He has my support.”
De Blasio would have to suffer a political catastrophe to become truly vulnerable to a challenge within his party, which outnumbers registered Republicans more than 6-to-1, said George Arzt, a Democratic consultant.
“No matter what a mayor does, he’s going to have protesters,” said Arzt, who was press secretary to former Mayor Edward Koch. “I don’t see anyone giving up an elective office to run an uncertain candidacy against this incumbent mayor.”
Protesters say that police continue to stop, question and frisk residents in minority neighborhoods as part of a “broken windows” policy aimed at deterring quality-of-life infractions.
Vincent Riggins, chairman of the public-safety committee for Community Board 5 in East New York, a black neighborhood in Brooklyn, says he won’t make phone calls for de Blasio’s reelection campaign. “Broken windows is just another way to oppress black and brown people based on other peoples’ social norms,” he said.
Complainers, de Blasio said, either misunderstood him or weren’t paying attention during the race.
“I’ve believed in broken windows all along, and I believe in quality-of-life policing, and I actually think it is a progressive position,” he said. “They can protest all they want, but I’ve had this view for years, and it’s not changing.”