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Liberating NYC, Street by Street

Bill de Blasio, woke warrior

 

Photo: AP IMAGES

Mayor Bill de Blasio has a bad new habit of scribbling on the street, and it’s going to get him into more trouble than he realizes. It’s going to get his entire city in trouble, in fact. But in something that’s become a recurring feature of his seven-year-old mayoralty, he’s just reveling in the spotlight.

Mask-less and in direct contravention of distancing rules he once memorably set in a “message to the Jewish community, and to all communities,” de Blasio last week joined a few other pols suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome in front of Trump Tower. As is well known, they grabbed some rollers and proceeded to paint “Black Lives Matter” in huge block letters on the street.

Pandering to his Resistance base? Yes, but more. Using a cheap exploit to take a shot at a political rival? Yes, but more. Using taxpayer resources for a feel-good adventure? Yes, but more.

“We are liberating Fifth Avenue,” the mayor declared.

Fifth Avenue may or may not be in servitude, but one thing that is in desperate need of some liberating is the city de Blasio leads. From crime, perhaps, which has more than doubled in recent weeks. From debt, too: The $70 billion annual budget de Blasio inherited in 2013 has blown up to $96 billion in the seven years since. Now, with the coronavirus dealing a gut punch to the economy, the city is facing a loss of $9 billion in revenue. It’s hard to believe, but de Blasio is currently in the process of begging President Trump, the target of his street vandalism, to bail out New York City.

The street mural is opening up de Blasio to charges of hypocrisy and New York City to legal action as well. A city need not allow painting on the street, but once it does, it must grant equal opportunity to others, said First Amendment attorney Ron Coleman, who is representing Women for America First, a pro-Trump group demanding that the city allow them some street scribbles of their own.

“We live in an era when mayors of world-famous cities act out like children,” Coleman said. “They display balloons mocking world leaders who come to visit them, like the mayor of London did childishly. Or, in the case of de Blasio and the mayor of Washington, D.C., write words that they think are going to upset the president in front of a piece of property where he lives or that he owns.

“But you know what? I’m not deciding the policy. They are deciding the policy,” Coleman added. “The policy is that the city is going to be involved in expressing political messages. And once the city is involved in political messaging, they can’t discriminate based on the content of the message. We are requesting to do the same thing that he’s doing.”

I have followed de Blasio’s political career for over a decade, and it’s sad watching it implode just before the finish line. The list of constituencies he has lost is long and getting longer. The candidate field seeking to replace him is varied but united in one thing — their criticism of him. Just last week, de Blasio lost his longtime press secretary, Freddi Goldstein, and communications director, Wiley Norvell.

“I can’t imagine how demoralizing and frustrating it must be to work for Bill de Blasio right now,” a former political operative who once worked with the mayor tells me. “Instead of working on solving problems, he’s painting the streets. I assume that people staying in his administration need the income and haven’t yet found new jobs.”

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 819)

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