Today, as his city remained in the grip of a polar vortex, Mayor de Blasio was snared in a vortex of press skepticism, some deserved, some not.
On the deserved skepticism, reporters questioned de Blasio’s undisclosed appearance and speech at AIPAC last night. (His attendance at this political event was only revealed through the intrepid reporting of Capital New York’s Azi Paybarah and Sally Goldenberg.) de Blasio has promised to be “transparent” and, in stark contrast to Mayor Bloomberg, to reveal his “off duty” whereabouts even when not holding any public events. He has held regular press briefings in the 23 days since inauguration, today’s being the 12th that I’ve attended and at least his 14th or 15th in total, easing reporters concerns arising from his much less frequent transition briefings. Despite that positive trend, the mayor appearing unannounced at a closed press political event is a legitimate press and public concern, as de Blasio appeared to recognize at today’s briefing. He pledged to disclose such appearances in advance, although expressly not promising press access when event organizers do not want to allow it. For now, the public and press await proof that Mayor de Blasio will meet a higher standard than many elected officials, most notably Governor Andrew Cuomo, who go to great lengths to limit knowledge of their whereabouts and squelch press coverage of much of their public activity.
On the undeserved skepticism, the NY Post-driven hysteria over actual snow (snowsteria?) in my neighborhood continued. “Plow my street immediately and continuously” appears to be the expectation of some of my fellow Upper Eastsiders, notwithstanding the combination of 11″ of snow, rush hour traffic which clogged streets and slowed plowing and the polar-vortexed low temperatures which precluded melting and markedly reduced the efficacy of road salt. The reality that sometimes it snows and that clearing of said snowfall may not happen before we awake seems difficult for some to accept. Could the City’s snow clearing be better than this round? Sure. Should my neighbors and I fear snow class warfare? I think not. How much better a job New Yorkers should expect is a fair question, and de Blasio both broadly promised to “do better” and to report in detail on the shortcomings of the city’s storm response.
The clearest message of all from today’s press conference is that, even as he continues to assemble his administration, de Blasio’s honeymoon is over. He’s grappling with Governor Cuomo over his signature campaign issue as the legislative clock ticks, the press and public have focused on his current actions rather than dreaming of the future and, barely three weeks in, he “owns” the City’s successes and failures.
The primary purpose of today’s press conference was to announce the appointment of Stacey Cumberbatch as Commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and of Jon Paul Lupo as Director of the Office of City Legislative Affairs. Here is de Blasio’s full press Q&A.