In writing about last night’s raucous NYC mayoral debate between Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota, Michael Powell of the New York Times nailed de Blasio as a Nation sort of guy, but suggested that he might not be so forever.
“The man likely to be the next mayor, Mr. de Blasio now sometimes seems less suggestive of a Nation magazine star than a savvy, even cool-eyed pol. (It’s worth noting that he barred reporters from his fund-raiser and declined to make public a list of the guests),” writes Powell. He’s been doing some of the best, most contextual coverage of the race, and he doesn’t pose either candidate’s shortcomings in fatalistic terms, but rather as something to be aware of.
“Being mayor is an indisputably complicated business, and his feints in directions other than to the liberal North Star are intriguing to watch.”
It wasn’t always easy to see those feints in the bitter second debate last night. They came between arguments over who was playing the race card and whose former boss was the more divisive (de Blasio called Lhota “the right-hand man of Rudy Giuliani when he was going out of his way to divide this city,” while Lhota characterized the Mayor Dinkins era as “the last time we had a race riot in the city of New York”).
But between the fireworks, there were indeed de Blasio’s more subtle movements—call them fudges, inconsistencies or measured calculations—that made the debate feel at times like a preview of possible disappointments to come for the left. Not that a Mayor de Blasio would disappoint on the scale of Obama—de Blasio has an authentic and longstanding commitment to progressive causes—but he is a politician.
As to whether the city should allow a stadium to be built in one of Queens’s densest parks, for instance, Powell pointed out the two candidates’ unexpected answers. De Blasio, he writes, “cleared his throat with some populist rumbling about city tax giveaways. Then he allowed that, well, perhaps, maybe, a pro soccer stadium might raise the money needed to give that dowdy dowager of a park a face-lift.” Lhota gave a flat no, saying, “We don’t have enough park space in this city as it is.”
Neither man supported Mayor Bloomberg’s “green taxi” initiative, which would bring more environmentally friendly taxis to the underserved outer boroughs. Powell writes that de Blasio “suggested that taxi service was fine out there, a claim that disintegrated like a meteor slamming into the troposphere. As I listened to him, I could not help recalling—banish the mean thought!—that Mr. de Blasio raised $250,000 from the taxi industry.” (Read more on that from Wayne Barrett.)
Others pointed out that de Blasio seems to have suddenly switched positions on the popular pedestrian plazas, where tables and chairs have replaced honking cars in congested areas like Times Square.
“I have profoundly mixed feelings on this issue,” said de Blasio, citing his frustration as a motorist, adding “the jury’s still out” on its impact on traffic and surrounding businesses. But Dana Rubinstein noted in Capital New York that de Blasio had previously “’singled out Times Square and Herald Square,’ describing them ‘as wildly successful.’