April 10 is already a date worth marking. It’s the day Jonas Salk successfully tested his polio vaccine trial and that most of the world agreed to give up biological weapons. It’s the anniversary of the first professional golf tournament in America and the first human cannonball stunt. Heck, it was on that day in 1849 that Walter Hunt patented the safety pin. And in 2014, it will be the 100th day of Bill de Blasio’s mayoralty.
Attempts to take stock are already underway; The Wall Street Journal ran its yesterday. De Blasio is planning to mark the milestone on Thursday. The Nation will, of course, weigh in as well. The timing of the retrospectives is, of course, largely arbitrary: because of a speech FDR gave in 1934 discussing the accomplishments of a special session of Congress over its first 100 days, the first 100 days have become a convention of political coverage, but there’s no substantive reason for stopping now to review the de Blasio era so far.
Still, after the conclusion of the state budget last week, with winter snowstorms and nasty charter-school battles out of the way, it does feel like the de Blasio narrative is entering a new phase. The first three months of the year revolved largely around the effort to get universal pre-kindergarten funded. That effort largely succeeded. Now what? We know that managing the city day-to-day means drama aplenty and that implementing UPK is a huge jobs, but what will the Big Idea of the de Blasio mayoralty be from April 10 on?
In a word, housing. As compelling as the case for UPK was, it is dwarfed by the urgency of the need for decent, affordable housing and the scale of the promises the mayor made during the campaign, where he vowed to build or preserve 190,000 units of affordable housing over ten years. As the Associated Press pointed out last week, the pace de Blasio promised exceeds what the two previous mayors who made housing a priority, Mayor Bloomberg or Mayor Koch, were able to achieve. Housing is central to the inequality concerns that de Blasio articulated during the campaign, which are rooted in the fear that New York is becoming too expensive a place for many of us to live.
De Blasio intends to present his detailed plan for how to achieve its lofty goals by May. So far, the administration’s moves on housing make the rest of its program hard to predict. The much ballyhooed Domino’s site deal, for instance, did increase by a modest amount the number of affordable apartments the developer would provide, and did increase by a substantial degree the amount of floor space given over to those affordable apartments; that second piece matters, because one shortcoming in the affordable housing production under Bloomberg was a lack of production of larger affordable apartments for families.