The First 100 Days: New City-Wide Officials Have Been Busy

14 de Blasio

While Mayor Bill de Blasio has won victories
on universal Pre-K and Stop and Frisk, he
has been criticized for his charter school
policies and the City’s response to this
winter’s snowstorms. Photo by Joe Marvilli

BY QUEENS TRIBUNE STAFF

April 10 marks the end of the first 100 days in office for the City-wide officials elected last year. Mayor Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate Letitia James and Comptroller Scott Stringer have been involved in a number of issues throughout the City.

Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first 100 days have been a mixed bag, with victories and missteps, praise and criticism along the way.

When he was sworn in on Jan. 1, the Mayor outlined a liberal agenda for his term, with many goals that he hoped would address economic and social inequalities throughout the five boroughs. Although he has fought for and gotten some major policy changes, his office was also beset by several stumbles in the process of running the City.

A significant portion of de Blasio’s first 100 days was dedicated to getting universal pre-kindergarten for New York City. The Mayor had planned to pay for the expense of this expansion by taxing the City’s richest members. This item caused some tension between him and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as the State would need to approve such a tax for City residents. While universal Pre-K was included in the State budget, it will be funded by other means, giving de Blasio a partial victory.

Several other items of his agenda went through during his first few months as well. The number of workers eligible for paid sick leave was expanded significantly. De Blasio also withdrew the City’s challenge to federal oversight of Stop and Frisk, the controversial tactic that has been labeled as discriminatory towards minorities. So far, new Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and the NYPD have continued to keep crime at a low rate under the new administration.

Although de Blasio’s pick of Carmen Fariña was welcomed by parents and teachers, his educational policy has been uneven at best. While Hizzoner did veto nine charter school co-locations, he did allow another 36 co-locations to slip through. Public Advocate Letitia James responded with a lawsuit against the City to block those co-locations.

De Blasio was also criticized for his handling of the never-ending snowstorms that hit the City continuously in January and February. He admitted that the City failed to plow several neighborhoods effectively during one of the storms and took flak for keeping schools open while telling people to stay indoors at the same time.

The next few months will see the Mayor roll out his affordable housing policy, his Vision Zero plan to reduce pedestrian deaths and the continuing Superstorm Sandy recovery.

-Joe Marvilli

Public Advocate Letitia James

While Public Advocate Letitia James said that her job is to keep the Mayor on his toes, she noted that her first 100 days have shown that she is also dedicated to helping the City’s working class.

Throughout the last four months, James and her office have been all over the five boroughs, protesting unfair work practices, announcing legislation and vocalizing her opinion on several key issues affecting the City.

Public Advocate Letitia James spent the start of her term supporting workers’ rights. Photo by Luis Gronda

Public Advocate Letitia James spent the start of her term supporting workers’ rights. Photo by Luis Gronda

One of the biggest issues to come up recently in Queens is the firing of 250 UPS workers who walked off the job in February in protest of the termination of another former employee, Jairo Reyes. James has warned UPS that if it does not come to the bargaining table to resolve this issue, she will push the City to look into revoking some of UPS’ tax breaks and privileges.

One victory for James and a portion of the City’s workforce was the expansion of the paid-sick-time law, which the City Council pushed through earlier this year. Businesses with up to five or more employees will be required to provide up to five paid sick days per year to employees.

Despite her public agreements with de Blasio on many subjects, like universal Pre-K, James came out strongly against the 36 co-located charter schools from the end of the Bloomberg era that the current administration let through. She has recently filed a lawsuit to block those co-locations.

“Every CEC in the City of New York attended our meeting. I sat there for three hours and heard from every CEC in the City and they all told me the horror stories of co-locations,” she said. “As a result of that, we decided to file a lawsuit.”

James has also gotten involved with the controversy surrounding Queens Library Director Thomas Galante’s salary and his use of taxpayer money to build a private smoking deck for his office. James has asked Galante to resign.

When asked what grade she would give herself for her first 100 days, James answered with a B +. Some of the positives she mentioned were keeping Long Island College Hospital open and introducing more legislation than any other Public Advocate to date. Still, she said the office could do better with more funding.

“There’s a lot of issues and we just don’t have the staff to deal with all the issues. It’s really frustrating,” she said. “The Mayor should restore the budget of the Public Advocate.”

-Joe Marvilli

Comptroller Scott Stringer

In his first 100 days in office, Comptroller Scott Stringer said he has hit the ground running, setting the precedent for the role of the office for years to come.

Earlier this year, Stringer made history when he announced that he has appointed Carra Wallace as the City Comptroller’s first-ever chief diversity officer of the City of New York.

Comptroller Scott Stringer has launched an audit of all three library branches and the New York City Housing Authority. Photo by Luis Gronda

Comptroller Scott Stringer has launched an audit of all three library branches and the New York City Housing Authority. Photo by Luis Gronda

In her new role, Wallace will focus on increasing the number of contracts and sub-contracts awarded to minority and women-owned businesses. She will also be responsible for implementing and monitoring a new letter-grading system for all City agencies in an effort to determine whether goals for MWBE contracting are being met.

“To expand opportunities for minority- and women-owned enterprises, I was proud to appoint the City’s first-ever chief diversity officer overseeing City agencies,” Stringer said.

In addition to his historic hire, Stringer has been keeping busy, auditing City-funded agencies, most notably the Queens Library system. The nonprofit and its CEO, Thomas Galante, have been in hot water after media reports alleged that taxpayer money was used to fund Galante’s $391,594 salary and his $140,000 in lavish office renovations, which included a private outdoor smoking area.

In light of the scandal, Stringer, who gave the library notice of the audit last month, said he will be making sure New Yorkers are getting the best bang for their buck by auditing all three of the City’s library systems, which operate in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“I think there have been some serious issues raised and some allegations that I think need to be addressed. We’re going to look at the financials, we’re going to look at performance and we will evaluate all the systems,” he told the Tribune in an earlier interview. “Eighty-six percent of their revenue comes from City money, so I expect them to cooperate with the City audit by the City Comptroller.”

Stringer has also launched an audit of the New York City Housing Authority, following a series of reports that claimed the agency’s administrators were sitting on millions of government dollars while repair request continue to pile up.

While the Comptroller said he is proud of the progress he has made internally, he noted that in his first three months, he has also been dedicated to connecting with his constituents.

“Over the last 100 days, I’ve been to every corner of the City, talking with New Yorkers about issues that affect their families and neighborhoods,” he said. “While these are only a few highlights of my first 100 days, I look forward to continuing this work to find new and innovative ways to sharpen the tools of the Comptroller’s office so that New Yorkers get the best bang for their hard-earned money.”

-Natalia Kozikowska