News / USA

    Introducing New York's Next Mayor

    Bill de Blasio, New York's mayor-elect speaks to the media after delievering his speech at the “Somos el Futuro” conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nov. 8, 2013.
    Bill de Blasio, New York's mayor-elect speaks to the media after delievering his speech at the “Somos el Futuro” conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nov. 8, 2013.
    Reuters
    Bill de Blasio, New York City's next mayor, has been drinking coffee at the Little Purity diner since Nick Kolosakas opened the Brooklyn neighborhood spot six years ago.
     
    “About two years after he started coming in almost every day, he comes up, he puts his hand on the counter, he looks at me and he goes, 'Nick, I love your place, but your coffee sucks,”' said Kolosakas, the diner's owner.
     
    De Blasio, who will take office on Jan. 1 as the first Democrat to lead City Hall in two decades, has made much of his regular guy persona and has sought to contrast himself with outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg - New York's richest person, who lives in a townhouse on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
     
    In Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, where de Blasio and his family have lived for decades, he is often seen taking out the trash at his 11th Street house, ordering black olive pizzas at Smiling Pizza on 9th Street and renting DVDs at the movie-rental store near the Seventh Avenue subway stop.
     
    De Blasio will be the city's first mayor with a child in public school. He hosts political events at the Italian restaurant across the street from his house. When his wife, Chirlane McCray, picked a dress to wear to de Blasio's victory speech on election night, she chose a local designer whose clothes are sold at a Park Slope boutique near their home.
     
    Park Slope, with its tree-lined streets and brownstone row houses, seems far from Manhattan. It is considered one of the city's most child-friendly neighborhoods, a place many Manhattanites have escaped to in search of quiet.
     
    Local business owners and neighbors said they have watched the evolution of the politician, who was elected to the city council in 2002 and in 2010 became public advocate.
     
    Kathy Smelyanski, owner of the Video Gallery, a movie-rental shop a few blocks from the de Blasio family's home, recalls the 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) politician showing up to rent the documentary “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,” to screen to his staff at a time when the council was considering whether to allow Wal-Mart Stores Inc to open in the city.
     
    The retailer lost it bid in September 2012, as a result of fierce opposition from union groups and politicians, including Public Advocate de Blasio, whose office published reports stating that Wal-Mart's entry would eliminate jobs.
     
    Throughout the campaign, de Blasio seized on the public's fatigue with Bloomberg, who has served three terms and is widely seen as making New York cleaner, safer and better managed but has also been criticized for overlooking the needs of poor and minority neighborhoods.
     
    De Blasio overwhelmingly won New York's mayoral election on Nov. 5 in no small part because he trumpeted the differences between himself and billionaire Bloomberg, listed by Forbes as the world's 13th-richest person with an estimated net worth of $31 billion. The candidate criticized the mayor for presiding over “two New Yorks” - one rich, one poor.
     
    He proposes tackling inequality by raising taxes on the city's top earners to pay for an expansion of pre-kindergarten programs, increasing access to affordable housing and preventing the closure of hospitals in underserved areas.
     
    The night he won the primary, de Blasio called himself “an unapologetically progressive alternative to the Bloomberg era.”
     
    As a 26-year-old in 1988, he traveled to Nicaragua to distribute food and medicine in support of the leftist Sandinista government. His wife is black, and their children are interracial.
     
    But to Steve Zito, whose family has owned Smiling Pizza on the corner of 9th Street and 7th Avenue in Park Slope for 40 years, de Blasio is just a local dad who favors vegetarian pizzas.
     
    “He's just Bill,” he said.
     
    The average Joe Move

    Years ago, Zito asked de Blasio for help in getting a few empty newspaper bins outside his restaurant removed, because passersby would use them as trash cans. De Blasio couldn't help - the businesses' bins remain - but Zito liked that he tried.
     
    “Since he is a down-to-earth guy, he's going to try to understand where you're coming from and he could understand where you're coming from because he's been there,” Zito said. “He's a part of the community. He's one of us.”
     
    Politicians of all stripes - from city councilors to presidential candidates - try to maintain a “common touch,” of course.
     
    Bloomberg, too, likes his local diner.
     
    Cafe Viand on Madison Avenue is around the corner from Bloomberg's townhouse, and restaurant manager Angel Pelengaris said the three-term mayor is a regular. He described him as friendly, a fan of red wine with dinner and someone who is known to snag a french fry from other customers' plates if he stops by their table to chat.
     
    Pelengaris said he doesn't know de Blasio, but his relationship with Bloomberg leads him to believe a good leader is a people person.
     
    “(Bloomberg) likes people, and people who like people will be successful at anything because they are social and can get the job done,” he said.
     
    Maybe the two men have more in common than meets the eye - at least in terms of their love for their own home.
     
    De Blasio says he will wait until after the Nov. 28 Thanksgiving holiday to decide whether he and his family will relocate 10 miles (16 km) north to the city's official mayoral residence of Gracie Mansion.

    You May Like

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora