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

Kurdish Party Pushes Political Gamble to Run in Turkey Poll

HDP announces it will run as political party instead of fielding independent candidates in June election, but faces tough 10 percent threshold More

Twitter Targets Islamic State

New research shows suspending Twitter accounts of Islamic State, its supporters has been effective; group, its backers are facing 'significant pressure,' says terrorism expert More

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

Majur Juac made the leap from being a refugee in Africa to a master chess champion in US, where he shares his expertise with students More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures. For now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid