BY JOSH ROGERS | Bill de Blasio has many criticisms for the man he hopes to replace at City Hall, but on some issues like the anti-terror security barriers Downtown, he’s in sync with Mayor Bloomberg.
In a meeting with Downtown Express and the rest of the NYC Community Media editorial board May 31, de Blasio, the city’s Public Advocate and a Democratic candidate for mayor, said his inclination would be to maintain the security protections in high profile places like the World Trade Center, Police Plaza, the New York Stock Exchange and the Statue of Liberty ferries.
Many Lower Manhattan residents and businesses have complained for over a decade about the effects of these barriers, but de Blasio said it’s hard to argue with the police department’s record in this area.
“On the topic of anti-terrorism, they have an incredible track record so I tend to give the benefit of the doubt in a very big way to N.Y.P.D. on the question of what we need to do,” he said.
He acknowledged there’d be great political risks to making security changes, but he pledged to continue to evaluate and discuss the barriers with affected communities, and did not rule out someday loosening the restrictions.
“If you do that and God forbid, that becomes the beginning of a problem, yes, you’ll pay the price for it many times over, but that’s a choice you make in leadership every single day on a host of levels,” he said. “Terrorism is maybe the most dramatic example, but you make those decisions all the time.”
When it comes to storm protection, de Blasio also appeared to be in agreement with the mayor. Both look favorably on one of the ideas Bloomberg proposed in his comprehensive report released June 11 — temporary flood barriers in southern Manhattan to be installed prior to big storms.
“It strikes me on a common sense level as a more believable short term solution, perhaps, than the sea barriers,” he said during the hour-long interview on a wide range of issues.
Bloomberg had also been much more than skeptical of storm surge barriers, but in a surprise this week, he said he was open to building some and studying others, although not the comprehensive system backed by some scientists and advocates.
De Blasio, who spoke before the mayor released his recommendations, also said he would have more to say in the coming months about storm protection, and that he had not reached a final decision on sea barriers or temporary structures.
“I feel more sureness on [changing] building codes, on incentives to get folks out of the areas below sea level, and on wetlands restoration or creation,” he said.
De Blasio, a former member of his local school board who would be the first mayor with children in public schools (he volunteered that his opponent John Liu also could be the first), said the city must commit more capital money to building schools.
“In Lower Manhattan, the space dynamics are daunting,” he said. “There’s no such thing as impossible, but they’re daunting.”
One of the centerpieces of his platform is to raise taxes on people making over $500,000 to provide enough full day pre-K slots for every family that wants it.
He said creating pre-K centers will help Downtown’s school overcrowding problem, by allowing schools to move classes into these neighborhood centers.
“You could take a former Catholic school, you could take a former warehouse, you could take whatever and turn it into a pre-K center,” he said.
De Blasio reiterated his criticisms of things like the N.Y.P.D.’s stop and frisk policy, and on issues like development, he continued to link Bloomberg to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the perceived front runner in the Sept. 10 mayoral primary.
In response to a question concerning New York University’s approved development plan, he said, “When it comes to development, the Bloomberg world and the Quinn world are one unit. Let’s get real — look at the history look at the votes — Quinn has never substantially separated from Bloomberg on development issues.”
He also knocked the mayor for allowing St. Vincent’s Hospital to close, pointing out that the Greenwich Village hospital served some West Siders all the way down to Battery Park City.
He said Mt. Sinai Hospital came up with a reasonable proposal to keep the hospital open.
“There’s no question it could have been saved,” he said. “It should have been saved. It was too important to too many people.”