When he packed his bags and headed over to Centre Street in lower Manhattan last week, Bill de Blasio made sure he took a bucket full of Brooklyn moxie with him.
Wasting no time, the former Park Slope councilman set the tone of his next act of his political career almost immediately, seconds after borough Rep. Jerrold Nadler swore him in as the city’s third public advocate.
In his remarks, de Blasio promised to take a tough stance on development, which received a near standing ovation by Fort Greene City Councilmember Letitia James.
“We are already becoming a city where the middle class, let alone the poor, cannot afford to live,” the new city ombudsman said. “And that means we have to reform our approach to development. From this point on, every piece of land we develop has to achieve more for the people of this city.”
De Blasio said that he would pledge “to give our citizens a greater voice in the decisions that shape their neighborhoods” with the help of the City Planning Commission.
“Together we can create a new approach that delivers more affordable housing and provides jobs in each community where development occurs.”
In the same speech, he promised to make sure that parents would have more say in their public schools and that the city met “the rising tide of public engagement and ending the disconnect between the people and City Hall.”
“The wisdom, creativity and involvement of the people will help move us forward,” he said.
On the first day of business, he took steps to meet this promise head on by launching a new Community Organizing and Constituent Services Department which he hopes will “help organize communities to play a more meaningful role in city government.”
“Our communities deserve a greater say in the policies that affect their lives,” de Blasio said. “Giving New Yorkers the tools they need to organize will help make our government more democratic and responsive to the needs of the people.”
De Blasio said he hopes the new department will “help neighborhood activists build grassroots coalitions so they can have a greater impact on all levels of government.”
De Blasio’s tough stance on development was well received by City Councilmember Brad Lander, who began his tour of duty as the representative of the 39th District in Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.
“Community planning is something I have spent a lot of time working on,” he said. “It’s how we think about our neighborhoods that ensures how we preserve what’s best about them. Bringing in affordable housing and preserving and protecting small business is a very large part of that.”
Yet some of de Blasio’s friends from the old neighborhood may not be applauding his moxie for long, especially since he sees the Atlantic Yards project as an example of a good government/community partnership.
“[The Atlantic Yards project] is a good example of a community benefits plan, that’s why I supported it,” he said. “The process, however, has been horrendous. It needs to be scaled down and some serious changes have to be made.”