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Kings return: Hizzoner delivers annual address in Bklyn, but boro plays minor role in speech • Brooklyn Paper

Kings return: Hizzoner delivers annual address in Bklyn, but boro plays minor role in speech

Fairest of them all: Mayor DeBlasio on Tuesday announced his intention to to make New York City the fairest big city in America in his annual State of the City speech, in which he barely mentioned Brooklyn despite delivering the address at Kings Theatre in Flatbush.
Photo by Jason Speakman

Brooklyn was seen but not heard.

Mayor DeBlasio returned to his old stomping grounds on Tuesday to deliver his fifth State of the City address at Kings Theatre, but Hizzoner barely mentioned his home borough in the speech, except for shout-outs to the beep and the historic Flatbush playhouse.

The second-term mayor instead unveiled lofty goals to make New York City the fairest in the country by expanding free education to its youngest citizens, addressing the long-forgotten needs of public-housing residents, and strengthening police-community relationships — a renaissance similar to the once old-and-decaying Flatbush Avenue theater’s 2013 transformation into a multimillion-dollar venue, according to Borough President Adams.

“This theater was a gem that had to be brushed off to see its original beauty, and that’s what the city is going through,” he said. “The mayor has done an excellent job of going into the crevices of communities that have historically been denied some basic services — doing 3-K, looking at NYCHA, and looking at the whole stop-and-frisk issue is really what we need a mayor to do.”

DeBlasio spent much of his hour-long address laying out a 12-point plan dubbed “Fairest Big City in America,” in which he touched on other bullet-point initiatives that included the need for more affordable housing and better-paying jobs, curbing the local opioid epidemic, and advancing his plan to close the jails on Rikers Island.

The former Park Slope councilman then shifted the focus of his address to strengthening democracy in the city, blasting the Board of Elections for using an outdated system that leads to low voter turnout.

“You’ve heard being customer-friendly? Our voting system is about as customer-unfriendly as it could be,” the mayor said. “It’s not modern, it’s not fair, and it needs to change now.”

DeBlasio proposed a 10-point plan to modernize local elections that included hiring the city’s first-ever “chief democracy officer,” who will be charged with registering 15-million New Yorkers to vote over the next four years and with engaging more youths in civic processes, he said.

“We’ve got to prove to our young people that they’ve got the power to change the world around them. When people feel empowered, they participate,” he said. “When they can see the impact they’re making, they come back for more.”

The pol who now holds DeBlasio’s old Council seat applauded the mayor’s push for democratic reform, but implored Hizzoner not to forget residents’ opinions as he works to implement his plan.

“It a vital time to re-energize our democracy. I hope the conversation will be open as opposed to just, ‘Here’s the democracy agenda, I am dictating it and now you will follow it,’ ” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope). “If we can have an inclusive conversation, then I think it’s really promising.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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