Opinion: Certainty and clues

Photo by Paul Frangipane

I’ve got two things on my mind for the foreseeable future, AKA until the end of June.

First, professionally, as CB6 District Manager,  that’s organizing the Community Board portion of the Gowanus rezoning ULURP review. This paper has done a good job of covering what’s been happening and what will be happening. Short version, we at CB6 have three upcoming meetings scheduled dealing with it — June 3, June 17, and June  23 . 

As you may have guessed from previous columns, the second thing on my mind is the race to be New York City’s next mayor. The only certainty I have about the race is uncertainty. I’m not alone or in bad company as just the other day the New York Times had a headline had a headline that read, “Who’s Winning the New York Mayor’s Race? Even Pollsters Are Confused.”. Fortunately, or unfortunately,  we’ll only be uncertain for a few more weeks as absentee ballots have gone out, early voting starts on June 12 and ends, or ballots must be postmarked by June 22. 

Lately though, with some more polling, more attention from voters, and the media, some narratives are taking shape. The clearest of those is that Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is the current favorite and Diane Morales’ long shot candidacy has no shot after failing to pay staff and other issues in recent press reports. Also clear is that Kathryn Garcia is now, after receiving a Racioppo bump (some say a New York Times bump) is firmly a top-tier candidate; Andrew Yang is starting to fall in the polls from what seems to have been a polling sugar-rush built on name recognition.  

I “hope“ as the city remains amid a crisis, it is run by someone who  knows something about it, but that doesn’t mean it will be. Not only is Yang unaware of its moving parts, but he also doesn’t seem to have any interest in enlightening himself to make it function as is much less change it for the better.

The one instance in which Yang seemed to acknowledge this lack of understanding was when he’d said he’d “need” fellow candidate, Garcia, in a Yang Administration. He seems to have lost that belief only hours after Garcia took first place in a poll. Perhaps cynically he’s already badmouthed her work as DSNY commissioner, which of course was the same work that had previously found to be so impressive that a Yang Administration would need her. Before his today into this campaign, he’d not been to a NYCHA property; he still hasn’t been to a Community Board meeting despite saying they’re great, to say nothing of the fact he’s never even voted for mayor before. 

If becoming mayor required a normal job application process, Yang wouldn’t even get an interview. That’s not just because of that lack of civic knowledge. It’s also because he doesn’t understand what the city is and has been through.  I don’t begrudge someone for having left the city, as he and his family did, at the height of the pandemic. But not begrudging someone is different than giving them the privilege of living in Gracie Mansion, and to think one should be given such a privilege takes some gall. When discussing his living arrangements during the pandemic’s peak, Yang asked, “Can you imagine trying to have two kids in virtual school in a two-bedroom apartment?

Many New Yorkers don’t have to imagine it — that was and remains their reality. Someone who can’t even imagine it should have no say beyond their first vote for mayor and that should be someone who has a clue what they’d do.