Just call him Dr. DeBlasio.
Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio doesn’t have a Ph.D. in psychoanalysis, but his street-side appearance on Tuesday afternoon — billed as his “Public Advocate on the Street” initiative — ended up being more of a therapy session than an exercise in public policy.
DeBlasio and his staff set up a table on Flatbush Avenue in front of the Atlantic Terminal Mall — the Crossroads of Brooklyn, if we have such a thing — to allow random pedestrians to speak with their advocate about any issue.
DeBlasio was looking forward to mowing those grassroots. “When you do these set-ups, you hear about problems that you didn’t know about and perhaps some solutions you didn’t think of,” DeBlasio said. “You can use this experience to help people.”
But things didn’t exactly go as planned. Instead of hearing broad community concerns, DeBlasio spent most of his time playing therapist. Katherine Brann Fredericks whined about her cellphone contract (it really is unfair, the advocate said). Richard Gill complained about the BP oil spill (it really is a major natural disaster). And Lurender Brown is worried that New York State is wasting all the lottery money (that’s a bit outside the advocate’s jurisdiction, alas).
But DeBlasio was not deterred.
“We want to make ourselves available to help people deal with city agencies,” he said.
In fact, the public advocate seemed relieved to hear the select private concerns that reflected greater issues. One woman, who refused to give her name, told DeBlasio that charter schools should accept students regardless of their test scores and grades. She said she was upset her daughter could not get into one and remains in public school, where some teachers “don’t care if students learn or not.”
And Sabrett vendor Abdul Karim called for the public advocate’s attention to a pressing matter: the theft of food and drinks from his cart by high school students after dismissal time last week. Karim ranted that hundreds of kids, who regularly swarm the stand’s corner each weekday afternoon, left “not one bit of food” — and police haven’t been helpful.
DeBlasio listened intently, but after Karim tried to refer the advocate to another victim down the street, Dr. DeBlasio told his patient that, alas, his time was up.
©2010 Community News Group
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