The mayor is moving out. Williamsburg activist Phil DePaolo — famously named “The Mayor of North Williamsburg” by this newspaper in 2009 — is moving his family to Nassau County this week after living in the neighborhood for three decades. DePaolo blames the Bloomberg administration, which he claims has ruined the school system and caused his children unnecessary angst. But there’s more to the departure of “the mayor” than some swipes at the mayor, so we sent Aaron Short to check in with DePaolo as he packed up his van.
Q: Why are you really moving?
A: It’s the schools. I’m tired of my kids being a prop for Bloomberg. One is going into sixth grade and another is going into third — their last year was trying. Bloomberg created a toxic atmosphere pitting new teachers against established teachers. Test prep is all they did — they didn’t have a rounded curriculum. And principals get merit pay based on test scores — all the pressures fall on the kids. I don’t want my kids being statistics. I want them to be students.
Q: When did you first move to Williamsburg and what was it like then?
A: In 1979, I got thrown out of the Lower East Side and moved to S. Fourth and Wythe. I was in two bands at the time — The Thugs and The Funky Knights, punk-funk bands. We used to pack places like Max’s and CBGBs. Williamsburg was very different from the Lower East Side. Italian, Polish, Hasidim, Puerto Rican and Dominicans were all living here and getting along. I thought that was very cool.
Q: Where did you hang out?
A: There weren’t many restaurants and those are gone now. There was Teddy’s, Mugs, The Greenpoint Tavern, Kasia’s and Turkey’s Nest, which hasn’t changed at all. When I first came out here we used to complain there weren’t enough bars. Now there’s a bar for every bar— be careful what you wish for.
Q: Was there a lot of crime then?
A: There was a lot of prostitution on the waterfront but there wasn’t much crime. I’ve been living here 32 years and I haven’t gotten mugged. There are a lot of car break-ins and thefts now, and this is supposed to be the crime-free good days.
Q: What are you going to miss the most?
A: I’ll miss the intimacy and usability of the neighborhood. Not everything [in Port Washington] is walkable. I’ll miss Fortunato Brothers’ cheesecake. But I’ll still come back every couple of weeks we still have a lot of friends here.
Q: What are you going to miss the least?
A: Noise, construction noise, and drunk people.
Q: Who’s going to be the new mayor?
A: Well, [Christine] Quinn is getting all the money from developers and the mayor…
Q: I meant of Williamsburg.
A: You are. I’m naming you the new mayor. Don’t make me come back and kick your ass.