Former Mayor Bill de Blasio both touted his accomplishments in City Hall and admitted to some of his missteps Wednesday night, while making his case for why the voters of the newly-drawn Congressional District 10 should send their mayor of eight years to Capitol Hill.
De Blasio compared his mayoralty to a political movement that was able to achieve changes like implementing the city’s universal Pre-K program and ending the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policing policy. The former mayor said if he’s elected to Congress, he could bring this same kind of transformative political movement to Washington.
“When I ran for mayor, many of you will remember, I talked about taxing the wealthy, about Pre-K for all, I talked about ending stop-and-frisk,” de Blasio said. “And we were told repeatedly in the mainstream that we could not make these things happen. Not only could I not win but we could not make these realities happen, we could not make these changes. And yet we did that together in this town. A movement ended stop-and-frisk. A movement brought us Pre-K for every child and now Free-K for every child for free. And we need a movement in Washington to change the politics that is profoundly broken.”
De Blasio made his public pitch for Congress at the first candidate’s forum in the race for the newly-drawn district – which includes lower Manhattan and several Brooklyn neighborhoods – hosted by the Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC at the LGBT Center in the West Village. Joining de Blasio at the forum were Congress Member Mondaire Jones (D – Westchester), Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou (D – Manhattan), Council Member Carlina Rivera (D – Manhattan), former Congress Member Elizabeth Holtzman and social scientist Elizabeth Kim.
While Rivera hasn’t officially joined the race, she sounded like she was already on the campaign trail for much of the night.
The former mayor also reflected on some of what didn’t work during his tenure in City Hall. In response to a question about what the candidates would do to create more housing on a local level, de Blasio said he wasn’t always successful in his efforts to create more affordable housing as mayor.
“I’m speaking from experience,” de Blasio said. “And I can say from experience, some of what I tried to do worked and some didn’t, honestly.”
However, he still took the opportunity to highlight the policies he thought worked, like rent freezes and his Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program.
“What I know is, we’ve proven you can create fair rent levels, we’ve proven you can do things like rent freezes, and very low levels of rent increases, which made a profound impact on people’s life in the city,” de Blasio said. “We’ve proven you can create affordable housing, even in places that are privileged like SoHo and NoHo. We’ve proven there’s an opportunity to do more.”
Niou, who has pushed for more funding for public housing on the state level, said Congress has to push the federal U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to put more funding and resources toward repairing and renovating New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments. Plus, getting the federal agency to fund the creation of new public housing around the city.
“I will repeat again, HUD has stopped investing in our public housing for decades, it is something that is very, very ridiculous and horrible. And we have to make sure that our federal government is actually taking responsibility for the public housing that they also built,” Niou said. “I think that it’s really important that we are making sure that we are building more public housing. Actually, I think it’s the only truly affordable housing that we have.”
On addressing homelessness among LGBTQ plus youth, Jones – who is gay – said the federal government can address this crisis write away by shifting money away from things like defense spending and toward building more housing.
“It turns out that it’s not all that expensive when you consider what the federal government spends money on, think of our defense budget for example, It’s only just a few tens of billions of dollars to house every homeless person in America,” Jones said. “And it is a shameful indictment of our politics and of our democracy that folks in Congress, not enough people in Congress anyway, have summoned the courage to do that on an annual basis.”
Jones, who decided to run for the 10th District after Congress Member Sean Patrick Maloney (D – Hudson Valley) declared candidacy for his current 17th District, said it’s also important to tackle the causes of homeslessness in the LGBTQ plus community. These include addressing the cost of healthcare, food and housing as well as investing in mental health programs.
But Congress won’t be able to solve any of these issues, Jones said, if the Democrats lose their House majority to Republicans in November. House Republicans, he said, have proven themselves untrustworthy by falsely claiming the 2020 Presidential Election was stolen and inciting violence towards progressive Congress Members like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D – Bronx).
“We cannot afford to lose the majority in the House,” Jones said. “The alternative is too dire to bear as a nation.”