Bill de Blasio reached out to give a supporter a high-five at his election night celebration in Brooklyn. Photo by Sam Spokony
BY SAM SPOKONY, HEATHER DUBIN, GERARD FLYNN and LINCOLN ANDERSON | Bill de Blasio trounced Republican Joe Lhota in the race for mayor and will be taking over City Hall in January.
De Blasio, who will be the first Democratic mayor in 20 years, won with 74 percent of the vote.
In his victory speech to a crowd of around 2,000 supporters in Park Slope, Brooklyn, de Blasio drilled home the points he made throughout his campaign — all which were fundamentally based on a left-leaning, progressive approach to tackling the city’s problem of social and economic inequality.
“Today you spoke out loudly and clearly for a new direction for our city, united by a belief that our city could leave no New Yorker behind,” said de Blasio, currently the city’s public advocate. “The challenges we face have been decades in the making, and the problems we’ve set out to address will not be solved overnight. But make no mistake, the people of this city have chosen a progressive path.
“I’ve spoken throughout this campaign about a tale of two cities,” de Blasio continued. “That inequality, that feeling of a few doing very well while so many slip further behind — that is the defining challenge of our time. … Making sure no son or daughter of New York falls behind defines the very promise of our city.
“The city has overcome hurricanes, terrorist attacks, but the gutsy New Yorkers always prevailed,” he said. “But the challenge today is different. The creeping specter of inequality must be confronted, and will not weaken our resolve.”
On one point, de Blasio has already surpassed Bloomberg. De Blasio also addressed the crowd in Spanish, and his accent was much better than that of the mayor, who has been regularly ribbed for his bilingual forays.
Among the Democratic politicians in the packed auditorium were Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Congressmember Caroline Maloney.
Exit polls showed de Blasio took almost the entire black vote and close to 90 percent of Hispanics, but just around 50 percent of the white vote.
Bill de Blasio gave the thumbs up to the crowd as he announced his victory on Tuesday evening. Photo by Sam Spokony
Despite all the left-leaning talk — plus, longtime ally Letitia James, the new public advocate, on the big screen promising equal opportunity for all — no dramatic change in the fortunes of the wealthy, a key tax base, is coming, insisted Joel Giambara. The former Erie County executive and friend of de Blasio’s going back to the latter’s HUD days, said a de Blasio administration would be governed from the center.
“He understands the need for moderation,” Giambara said. On top of minor tax hikes on the wealthy to pay for universal pre-K, he said, de Blasio would look to re-appropriate funds through trimming wasteful spending.
City Coucilmember and fellow Democrat Robert Jackson, who ran unsuccessfully for Manhattan borough president, said that the election’s racial disparities don’t reflect a citywide racial divide, but rather that the new administration would mirror the values and ideals of a united city.
The mayor-elect’s strong showing was matched Downtown, where interviews with voters indicated strong support.
“I think de Blasio is more in touch with the real population of New York, not just wealthy business people,” said Yvette Velez, 40, a Tribeca resident. She added that she likes current Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but believes that he has focused far too much on the city’s affluent community.
Downtowners also said they liked de Blasio’s emphasis on expanding pre-K programs and taxing the wealthy to pay for it.
John Scott, a Democratic district leader from Independence Plaza, said he thinks the tax plan has a good chance to pass in Albany despite what others have said.
“I remember that Governor Cuomo was originally against raising the millionaire’s tax, but he changed after people put a lot of pressure on him,” Scott said.
“I’m excited about the fact that the new City Council is much more progressive,” Scott added. “And I think that will have an effect on helping de Blasio’s plans.”
East Villagers who turned out for de Blasio on Election Day sounded off on education and housing, as well as the tiny, six-point font used on the ballots.
At the Girls & Boys Republic Club poll site, on E. Sixth St. near Avenue D, Sheryl Nelson, 52, said she voted for de Blasio because, “Lhota’s nuts, not overly nuts — not Tea Party nuts, but nuts enough.”
The mother of a 9-year-old son, Cole, in public school, she said, “De Blasio has a better feeling for what it’s like to navigate the city with kids, and I would like to think that makes him more forward-thinking.”
On the ballot referendum question on whether 80 should be judges’ mandatory retirement age, Nelson voted “yes,” because, she said with a smile, she realized women live longer than men. “Let’s stack the courts with women,” she added.
Of the six-point-type ballot measures, she scoffed, “I’m a graphic designer and a calligrapher, too. That’s ridiculous. This is the stuff we should be able to read.”
Willis Johnson, 75, a former trumpet player, also voted for de Blasio. But he didn’t weigh in on the referendums since he couldn’t read them.
At the poll site at Theater for the New City, on First Ave. near 10th St., most voters interviewed said they also ignored the referendum questions.
Nora Szilagyi, 47, a freelance video producer, voted for de Blasio and also to re-elect City Councilmember Rosie Mendez.
“She is our councilwoman and she’s been busy and helpful on the block, except for P.S. 122 on the corner,” she said.
The school used to house a daycare center, and Szilagyi charged that Mendez “killed it for an artist space.” There was also a garden next door, which is empty now, 10 years later, she added.
Evdokia Sofos, 47, an administrative law judge, also voted at the theater poll site.
Asked if any candidate stood out to her, Sofos quickly responded, “Their stances are all what the public wants to hear. They’ll try to pander to everyone, just whitewashing everything. When they get in, everything will remain status quo. I hope I’m wrong.”
Norman Cole, 62, voted for an entirely different reason.
“I feel the entire city is going to crap because of the socialists and communists that have taken over the Democratic Party, and I feel it is my duty to throw sand against the tide,” he said. Cole did not reveal his picks.
At the Sirovich Senior Center, on E. 12th St. near First Ave., Rudy Peart, 59, who lives and works at the center as a custodian, voted for de Blasio.
“I won’t vote for Mr. Lhota,” he said. “He was in charge of the M.T.A. and didn’t want to give unions their due when he was representing them. He’s going to try to try to shortchange any way he can to make himself look good.”
David Bassin, a 34-year-old writer living in the East Village was thrilled to fill in the circle for de Blasio.
“I’m a huge Bill fan, and I believe in a very progressive agenda for New York,” he said. Bassin showed a photo of himself and de Blasio at his brother’s apartment in Fort Greene, where they held a small fundraiser for the public advocate two months before he surged in the polls.
Bassin voted “yes” on the casino ballot measure.
“I want casinos because I think it’ll generate jobs and lower property taxes,” he said. “The cost outweighs the benefit.”
Additionally, Bassin, who noted he has a law degree, voted against extending judges’ retirement age based on a higher chance of conservatism with age.
“I also believe in the spirit of rotation,” he added.
In the West Village, at 505 LaGuardia Place, Karin Cardone, a consultant for business improvement districts and a Republican, said she darkened the oval for Lhota.
“New York is a city that can very quickly become unmanageable,” she said. “I remember in the ’80s when you couldn’t walk in Washington Square Park at dusk. I mean, my grandfather was beaten in his store — that was the late ’70s.”
Her family used to own the Italian Food Company, on Bleecker St.
Councilmember Rosie Mendez said she was telling people to “Vote ‘no’ on 1 and 5,” the casino issue and a measure to allow a mining company to acquire 200 acres of Adirondack parkland Upstate.
“People talk about casinos as jobs, and they do bring jobs,” she said. “But we need a diversity of jobs. I think we need to think of other ways of jumpstarting the economy.”
Elsewhere, Corey Johnson won election to the City Council in District 3, but G.O.P. District Leader Richard Stewart, who repeatedly told The Villager he actually was endorsing Johnson, won nearly 13 percent of the vote. Stewart did not campaign at all or spend a dime on the “race.”
Some speculated that some of the Stewart votes were by supporters of Yetta Kurland, who lost to Johnson in the primary.