With his first semester under his belt, the mayor gets strong marks from the Upper West Side
Residents of the Upper West Side are nothing if not opinionated about their city government. But even potential critics are giving Mayor de Blasio a wide berth and a chance to fulfill his progressive promises before they give him a final grade.
We asked Upper West Side residents of all stripes how they think de Blasio is measuring up so far, and most responses were even-handed, acknowledging that three months is a very short time in which to accomplish anything in politics, especially following the 12-year-reign of his predecessor.
Joseph Bolanos, president of the West 76th Street Block Association, singled out that changing-of-the-guard as one positive of the new administration. "The most important, and immediate, feeling that I have from Bill de Blasio is actually the lack of arrogance that his predecessor had," Bolanos said. "Moreover, I don't feel the disregard for the average New Yorker that we endured for 12 very long years. Are there issues and topics that I feel the mayor needs to address? Of course there are."
Bolanos, like others in the neighborhood, praised de Blasio for his prioritization of traffic safety and his work on the Vision Zero campaign to end traffic fatalities in the city.
"De Blasio's made great appointments, licked the crap out of Cuomo with the pre-K," said West 88th Street resident Bill Stribling. "They are working on rescuing the horses and came up with a first-rate traffic safety approach."
He also lauded the administration's snow removal response, dismissing the cries from across the park of Upper East Siders who complained about the slow process during the worst weather of the winter.
"I would commend Mayor de Blasio on his attempts to make the streets safer with lower speed limits in some areas," said Betty Lynd of West End Avenue, who honed in on traffic safety as a key issue. "I would also like to see the enforcement of 'no commercial vehicles/passenger cars only' law on West End Avenue. Huge trucks continue to barrel down West End Avenue, sometimes running red lights."
Another common desire among responses was a desire for de Blasio to repair the divisive charter school issue; even those with opposing views of charter schools in general hope that the mayor can bring some solutions and peace to the debate.
Newly appointed Council Member Mark Levine, who represents part of the Upper West Side in district 7, said that de Blasio is generally doing well so far, but that his communication could use some finessing, citing the administration's stance on charter schools as an example.
"It was at least implied [in some earlier remarks] that he valued charter school kids less," Levine said. "The mayor is aware of this and has made an attempt to correct it," specifically in an impassioned speech given to parents of charter school students at Riverside Church on the West Side, he added.
"I'd like to see him end his divisive policies toward charter schools," Joseph Bolanos said. "One thing is to limit expansions of such schools. Another thing is closing established schools that provide opportunity for those that need it the most."
The biggest common denominator in assessments from Manhattan residents, though, was that there is still much to be done before anyone can hand the mayor a definitive grade, good or bad. There are still important agency appointments to be made, and some areas to which the mayor has yet to focus his attention.
Geoffrey Croft, president of independent watchdog organization NYC Park Advocates, said that he couldn't possibly evaluate the de Blasio administration on its policies and work in parks, because very little has been done in that arena.
"Unfortunately there has been virtually nothing to report," Croft said. "There wasn't a single word in the mayor's inaugural speech about parks or open spaces. What comments he has made came out of the press conference [announcing the impending appointment of Mitchell Silver as incoming parks commissioner] two-and-half months into his administration."
Croft said that he has high hopes for the new commissioner and hopes that de Blasio will fulfill his recent promise to make parks more accessible and enjoyable to all in the city.
"We are very concerned, as we were when he was a candidate, what his solutions are to this," Croft said. "The budget that [de Blasio] just proposed is the exact same issues we've had for decades - he's proposing to allocate a fraction of the funds needed to properly maintain our parks."
The city budget is far from finalized, however, and the same goes for de Blasio's reputation and record on issues important to the West Side.