Mixed grades for de Blasio’s first term

Tom Allon

You remember that kid who sat in the back row, kind of slumped over, who never seemed to be paying attention in class but still got A’s on most of the tests?

He sometimes bombed a pop quiz, but otherwise seemed luckier than his work ethic would have you believe.

Well, it isn’t a perfect analogy, but Mayor Bill de Blasio is something like that student. He is knocked in the media for going to the gym in Brooklyn around 10 a.m. each day — and for his occasional progressive protest junkets, like the recent one to Hamburg — but it’s hard to argue with some of the results of his administration thus far.

On the big stuff — public safety, education and affordable housing — he’s followed through on his campaign promises and delivered more than most expected. But there have been some sloppy subjects, too.

Listen up class, because here is the mayor’s first-term report card:

Public safety: A

It’s very hard to argue with the results of these first four years – murders are down from all-time lows, and most categories of crime have gone down as well. What is remarkable is that these impressive stats were accomplished while driving down so-called “stop-and-frisks” by 93 percent!

De Blasio has essentially debunked all those who thought the only way to keep crime low was to use aggressive tactics that became prevalent in the Bloomberg administration. I was one of the skeptics, but am now a convert to the idea that you can keep crime down without heavy, proactive policing.

Education: B+

Universal pre-K has been a remarkable achievement that many have touted in the past, but until de Blasio, no one was able to execute. For that alone, his education legacy will be a strong one.

However, it is the education from K–12 that has largely inched up with stronger graduation rates (but lower standards) and essentially static results on reading and math tests.

Carmen Farina was a safe choice for chancellor and it will be interesting to see if she decides to stay for the second term. Most experts think she will not, and her successor will be pivotal in cementing the mayor’s education reforms.

Affordable housing: B+

The mayor has been proudly touting the pace of preserving and creating affordable housing units but, alas, it is only a drop in the bucket. The mayor and his team get an “A” for effort, but a much lower grade for creativity.

The real estate community has been pleasantly surprised at how friendly de Blasio has been in general, but those who advocate for low-income New Yorkers have loudly voiced their displeasure with the mayor. In a likely second term, the mayor has to be bolder on this and pick up the pace before the city becomes even more unaffordable for most people.

Homelessness: F

This has been the single biggest failure of this administration. Not only have the ranks of the homeless mushroomed, but the fact that homeless people seem ubiquitous in the city now leads to a sense that quality of life is deteriorating.

The mayor must take control here and figure out a more effective way to build transitional housing and to step up the pipeline of mentally ill homeless people to treatment rather than the streets. This will be the true test of the next term — if it gets much worse, we will be seeing tabloid headlines reminding us of the disorder in the city in the pre-Giuliani era.

Transportation: D–

Yes, we know that the MTA is really controlled by the governor, but the mayor still gets a bunch of appointees to the MTA board and has a bully pulpit to pressure Andrew Cuomo and the MTA to get things back on track. Not to mention the fact that the mayor could make larger capital contributions to the MTA budget to get those damn antiquated signals replaced before our grandchildren’s time.

If Cuomo and de Blasio don’t act rapidly here, they will both go down as failures, while millions of straphangers dread and curse their chaotic daily commute.

I’m sorry, but a trolley in Brooklyn and Queens and a nice ferry system are mere distractions when the subway arteries are afflicted with a fatal blockage.

Well, it looks like the mayor missed the Dean’s List again because of a few problem subjects. Maybe he’ll work harder and smarter in his second term.

Tom Allon, president of City & State NY, was a Republican and Liberal Party-backed mayoral candidate in 2013 before he left to return to the private sector. Reach him at tallon@cityandstateny.com.

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