Fresh from a hard-won political victory in Albany, which gave him control of the city’s schools after prolonged negotiations, Mayor Bill de Blasio decided he could spread his wings.
In this case, that meant flying to Germany to join a political demonstration at the G-20 meeting.
The surprise visit disturbed people in Queens as the entire city mourned the assassination of a female police officer in the Bronx, who was killed the day before he left. The mayor made sure he would be back from the Hamburg summit for the wake and funeral for Miosotis Familia before finalizing the trip.
Nevertheless, de Blasio’s departure created a leadership vacuum at a time when New Yorkers needed reassurances that city government would do all in its power to protect the people who protect us. It also undermined his efforts to repair tenuous relations with the NYPD, outraged that the mayor would be elsewhere as they prepared to bury a colleague. Police union members turned their backs to the mayor yet again at the fallen officer’s funeral. Elected officials in both parties took aim at his honor’s junket.
After lying low during the mayoral control talks in Albany, de Blasio clearly needed to break out. He did not visit the scene of the A-train derailment in Harlem for fear of antagonizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the head of the MTA, who would decide whether he could run the schools. Cuomo was also a no-show.
Free from a serious threat to his re-election bid this fall, de Blasio spoke at a non-violent protest against President Donald Trump’s policies a continent away in what he called “a meaningful moment.” The mayor defended his trip by saying the world should know that many U.S. cities opposed the administration’s policies on issues like climate change.
But in an era dominated by Facebook and Twitter news, how many New Yorkers understood that the mayor was speaking at a peaceful protest that was not part of the violence that shattered Hamburg and disrupted the summit?
De Blasio, who has repeatedly vowed to defend New York as a sanctuary city, should stick to the issues important to his constituents and not risk antagonizing Trump as a free-style protester.
The trip was free paid for by the German rally group — but the city picked up the tab for the security detail that accompanied him. The Conflicts of Interest Board waved him through — the day after he left.
When the mayor runs the city from Queens next week, let’s hope he concentrates on immigration, education and the challenges that matter most to the borough after squandering his political capital on a self-promoting jaunt that did little to advance New York’s core agenda.