For weeks now, amid ongoing pandemic hardship and an increasingly dire financial forecast, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been teasing the roll out of an ambitious plan to get the city back on track. And so on Thursday morning, the mayor summoned the city’s reporters for a rare in-person press conference to announce [drum roll, please; wait for it; ack sorry, seems we’re actually running a bit behind schedule today, just sit tight and keep on drumming. Hey, who here remembers “Tubthumping”?]
“Today we lay out foundations of recovery again,” the mayor said, launching into his best attempt at an uplifting address. “There will be a rebirth, there will be a renaissance, and anyone who wants to be a part of that mission is welcome.”
The weight of that monumental task, he continued, will rest on four sturdy pillars: fighting COVID, investing in innovation for public health research, creating new high quality jobs, and helping underserved communities “to continue making New York the fairest city in America.”
But more than six months after the start of the pandemic, and with one million New Yorkers now out of work, the mayor declined to outline a single concrete policy or initiative that would make those goals a reality.
“In the coming weeks we will provide detailed plans to lay out this vision,” the mayor said.
Pressed by a reporter for just a small taste of this expansive blueprint, he dismissed the question as “sprawling.”
(In fairness, he did announce the launch of an open-ended “Rapid Testing Design Competition” to eventually speed up coronavirus test results.)
So this is a press conference about a future press conference?
— Annika Pergament (@AnnikaPergament) September 24, 2020
Did @NYCMayor send around a fact sheet or some details that I missed before this speech, or is this mostly just vapid, airy rhetoric and talk about taskforces?
— Harry Siegel (@harrysiegel) September 24, 2020
Mayor Bill de Blasio is really trying to give a big speech about the city’s recovery, but it’s short on details/news.
“There will be a rebirth. There will be a renaissance for New York City. Anyone who wants to be a part of that, I invite you to the table.”
— Emma G. Fitzsimmons (@emmagf) September 24, 2020
For months now, de Blasio has faced criticism for his lack of big picture ideas to help New York City rebound from the worst public health crisis in a century.
Members of his own transportation advisory council, formed in the early days of the pandemic, published an open letter accusing the mayor of ignoring their draft recommendations to ease congestion throughout the five boroughs. Though de Blasio promised in June to install 20 miles of new busways, just .4 miles of new lanes have been completed thus far — as other proposals have been watered down or abandoned completely.
“Everyone is waiting with bated breath,” said Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance, the public transit advocacy group. “There are badly needed changes and we can actually do them if we have the leadership and political will that tie together transit equity and climate justice and making sure everyone has better access to the city as we build back from COVID.”
Still, the mayor deemed NYC a world leader in fighting the climate crisis on Thursday, and indicated his desire to tackle “the American addiction to the automobile”
Earlier this month, a group of more than 160 business leaders called on de Blasio to be more proactive in addressing quality-of-life issues. “Are there more efficient ways to deal with the garbage problems? Probably,” Kathryn Wylde, the president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, told Gothamist. “Has anyone reached out to the business community to come in with some logistics expertise? No.”
Asked by Gothamist on September 2nd to name some of the forward-looking ideas his administration had put forth to help the city get back on his feet, de Blasio pointed to a plan to guarantee New Yorkers health care, regardless of immigration status, which was first announced in 2019.
“I truly believe that what we need to do now is reestablish the strength we had,” he said then. “We’re going to be talking a lot, starting this month, about how to bring back this city not only all the strength we had…but also going to do it in a way that is more fair and address the disparities on many, many levels.”
Nearly a month later, de Blasio has yet to fill in the details around that much-awaited recovery plan.