Discourse Mar 27, 2021 3:41 PM EST

Mayor de Blasio fuels division by enacting Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission while ignoring New York's real problems

Racism is divisive, and no one is doing more to fuel division in this city that the mayor. This commission will do nothing to make life better for New Yorkers.

Mayor de Blasio fuels division by enacting Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission while ignoring New York's real problems
Libby Emmons Brooklyn, NY
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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was one of many American mayors who leapt into action in the wake of George Floyd's death and the ensuing movement to defund police. As violent crime rose across the city, he pulled money from the NYPD, proposed plans to turn social workers into first responders, and did what every Democrat leader loves to do—announced the creation of a commission to serve his own ego.

Instead of doing literally anything worthwhile, de Blasio wants the city to "formally apologize" for systemic racism and has given his commission the power to bypass City Council and send proposals directly to the ballot for voters to decide. The only problem is that we elected our City Councilmembers—de Blasio hand-picked the members of this commission.

That Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission is now here, fully staffed, and ready to transform New York. The only problem is that New York was actually pretty amazing before the pandemic, before the 45 percent increase in homicides, before de Blasio. Streets were primarily safe and the quality of life in the outer boroughs was on the rise. Even some of the cities most underserved neighborhoods, like East New York, were seeing major new investment and development. Rich parents sent their kids to public schools, and the only thing New Yorker's feared about public transit was the overcrowding.

The announcement of the formation of the Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission in June, 2020, it was synced up with the celebration of Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the date that enslaved people in Texas learned they'd been freed two years after the fact.

The stated goal was "to promote social learning, collective introspection, and policy action." The Commission was intended to "create a historical record of racial discrimination, with an emphasis on housing, criminal justice, environmental racism and public health."

At the time, de Blasio said "New York City is the safest big city in America with crime at all-time lows, yet communities of color bear the brunt of crime and incarceration. Racism has been a pervasive and consequential force throughout the city's history and we cannot go back to the status quo. We must use the past to inform and inspire the present, to promote the dignity and well-being of all New Yorkers, and their full inclusion in the life of our city."

New York is no longer the safest big city in America, and the people who have been most harmed by the drastic increase in violent crime are not the 400,000 or so families that left the city in search of open schools and a free society, but the black and brown residents of the poorer neighborhoods who are experiencing a deficit in policing, education, and quality of life.

Also, we're going broke. That mass exodus of families in search of greener pastures? They were also the richest. And we're at risk of losing the corporations that employed those big bread-winners, too. De Blasio calls for more taxes on the wealthy, but if they don't want to live here, we can't tax them.

Rudy Giuliani's term as mayor, beginning in 1993, marked a drastic reduction in crime. After Giuliani came three terms with Mike Bloomberg, who built on the crime reduction left by Giuliani and worked hard on quality of life issues.  

While Manhattan became a playground for the wealthy, Bloomberg funneled money into public spaces and amenities. More parks were built in the outer boroughs, and developers could take advantage of tax breaks if as part of their luxury residential projects they set aside, on the same site, 20 percent for affordable housing. Cultural institutions thrived. Manhattan was a delight. And life in the out boroughs increased in quality.

Mayor Bill de Blasio took over in 2014, and now, under his second term in office, the city is tanking. His affordable housing policy allowed developers to separate their luxe buildings from the affordable ones, and let builders get the 80/20 tax break if they built within the same zip code—further pushing apart the wealthy from the neighboring poor. Daytime muggings, the likes of which have barely been seen since the 90s, are daily occurrences.

Instead of following the lead of those mayors who made the city so lovely, he's working hard to defund police, restructure education, and form commissions on racism instead of doing anything positive to either maintain or increase New Yorker's quality of life. De Blasio loves nothing so much as to hear his own voice resonate across the press room as he announces wasteful spending plans, commissions, and intentions that have no bearing on the lives of New Yorker's other than to make them worse.

Schools are still half closed. The local elementary school in my area is open for in person learning three days per week. They are not even full days, and when two cases of the virus are found in the school, the building it shuttered for at least a week.

Students of color are being left out of the growing achievement gap fueled by de Blasio's poor policies. Crime is up and police morale is down while city streets take on an air of danger after dark. The subways feel dangerous in part because they are sparsely populated and full of homeless people, not to mention the assaults strap-hangers have encountered in transit.

But de Blasio has instead formed another pointless commission. He said "We've never had a model for actually addressing structural racism, institutional racism—identifying it, acknowledging it, formally apologizing for it, weeding it out, eradicating it, making the policy changes, changing the laws. If new laws are needed, if our Charter requires revision, this Commission will have the power to send proposals to the ballot for the people to decide."

"Racism has been with us for 400 years, but it can be obliterated," de Blasio said. "It can be eradicated. It's going to take tremendous hard work, but it starts with a devoted group of people, and a group of people who have proven by their actions that they can make a difference."

Racism is divisive, and no one is doing more to fuel division in this city than the mayor. This commission will do nothing to make life better for New Yorkers. He has pulled policing from neighborhoods that need it and now those citizens are suffering. He has denied the poorest students in New York a decent education, both in terms of keeping schools barely open to removing the free academic achievement programs that lift so many students into higher eschelons of learning. De Blasio finds pet projects that fuel his own ego and is blindly driven by an ideology that is destroying the greatest city in the world.

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