“Goodnight Irene, Goodnight Irene. I’ll see you in my dreams.” – Traditional
For much of the summer, there’s been a new Bill de Blasio in town. Sporting a Hawaiian shirt at a public pool in Bushwick or a tuxedo at the Met Gala, the mayor discovered a part of his job that he largely overlooked for most of his eight years in office: looking like he loves the city.
The de Blasio who happily shoveled out his own snow-covered sidewalk in Brooklyn in his first week in office turned into a frosty mayor who seemed far more interested in national politics and his own ambitions than the day-to-day life of the city. This summer, the iceman melted.
It took almost eight years for this man to find his inner Happy Warrior. For too long, New York had a too-cool-for school mayor who seemed particularly allergic to anything that appealed to the “elite.”
Asked in 2019 by our Errol Louis why he had always skipped the Met Gala, the mayor replied: “It’s not my cup of tea.”
But being mayor sometimes meaning drinking tea by the gallons, meeting the elite as well as the hoi polloi, and then asking for some crumpets along with that horrible tea.
And if you skip the tea party, you can’t even ring your own bell. De Blasio wasn’t ever particularly strong at trumpeting his real pre-pandemic accomplishments: A substantial drop in both the crime and poverty rates; universal pre-K; and an extensive public ferry system.
While it seemed that the mayor has finally grasped the concept of symbolism, he’s now reverting back to bad habits, pushing back at the idea of visiting the city’s foundering jail complex on Rikers Island.
With Rikers seemingly out of control with hundreds of workers calling out sick and detainees dying at a rate of more than one a month, the mayor is trying to place a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. Unveiling a package of reform measures last week only after Rikers seemed to be exploding, de Blasio has less than 100 days to grapple with a crisis that’s been years in the making.
Adding to the chaos, the mayor hardly has a municipal workforce that’s excited to do its job for the rest of the year. Some workers are already sprinting to the exit door because of an impending change in administrations. Others are enraged by a “back to the office” order from the mayor that has little flexibility even with the pandemic still smoldering.
While every politician should be allowed a mulligan or two for mistakes made during the pandemic, no one deserves to be spotted the entire game. But the big rebound that New York City was supposed to have this summer was torpedoed, in part, by the surge of the delta variant. In a classic Charlie Brown/Bill de Blasio moment, the mayor’s big “homecoming” concert in Central Park was washed out by a rainstorm mid-show.
In an even more perfect note of irony, the supposed architect of de Blasio’s “Summer of Bill” — Press Secretary Bill Neidhardt — announced Sunday he will step down this fall.
At this rate, there’s going to be no one left to turn out the lights in Gracie Mansion except a big man who’s dreaming of a big summer that never was.