de Blasio Makes Nice With Wave
The squeaky wheel got some grease. The Wave noticed that mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio did a good job of overlooking most of Rockaway, particularly the west end, since launching his campaign in January. The Wave was none too pleased that a candidate would disregard an entire area slammed by Sandy. An editorial in August asked where he’d been. Weeks later, a picture with him on a milk carton with the word “Missing” was put on the front page. And then The Wave began a day count on twitter: 294 days since Bill de Blasio has been to Rockaway… 295 days.. 296 days…
His staff noticed. With the Sandy anniversary approaching and when he could no longer risk the backlash that might come with avoiding one of the most devastated areas, Breezy Point, The Wave got a call. How would Kevin Boyle like to join a private tour and have a one on one with the candidate? Boyle’s response? Sure. Other media, Boyle was told, would be kept away until after the one-on-one.
On Sunday, October 27th, at a little after 11 a.m. Bill de Blasio actually set foot on the west end when he and his wife, Chirlane, stepped from their SUV to meet a small gathering of people in Breezy Point. de Blasio got a close up look at some of the rebuilding and still-vacant lots in the burn zone as he toured with Breezy civic leaders Denise Neible, Arthur Lighthall and Roy Richter and a handful of other guests, including Boyle.
After the tour, the group now joined by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder and Congressman Greg Meeks, went to the community center for bagels and to meet more Breezy folks. Boyle, free to ask any questions, was invited to join the candidate at a small table in the middle of the room.
Boyle’s first question: Tell us why you have not been to Breezy, Belle Harbor and Rockaway Beach in 2013.
The candidate did not directly address the question. de blasio: “Point is, I’ve been all over the city. Obviously, after the storm I was in a whole range of affected areas including this. I tried to help through my office. We worked, in particular, with Friends of Firefighters, an organization I’m very close to. We were able to get them some of the help they needed. And since then, we’ve been crisscrossing the city. And so, the bottom line is, we’re here now to say there is a real strong commitment to seeing this through. I have immense respect for what people have done here. This is one of the most amazing examples of a community taking control of its own destiny. And I think the city government has to help in every way it can.”
With that, Boyle asked how he would handle the transition with new personnel coming on board in the middle of complicated programs and building initiatives. Specifically, Boyle asked about Build It Back and the boardwalk rebuild. Would we be starting all over again? de Blasio: “I’m going to look with an open mind. I agree with you that some situations are particularly sensitive. We’re either going to look for continuity or we’re going to look for a group of new people who can continue that continuity with confidence. We can’t upset momentum. And we don’t want to mess up something that’s already working.
“One of the things I want to do is stay in touch with leaders here to make sure that whatever we’re doing will continue.”
Boyle: “I hope so. We haven’t had real lines of communication with you. You haven’t been out here in 2013. That’s something. We need a real connection to City Hall.” de blasio: “What I have said in going forward is what is our commitment, our vision. It is a grassroots vision. It is about understanding each neighborhood. I want people here to know they will have access to City Hall. And that I intend City Hall to be out in communities talking to people. I think the current administration sometimes got into a bunker mentality. And that’s not how I ever lived my life.” de Blasio mentioned that he has long working relationships with Goldfeder and Meeks and that he will rely on them to be part of the dialogue between the peninsula and City Hall.
Boyle: How about the ferry? de blasio: “I’m very interested in extending it. I don’t make any financial commitments on anything, bluntly. I am a big believer in ferries but I’m gonna be honest with people – until I look under the hood of the budget situation I’m going to be careful not to make commitments I can’t keep.”
The serious tone turned lighter for a moment when Boyle asked, “Has your staff shielded you from the potshots The Wave has taken at you?” de Blasio: “My staff tells me The Wave is a threat to National Security.”
Boyle: “Remember that when I call you.” de Blasio returned to his grassroots theme. “My perspective is a neighborhood perspective. People are doing the right thing here. We want to keep this momentum going. How do we help, how do we get out of the way?”
As the meeting wrapped up, Denise Neibel invited de Blasio back in a year to see the progress. de Blasio promised he’d be back “before then”, adding “I’ve got to put The Wave in its place.”