De Blasio's declaration: 'All boroughs were created equal'
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio officially declared his campaign for mayor this afternoon on the front porch of his home in Park Slope.
De Blasio said he intends "to sweep into City Hall a spirit that all boroughs were created equal and that all our residents matter. And that's why today here on my block in Brooklyn, I proudly declare my candidacy for mayor of New York."
De Blasio is hoping to overcome Council Speaker Christine Quinn's early lead in the polls by casting himself as an outer borough alternative who can better relate to the concerns of public school parents, and who would provide a clean break with the policies of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
His family was on hand to help make the case.
De Blasio's son Dante spoke admiringly of his father's commitment to social justice, and he read a letter from his sister, Chiara, who is away at college, testifying to de Blasio's great parenting. De Blasio was introduced by his wife, Chirlane McCray, who was a conspicuous presence in the campaign even before a report disclosed that she had once written a cover story for Essence identifying as a lesbian.
"I'm really excited to introduce this man who is outer-borough working dad, a public school parent, a lifelong progressive reformer and a leader who champions New York as a city of neighborhoods and families," she said.
A crowd of about 150 supporters, who braved the cold on a closed-down stretch of 11th Street, broke into a "Chir-lane!" chant when she first took the microphone, and then a "Yes we can!" chant when de Blasio emerged after her introduction.
"Welcome to our neighborhood," he told them, adding, "You are some really good citizens because it's a little cold out."
After some jokes about the "lived-in quality" of his own house, but said the public school where he's taken his kids was the "house that's most important to us."
"Never, in recent history, has a New York City mayor served while having a child in our public schools," he said. "Well, I intend to rewrite that history this year."
De Blasio paused at times when he recounted the absence of his own father, who lost a leg in World War II during the Battle of Okinawa, and returned a broken man who became an alcoholic and eventually split with his mother.
"It's tough to talk about," said De Blasio, who was born Warren Wilhelm, but changed his name as a young adult.
He also mentioned his political education, working under David Dinkins when he was mayor, under Andrew Cuomo when he was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and under Hillary Clinton when he managed her Senate campaign in 2000.
De Blasio argued for a neighborhood-centric approach, saying New Yorkers might have grown numb to such an expectation because of the "elitists at City Hall."
The crowd offered some scattered boos when he mentioned the "back-room deal that led to the term-limit change, and the not so subtle use of Mayor Bloomberg's wealth," and later said he was "very proud to say I led the opposition to Mayor Bloomberg's plan to change term limits," even though "we lost that fight to his deep pockets."
"If you live on 11th Street in Broolyn or in neighborhoods across our city, it feels like your voice doesn't matter to those in power," he said. "And if you live farther away from City Hall, the farther you live, the more you feel that way. Just ask residents of Breezy Point and Rockaway Park and Midland Beach and Coney Island in the months they felt since Sandy hit, and the challenges they still face."
(An aide to Bloomberg, Howard Wolfson, responded to a similar critique from de Blasio last week by posting the mayor's post-Sandy approval rating on twitter.)
De Blasio never mentioned Quinn by name, but she figured prominently in the speech.
After saying he agreed with the mayor's policies on immigration, public health, gun control, climate change and mayoral control, de Blasio said "on a whole range of other issues, he's simply neglected our neighborhoods and failed. And those who would seek to continue those policies are destined to fail millions of New Yorkers as well."
He mentioned the need for a living wage bill, which Quinn has yet to embrace, and he said "police-community relations were strained to a dangerous point in many of our neighborhoods" in a nod to the debate over stop-and-frisk, which he said "could happen to his own son."
"There are real differences among the Democratic candidates and the choice we make among them will define our future," he said. "There are some who believe Mayor Bloomberg's policies from the past 12 years just need to be tweaked here and there and that his vision should continue uninterrupted for the next four years.
And in what appeared to be a critique of Bill Thompson, who re-emerged recently after running for mayor four years ago, de Blasio said there were others candidates "who practice a politics of the moment, who are heroic in election years but not engaged in the day to day fight to save our neighborhoods when their names aren't on the ballot."
"I have a different view," de Blasio said. "I will be a mayor for our neighborhoods every day."
After closing with an "Are you ready?" call and response, de Blasio shook hands with supporters as the speakers blasted Bob Marley and police began to clear the street.