At a phone bank with Steve Buscemi, de Blasio defends his stop-and-frisk ad

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De Blasio and Buscemi in Park Slope. (Reid Pillifant)
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At a phone banking event for Bill de Blasio in Park Slope on Tuesday night, celebrity supporter Steve Buscemi said he was fine with de Blasio's plan to tax wealthy-earners like himself to help fund universal pre-kindergarten.

"I am totally for the taxing of people who make a certain amount of money," Buscemi told a few dozen supporters packed into Southside Coffee on 19th Street. "My father said, 'You're voting against your interest.' I said, 'No it's in my interest.'"

"Yes, yes," agreed de Blasio, who introduced Buscemi as someone who "from time to time he has been known to play violent deviants, but he has a very good heart."

Earlier in the day, De Blasio's plan had also been endorsed by the economist Joseph Stiglitz, a former chief economist for the World Bank, who won the Nobel Prize in 2001 for his research on information asymmetry.

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"Now the next time Bloomberg mouths off about my tax plan, which he loves to do, I'm like, 'Show me your Nobel prize winning economist,'" de Blasio told the crowd on Tuesday night.

De Blasio and Buscemi met back in 2001, and the candidate called him a "foundational supporter" of the campaign, who "knew [de Blasio's son] Dante before he was famous."

"A big reason why I'm supporting Bill is because I know that he cares about families, that he cares about people in the city, in every borough," Buscemi said. "And he wants to give people a chance."

After the event, while Buscemi sipped an espresso, de Blasio defended his recent television ad, which Bill Thompson branded a "lie" for saying de Blasio is the "only candidate to end a stop and frisk era that targets minorities.”

"The ad is accurate because I believe fundamentally we can only change the stop and frisk era and move in the right direction if we do three things," said de Blasio, citing his support for a new police commissioner and the two policing bills currently before the Council, to install an independent inspector general and allow for more lawsuits related to racial profiling.

"Bill Thompson disagrees with two of those three things," he added. "My view, which I am expressing in my ad, is, if we don't have all of those reforms, we can't change stop and frisk the way we need to. So I've been very consistent on that."

And de Blasio had a specific reference ready to illustrate Thompson's less strident position on the issue.

"Look at the front page of the New York Times May 29th for how his position evolved," he said. (That article is headlined: "Thompson Sees No Need to Bar a Police Tactic.")

After the event, a reporter for a local South Slope blog introduced herself as the mother of three-year-old, and said, "the idea of pre-kindergarten terrifies me."

"You mean the lack of it terrifies you?" said de Blasio, who said it was "crucial" and reiterated the need for his plan to tax the wealthy to support it.

I asked how long he thought it would take to actually implement his idea.

"Obviously we want to get the tax approved by the budget on April 1st in Albany, and then start implementation immediately," he said. "If it's April 1st and you're talking about schools that have space, which are a substantial number in this city, bringing on the additional personnel, you know, that's not very hard with the huge number of folks qualified to teach who can't get a job nowdays. So certainly where there are spaces available now, we can move very quickly.

"In terms of building out and building pre-K centers in other spaces, you know, I think the school construction authority has gotten quite strong and efficient in recent years. So I think you're talking about really the first year or two is when you can reach the vast majority of people."