DOWNTOWN — The lead-up to the 2013 mayoral race unofficially kicked off Wednesday, as three presumptive candidates outlined their visions for a post-Bloomberg New York.
While only one of the three men at the panel discussion, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, has formally declared his candidacy in the race to take over from Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2014, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio were in full campaign mode Wednesday morning, selling their visions of the “Future of New York City” at a panel hosted by the law firm Stroock.
“By 2025, it’s possible that Mike Bloomberg may not run for re-election, and so I’m glad we’re having this discussion now, because what are we going to do?” joked Stringer in his opening statements, setting the tone for the conversation.
Some of the possible candidates whose names have been floated as among the front runners in the most recent polls — including Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and financial frontrunner City Council Speaker Christine Quinn — were not present at Wednesday's event. The city’s top cop has not indicated he has any interest in running. City Comptroller John Liu, Manhattan Media Publisher Tom Allon and actor Alec Baldwin were also not present.
Those present Wednesday focused on a host of issues facing the city, from jobs to housing, to transportation. All argued that the current administration has not done enough to boost hiring, while residents across the city worry about where their next pay check will come from.
“This is the issue of our time,” Blasio said. “We have to be reminded just how much people are hurting… We have a clear majority of our city feeling economically insecure.”
De Blasio slammed the mayor for what he described as failing to do enough to bolster jobs in the city, and said the city has been “an agent” in jobs loss by relying on outside contractors, outsourcing jobs and selecting a “Taxi of Tomorrow” that would not be manufactured locally.
He also accused the administration of focusing too heavily on building the city as a luxury brand while turning a “blind eye” to small manufacturers, especially in the outer boroughs.
“I don’t think the mayor understands that we need that other part of the equation at all,” he said.
Thompson, who came in just four points behind the mayor in 2009 despite Bloomberg’s tens-of-millions-of-dollars advantage, said the city was at “a crossroads” that would determine whether or not middle-income residents would be pushed out.
“Make no mistake: the next two years are the two years that will determine who stays in New York and who can’t afford to live in New York City,” he said, arguing that creating and maintaining affordable housing for both low income and middle class New Yorkers was crucial for the city’s success.
He advocated the creation of a new middle-income housing program, such as an extended Mitchell-Lama housing program.
“We need housing across a spectrum,” he said.
Stringer, meanwhile, placed the focus on developing new industries, including financial technology, 3D printing, digital information and food production.
While the city has little free land, he said, “The sky’s the limit. Every rooftop in the city [has the] potential for economic activity.”
Transportation and infrastructure were also at the top of the agenda, with all three presumptive candidates pushing for a more aggressive policy.
All criticized New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for pulling the plug on the Hudson River rail tunnel project: Access to the Region’s Core.
“I think… many of us were aghast,” said de Blasio, who called on the Port Authority to take on a more aggressive role in ensuring that the city keeps up with the growing demand for transportation.
“I think it’s time to jolt that equation,” he said. “We need it to be much more of a power in terms of the development of the regional economy.”
Stringer blamed some of the city’s failures in addressing infrastructure concerns on the administration’s sometimes contentious relationship with Albany lawmakers, who must often give the city the OK to move ahead on projects, such as congestion pricing.
“We don’t understand the nuances of Albany,” he said, arguing that, “Day one… there needs to be an Albany strategy.”
Stringer and others also promised New Yorkers a new management style if they make it into higher office.
“A top-down management approach gets you very little sustainable change,” Stringer said. “We must create a government that’s more inclusive.”
While some have said it is too soon to be thinking about the next mayor, Stringer said following the discussion that he thinks it is “important that we start talking about life in the post-Bloomberg era.”
“We Democrats have to figure out an economic agenda. We have to talk about the issue of education. We have to talk about affordable housing,” he said.
“So what’s great about today’s event is that that we’re actually having a substantive discussion.”