HARLEM — An influential group of black and Latino pastors joined Thursday with Bradley Tusk, the former campaign manager for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to announce an effort to keep Mayor Bill de Blasio from winning a second term.
"We are looking for another option," said the Rev. Johnnie Green, president of Mobilizing Preachers and Communities and pastor of Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem. "No one is challenging him. No one is talking about the investigations."
Tusk, an entrepreneur, recently launched a group called NYC Deserves Better, which has been openly critical of the mayor. Tusk commissioned a poll and also launched a search for someone to challenge de Blasio.
Joining with the pastors was the next logical step, Tusk said outside of the Harlem church.
African-Americans and Latinos remain de Blasio's strongest supporters even as he faces a series of investigations into his fundraising activities and the sale of an AIDS nursing home to developers who made a $72 million profit.
"This hits him in his own backyard. We're talking here about hundreds of black clergy, ministers, people who are really of the community," Tusk said. "I would imagine Mayor de Blasio is worried about what happened today and if he's not he should be."
MPAC, which has more than 250 clergy members from Brooklyn to Buffalo, previously threatened to pull their support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo if the project to rebuild LaGuardia Airport did not include 30 percent of minority firms in the equity or ownership level of the project.
High-ranking Cuomo officials met with the group the day after DNAinfo New York wrote about the issue and pledged to meet a 30 percent minority hiring goal.
De Blasio has said in the past that he's not worried about Tusk or any potential challengers and is focused on improving life for New Yorkers. The city announced today that both murders and shootings were down this year compared to last.
"It isn't surprising that this group can't convince anyone to run against a mayor who's helped usher in record-setting crime drops, graduation rates, and affordable housing construction," said de Blasio Press Secretary Eric Phillips.
Tusk said he sees a multi-pronged effort taking shape.
"Right now it's about getting the message out there of the failed leadership of Bill de Blasio," said Tusk who led the fight for Uber against a de Blasio-supported plan to restrict its growth in the city.
The next phase is running a "real campaign" in 2017, Tusk said.
The investigations and criticisms have had some effect on the mayor's approval ratings.
A recent poll from Quinnipiac University found that voters disapprove of the job the mayor is doing by a margin of 51 percent to 42 percent but that he still holds a wide lead over potential Democratic primary challengers.
Voters also disapprove, 56 percent to 28 percent, with the way de Blasio is handling corruption.
De Blasio's support among black and Latinos remains strong with 63 percent of blacks and 50 percent of Latinos approving of the way de Blasio is handling his job as mayor.
"The average African-American in New York City is so worried about surviving they don't know what's going on at City Hall," said Pastor Carl Washington of New Mount Zion Baptist Church in Harlem. "His support is not that strong in the black community I'm in."
The Rev. Patrick H. Young of First Baptist Church in East Elmhurst said the mayor has not been communicative enough with groups such as MPAC to hear their concerns on issues affecting the city.
"We've been disappointed with his inability to reach out," Young said.
Green said he's heard disappointment from black congregations about everything from the mayor's handling of charter schools, the awarding of city contracts to minority-owned firms, the recent choice of a new police commissioner, and that de Blasio's affordable housing plan is not affordable enough.
"We are going to remind him that we put you in office and we can take you out," Green said