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Stringer Swipes at de Blasio Policies During MLK Speech at Sharpton HQ

By Jeff Mays | January 17, 2017 10:39am
 Comptroller Scott Stringer apperead to be criticizing Mayor Bill de Blasio's policies during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech at the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network.
Comptroller Scott Stringer apperead to be criticizing Mayor Bill de Blasio's policies during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech at the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

HARLEM — He hasn't officially declared as a 2017 mayoral candidate yet, but Comptroller Scott Stringer may already have a rallying cry: "No procurement, no peace."

Stringer, long rumored as a challenger to Mayor Bill de Blasio in this year's Democratic mayoral primary, used his speech at the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration to lambaste city efforts on homelessness, affordable housing, and minority and women business contracting.

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While most of his colleagues talked about King's legacy or the need to fight the policies of President-elect Donald Trump, Stringer said the city must treat its most vulnerable residents better if it really wants to challenge Trump.

"I just want to put Trump over here for a minute and I want to talk about what we can do right here in New York City," Stringer said.

"First off, the way to beat Trump is you solve the homeless crisis in New York City. The way to beat Trump is to give 1,150 vacant properties in this town back to the people, not the developers," he added.

Stringer said the city needed to have "an honest conversation about economic opportunity" and the 4.8 percent of $15 billion in contracts awarded to minority and women owned businesses in 2015.

"I know it's hard to go no procurement no peace," Stringer said about hijacking the popular protest chant "No justice, no peace."

And then Sharpton chimed in.

"Let's try it," he said.

"No procurement!" said Stringer.

"No peace!" shouted the crowd.

"Oh my God it works," Stringer said before asking the crowd to stand up and chant the phrase.

It's not the first time Stringer has flirted with mayoral rhetoric, laying out an economic vision for the city in a September speech before the city's business leaders. The city is struggling with record homelessness, but last week de Blasio announced the city has built or preserved more affordable housing last year than any year since 1989.

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After criticism of his MWBE efforts, de Blasio announced a 30 percent minority and women contracting goal over the next several years and created a department to deal with the issue.

De Blasio's campaign spokesman Dan Levitan declined to comment on Stringer's speech which took place after the mayor had left.

But City Hall spokesman Eric Phillips said: "The mayor spent his day talking about Dr. King, not taking political potshots from the cheap seats."

De Blasio mainly used his speech to praise King and to continue to set himself up as a protector against Trump's policies such as deporting undocumented immigrants, utilizing stop-and-frisk as a national policing policy and creating a registry for Muslims.

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"We are not going to turn our police into immigration enforcement agents. That won't happen in New York. We are not going to create a religious registry for our Muslim brothers and sisters. We will not do that, we will not divide people," de Blasio said.

"And no matter what happens in Washington, D.C. we will never go back to the era of stop and frisk, We have left it behind us," he continued.

Christina Greer, a professor of political science at Fordham University, said that given the makeup of the city's electorate, speaking before the mostly black crowd at NAN is going to be important to anyone who wants to be the next mayor.

"If you look at the demographics and who turned out to vote, people of color turned up to vote," said Greer.

Black and Latino Democrat voters have remained de Blasio's strongest constituency, supporting him even when his approval rating dipped to record lows.

De Blasio, who is married to Chirlane McCray, a black woman, and has two bi-racial children, is very comfortable around communities of color, said Greer. The mayor received 96 percent of the black vote in the 2013 mayoral election.

Stringer spokesman Tyrone Stevens denied any mayoral intentions in Stringer's speech.

"This was not an attack on Mayor de Blasio — this was an attack on Donald Trump and the devastating impact his backwards agenda and potential federal cuts could have on homelessness, MWBE's, and the social safety net for New Yorkers," Stevens said.

Only a few Republicans and Democrats have declared their intention to run for mayor so far. Stringer, like many major Democrats, is likely awaiting the results of federal and state investigations into de Blasio's fundraising before deciding to run.

"He's playing coy because many people don't know what the next few weeks and months look like for de Blasio," Greer said. "So it makes sense for Stringer to couch his remarks as being about what's important for Democrats when in reality he could be laying the groundwork for what's to come."