By Michael Barbaro
September 29, 2013
Bill de Blasio on Sunday said he would seek to use the recovery money heading to New York City’s storm-battered coastline to achieve liberal aims at the heart of his mayoral campaign: creating living-wage jobs, affordable housing and community health care sites in areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
His visit to Far Rockaway in Queens, his first since becoming the Democratic nominee, offered a glimpse of how his lofty language about a tale of two cities would translate into on-the-ground policies as mayor.
“Now, with these new resources from the federal government, we have to use it as a moment, not just to right the wrongs of Sandy but start righting some greater wrongs,” Mr. de Blasio said inside a packed community room of a church.
He outlined a vision of a recovery that would move beyond rebuilding houses, businesses and neighborhoods, by seeking to fix long-term inequalities in communities that he said had been overlooked by City Hall.
It is a program, infused with ideological as well as nuts-and-bolts goals, that diverges significantly from those outlined by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has made rehabilitating the coastline a priority, and Mr. de Blasio’s Republican rival this fall,Joseph J. Lhota. Mr. Lhota on Sunday accused Mr. de Blasio of exploiting the storm’s damage for political gain and said that the Democrat had accomplished little for the Rockaways as public advocate.
“The people of the Rockaways won’t be fooled by this blatant political maneuvering in pursuit of a promotion,” Mr. Lhota’s spokeswoman, Jessica Proud, said.
A coalition of labor and community groups called Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, some of which have endorsed Mr. de Blasio, argues that the billions of dollars in money promised to New York represents a rare chance for city government to accomplish ends long cherished by liberal activists.
On Sunday, Mr. de Blasio suggested that he had signed on to much of their agenda, and would return within 60 days of becoming mayor to begin mapping out a way to achieve it, even joking that, should he waver, his wife, Chirlane McCray, would be there to enforce his promise.
But even as he committed himself to those goals, he offered few specifics about how they might be carried out. Pressed on how, as mayor, he might require that federal relief money be used to create jobs that pay a so-called living wage of at least $10 an hour, well above minimum wage, Mr. de Blasio allowed that “I’m not a lawyer” and could not delineate a precise path.
“It’s an aspirational point,” he said.
As he frequently does, Mr. de Blasio offered an implicit rebuke of the Bloomberg administration. After visiting the old Peninsula Hospital, which closed before Hurricane Sandy, and a storm-ravaged home, Mr. de Blasio called for “a new relationship between City Hall and the people of the Rockaways, a more just relationship.”
Yet he made clear that he supported most of Mr. Bloomberg’s plan to fortify the city’s coastline against flooding during future violent storms.
Throughout the day, Mr. de Blasio sought to portray himself as an attentive and empathetic champion of the Rockaways, lingering to talk with and hug victims of the hurricane.
At one point, during the tour of a home flooded during the storm, Mr. de Blasio called for a private “family huddle” and put his arms around the Bennetts — a husband, wife, daughter and son who are just moving back into their home.
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