WEBEXCLUSIVE

The Brooklyn Mayor


As local media tried to find a story around the election of Bill de Blasio, one element that seemed to stick out was that the mayoral victory party was the first one ever celebrated in Brooklyn. The first Democratic winner since 1989—and previously a little-known public advocate who ran an unabashedly progressive campaign—de Blasio initially pulled off what seemed like a pre-general election coup. The leftover liberal denizens of Manhattan, burgeoning progressive gentrifying professionals of Dumbo/Carroll Gardens/Park Slope/Fort Greene/Williamsburg (or Waterfront and Brownstone Brooklyn) and, most importantly, African-American and Latino voters, seemed to form an unstoppable anti-Bloomie swirl.

It has been nearly a generation since New York had a mayor with unabashedly progressive credentials in both the social and economic spheres. While talk is talk with any politician on the campaign trail, de Blasio has credentials as an organizer, as someone unashamed of being involved in generation-defining political movements like the Nicaragua or anti-apartheid efforts. Such a background is quite unlike those of Giuliani and Bloomberg. And, of course, we have seen in numerous campaign ads that de Blasio has a bi-racial family, thereby giving him a direct connection with more of the city’s population than his two predecessors (and let’s not underestimate Chirlane’s essential role as a campaign strategist).

Over the last 13 years we here at the Rail have watched (and dutifully and critically written about) how the politics and culture of Brooklyn have transformed. Fueled by a storm of unfettered development, sustainable P.R., and the “brand” that Brooklyn has become, the county of Kings is now arguably where the “culture” of New York City is focused. It is so much that way that it has become somewhat of a satire—one that usually includes “artisan,” “sustainable,” “hipster,” and the like. But it does seem—at least symbolically for now—that a core part of the power structure has moved across the East River. Or at least to the culturally and financially capitalized regions of Brooklyn.

Some on the left are justly skeptical about de Blasio. After all, he can claim few meaningful accomplishments during his 12 years to date in elected office, during which time he repeatedly sided with large developers and campaign contributors like Bruce Ratner and the folks at Toll Brothers. But for now, I’m just happy to have a former Sandinista sympathizer as mayor of NYC (something kind of unthinkable amidst the last few decades of conservative “we turned New York around” brio). Perhaps the best qualities of Brooklyn—that it is diverse, amalgamated, recognized, compassionate, tough, victorious, resilient, rising, optimistic, unbreakable and, well, victorious—will enable the new mayor to help us “reach our greatest heights [as] we all rise together.”


Contributor

Williams Cole

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