In his most memorable campaign ad, Joe Lhota suggested that if his opponent Bill de Blasio were elected mayor, New York would soon look like something out of the ‘70s (or Mad Max): a graffiti- and crime-ridden city overrun by violent biker gangs. This summer, the New York Post underscored that point, proclaiming that the “bad old days” were back — in the form of two squeegee men. So, a year into his administration, what does “Bill de Blasio’s New York” actually look like? As predicted, the city has changed since the Bloomberg era. For instance, ferrets are in and groundhogs may be out. Here’s how Mayor de Blasio has left his mark on the city so far, from his progressive reforms to smaller shifts.
1. New Yorkers have a more negative view of the NYPD.
As Mayor Bloomberg began his last year in office, the NYPD had its highest approval ratings since just after 9/11. In January 2013, a Quinnipiac University poll found 70 percent of New Yorkers approved of the job the NYPD was doing. By mid-November this year — after Eric Garner’s death but before the non-indictment — the same poll found that number had dropped to 54 percent.
2. The NYPD conducts fewer stop-and-frisks.
Reforming stop-and-frisk was one of the signature promises of de Blasio’s campaign, and stops were down drastically during his first year in office. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, in the first three quarters of 2014, New Yorkers were stopped 38,456 times, and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said the total for the year would be under 50,000. In 2013, there were 191,558 stops, down from a high of 685,724 in 2011. The percentage of minorities stopped in 2014 was essentially the same as it was during the Bloomberg years: 54 percent of those stopped were black, 27 percent were Latino, and 12 percent were white.
3. The city dropped its stop-and-frisk appeal.
In 2013, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the NYPD discriminated against blacks and Hispanics when conducting stop-and-frisks, and ordered various changes. The Bloomberg administration fought the decision, but Mayor de Blasio dropped the city’s appeal, and agreed to the appointment of a monitor to oversee police reforms over the next three years.
4. NYPD officers are starting to use body cameras.
About 60 officers in six precincts throughout the city began testing wearable video cameras in December as the first step toward outfitting the entire force with body cameras. The pilot program is one of the reforms ordered by Judge Scheindlin, but the NYPD said it was proceeding “independent of the order,” and it moved up the launch date after protests in Ferguson, Missouri made body cameras a national issue.
5. New York police officers are being retrained.
In the wake of the chokehold death of Eric Garner, Mayor de Blasio announced that all 35,000 NYPD officers would be retrained. The three-day program, which started in November and will end in June, covers physical tactics, such as how to properly take down a suspect, and various “de-escalation” techniques, including a lecture on self-regulating emotion in stressful situations.
6. Carrying a small amount of weed will probably result in a ticket, not an arrest.
In November, Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announced a shift in the city’s marijuana policy: Now, in most circumstances, those caught with a small amount of marijuana (25 grams or less) will only be ticketed. While marijuana possession has been decriminalized in New York since 1977, the NYPD had skirted the rule by having suspects turn out their pockets, bringing their pot into “open view.” Within two weeks, low-level marijuana arrests were already down 60 percent.
7. New Yorkers may be allowed to own ferrets again.
In May, Mayor de Blasio moved to lift the ban on ferret ownership instituted in 1999 by Mayor Giuliani, who famously told a ferret advocate, “This excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness.” Ferret owners will probably be required to get their animals spayed and vaccinated, and they can’t legally take home their own “little weasel” just yet. The city’s Board of Health, which must approve the change, will be taking public comments on the issue through January 21.
8. But Staten Island lost a groundhog, and possibly a holiday tradition.
Months after de Blasio dropped Chuck, the Staten Island Zoo’s groundhog, we learned that the mayor’s Groundhog Day fumble wasn’t just embarrassing; Chuck (or rather the female groundhog playing him) died a week later. Zoo officials said they “don’t suspect any foul play,” but next year they may nix the part of the ceremony that requires city officials to handle a skittish rodent.
9. New York is home to even more billionaires.
Despite his plans to raise taxes on the wealthy, Mayor de Blasio didn’t drive the rich out of the city. According to the Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census, the number of billionaires living in New York actually grew from 96 in 2013 to 103 in 2014.
10. And homelessness is at a record high.
Homelessness increased by more than 60 percent during the Bloomberg administration, and despite de Blasio’s efforts to address the problem, the numbers continued to climb during his first year in office. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, at the end of last year, 53,331 people were sleeping in city homeless shelters. This week the number was up to 58,469.
11. There are 23 new homeless shelters in the city
In the last year, the city opened 23 new shelters in every borough except Staten Island, 20 of which are for families with minor children. The new facilities sparked protests in some areas after residents complained that they weren’t given enough notice or input before the shelters arrived in their neighborhood.
12. There’s a new rent subsidy program for homeless families.
Under a deal reached by the Cuomo and de Blasio administrations, a mix of city, state, and federal funds will be put toward rental assistance programs for homeless families. The three programs target homeless families in which at least one person holds a full-time job, families that have been in and out of the shelter system for at least two years, and the families of domestic violence victims. The city projects the programs will allow 4,000 families to move out of shelters and into permanent housing in the first year.
13. More public housing units are available to homeless families.
In a controversial move, the de Blasio administration gave homeless families priority for NYCHA apartments, reinstating a policy ended by his predecessor. Under a plan approved in July, 750 of the roughly 5,000 NYCHA units that become available each year can be given to homeless families. The department reached this year’s quota just a few months later, moving 750 families from shelters to apartments by the end of October.
14. Motorcycle stunts are banned.
Despite Joe Lhota’s concerns that Mayor de Blasio would go easy on violent motorcycle gangs, he enacted a law that explicitly prohibits various forms of “stunt behavior” on motorcycles, including revving the engine, popping “wheelies,” and doing “donuts.”
15. Pedestrian deaths are at a record low.
As of December 28, 131 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents this year. That’s 26 percent lower than last year’s tally, 177, and the lowest number of deaths since 1910, when the city began keeping reliable statistics. The mayor’s office cited the numbers as evidence that his “Vision Zero” plan, a package of reforms aimed at reducing pedestrian deaths to zero, is working.
16. The speed limit was lowered from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour.
A key part of the plan was reducing the speed limit to 25 miles per hour or lower on 90 percent of New York City streets. The five-mile-per-hour decrease doubles the likelihood of a pedestrian surviving a crash.
17. There are harsher penalties for taxi drivers involved in accidents.
In June, Mayor de Blasio signed several laws that require the Taxi and Limousine Commission to review crashes involving vehicles they commission, and report the data. Under Cooper’s Law, TLC drivers will have their licenses automatically suspended if they are involved in a crash in which someone is critically injured or dies. The law was named for 9-year-old Cooper Stock, who was killed in January when he was hit by a taxi while crossing the road.
18. There’s a family living in Gracie Mansion again.
The de Blasios were hesitant to give up their Park Slope brownstone, but the extra bathrooms and renovations by Brooklyn-based furniture store West Elm made the transition a little easier. Mayor Bloomberg opted to live in his five-story Upper East Side mansion rather than the historic property that’s housed nine mayors since 1799.
19. And Gracie Mansion’s fence is taller.
In December, a ten-foot wooden fence appeared behind the low brick and wrought-iron fence that circles the property. Supposedly, the NYPD wanted a higher barricade between the mayor and the public, especially in light of recent White House fence-jumping incidents, but some were outraged that “man of the people” Bill de Blasio doesn’t want New Yorkers staring at him in his bathrobe.
20. New York has a first lady for the first time in ten years.
While Diana Taylor, Mayor Bloomberg’s longtime girlfriend, sometimes appeared with him at official functions, New York hasn’t officially had a first lady since the Giuliani administration (and Giuliani filed for divorce from Donna Hanover toward the end of his time in office). De Blasio, on the other hand, has made his devotion to his wife Chirlane McCray a key part of his mythology. “We do everything as a couple — we think as a couple,” the mayor gushed to New York. “We act [as a couple] in terms of everything we try to do for this world.”
21. And the first lady has a job in her husband’s administration.
De Blasio frequently described his wife as his “most important adviser,” and in February he made that role official by naming McCray the chairwoman of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, a nonprofit that raises private money to support public initiatives.
22. The mayor is constantly late.
Mayor de Blasio has been late at least ten times since he was elected — anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour — and those are just the incidents reported in the press. He’s admitted that he’s just “not a morning person,” so at least his problem is more relatable than Mayor Bloomberg’s inability to return his chopper to the East 34th Street helipad on time.
23. The mayor appears on the radio station Hot 97.
Mayor de Blasio made his radio debut in January on the hip-hop station Hot 97, and answered a question about when New Yorkers would be able to “go to the bodega and get some herb” (answer: “I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon”). He went on the show again in June to lash out at the tabloids for attacking his wife, and to discuss the grand jury’s decision not to indict in the Eric Garner case. While Mayor Bloomberg answered questions on WOR-AM every week, there is no record of him ever appearing on Hot 97.
24. The mayor doesn’t march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Mayor de Blasio split with 20 years of tradition by refusing to march down Fifth Avenue in the nation’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parade over the organizers’ ban on marchers carrying gay-pride signs.
25. The mayor won’t reimburse taxpayers for personal travel.
Mayor de Blasio does not reimburse taxpayers when he makes personal or political trips with his security detail at the wheel. He cited an opinion from the Conflicts of Interest Board, which said elected officials are not required to do so. The opinion also says officials are free to repay taxpayers if they want to, and Mayor Bloomberg chose to pay for his personal trips.
26. New York has universal pre-K.
By next year, every child in New York should have access to free, full-day pre-kindergarten. De Blasio wanted to fund the expansion by raising taxes on the wealthy, but instead he secured $300 million for the program from the state budget through a deal with Governor Andrew Cuomo. The city hit its enrollment target this fall, with 53,230 children signed up for pre-K programs, and the goal is to have 73,000 4-year-olds enrolled next year.
27. Troubled city schools are no longer being shut down.
While Mayor Bloomberg favored closing large failing schools and replacing them with charter schools, or new smaller schools, Mayor de Blasio has rejected that strategy. Instead, he launched a program that designated 94 troubled schools as Renewal Schools, providing them with more resources, longer school days, and more training for teachers.
28. The city has less control over charter schools.
In February, Mayor de Blasio tried to block three new charter schools from using space in public-school buildings for free, reversing proposals approved by Mayor Bloomberg. This drew the ire of charter school advocates, who spent more than $5 million on ads attacking the mayor and held protests in Albany. As a result, state legislators passed a law that requires the city to find space for charter schools inside public-school buildings or pay most of their rent if the schools are placed in another location.
29. 36 percent of New York City’s school superintendents were replaced.
Carmen Fariña, the city’s new schools chancellor, implemented new standards for principals and superintendents, and had the latter reapply for their jobs over the summer. Of the 42 who reapplied, 27 kept their jobs, and the school system hired 15 new superintendents.
30. City schools are getting more art teachers.
Following a report by city Comptroller Scott Stringer that found 20 percent of New York City schools have neither a full- nor a part-time certified arts teacher, the city announced that it would spend $23 million in additional arts funding in the 2014–2015 school year. The money will go toward hiring 120 art teachers for middle and high schools, buying new art supplies, and upgrading art facilities in schools around the city.
31. 71 percent of city employees have new contracts.
The de Blasio administration struck deals with many unions whose members were working under expired contracts when he took office. However, the city has yet to resolve its contract disputes with several major police unions.
32. New York has a higher living wage, and it applies to more workers.
In September, de Blasio signed an executive order expanding the New York City’s Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act. The order increased the amount that economic-development projects receiving more than $1 million in city subsidies must pay their workers, from $11.90 to $13.13 per hour. It also expanded coverage to about 18,000 employees, up from about 1,200 workers when the law was first enacted in 2012.
33. New York businesses must provide paid sick leave.
Last year, the City Council overrode Mayor Bloomberg’s veto to pass a law requiring New York businesses with more than 15 employees to provide workers with paid sick leave. Mayor de Blasio, working with the Council, expanded the law before it went into effect in April. Now businesses with five or more employees must provide up to five paid days off a year if an employee or a family member becomes ill. It’s estimated that 1.2 million workers have paid sick leave for the first time time owing to the law.
34. Being a subway dancer is a lot harder.
And not because there was some change to subway poles that made them less suitable for swinging. Thanks to Bill Bratton’s reemphasis on the “broken windows” theory of policing, at the beginning of July the NYPD had made 240 arrests for subway dancing — a 500 percent increase from the same period in 2013.
35. Teenage inmates are no longer put in solitary confinement at Rikers Island.
As of December, New York stopped putting 16- and 17-year-old Rikers Island inmates in “punitive segregation,” or solitary confinement. There were 91 teens being held in solitary when de Blasio took office. Instead, young inmates who break the rules will be placed in one of two new adolescent housing units that will separate them from the general population and provide them with additional therapy.
36. The city has settled with the “Central Park Five.”
The Bloomberg administration fought the civil rights suit brought by the men wrongly convicted of beating and raping a Central Park jogger in 1989, but in May a $41 million settlement was approved with the support of Mayor de Blasio, who said, “An injustice was done and we have a moral obligation to respond to that injustice.”
37. New Yorkers can obtain municipal identification cards.
In an effort to bring undocumented immigrants, the elderly, the homeless, and other people who do not have government-issued IDs into the system, New York will begin issuing municipal identification cards in January 2015. The IDNYC card will be accepted as valid identification by the NYPD, and comes with a number of perks, including one-year membership to 33 cultural institutions around the city.
38. The Rockaway Ferry is no more.
Despite protests from locals, the de Blasio administration discontinued ferry service between the Rockaways and Manhattan in October. The service was established after Hurricane Sandy knocked out subway service in the area and residents say it’s still essential. However, city officials said they could not justify spending $5 million a year to subsidize a service with low ridership.
39. Fourth of July fireworks returned to the East River.
In 2014, the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks display was launched from the Brooklyn Bridge and barges on the East River for the first time since 2009, making the show visible in Brooklyn and Queens, rather than New Jersey. The display was moved to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival in the area and had stayed on the Hudson River ever since. While Macy’s says the location would change in the future, Mayor de Blasio is pushing to make the East River Fourth of July show “as typical as possible and frequent as possible.”
40. Unused scaffolding came down at NYCHA housing.
As part of his effort to reduce crime at city housing developments, Mayor de Blasio ordered that scaffolding, or construction sheds, must be removed from NYCHA housing by the end of 2015 if it is not being used for repairs. Some “legacy sheds” were up for years, though no work was being done, and police said they allowed criminals to hide from cameras and stash weapons and drugs. According to NYCHA, the sheds took up 53,000 linear feet when the initiative was launched in May, and so far 27,000 feet have been removed.
41. The Citi Bike system is expanding, and getting more expensive.
After Bikeshare Holdings LLC bought Alta Bicycle Share, the struggling company behind Citi Bike, in October, the company reached an agreement with the city to double the size of the Citi Bike program. The system currently has 330 stations and 6,000 bikes, and is set to expand to 700 stations and 12,000 bikes by the end of 2017. Citi Bikes will be available in Queens for the first time, and expand in other boroughs, too (but there are still no plans for bikes in Staten Island). The cost of an annual membership also increased from $95 to $145.
42. Neighborhood parks are being revamped.
In October, Mayor de Blasio announced a $130 million initiative to renovate 35 small neighborhood parks, which officials say have been neglected for decades. While $80 million of that funding was set aside by Mayor Bloomberg in his last capital budget, de Blasio supporters praised the new mayor for focusing on fixing up parks in low-income neighborhoods, rather than legacy projects like Manhattan’s High Line.
43. More New Yorkers think the city is headed in the wrong direction.
A poll conducted by the New York Times and Siena College in early December found 52 percent of New Yorkers agree that the city is on the wrong track, up from 42 percent a year ago.