In his first interview on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show,” Bill de Blasio said New York has to lead the country in addressing inequality.
“We have to set a new standard and challenge other cities to meet it,” de Blasio said Monday on the radio show. “Reconstructing the kind of middle class we used to have” will only happen through a very systematic policy approach.
The mayor wouldn’t hint at what his next step in addressing inequality will be but said he will share more details of his plans in his State of the City speech on Feb 10. He only reaffirmed that “inequality runs through everything we talk about.”
In a first step to address inequality de Blasio has been working closely with City Council to expand paid sick leave and said he “could not be happier” about collaborating with Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and the council.
De Blasio also credited Pope Francis for focusing more attention on the issue, saying he thinks the pope has “reframed the global discussion of inequality.”
“The whole local and national debate has been positively effected by this pope’s clarion call,” said de Blasio. The mayor met earlier this month with Cardinal Dolan and is working to get the pope to visit New York.
Defends Israel Position
Mayor de Blasio fortified his support for Israel following a bumbled closed-door speech to the strong Israel lobby AIPAC on Jan. 23—an appearance that was not published on his public schedule and was closed to the press. De Blasio was sharply criticized by the editorial board of The Nation, which chastised him for pandering to the right-wing Israel lobby and for telling attendees, “City Hall will always be open to AIPAC … when you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I will answer it happily, because that’s my job.”
Responding to Brian Lehrer’s question on his speech, de Blasio said that as mayor of a city with such a large Jewish population, “I do think it is incumbent on me to defend the state of Israel in the context of a very hostile world.”
De Blasio added, “I’m unabashedly pro-Israel, meaning: the state of Israel, the survival of Israel, the sense of alliance that this country needs to have with Israel.”
The mayor also hinted there would be real progress on the issue of stop and frisk in the coming days. Asked about police officers wearing lapel cameras, de Blasio said he supports the proposal.
He commented on the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, calling the actor a quintessential New Yorker with “amazing ability to portray the human condition.”
De Blasio also encouraged people struggling with drug abuse to get help and not fear stigma. “Even somebody of such enormous achievement grappled with the demon of substance abuse.”