“I feel like I am working in the Giuliani administration,” says one longtime staffer. “He doesn’t listen to a lot of people. There are a lot of different types of mayors: Bloomberg let his agency heads decide everything; this one has decided that he knows best, he knows more than everybody else, and we are going to do what he says.”
Even de Blasio’s supporters and friends say this quality was evident when the coronavirus first struck, when the mayor was slow to move and ignored the advice of his own Health Department until mass resignations were threatened. Or you could trace it back earlier, to when, against the advice of all counsel, the mayor decided to run for president, a disastrous display that saw him stall at one percent in the polls.
“The problem he has,” says a former adviser, “is that nobody trusts his judgment anymore — not in City Hall, not in the city. And I don’t know how you get that trust back.” In his remaining time in office, the mayor seems determined to get in front of the tumult. He met with civil-rights activists at Gracie Mansion and, at their suggestion, agreed to have a Black Lives Matter mural painted on one street of every borough. He held a conference call with staff in which he told them that he’d heard their concerns, that he was determined to do better, and that their cause was his.
“I have never heard him so contrite,” says one person who was on the call. Much of the mayor’s political focus appears to be on getting McCray elected as Brooklyn borough president next year. She is in charge of the coronavirus racial-equity task force and has been appearing at his side as the administration has attempted to quell the unrest. De Blasio is a political junkie, and keeping one hand in elective office is oxygen. But the calculus of that race has changed dramatically as his reputation sinks.