He called it “a noble concept, but one that will cost many billions of dollars, and we do not have a viable pathway to that.”
That was Mayor de Blasio in 2016, calling a proposal to close Rikers Island unrealistic. More than a year later, under political pressure, the mayor reversed himself, declaring at a news conference in the City Hall rotunda: “The mass incarceration crisis did not begin in New York City, but it will end here.”
Critics say Tuesday’s school delay announcement is in keeping with the same pattern: The mayor rejects an idea, chafes at critics and digs in his heels. Then, after weeks or months of taking flak, he changes course, yet fails to win over those same critics in the process.
For the past few weeks, de Blasio had resisted calls for a delay in the school year, insisting schools would be ready to go September 10th.
“The fact that our kids have been waiting to have their education resume, and in-person education is irreplaceable, there’s reasons for why we are committed to continue to move forward,” he said last week.
But under pressure from labor unions, the mayor buckled.
It didn’t satisfy Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who’d been calling for a delay for weeks. Williams released a statement Tuesday that read in part: “I am deeply concerned that eleven days is not nearly enough to meet the monumental task before the city, and that the administration will fall victim to the same logistical failures and logical fallacies as it did previously, just with a new date.”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson also gave the mayor no credit.
“Mayor de Blasio dragged his feet while parents and educators fretted about how to make the impossible work, waiting until a week before school is scheduled to provide clarity for our school community,” he said in a statement. “We live in uncertain times. Everyone is on edge. This type of indecision only fuels confusion.”
A similar sequence unfolded in March, when de Blasio closed schools only after coming under enormous public pressure, and again in recent weeks, when the mayor resisted widespread calls for outdoor classrooms.
“Outdoors might seem really appealing in September or June,” de Blasio told reporters in July. “But it’s not going to be as workable, say, in November, December, January, March.”
Last week, the mayor changed his position, announcing a plan to facilitate schools’ use of outdoor space.
The City Council will hold a hearing on the schools plan Thursday, but top school officials are not expected to testify.