De Blasio's rivals: Daniel Garodnick weighs in on the mayor

De Blasio's rivals: Daniel Garodnick weighs in on the mayor

De Blasio's rivals: Daniel Garodnick weighs in on the mayor
January 23, 2017

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a self-professed progressive, is pitching himself as leader of the opposition against President Donald Trump – but New York City Councilman Daniel Garodnick does not seem to see it that way.

The city coffers may not be substantial enough to withstand a slew of unexpected or damaging policies enacted in Washington, D.C., Garodnick said recently. In the past, Garodnick has made a point of drawing attention to what he considers a lack of savings by the city and urged the de Blasio administration to increase reserves.

“We’re not well enough prepared today,” Garodnick told City & State. “We’re not sufficiently planning for a downtown here, and that worries me, especially in light of an uncertain relationship with the federal government. … That is core to the city’s health, its ability to provide basic services, and its ability to take care of vulnerable people.”

Despite saying about a year ago that he was not going to run for mayor, there are rumors that Garodnick is being urged to do so. When asked to describe his thinking on challenging de Blasio in 2017, Garodnick did not rule out making a move for the other side of City Hall. “I am term-limited and considering my options at this point,” said Garodnick, who represents part of midtown and the Upper East Side.

If he decides to run, Garodnick does not risk losing a close ally in de Blasio. In the mayor’s first days, Garodnick waged a bid for City Council speaker against de Blasio’s preferred, and ultimately successful, candidate, Melissa Mark-Viverito. In the throes of what became a two-way contest, Garodnick contended de Blasio was infringing on the City Council’s ability to function as a counterweight to his administration. “Holding hearings, questioning the way things are done, pushing commissioners to do better – that is the central role of the City Council,” Garodnick told The New York Times. “Where the mayor is involved in determining leadership that becomes more difficult.”

Since then, Garodnick has not been wary of disagreeing with the administration. He opposed the city’s decision to provide financing so unionized school bus workers could recoup certain benefits, and cast one of six votes against the spending when it came before the City Council. He got nearly half of his colleagues to sign a letter urging de Blasio to reinstitute a “peg,” the once-standard practice of asking city agencies to identify potential ways to cut their budgets by 5 percent. (The administration opted to pursue other saving strategies.) And he has joined a cadre of council members pushing de Blasio to adopt various criminal justice reforms.

Garodnick has a reputation for amassing formidable fundraising hauls and enjoying more support from the real estate industry than some colleagues.

He is also pressing for curbing – or even eliminating – the city’s commercial rent tax, framing the levy as a mechanism that forces out mom-and-pop shops.

But back in 2006, he worked with tenants in Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village – where he grew up and still lives – to organize an unsuccessful bid to buy real estate long seen as an oasis for the middle class. Last year, he worked with City Hall to engineer a sale of the site that limited how much rent could be raised in some 5,000 below market-rate apartments.

Garodnick previously worked in securities litigation, and represented the Partnership for New York City, a group of civic-minded business leaders, in the marquee Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit that successfully challenged the state’s education funding formulas. In 2005, he won his City Council seat. Near the end of his second term, he announced he would run for city comptroller, but wound up dropping the bid when Scott Stringer entered the race.

Sarina Trangle