De Blasio’s new commissioners settle into their jobs
Mayor Bill de Blasio has made several top commissioner appointments in the first few months since he took over the office in January. Metro looks back at some of the choices he has made so far.
These are the people who make sure that we are safe, that our trash is picked up, that our children are educated, our roads are safe and that our parks remain the crown jewels of the five boroughs.
They are the ones who fine-tune the engine that drives the greatest city in the world.
Bill Bratton: NYPD Commissioner
This is Bratton’s second tenure as police commissioner, having previously served in the same role from 1994 to 1996 in a very different, much more crime-ridden version of New York City.” Last month, in a sign that Bratton is moving away from the post-9/11 practices of former Commissioner Ray Kelly, the NYPD disbanded a program that collected intelligence on area Muslims. He has also cut down on the controversial practice of stop-and-frisk, but has no intention of doing away with it completely.
“[Stop-and-frisk] will remain a very basic tool in this police department, but it will be done at all times constitutionally, it will be done at all times respectfully, it will be done at all times compassionately.”
Carmen Fariña: Schools Chancellor
Fariña oversees the Department of Education, which handles all of New York City’s public schools. Since taking the reins, she has faced criticism over the decision to keep schools open during snowy weather and was called tone-deaf for her observation that it was “an absolutely beautiful day out there.” She put her foot in her mouth again when she told reporters that nearly 200 Harlem students were “on their own” after the city planned to kick them out of their charter school. In April, the city’s pre-kindergarten program was expanded to include an additional 4,268 seats, the first push toward an end goal of universal pre-K.
“Many of our kids don’t get involved in books and reading until they are much too old.”
Mitchell Silver: Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner
The Parks Department oversees 29,000 acres of parkland and 1,900 parks. Silver, formerly an urban planner in North Carolina, seems to be bringing a populist outsider perspective to the role that is in keeping with de Blasio’s goal of addressing inequality in the city’s parks. Park space in poorer neighborhoods often run solely on city funds, while high-profile green spaces in wealthy neighborhoods, like Central Park and Prospect Park, receive millions in private donations.
“I am a planner. And as a planner, I look at parks very differently. Parks do not sit in isolation.”
Kathryn Garcia: Department of Sanitation Commissioner
Garcia previously served as the COO of the Department of Environmental Protection, where de Blasio credited her with saving tens of millions of dollars through increased efficiency. Her appointment earlier this year came on the heels of a great deal of criticism directed at her predecessor John Doherty, who was blamed for slow snow cleanup after a series of snowstorms. Looking ahead, Sanitation’s emphasis is shifting more toward recycling and composting. This isn’t her first time working for the department, though it’s been awhile. “I fell in love with garbage and recycling [as a Sanitation intern twenty years ago],” she said when she was appointed.
Julie Menin: Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner
The department is responsible for consumer protection and ensuring a fair and vibrant marketplace. Under the de Blasio administration, Menin has pledged to ease punitive fines on and enhance engagement with small businesses in all five boroughs.
Menin heads the agency overseeing the recently-expanded paid sick leave law, covering 500,000 more New Yorkers.
“This department must protect New Yorkers from scams and deceptions designed to take advantage of the innocent.”
Emily Lloyd: Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner
This is Lloyd’s second stint as DEP Commissioner. She previously served from 2005 to 2009, when the watershed protection programs she oversaw earned New York City the distinction of being one of only five cities in the United States where most of the water supply does not require filtration. She was re-appointed in February of this year and since then the administration has proposed the most extensive overhauls to the city’s Air Pollution Control Code in nearly four decades, targeting boiler efficiency and emissions from food trucks, among other things.
“By phasing out the use of the dirtiest heating oils and increasing the efficiency of boilers we will continue to build on the progress that has seen dramatic reductions in air pollution in New York City.”
Dr. Mary Bassett: Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner
Bill de Blasio disagrees with his predecessor on many things, but one area where they share a great deal in common is their take on public health. Dr. Mary T. Bassett is a former top Bloomberg administration health official who looks set to continue her former boss’s anti-smoking and anti-obesity crusade, tempered by her new boss’s emphasis on keeping communities involved in the decisions that will affect them.
“Health is such a critical resource for everything we do in life, so it stands to reason that communities should be our ally in this process.”
Vicki Been: Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner
Before her appointment, Been served as the Director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, where she did research on the housing affected by Hurricane Sandy. She has been tasked with implementing de Blasio’s Five Borough Housing Plan, which aims to create or preserve 200,000 affordable homes and apartments over the next 10 years. The $41 billion plan was just released on Monday and was well-received by both affordable housing activists and developers.
“The plan really tries to tackle those high construction costs and high permitting costs, but at the same time it makes clear we are going to ask more of the developers by trying to stretch our dollars further.”
Polly Trottenberg: Department of Transportation Commissioner
The department is tasked with maintaining the transportation infrastructure, including 6,000 miles of streets and highways and over 12,000 miles of sidewalk, as well as thousands of street signs, lights and traffic signals. Her greatest challenge will perhaps be the implementation of the mayor’s ambitious “Vision Zero” traffic safety plan, which aims to eliminate traffic fatalities. As part of the plan, Trottenberg’s agency has already announced several initiatives, including the introduction of new slow zones and pedestrian safety education measures. The department also made an interactive map to track New Yorkers’ experiences on city streets.
“Through Vision Zero, we’re going to challenge ourselves to do more, to take our safety efforts to the next level, working closely with our partners throughout the city.”
Tom Finkelpearl: Office of Cultural Affairs Commissioner
The Cultural Affairs office is tasked with promoting arts and culture throughout the five boroughs, continuing what Mayor de Blasio called a rich history that attracts residents and tourists alike to the city.
A former executive of the Queens Museum, Finkelpearl will oversee an $156 million budget that divvies money up between various cultural institutions and projects.
“What happens on the community level with artists in all the neighborhoods of New York City — there’s something extremely valuable, moving, that’s good for communities. And I intend to try to understand how we can best express that value.”