In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio called on New Yorkers to “save our city.” But — as his dangerously inadequate response to the coronavirus reminds us — we need to be saved from another mayor like de Blasio.
We’re stuck with him until Jan. 1, 2022. We can’t afford another jerk who tells us to stay home and then goes to the gym.
The time is now to light a fire under people best-qualified to succeed him. None is to be found among current elected officials. For the Big Apple’s salvation, we must look outside the box of knaves and knuckleheads who currently reign in city government.
The first thing a new mayor must display — openly and proudly — is a love for New York City. For Wall Street and Broadway, for our central roles in media and global culture, our museums and parks and sports teams. Boston Red Sox fan de Blasio stuck his thumb in the eyes of our great wealth-makers and institutions from Day One, when one of his inauguration speakers slandered Gotham as a “plantation.”
De Blasio’s successor will have to clean up the mess he’s made and manage a catastrophically damaged economy in the coronavirus’ wake.
It will take a man or woman of extreme conviction and internal fortitude merely to arrest the tailspin. Long before the virus struck, quality of life and street safety plummeted. As of March 8, robbery was up 36 percent and felonious assault rose 11 percent over the first nine weeks of last year. The schools gave free rein to bullies and bigots. Homeless psychotics had the run of our streets.
The touchstones of de Blasio’s ruinous time in City Hall also included rampant corruption, the collapse of public housing, unchecked street squalor, anti-police rhetoric that demoralized the rank-and-file, and laziness so extreme that even the left-wing New York Times called him “New York’s Vanishing Mayor” before he left town altogether last year to run for president.
The handful of elected pols vying to replace de Blasio in next year’s election promise more of the same — or worse. They’re all cut from the same “progressive” cloth, in thrall to special interests and identity politics.
Comptroller Scott Stringer is a teachers union stooge and the “Teacup Yorkie of municipal watchdogs,” as Post columnist Bob McManus described him.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson talks the anti-cop talk and advocates for “help the homeless” programs that would result in more people living on the streets. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams urged transplanted Midwesterners to “Go back to Iowa.” (Code for: “Whites, stay out of black neighborhoods.”)
So we must look beyond machine politics. Neither Rudy Giuliani nor Michael Bloomberg had ever previously held elective office. Both had their faults, but they tamed mayhem on the streets and steered us through 9/11 and the Wall Street crash to an age of unparalleled growth and prosperity.
Here are five New Yorkers of unblemished reputations who enjoy remarkable records in government and/or private sectors. Only one has expressed interest in running for mayor. But the others should as well. Any would make a better mayor than the one we have. And all have a potential for greatness.
Head of Goldman Sachs’ Urban Investment Group
One of the nation’s most dynamic banking and real-estate executives, 38-year-old Anadu is little known to the public. But as she spearheads her Goldman division’s current commitment of $8 billion to provide debt and equity investment to major development projects — many in disadvantaged neighborhoods — her impact reaches far and wide.
Anadu, who lives in Brooklyn, has a passionate commitment to New York City. Few power players inside or outside of government are so attuned to the metropolis’ needs and to the role that private investment can play in its future. One goal of hers is to lift the fortunes of neighborhoods that never recovered from bank redlining, which refused housing loans to blacks and even to Jews in the last century.
Anadu also put Goldman’s clout behind such widely heralded Big Apple projects as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Hunters Point South in Long Island City and Manhattan’s Essex Crossing, which transformed five vacant blocks into a thriving mix of apartments, offices, cinemas and a new Essex Market. She’s also a lead investor in Goldman’s Launch With GS, a $500 million commitment to promote more major investment by women.
She’s never seemed interested in politics. But her skills and optimism might be just right for New Yorkers yearning for a mayor who truly loves their magnificent town despite its faults.
Former Port Authority executive director from 2008-2011
Ward, 65, almost single-handedly got World Trade Center rebuilding off the ground after years of political stalemate. The logjam seemed in need of divine intervention — and maybe Ward’s Harvard degree in Theological Studies helped. He stepped into a snake pit of entrenched, fractious “stakeholders” and made enough peace among them to get the 16-acre site excavated so that construction could start.
He’s the rare executive with spectacular track records in government (at several city agencies including Consumer Affairs and the Economic Development Corp.) and in hard-nosed private enterprise (including positions at American Stevedoring and design firm AECOM).
Although New Jersey-born, he’s a New Yorker to the core — an Upper West Side family man who’s comfortable before the media and the public. He’s an expert on infrastructure, one of the city’s crucial issues, and how to pay for it. His communication skills were crucial at the PA where he put a human face on the historically inscrutable agency and gave the public confidence that, one day, a new World Trade Center would rise.
Ward, who’s busied himself consulting of late, is ready for something new in the Big Apple. And City Hall can use a new leader with Ward’s gifts and guts.
Chairman of the City Planning Commission and director of the City Planning Department
Lago knows more about land-use priorities in the five boroughs — the hot-button issue of our time — than anyone. The 63-year-old is the right person to tackle from the top what she calls “an all-time high in anti-development sentiment” when creative ideas are desperately needed to solve the housing crisis and spread prosperity to poorer neighborhoods.
Her holistic view of the city’s human needs, and her skill at reconciling conflicting views like gentrification and neighborhood preservation, make her an ideal candidate.
Although she pushed through major rezonings to promote new housing in East Harlem, East New York and along Jerome Avenue in The Bronx, Lago’s no development-at-any-cost ideologue. She’s equally committed to environmental sustainability, equitable pay, affordable housing and improved education.
A true Renaissance woman, she holds degrees in law (from Harvard) and physics (Cooper Union). She cheerfully calls herself a “New York City government junkie.” She worked for two mayors — Ed Koch and David Dinkins — and for Citigroup. As former CEO of the Empire State Development Corp., she played key roles in building Brooklyn Bridge Park and expanding the Jacob Javits Convention Center.
She’s an amazingly nice person, too — but with the steely constitution to steer the city through a contentious, post-virus future.
Vice-chairman of Citigroup; chairman of the firm’s banking, capital markets and advisory division
With his remarkable career in banking and finance, 63-year-old McGuire is universally respected. Sources close to him told Page Six on March 2 that he is planning to run as a possible mayoral candidate and “working on building a team,” although a Citi rep said it’s “pure speculation.”
McGuire has all the right credentials to bring the city together. A fiscal wizard and a nonideological, political moderate, he’s equally committed to affordable housing and respect for the law. He understands that New York’s fortunes are linked to global financial and demographic headwinds way beyond the interests of the woker-than-thou crowd.
A true believer in New York City, he’s served on boards including the American Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the New York City Police Foundation, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the New York Public Library, the Studio Museum in Harlem (where he’s chairman) and the Whitney Museum.
As an African American, he’d appeal to minority voters; as a nonideological pragmatist, he’d have the trust of whites as well. And as a banker, he’d know how to leverage capital to the city’s best interests.
Run, Ray, run!
Restaurateur, chairman of the Belmont Business Improvement District
Maybe the longest-shot of all, Madonia, 67, is best known to the public for running his family’s 100-year-old Madonia Brothers Bakery on Arthur Avenue in The Bronx, But this Renaissance man with Big Apple blood in his veins has also served, among his many other accomplishments, as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s chief of staff from 2002 to 2006 and chief operating officer of The Rockefeller Foundation from later in 2006 to 2018.
Does he know how city government works? Prior to joining the Bloomberg administration, Madonia served as first deputy Fire commissioner and as a deputy commissioner at the Department of Buildings.
A brief time on de Blasio’s mayoral transition team might seem like a strike against him — except that he urged de Blasio in 2015 to get rid of the Times Square pedestrian plaza because, “No real New Yorkers use it and they hate walking through it.” If that doesn’t make Madonia a worthy candidate, what else could? (Of course, de Blasio didn’t listen to this sage advice.)
After so many years in the political trenches, a return to the rough-and-tumble might be the last thing Madonia would want. But it’s time for someone from outside the current field of contenders to step up and save us from the nightmare that lies ahead.