Threatening snowstorm may be early test for N.Y. Mayor de Blasio

Edith Honan
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Newly elected Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio (R) is sworn in by former President Bill Clinton at City Hall in New York, January 1, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio is sworn in by former President Bill Clinton at City Hall in New York

By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is coming into City Hall with a sweeping mandate to address the city's most vexing problems, from economic inequality to police and community relations.

But first, he will have to manage a snowstorm.

A winter storm that is due to hit on Thursday, de Blasio's second day in office, could pose the first challenge to the new mayor, as he tries to enact a progressive agenda while ensuring the city of more than 8 million people is well managed.

De Blasio succeeds Michael Bloomberg, who had no political experience when he took office in 2001 but had founded and run the successful company that takes his name. De Blasio, a Democrat, most recently was the city's public advocate and, before that, served two terms in the city council.

"This will be first test, and he's got to pull it off as close to flawlessly as he can," said Douglas Muzzio, a professor at Baruch College at the City University of New York. "He's got to send the message, 'I can run this joint.'"

Storms have famously complicated the political lives of New York mayors. In the winter of 1969, a storm that dropped 15 inches of snow created a political crisis for Mayor John Lindsay, who was faulted for the city's slow response.

In 2010, Bloomberg came under fire for his handling of a blizzard that shut down some subway lines for days.

"If we see a situation worsening we're going to take very aggressive action. So it's very much on our screens," de Blasio told reporters this week.

De Blasio, who is moving into the mayoral residence of Gracie Mansion in Manhattan, asserted his outer-borough credentials by mentioning that he remains a homeowner in the borough of Brooklyn.

New York City consists of five counties known as boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island.


Bloomberg, who was first elected as a Republican but dropped his party affiliation, was criticized for letting snow pile up in Queens and allowing large parts of Brooklyn go unplowed for days in 2010.

Regardless of what Mother Nature sends the city's way, de Blasio has his work cut out for him as he kicks off his first week in office.

De Blasio has said one of his first acts will be to dismantle the horse-and-buggy industry in Central Park, which has long been a tourist draw but has been the target of animal-rights groups.

Perhaps the defining issue of de Blasio's campaign for mayor was the issue of stop and frisk, a police tactic that critics say has led to racial profiling of young black and Latino men in low-income neighborhoods.

At the height of the Democratic primary last summer, de Blasio - who is white and whose wife, Chirlane McCray, is black - began broadcasting an ad that featured his mixed race son, Dante, and spelled out de Blasio's criticism of the tactic.

The ad boosted de Blasio's popularity among black and Latino voters and helped push policing to the top of the debate.

But first, de Blasio will have to quiet critics who say he lacks the management experience to be a great mayor.

Muzzio predicted de Blasio would rise to the occasion.

"Those types of events, they're defining in a way that a legislative victory is not," he said, adding half-jokingly: "You'll see de Blasio riding a snow plow. There will not be a screwup."

(Reporting By Edith Honan)