Speaking from the same podium in the Great Hall of Cooper Union as the late American president Abraham Lincoln did in 1860, Mayor Bill de Blasio described his first 100 days in office as restoring New York City's reputation as the "center of progressive America."
"We weren't sent to City Hall to change New York's character," de Blasio said proudly before a crowd of citizens, politicians and journalists on a sunny Thursday afternoon. "You sent us here to restore New York's proud legacy as the progressive city. You sent us here to keep the sacred promise of our city that everyone has a place, that everyone gets a voice."
In a speech on New York City's future, de Blasio — whose approval rating is at 49 percent since he took office in January — rattled off some of his administration's accomplishments, which include paid sick leave, universal pre-kindergarten, $100 million in funding to repair homes destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, affordable housing options and reforming police conduct. Most recently, his administration has overseen the completion of the first phase of the Lavonia Commons project, the reduction of the speed limit on Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue and municipal IDs for all New Yorkers.
"Some people weren't quite sure what to make of our progressive agenda, to reduce inequality and restore opportunity," he said. "But now they're starting to see, because politics of the sort that we believe in doesn't measure success by poll numbers, but by action. We believe in grassroots, people-powered government."
And according to the mayor, the administration has already seen results. The number of traffic deaths has decreased by 26 percent during the first quarter of this year. Wait times for complex repairs for New York City Housing Authority residents dropped from 250 days last year to 50 days this year; wait times for basic repairs also decreased from 150 days to a mere five days during the same time period.
Still, some obstacles remain, he said. Quality teachers ultimately leave the education system, he said, noting that the percentage of mid-career teachers who resigned jumped from 15 percent in 2008 to 43 percent in 2013. A public school parent himself, he also stressed that parents should be treated more like stakeholders.
The mayor also called for a moment of silence to honor the late New York City Police Department Officer Dennis Guerra, who died on Wednesday morning after sustaining injuries while responding to a fire in a Brooklyn housing project, as well as his partner, Rosa Rodriguez, who is in critical condition. He also thanked firefighters, East Harlem residents and other New Yorkers who helped victims of the East Harlem building explosion and collapse last month.
Acknowledging the powerful interests who prefer the status quo, the mayor said he is hopeful that his administration will continue to reach its goals. He concluded his speech by calling on city leaders and residents to work hand in hand to address the issues that plague New Yorkers.
"We need you go out in your communities and make sure families sign up for pre-K and after-school," he said. "We need you to keep leading the way, keep showing the leaders the path, holding your elected officials accountable. We need you to keep the momentum of these last 100 days rolling all the time."