For the first time ever, when the 51-member New York City Council convenes in January, a majority of its members will be either black, Latino or Asian. But despite growing clout, the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus hasn’t been able to get Michael Bloomberg’s attention at any point since his first term.
“In the six years that I have been with the City Council, he has not met with the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus,” said Letitia James of Brooklyn.
It’s not for a lack of trying, Caucus members say.
On December 1, 2005, the Caucus sent a letter to the mayor. According to a Caucus-friendly source, the letter proposed a meeting “meant to be a general meeting discussing our legislative and programmatic priorities, including but not limited, to out-of-school-time RFP process.”
In the fall of 2006, the Caucus sent another letter–a proposal to meet with the mayor to discuss newly released data on poverty. In response, the administration sent Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs. Some members, seeing Ms. Gibbs as an inadequate stand-in for the mayor, skipped the meeting.
“This administration makes Black, Latino and Asian members of the City Council irrelevant,” said Diana Reyna, also of Brooklyn. “Having a relationship with the Speaker alone can’t move our agenda. We have to be able to have a relationship with the mayor.”
In November 2007, they sent a third letter. The letter read: “The members of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus respectfully request to meet with you.
“We’d like to discuss affordable housing and the ongoing process of improving the relationship between the NYPD and communities of color.”
Caucus members said they received no response.
The latest attempt was on January 16, when they asked to speak with Mr. Bloomberg about how to use “President Obama’s stimulus package.”
In that letter, read to me by the Caucus source, the group recounted its failed efforts to sit down with the mayor.
“Collaboration between yourself and the Caucus will help to ensure that New Yorkers of color will benefit from this plan,” the letter said. “We recognize that you have an extraordinarily busy and ambitious schedule but we must adhere a sense of urgency to our request.”
Further down in the letter, the group wrote: “We could not help but remember that we requested a meeting with you in 2006 and you elected to delegate the responsibility to Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs. With all due respect to Deputy Mayor Gibbs, she and any other potential surrogates, we must be explicit that this is a request to meet with you in your capacity as the mayor of the City of New York. We will not accept a meeting with anyone acting in your stead.”
Again, Mr. Bloomberg did not meet with the Caucus. Members said there was no response to the letter in January.
A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, Stu Loeser, said, “We’ve met with members of the Caucus both individually and as a group, and of course will continue to do so.” Mr. Loeser also said they have no record of having received the Caucus’ latest letter.
City Councilman Eric Dilan, of Brooklyn, recalled one meeting Bloomberg had with the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus early in his first term.
“He was cool,” said Mr. Dilan. “He was a new mayor at the time. Diversity at the fire department—that was the issue. It was a cordial meeting. I don’t know that it bore fruit, but it was a cordial meeting. It was in the mayor’s side of City Hall.”
There’s talk that the caucus may try to meet with the mayor again, when new members are sworn into office in January.