Bill de Blasio Hearts ‘The New York Times’

Bill de Blasio at the opening reception of the The New York Times Cities for Tomorrow conference 2014.

Bill de Blasio at the opening reception of the The New York Times Cities for Tomorrow conference 2014.

Mayor Bill de Blasio made it clear last night that he has a thing for The Gray Lady.

Speaking at the opening reception of the Cities for Tomorrow conference, hosted by the New York Times, Mr. de Blasio hailed the paper as an “extraordinary institution” that is “really a touchstone of life in New York City.”

“It’s something that we in this city have depended on for generations,” he said, going on to describe the broadsheet as “one of the places where we get the fullest, most comprehensive, most insightful rendition of the news of the world around us.”

The mayor, who has faced his fair share of criticism by the paper (and blasted it early in his term for its coverage of his outgoing sanitation commissioner), noted the shifting media landscape, which he said has fundamentally changed the way elected officials interact with the press.

“It won’t surprise you, it used to be that not so long ago, if there was going to be a critique of the work I do, it would be in the New York Times and other print newspapers. But now, the New York Times is able to raise critical thoughts and challenges not only in print, but on nytimes.com, ‘NYT Now,’ online video, podcasts and Twitter,” he said. “My predecessor, Fiorello LaGuardia, never had to worry about a David Brooks tweet. It’s a brave new world we’re living and it’s one that keeps us on our toes.

“And that is all to the good,” he offered.

In his remarks, Mr. de Blasio stressed the theme of the conference and one that he, like his predecessor, often likes to talk about: the important role of cities and their significance as the locus of new ideas, from the Agora in ancient Athens to the dawn of the industrial revolution in Birmingham, England.

“Cities have a natural advantage when it comes to innovation and economic advancement, and that is that there’s a natural diversity, there’s a natural coming together of people and ideas, cities are natural mixers of cultures,” he said. “There’s something about the sheer density of cities that spurs economic advancement.”

The love fest between Mr. de Blasio and the paper also went both ways, with the paper’s highest ranks heaping praise on the new mayor.

Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger introduced Mr. de Blasio by praising his commitment to “a more equitable and sustainable New York for all its neighborhoods and for all of its citizens.”

“As a New York City council member and as our city’s public advocate, and now as our mayor, he has been and remains dedicated to building a city that is safer, more affordable, more inclusive and more connected for all New Yorkers,” he continued. “And we are truly honored by his presence here this evening.”

Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, who took the stage after Mr. de Blasio, called the speech “inspiring.”