Bill de Blasio Insists He Didn’t Have to Mention NYPD Issues in State of the City

Protests erupted after the Eric Garner grand jury decision. (Photo: Daniel Cole/New York Observer)

Protests erupted after the Eric Garner grand jury decision. (Photo: Daniel Cole/New York Observer)

Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted today that he did not have to mention police and community relations in his State of the City address on Tuesday, testily rejecting criticism from progressive allies.

Mr. de Blasio chose instead to focus his lengthy speech on affordable housing–excluding an issue that has dominated headlines for much of his time in office.

“I had a number of other areas I could have spoken about. I didn’t put a lot of time in the speech into education, I didn’t put a lot of time in the speech into other matters as well, because I wanted to focus overwhelmingly on the question of affordable housing and where we’re going,” Mr. de Blasio told the Observer at a press conference in Manhattan today.

Mr. de Blasio was at precinct house in Manhattan to announce $7.3 million in city funding for new bullet-proof vests for NYPD officers, an olive branch extended to a department that had grown to resent the mayor over the past few months.

Since anti-police brutality protests rocked the city and officers, blaming Mr. de Blasio for allying himself with the protesters at the expense of police, literally turned their backs on Mr. de Blasio, the mayor has sought to sidestep the issue and focus on other priorities. The about-face shocked his allies in the protest movement, including the leading group Justice League NYC, who met with Mr. de Blasio in December.

Mr. de Blasio, a liberal Democrat, ran on a platform of reforming police and community relations, winning a large share of minority votes in the city. Activists gathered outside City Hall this week to blast Mr. de Blasio for seemingly turning his own back on the kind of progressives who powered him to victory in 2013.

“What we feel happened … is that there was a submission to the police unions, the pro-police groups who continue to vilify the movement, calling us anti-police when all we are is anti-police misconduct,” said Linda Sarsour, a member of Justice League NYC and a de Blasio supporter, on Wednesday.

But Mr. de Blasio implied today Ms. Sarsour and others were lingering on old news.

“The notion here is that this was not yesterday’s State of the City. It’s a different approach because this issue is going to be the number one priority for this administration in 2015 and we wanted to be very, very clear and wanted to have a real thorough discussion of it–it’s as simple as that,” he said.