The Upwardly Mobile Councilman

Mr. Rivera suggested that Mr. Gioia’s fortuitous positioning has raised the hackles of some of his peers.

“Does that create animosity among some people?” Mr. Rivera asked. “Of course it does.”

As Harlem-based consultant Bill Lynch, another Gioia ally, put it: “He’s a coming star in this city. … People are reluctant to embrace somebody who is as aggressive and tenacious as he is.”

Mr. Gioia said, “I’m very proud of my record and believe deeply in the work I do, and I think that the only fair measure, the most important measure of any public official, is that people’s lives are better because of the work they’ve done. People’s lives are immeasurably better because of the work we’ve done together.”

Asked what he would do if Michael Bloomberg abolished the office of public advocate, Gioia laughed nervously. Mr. Bloomberg has occasionally threatened to get rid of the idiosyncratic post, though, as Zoe Epstein, Mr. Gioia’s chief of staff, noted from her perch next to him in the cafe, “not in a while.”


EARLIER, AS HE was pulling up in his baby blue hybrid SUV on the street next to his office, which faces Queens Boulevard near the 46th Street-Bliss Street station of the No. 7 line, Mr. Gioia had been talking about how difficult it was to live in poverty. He had just attended a meeting of tenants who were filing a lawsuit because they were in danger of being evicted by a company that had recently purchased the apartment building where they live.

“What are you supposed to do?” he asked in a pained voice. “When you’re trying to have some dignity in this life, and it’s just, the deck is totally stacked against you. That’s why this job—”

“Eric, there’s a spot,” said Ms. Epstein, who was sitting in the back seat.

“There’s a spot?” Mr. Gioia says. “I can’t tell.”

There was, in fact, a spot.

“That’s what attracts me so much about this job,” Mr. Gioia continued as he steered the car into the spot.

“I think that, between my law background and my ability to identify issues and go out there and bang the drum …” A car honked and he paused.

“That’s the type of thing I will do,” he said, finally.

The Upwardly Mobile Councilman