New York City’s new public advocate, Bill de Blasio, announced today he’s establishing a new community organizing department, as a way of making government more responsive to public concerns. In a noontime news conference with 7 newly elected City Council members and several advocacy organizations, de Blasio said “there’s strength in numbers.” The new office will expand the public advocate’s role in helping New Yorkers deal with problems they’re having dealing with city agencies. They’ll also coordinate workshops — training residents to organize and advocate for change.
Among the new councilmembers appearing alongside de Blasio, District 1’s Margaret Chin. She was met with a round of applause while explaining that community organizing has been her life’s work and was the key to her election victory in November. Chin specifically mentioned more accountability at the Department of Transportation and stronger advocacy for affordable housing.
De Blasio declared, “something new is happening in New York City government.” Addressing questions from reporters about whether he intended to be a “thorn in Michael Bloomberg’s side,” he said his goal is not to be an agitator but an agent for positive change. De Blasio added that the absence of Council Speaker Christine Quinn at the news conference should not be viewed as any kind of grand statement. He said his office would work with the administration and the Council leadership when possible, but be prepared to organize constituents to fight for reform if necessary.
De Blasio said he plans to revamp the public advocate’s web site making it easier for community activists to interact and for residents to file complaints.