The ex-Mayor now running for Congress also told City Limits that he will push for an ”urban agenda” that includes New York City-style right-to-shelter laws for people experiencing homelessness in all urban areas, rent regulation across the country and a path to citizenship for 12 million immigrants living in the United States without authorization.
Congressional candidate Bill de Blasio is backing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s call to open an impeachment investigation into the Supreme Court justices who struck the constitutional right to an abortion, he told City Limits in an interview broadcast on the radio station WBAI Sunday.
De Blasio, the former mayor and one of 15 candidates running for the newly drawn 10th Congressional District in Brooklyn and Manhattan, said he supported the proposal by Ocasio Cortez and other progressive Democrats to investigate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanagh who they say lied about their intention to overturn Roe v. Wade while under oath at their confirmation hearings. The two justices, both propped up by far-right organizations that made eroding reproductive rights a decades-long crusade, did not explicitly say they would uphold the 49-year-old court ruling but dodged questions in lawyerly fashion, describing Roe as “established” or “important precedent.”
De Blasio said those responses are grounds for an impeachment probe.
“I think there’s got to be an investigation any time people under oath say overtly [that] something’s settled and then they immediately switch up. I mean, like no time flat, switch up and steal the rights of American women in broad daylight,” he said on the program City Watch. “There has to be some action taken.”
The June 24 decision to eliminate the last remnants of federal abortion protections marks the culmination of the court’s far-right shift—and is seen by legal scholars, activists and liberal lawmakers as the likely start of an assault on established rights.
De Blasio also said he supports federal law recognizing the right to an abortion at the federal level.
An urban agenda
In the brief, but wide-ranging interview, the ex-mayor said his main focus is working toward an ambitious urban policy plan at the national level. He told City Limits that he wants to see New York City-style right-to-shelter laws for people experiencing homelessness in all cities, rent regulation across the country and a path to citizenship for 12 million immigrants living in the United States without authorization.
He said Democratic leaders have failed to articulate a vision for U.S. cities, though 81 percent of Americans live in urban areas, according to Census figures.
“There is literally not an urban agenda, at a time when more people are living in cities than at any point in the history of the country,” de Blasio said. “One of the things I want to fight for is a thoroughgoing agenda that is about affordable housing, access to health care, profound changes we have to make in the way we get around and how we protect the climate, all of which are needed if our cities are going to be sustainable.”
With less than two months to go before New York’s second round of primary elections, the Bill de Back Better Tour is in full swing, with that urban vision at the core.
De Blasio has spent the past couple months in full campaign mode, visiting minor community events, tweeting dozens of photos with constituents—typically in his uniform of blue button-down shirt, khaki chinos and lightly worn jogging sneakers—and engaging with an antagonistic local press in a way he has not in a decade.
The most important step in the campaign may be urging voters in the new 10th Congressional District—which encompasses all of Lower Manhattan below 14th Street and Western Brooklyn neighborhoods between DUMBO and Bay Ridge, including some he once represented in the Council—to focus on his accomplishments and not, perhaps, the aspects of his tenure and personality that soaked his approval ratings in his final years in charge, like his deference to police during an abusive crackdown on George Floyd protesters, his quixotic quest for president and his questionable fundraising ethics.
“I would also say there’s a lot of people who do agree with a lot of the things that I did, and I hear it out on the streets from voters,” de Blasio said. “I talk to them about the changes we made. I came here to fight inequality, to do things like Pre-K and 3K for all.”
To be sure, de Blasio can count—and frequently does—many major accomplishments, including universal pre-K for three- and four-year-olds, a $15 minimum wage, the municipal identification program IDNYC and historically low rent increases for New Yorkers in roughly 1 million regulated apartments.
But he has admitted that he failed when it came to addressing homelessness, especially at first, when the number of people staying in city shelters reached all-time highs. The city did manage to reduce the shelter population by about a quarter during his tenure—from more than 60,000 to around 45,000 at the end of 2021—but much of that decrease was the result of a statewide eviction freeze that prevented thousands from losing their homes.
During the interview, de Blasio offered little by way of advice to current Mayor Eric Adams, except to focus on the successful eviction prevention strategy of providing free legal representation for the lowest-income tenants. New York City’s right to counsel law, enacted under de Blasio, is supposed to ensure that every low-income tenant has an attorney in Housing Court, but the wave of new eviction filings since the expiration of a state eviction freeze has strained the nonprofit groups funded to provide that representation.
De Blasio also explained the need for more affordable housing, but said he would not target the exclusionary zoning rules that limit new development on a national level.
“I respect local decision-making obviously as someone who’s worked from the City Council up to Mayor on trying to make sure we do things right from communities,” he said.
Instead, he again focused on enabling people to stay in their current homes, this time through rent regulation laws across the country.
“I do think what we need is a national agenda to fundamentally change how we approach affordable housing. For example, in most of this country, there’s no rent regulation,” he said. “I believe rent regulation should be widespread in urban areas. It’s needed. It’s been very powerful here.”
A who’s who of New York politics
De Blasio faces a formidable field for the newly drawn Congressional district, with several heavy hitters in the mix. Candidates include current Rep. Mondaire Jones, who moved to New York City from his suburban district after a court-appointed maps expert from Pennsylvania drew new Congressional lines. Assemblymembers Yuh-Line Niou of Lower Manhattan and JoAnne Simon are running, as is Manhattan City Councilmember Carlina Rivera, a one-time contender for Council Speaker. Veteran politician Elizabeth Holtzman, a former Brooklyn District Attorney, city comptroller and representative, is also vying for the seat.
Over the next two months, City Limits will be interviewing more of the candidates on WBAI.
Audio of the full July 3 episode and de Blasio interview will be uploaded here Sunday.