NEW YORK — One former City Hall staffer said Mayor Bill de Blasio dismissed her recommendation for an equity office and accused him of “pimping out” his black family.
Another spoke of “overt racism and microaggressions” in his administration.
A third said she was arrested for protesting after the mayor’s 8 p.m. curfew last week.
One by one, former employees spoke of their initial hope in de Blasio, who took office promising widespread reforms for black and Latino New Yorkers whom a federal judge determined had been excessively targeted by police under his predecessor, Mike Bloomberg.
And one by one they spoke of their disappointment in watching him defend the NYPD, as videos emerged of officers using pepper spray, batons and a police car to exert force on mostly peaceful demonstrators marching in recent weeks to protest the police killing of George Floyd and other unarmed black men and women around the country.
Several hundred people who identified as current and former administration staffers gathered outside City Hall Monday to air their grievances, while the mayor was in Brooklyn for his daily press briefing. They then marched over the Brooklyn Bridge to Cadman Plaza, where the rally resumed.
It was the latest in a series of searing critiques from people who once believed in de Blasio, over the issue that vaulted him to the mayoralty seven years ago.
“Do you know how crazy it is to work for this city and then explain to your community why you work for a man who pimps out his family? ‘Cause that’s what the f*** it is. You use your family to then have us vote for you. And then you expand police,” said Ifeoma Ike, who previously worked under de Blasio for the Young Men’s Initiative, a Bloomberg-era program.
De Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, who is black, has played a central role in his political rise. And in 2013 he aired a memorable ad denouncing the NYPD’s use of stop and frisk that featured his son Dante.
Meanwhile Ike, who chaired Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ transition team last year, said de Blasio dismissed some of her ideas centered around racial inclusion.
“When I was here I co-drafted the mayor’s equity executive order. That was fought with resistance. I also called for him to create an equity office. That was fought with resistance,” she said.
Catherine Almonte, who previously worked as a body person for the mayor, said she joined his administration believing she would make “meaningful change from the inside.”
“What is often just a talking point for the mayor is grueling work for us,” she added.
She said she and other black staffers have faced “overt racism and one too many microaggressions.”
As The Root reported Monday morning, black and brown women who worked for de Blasio wrote an anonymous letter condemning his actions — not just over the past few weeks amid clashes between police and protesters, but throughout his tenure.
“We are the dismissed, the unheard. We are the invisible,” reads the letter, which goes on to list people killed at the hands of police. “You may not see us, sir, but we see you.”
The women wrote that the mayor and his team have “continually diminished our power, ideas, and value so much so you didn’t even see us coming” and criticized his “predominantly white inner circle.”
De Blasio’s two closest aides in government are white, but he has long conferred with Patrick Gaspard, an Obama ambassador to South Africa, who is black. Gaspard, former Deputy Mayor Richard Buery and former City Hall attorney Maya Wiley — two of City Hall’s highest-ranking black officials — have all spoken publicly against NYPD actions in recent weeks.
Looking to quell the uprising amid staff — and days after getting roundly jeered at a police accountability protest he would have headlined before he became mayor — de Blasio invited city employees to a conference call Sunday to explain his actions.
He curiously spent the first few minutes of the call discussing his record on income inequality before addressing the matter at hand — police reform. He said he was concerned that police officers’ lives were in danger by militant demonstrators who were capitalizing on the Black Lives Matter movement to create chaos and loot stores. He also promised more officers would be disciplined in the coming days, according to multiple accounts of the call.
“There’s a very big difference between former staff and current staff,” he said at his news conference Monday. “Current staff, we had a good conversation yesterday and I intend to spend time with staff. I want to hear their concerns. I want us all to work together.”
He boasted of reducing arrests while keeping crime down and promised to push for state legislation that would make officers’ discipline records public. (It was de Blasio’s administration that reinterpreted the long-standing law to shield officers whose records had previously been publicized.)
“I still believe fundamentally after six and a half years of making steady change in the city, people should have faith about what we can do in the next year and a half,” he said.
Meanwhile a high-ranking Department of Health and Mental Hygiene official, Demetre Daskalakis, joined the Monday rally. During a brief interview he urged all police officers to wear masks, in response to photographs circulating of unmasked cops.
“I feel like it’s hard to be dilute and say the police handled something well when at the end of the day it was a disaster,” he said. “I think it is a symptom of a really big problem.”
Erin Durkin contributed to this report.