Bill de Blasio (born Warren Wilhelm, Jr.; May 8, 1961) is the 109th and current Mayor of New York City. From 2010 to 2013, he held the citywide office of New York City Public Advocate, which serves as an ombudsman between the electorate and the city government and is first in line to succeed the mayor. He formerly served as a New York City Council member representing the 39th District in Brooklyn (Borough Park, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Kensington, Park Slope, and Windsor Terrace). He was the Democratic Party nominee in the 2013 election to become Mayor of New York City. On November 5, 2013, de Blasio won the mayoral election by a landslide, receiving over 73% of the vote. He is the first Democratic mayor of the city since 1993.
Early life and education
De Blasio was born Warren Wilhelm, Jr. in Manhattan, the son of Maria (née De Blasio) and Warren Wilhelm. His father was of German ancestry, and his maternal grandparents, Giovanni and Anna, were Italian immigrants from the city of Sant’Agata de’ Goti in the province of Benevento. He was raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. De Blasio’s mother graduated from Smith College in 1938, and his father graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University. His mother was 44 years old when he was born, and he has two older brothers, Steven and Donald. De Blasio’s grandfather, Donald Wilhelm, an author, graduated from Harvard University.  Although he was baptized Catholic, de Blasio is nonpracticing. He speaks Italian.
De Blasio has stated that he was 7 years old when his father first left home and 8 years old when his parents divorced. In a 2012 interview, de Blasio described his upbringing: “[My dad] was an officer in the Pacific in the army, [and fought] in an extraordinary number of very, very difficult, horrible battles, including Okinawa…. And I think honestly, as we now know about veterans who return, [he] was going through physically and mentally a lot…. He was an alcoholic, and my mother and father broke up very early on in the time I came along, and I was brought up by my mother’s family—that’s the bottom line—the de Blasio family.” In September 2013, de Blasio revealed that his father committed suicide in 1979 while suffering from incurable lung cancer.
In 1983, he legally changed his name to Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm, which he described in April 2012: “I started by putting the name into my diploma, and then I hyphenated it legally when I finished NYU, and then, more and more, I realized that was the right identity.” By the time he appeared on the public stage in 1990, he was using the name Bill de Blasio as he explained he had been called “Bill” or “Billy” in his personal life. He did not legally change over to this new name until 2002, when the discrepancy was noted during an election.
De Blasio received a B.A. from New York University, majoring in metropolitan studies, a program in urban studies with courses such as Politics of Minority Groups and The Working Class Experience, and a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University‘s School of International and Public Affairs.  He is a 1981 Harry S. Truman Scholar.
De Blasio’s first job was part of the Urban Fellows Program for the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice in 1984. In 1987, shortly after completing graduate school at Columbia University, de Blasio was hired to work as a political organizer by the Quixote Center in Maryland. In 1988, de Blasio traveled with the Quixote Center to Nicaragua for 10 days to help distribute food and medicine during the Nicaraguan Revolution. De Blasio was an ardent supporter of the ruling Sandinista government, which was at that time opposed by the Reagan administration.
After returning from Nicaragua, de Blasio moved to New York City where he worked for a nonprofit organization focused on improving health care in Central America. De Blasio continued to support the Sandinistas in his spare time, joining a group called the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, which held meetings and fundraisers for the Sandinista political party. De Blasio’s introduction to City politics came during David Dinkins‘ 1989 mayoral campaign, for which he was a volunteer coordinator. Following the campaign, de Blasio served as an aide in City Hall.
In 1997, he was appointed to serve as the Regional Director for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for New York and New Jersey under the administration of President Bill Clinton. As the tri-state region’s highest-ranking HUD official, de Blasio led a small executive staff and took part in outreach to residents of substandard housing. In 1999, he was elected a member of Community School Board 15. He was tapped to serve as campaign manager for Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s successful United States Senate bid in 2000.
New York City Council (2001–2009)
In 2001, de Blasio decided to run for the New York City Council‘s 39th district, which includes the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Borough Park, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill,Gowanus, Kensington, Park Slope, and Windsor Terrace. He won the crowded primary election with 32% of the vote. In the general election, he defeated Republican Robert A. Bell by 71%–17%. In 2003, he won re-election to a second term with 72% of the vote. In 2005, he won re-election to a third term with 83% of the vote.
On the City Council, de Blasio passed legislation to prevent landlord discrimination against tenants who hold federal housing subsidy vouchers, and helped pass the HIV/AIDS Housing Services law, improving housing services for low income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS. As head of the City Council’s General Welfare Committee, de Blasio helped pass the Gender-Based Discrimination Protection law to protect transgender New Yorkers, and passed the Domestic Partnership Recognition Law to ensure that same sex couples in a legal partnership could enjoy the same legal benefits as heterosexual couples in New York City. During his tenure, the General Welfare Committee also passed the Benefits Translation for Immigrants Law, which helped non-English speakers access free language assistance services when accessing government programs.
- Environmental Protection;
- General Welfare (Chair)
- Technology in Government.
New York City Public Advocate (2009–2013)
Main article: New York City Public Advocate election, 2009
In November 2008, he announced his candidacy for Public Advocate, entering a crowded field of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination which included former Public Advocate Mark J. Green. The New York Times endorsed de Blasio in an editorial published during the primary, praising his efforts to improve public schools and “[help] many less-fortunate New Yorkers with food stamps, housing, and children’s health” as a Councilmember. The editorial went on to declare de Blasio the best candidate for the job “because he has shown that he can work well with Mayor Bloomberg when it makes sense to do so while vehemently and eloquently opposing him when justified”. His candidacy was endorsed by then Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, former Mayor Ed Koch, former Governor Mario Cuomo, and Reverend Al Sharpton.
On September 15, 2009, de Blasio came in first in the Democratic primary, garnering 33% of the vote. He won the run-off primary election on September 29, 2009 defeating Mark Green 62%–38%. On November 3, 2009, he defeated Republican Alex Zablocki 78%–18%.
De Blasio was inaugurated as New York City’s third Public Advocate on January 1, 2010. In his inauguration speech, he challenged the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, specifically criticising Mayor Bloomberg’s homelessness and education policies.
As Public Advocate, de Blasio repeatedly criticized Mayor Bloomberg’s education policies. He called for Cathie Black, Mayor Bloomberg’s nominee for New York City Schools Chancellor, to take part in public forums, and criticized her for not sending her own children to public schools. In March 2010, he spoke against an MTA proposal to eliminate free MetroCards for students, arguing the measure would take a significant toll on school attendance. Three months later, he voiced opposition to the mayor’s proposed budget containing more than $34 million in cuts to childcare services.
In June 2011, de Blasio outlined a plan to improve the process of school co-location, by which multiple schools are housed in one building. His study found community input was often ignored by the Mayor’s Department of Education, resulting in top-down decisions made without sufficient regard for negative impact. He outlined eight solutions to improve the process and incorporate community opinion into the decision-making process. The same month, he also criticized a proposal by the Bloomberg administration to lay off more than 4,600 teachers to balance the city’s budget, organizing parents and communities against the proposed cuts, and staging a last minute call-a-thon. Bloomberg restored the funding, agreeing to find savings elsewhere in the budget.
During his mayoral campaign, de Blasio outlined a plan to raise taxes on residents earning over $500,000 a year, in order to pay for universal pre-kindergarten programs and to expand after-school programs at middle schools. He also plans to invest $150 million annually into the City University of New York in order to lower tuition and to improve degree programs.
In September 2013, de Blasio voiced his opposition to charter schools, maintaining that their funding saps resources from after-school programs and classes like art and physical education. He outlined a plan to discontinue the policy of offering rent-free space to the city’s 183 charter schools and to place a moratorium on the co-location of charters schools in public school buildings. “I won’t favor charters,” says de Blasio. “Our central focus is traditional public schools.” In October 2013, nearly 20,000 demonstrators, marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to protest de Blasio’s proposal to charge rent to charter schools.
In June 2010, de Blasio opposed a New York City Housing Authority decision to cut the number of Section 8 vouchers issued to low-income New Yorkers. The cut was announced after the NYCHA discovered it could not pay for approximately 2,600 vouchers that had already been issued. The Housing Authority reversed its decision a month later. Two months later, he launched an online “NYC’s Worst Landlords Watchlist” to track landlords who failed to repair dangerous living conditions. The list drew widespread media coverage, and highlighted hundreds of landlords across the city. “We want these landlords to feel like they’re being watched”, de Blasio told the Daily News. “We need to shine a light on these folks to shame them into action.”
De Blasio has been a vocal opponent of Citizens United, the January 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision which overturned portions of the 2002 McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. He argued that “corporations should not be allowed to buy elections”, and launched a national campaign of elected officials to reverse the effects of the court decision.
Mayor of New York City (2014-present)
Main article: New York City mayoral election, 2013
The Democratic primary race included nine candidates, among them Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner, and former New York City Comptroller and 2009 mayoral nominee Bill Thompson. After Weiner joined the race in April, early polls showed de Blasio in fourth or fifth place.
Despite this poor starting position, de Blasio was able to gain the endorsements of major Democratic clubs such as the Barack Obama Democratic Club of Upper Manhattan as well as New York City’s largest trade union, SEIU Local 1199. Celebrities such as Alec Baldwin and Sarah Jessica Parker, and prominent politicians such as former Vermont GovernorHoward Dean and U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke also gave endorsements. By August, Harry Belafonte and Susan Sarandon had endorsed de Blasio.
De Blasio gained media attention during the campaign when he and a dozen others, including City Councilman Stephen Levin, were arrested while protesting the closing of Long Island College Hospital. Fellow Democratic mayoral hopefuls Anthony Weiner and City Comptroller John Liu were also at the protest, but were not arrested. De Blasio and Levin were released a few hours later with disorderly conduct summonses.
Over time, de Blasio moved up in the polls and in mid-August, for the first time, a poll showed him taking the Democratic lead. and reached 43 percent in a Quinnipiac poll released September 3.
Preliminary results showed de Blasio winning the September 10 primary election with 40.12% of the votes, slightly more than the 40% needed to avoid a runoff. On September 16, second place finisher Bill Thompson conceded, citing the unlikelihood of winning a runoff even if uncounted absentee and military ballots pushed de Blasio below the 40% threshold. Thompson’s withdrawal cleared the way for de Blasio to become the Democratic nominee against Republican Joe Lhota in the general election. After the Democratic primary, de Blasio was announced as the nominee on the Working Families Party line.
In the general election, de Blasio defeated Lhota in a landslide, winning 73.3% to Lhota’s 24.3%. Voter turnout for the 2013 election set a new record low of only 24 percent of registered voters, which experts attributed to the expectation of a landslide.
At a December news conference, de Blasio announced his plan to outlaw horse-drawn carriages once he took office. De Blasio stated “We are going to get rid of horse carriages, period.” He confirmed to the media that he hired legal counsel who will deal with the legislative approach.
De Blasio was sworn into office on January 1, 2014 by former President Bill Clinton. In his inaugural address, he reiterated his campaign pledge to address “economic and social inequalities” within the city. The New York Times noted that “The elevation of an assertive, tax-the-rich liberal to the nation’s most prominent municipal office has fanned hopes that hot-button causes like universal prekindergarten and low-wage worker benefits… could be aided by the imprimatur of being proved workable in New York”. De Blasio selected Bill Bratton to be New York City Police Commissioner, a position he held from 1994 to 1996. Bratton noted that he agreed with de Blasio that stop-and-frisk was being used too much and that he would work to reform its implementation, though would not end its use as some critics had been hoping for.
De Blasio and his wife, activist and poet Chirlane McCray, met while both were working for the Dinkins administration. They married in 1994 and honeymooned in Cuba. They live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with their two children, Dante, a high school junior; and Chiara, a college student in California. Both children either attended or still attend public schools. His daughter Chiara addressed her own challenges with substance abuse and depression in late December 2013, through a 4-minute video that the mayor’s transition team released.