Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio joined supporters, including Park Slope resident and actor Steve Buscemi, at Southside Coffee (6th Avenue at 19th Street) for a weekly phone bank on Tuesday night, and cheered the contributions his Park Slope neighbors have made throughout the campaign.
“I want to particularly thank the activists in this neighborhood,” said de Blasio (seen above with Buscemi and Southside owner Josh Sidis). “There’s no place like home. Last week you made 3,000 calls in a single night, and I really have to thank you guys, because it is working.
“The bottom line is that it is about reaching people at the grassroots,” he continued. “It’s about human-to-human contact, it’s giving your inspiration to them, and that’s what gets them to take that big, final step to joining us and voting on September 10.”
Buscemi, who said he’s known de Blasio since 2001, championed the candidate’s dedication to families across New York City.
“A big reason why I’m supporting Bill is because I know that he cares about families, that he cares about people in the city, in every borough,” he said. “And he wants to give people a chance.”
One of the ways that de Blasio plans to give people a chance is with universal pre-K.
“It can be done,” he said. “The plan we put forward asks a small amount from the wealthy, but it will bring in about $532 million dollars a year. That’s enough to do full-day pre-kindergarten for every child, that’s enough to do after school programs for middle school kids.
“There is also going to be capital spending,” added de Blasio, “because there are obviously some places that are going to need to build out space for pre-K centers, for example, but I can think of no greater priority than changing the future direction of the city.”
A reporter, one of many who tried to pack into the small cafe before being led back out onto the sidewalk for questions, from Capital New York followed up by asking how long would it take to implement such a large project.
“Obviously we want to get the tax approved by the budget on April 1st in Albany, and then start implementation immediately,” de Blasio said. “If it’s April 1st and you’re talking about schools that have space, which are a substantial number in this city, bringing on the additional personnel, you know, that’s not very hard with the huge number of folks qualified to teach who can’t get a job nowadays. So certainly where there are spaces available now, we can move very quickly.
“In terms of building out and building pre-K centers in other spaces,” he continued, “I think the school construction authority has gotten quite strong and efficient in recent years. So I think you’re talking about really the first year or two is when you can reach the vast majority of people.”
If you’d like to hear more from him and the other candidates, you can catch the debate tonight at The Dram Shop at 339 9th Street.