Bill de Blasio: ‘President of Weinstein was my first serious elected office’

Former New York City mayor and NYU alum Bill de Blasio spoke to WSN about his career and time at the university before speaking at a health equity event at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.


Clara Spray

(Clara Spray for WSN)

Clara Spray, Staff Writer

Clad in a navy blue suit and a bright yellow tie, former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio addressed a crowd of around 50 people regarding health equity in the city and beyond on Thursday, Feb. 9. De Blasio, who recently began teaching at NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, spoke about improving access to healthcare among historically underserved communities and investing more in education and public health care.

De Blasio also spoke about access to mental health care at the event, which was hosted by the Wagner school. He said he thinks that different communities should have access to mental health providers that share their lived experiences.

“We will not get health equity in any way, shape or form for immigrant communities, and communities of color unless [a universal health care system] is built proactively and with a grassroots apparatus,” de Blasio said at the event. “The way to address these issues is not to say, ‘Hey, can we flip a switch on fundamental inequality in America?’ Not as much as we’d like to, but we should keep going at it.”

He also talked about greater national access to early childhood education and better working conditions for educators nationwide. Throughout his mayorship, de Blasio was at the forefront of New York City’s universal pre-K program and helped make childcare free for 100,000 children in the city.

Before the event, de Blasio spoke to WSN about his experience as mayor, his time as an undergraduate at NYU, and his transition to being a professor at Wagner. He said that although he had been accepted into other universities, he chose NYU for his undergraduate education because of the university’s relationship with New York City.

“I spent four years in the Weinstein dormitory, which makes me a very rare person because a lot of people are wanting to get the hell out of there,” he said. “I was president of the Weinstein dormitory for one year, too — that was probably my first serious elected office.”

This semester, he is teaching a course titled “Topics in Public Policy” at the Wagner school and will give other talks through the university. He said that he likes to create a dialogue with his students rather than lecturing, and he encourages his students to ask difficult questions.

“Another, hopefully secret, sauce here is that I can hear the doubt in the voices of a lot of students I’m talking to about what the future holds for them, how they can succeed, how they can have an impact,” de Blasio said. “Some things seem very overwhelming, and I like to be able to demystify and sort of say, things are going to be okay.”

De Blasio added that going from New York City mayor — a position he held from 2014 to 2021 — to taking a break from his political career and becoming a professor at NYU was unexpected, but welcome nonetheless.

He said that while he had originally planned to pursue another elected position at the end of his tenure as mayor, he was urged to take a break by friends and family, a decision he does not regret making. De Blasio added that his experience as mayor taught him to learn from his mistakes, a skill he hopes to apply to his professorship.

“You learn along the way in some ways, and then you make adjustments,” de Blasio said. “If something works really good, you do more of it. If something works really bad, you try not to do it again.”

Contact Clara Spray at [email protected].