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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer
Friday, July 3, 2020
City Hall ‘DEMORALIZED’ by de Blasio as Staffers JUMP SHIP
Bill de Blasio. Shutterstock Julia MarshandNolan Hicks
City Hall employees have been “demoralized” by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s refusal to listen to his staff, leading to bungled administration responses to what are arguably the biggest issues of our time — the coronavirus pandemic and the George Floyd protests, sources told The Post.
“A lot of the office is pretty demoralized,” a source said.
“Were it not for the fact that it’s hard to guarantee a paycheck right now, I think a lot more people would be headed for the exits,” the source added, referring to the sudden joint departures of two longtime senior advisers.
Press Secretary Freddi Goldstein and Communications Director Wiley Norvell, who have a combined 13 years with Hizzoner, both said Wednesday they are stepping down but not moving on to other jobs.
“In a situation like right now with COVID, with the George Floyd protests, his style has to be especially grating [to staffers],” the source explained, noting de Blasio is “especially bullheaded,” and “convinced of his own best way to handle things.”
The Post reported this spring that de Blasio was micromanaging the city’s coronavirus response and ignoring the advice of health experts who work for him.
“People feel like they can’t do their jobs and can’t voice their opinions, even internally,” said a City Hall insider.
“He often perceives internal disagreements as potentially undermining or coming from people incapable of seeing the bigger picture.”
“It’s left people frustrated and exhausted,” the insider said.
Added to that, staff who thought they’d gone to work for a progressive mayor were dismayed when de Blasio backed use-of-force by the NYPD during the demonstrations last month. Current and former employees wrote open letters to the mayor expressing their disappointment and even marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in an unprecedented public display of disgust with the mayor they serve.
Another source said Goldstein, who was promoted to press secretary in April 2019 after serving more junior roles in the administration, “is fed up” with her boss.
“I know she’s totally burnt out and that she’s over him and she’s over all of it.
“She’s not taking a new job so that tells you all you need to know,” that source said.
Rebecca Katz, a former de Blasio confidante, slammed the mayor at the time for hitting his favorite Brooklyn gym in March just hours before the governor closed the state’s fitness facilities because of the pandemic.
“No current or former staff member should be asked to defend this. The Mayor’s actions today are inexcusable and reckless,” Katz tweeted at the time.
Goldstein was left to try to explain the head-scratching move, telling The Post in a statement in March, “The YMCA has been a huge part of his and his family’s life…it’s clear that’s about to change and before that, the mayor wanted to visit a place that keeps him grounded one last time.”
Goldstein confirmed to The Post Thursday she’s taking time off after leaving her position next week, but disputed claims that she’s leaving because she’s fed up with the mayor.
She said it’s a “natural time to transition” because “the city is at a turning point, reopening after the crisis.”
“It’s been a long few months, and we’ve both been here a long time,” she said, referring to herself and Norvell.
Norvell did not return a message from The Post about his departure. He also doesn’t have another position lined up.
Emma Wolfe, de Blasio’s chief of staff, praised Goldstein’s tenure.
“The mayor and the entire team have leaned on Freddi more than ever these past four months. She’s been fierce, effective and good-humored through the toughest days this city has ever faced. There’s nothing but admiration and respect for her amazing service in this crisis,” Wolfe said.
De Blasio hasn’t named Norvell’s replacement but Goldstein’s successor is Bill Neidhardt, the former spokesman for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign.
Remaining staff grumbled that de Blasio chose a white male outsider, instead of a person of color already working for his administration, given his stated commitment to racial inclusion.
Asked during Thursday’s press briefing about his choice to name Neidhardt as his next press secretary, de Blasio said vaguely that the former Sanders spokesman was the right person for the high-profile job given his “particular combination of experiences.”
The mayor also boasted that his is the most diverse administration in the city’s history.