New York City is in trouble because of the mayor it elected, and because of the people who rode his coattails into office:
She lied on her first day on the job — and got caught.
Just hours after being sworn in as the city’s public advocate, Letitia James went on TV to claim that she played a key role in helping expose “the face of poverty in the City of New York” on the ‘front page of The New York Times.
James, a former City Council member, said she had appointed a task force to examine conditions at the Auburn homeless shelter in her old Brooklyn district.
When those conditions didn’t improve, James said, she acted to publicize the plight of Dasani Coates, a 12-year-old homeless girl subsequently spotlighted in a lengthy Times series.
“I was aware of it and had a little bit something to do with it,” James insisted on NY1 Wednesday night, speaking of the Times exposé.
“And, in fact, I had established a task force on Auburn, and the conditions continued. And so we decided to work together to basically put on the front page of The New York Times the face of poverty in the City of New York.”
It wasn’t James’ first attempt to portray herself as a champion of the homeless — at the inauguration, she invited young Dasani to stand at her side for the swearing-in.
But the Times refuted James’ account, saying she had nothing to do with its articles.
“Andrea Elliott [the Times reporter] met Dasani in the course of interviewing residents outside the Auburn shelter, and exposed conditions there by following the family. Andrea never talked to Ms. James, nor was she source for the story,” Times assistant managing editor Matt Purdy said in a statement.
After being called out for her lie, James quickly backtracked and changed her story.
“I commend the New York Times for highlighting this important issue on their front page but, to be clear, I was not a source behind The New York Times’ feature on Dasani and did not intend to imply so,” James said in a statement.
In general, de Blasio’s crowd suffers from a lack of class:
Mr. de Blasio’s words carried an indictment: the city had become unjust and unlivable for too many of the poor and working class. But he tempered this complaint, as he should have, with a New Year’s Day call to civic unity and optimism. “We will succeed as One City,” he said.
Too bad the speakers on stage with him didn’t get the unity part, marring the event with backward-looking speeches both graceless and smug. Worst among them, but hardly alone, was the new public advocate, Letitia James, who used her moment for her own head-on attack: on the 12 years of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In doing so, she made a prop of a 12-year-old girl named Dasani, who had to hold the Bible and Ms. James’s hand as Ms. James called for a government “that cares more about a child going hungry than a new stadium or a new tax credit for a luxury development.”
Dasani was profiled in a recent series of articles in The Times illustrating how bad things get for homeless families in the shelter system. Ms. James turned her into Exhibit A of an Inauguration Day prosecution: the People v. Mayor Bloomberg. So did the pastor whose invocation likened New York to a “plantation,” and Harry Belafonte, who strangely laid the problem of America’s crowded prisons at the feet of the former mayor, an utterly bogus claim, while saying Mr. Bloomberg shared responsibility for the nation’s “deeply Dickensian justice system.”
Mr. Bloomberg had his mistakes and failures, but he was not a cartoon Gilded Age villain. He deserved better than pointless and tacky haranguing from speakers eager to parrot Mr. de Blasio’s campaign theme. It was up to former President Bill Clinton, ad-libbing some gracious thanks to Mr. Bloomberg, and Mr. de Blasio, who did the same, to try to bring the event back to a grown-up level.
Alas, New York City now lacks grownups at the governmental level, a fact that will be increasingly clear over the next four years. I never thought it would be possible to miss Michael Bloomberg, but here I am, missing Michael Bloomberg.