He’s been gone from office for nearly a year, but ex-mayor Bill de Blasio is still defending his record — and taking heat from critics.
This fall, De Blasio started a new role as a visiting teaching fellow at Harvard, focusing on issues like early childhood education and leadership during a pandemic. At one of his talks, on Nov. 9, the former mayor was blasted by a male Hispanic student from Queens who ripped his attempt to end magnet school admission exams in 2019, a source told The Post.
“I’m a first-generation college student,” the student said during a question and answer session. “My parents are immigrants. I took this standardized test to get into a magnet school. It’s the only reason I’m here at Harvard.”
De Blasio, as usual, shrugged off the criticism. “I understand it benefited you,” he replied, “but I want to increase the pie and make it more inclusive.”
The mayor’s initial proposal to scrap the SHSAT, used by many of New York City’s most selective public high schools to decide admission, was dropped amid strong resistance before the end of his second term.
During the talk, De Blasio did admit that some people slam him for allegedly stoking anti-police anger and tolerating lawlessness.
But, of that, he said: “I’m learning to be OK with being unpopular.”
“If you focus on meaning and purpose, that the personal is political, then the notion of unpopularity becomes in the background.”
He also said: “I won my first election overwhelmingly, but hate came in as soon as I entered office. I would’ve got nothing done if I’d listened to the hate.”
At a separate talk on Nov. 7, De Blasio was asked by another Harvard student if he believed that “a lot of police” in New York City felt betrayed by him.
In 2014, cops turned their backs on the mayor at the funeral of an NYPD officer who was killed, alongside his partner, by a hardened criminal who shot them both at point blank range in their car. In 2020, NYPD officers suffered a spate of attacks after the murder of George Floyd.
“I get that a number of officers were pissed,” de Blasio answered. “There were a lot of mistakes.”
He added: “People want policing. It’s not even close. For many years they faced no police available in the bad old days. The biggest opposition to policing came from highly educated white people.”
De Blasio acknowledged he took flak for his handling of Black Lives Matter protests against the NYPD in 2020. In a surprising moment of unity, both the police unions and liberal advocates at the time turned against him.
“We had an endless number of protests and interactions. Some people wanted to bring in the National Guard. A different leader may have believed in bringing them in. But our mission was: no one dies on our watch. And in the end no one died on our watch.”
Another student brought up the arrest of his daughter, Chiara de Blasio, who got busted during a rally in downtown Manhattan in May 2020, a story that was broken by The Post.
“She got arrested with a big group, sat with her comrades in arms. Was in jail for 12 hours,” he said. “Seems so innocent in a way, but it became yet another version of the culture wars. From the New York Post angle it just seemed like my family and my team believed in lawlessness and disorder.
“Those protests were overwhelmingly peaceful and overwhelmingly non-violent, with a small segment of violence. And totally separately unrelated there was looting.”
When asked about the rise in antisemitism in the city, he said, “There was an effort. Aggressive police presence. Providing enough personnel in terms of detectives. We tried hard. But we didn’t crack the code.
“We could all talk about what causes it, but I think the bigger issue here is that the antisemitism from the first half of the twentieth century didn’t go anywhere. It just got quieter and spread around.”
The former mayor, who was plagued by gaffes and head-scratching comments during his time running the city, also used the word “fun” when he recalled how he and his staff responded to the COVID-19 crisis.
“We had camaraderie,” he said of his mayoral employees.
“No one was sleeping. No one was eating right. People weren’t seeing their family enough. People weren’t seeing each other because when one group went down, another had to step in. People you needed the most couldn’t even be in the room with you. Once we got our footing, there was a moment we became more than the sum of our parts.”
“If hell could be fun, we had it.”
De Blasio did not return a call to his cell phone, and a publicist at Harvard did not return an email as of press time.