Heckles, Support, Shrugs: New Yorkers on de Blasio’s Presidential Bid

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In the video announcing his presidential run, Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, described his hometown as “legendarily tough and big and complicated.”

Soon after, New Yorkers proved just how apt that was.

As Mr. de Blasio officially kicked off his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday, the reactions of city residents ran the gamut from support to indifference to vehement objection.

“Bad idea, Mr. Mayor,” Sharon Henderson, 53, said.

“How do you want to run off and be president of the United States when you’ve got all these issues you’re supposed to be the mayor of?” said Ms. Henderson, a home health aide who works in Brooklyn and lives in a homeless shelter in Queens. “Nah.”

Mr. de Blasio, the 23rd entrant in the Democratic race, is facing the challenge of standing out in a packed field of candidates, many of whom already have significant leads in polls and fund-raising.

His competitors include politicians with larger national profiles, like former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senators Kamala Harris of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; two other mayors, Pete Buttigieg, of South Bend, Ind., and Wayne Messam of Miramar, Fla.; and closer-to-home candidates, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Even New Yorkers who said they support his presidential ambition were not sure they would vote for him.

Lord Harrison, 45, a musician from Harlem, said he liked Mr. de Blasio and his policies, calling the mayor “down to earth” and “a guy anyone can relate to.”

Still, given the chance, he didn’t think he’d vote for the mayor as the Democratic nominee.

“I think it’s time for a woman to win,” Mr. Harrison said. “I would choose Warren or Harris.”

Many New York residents pointed to Mr. de Blasio’s track record as mayor as evidence that he was unfit for the presidency.

Outside ABC’s television studios in Times Square, a small crowd was gathered to greet the mayor when he arrived for an appearance on “Good Morning America.”

Protesters shouted that he was “no friend of labor,” and then throughout his live TV appearance, with his wife, Chirlane McCray, by his side, the crowd chanted, “Can’t run the city, can’t run the country.”

A group of New York City police officers, including John Puglissi, 51, the first vice president of the Police Benevolent Association, waved orange foam fingers that called Mr. de Blasio a liar.

“He should run away,” Mr. Puglissi said, adding, “He’s a phony progressive.”

Francisco Gonzales, 51, who runs a food stand in Harlem, said he believed the mayor is on the side of immigrants, people of color and the working class — ideas he’d welcome on the national stage.

“I’m not getting that feeling right now from Washington,” Mr. Gonzales said.

Jumaane D. Williams, the city’s public advocate, said Mr. de Blasio had every right to enter the race. “He’s qualified,” Mr. Williams told NY1’s Pat Kiernan. “I can’t begrudge him for running.”

But he did not exactly voice his support.

“If the question is, ‘Would I like to see you do for the country what you did for New York City?’ I would have to answer no to that,” Mr. Williams said.

In an April poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, New York City voters gave Mr. de Blasio a 42 percent approval rating.

The poll also found that three-quarters of the city’s voters believed that Mr. de Blasio should not run for president. Forty-seven percent of them said that if he decided to run, it would be bad for New York City.

On Thursday morning, Isatou Jallow, 35, a security guard who lives in Jamaica, Queens, said she did not think the mayor had done enough for regular people, adding that she knew many who had been fleeing the city’s high prices.

“I think you have to run the city first, before you can run the country,” she said.

In Long Island City, Queens, home to the country’s largest public housing complex, Michelle Copeland gave a more positive assessment of the mayor’s work.

“He’s been good,” said Ms. Copeland, 60, a volunteer at the senior center in the project, the Queensbridge Houses.

Ms. Copeland said she had seen positive changes at Queensbridge during Mr. de Blasio’s term, including the opening of a community center.

She also said it was important to her that Mr. de Blasio’s wife is African-American, “and he knows what it is to be discriminated against.”

But Noel Merritt, 58, another resident of the Queensbridge Houses, shook his head. “No, do not do it,” he said.

Mr. Merritt said he had only seen two things improve under Mr. de Blasio: universal pre-K and lifting the minimum wage to $15 an hour. But, he said, the tale of two cities — rich and poor — that the mayor had campaigned against had only gotten worse.

“As I look around, I see he is finishing up the Bloomberg plan,” Mr. Merritt said, gesturing to the gleaming towers of Long Island City across the street from the brown-brick Queensbridge Houses.

“On that side of the street, everything is going up. On this side, everything is falling down.”

Regardless of their level of support for the mayor, many New Yorkers speculated that Mr. de Blasio’s journey to commander-in-chief would be difficult, if not impossible.

Victoria Torres, an attorney who works near Wall Street, said laughter erupted in her office when the news of the mayor’s campaign was announced.

“We were like, ‘Are you kidding me right now?’ ” Ms. Torres, 40, said, adding that she felt he had often failed to follow through on his promises and could not win the nomination.

Stella Belikiewicz, 37, a Harlem resident who was on her way to work at a Long Island City costume shop with her three-legged rescue dog, questioned whether he had the charisma to make it.

“I’m kind of hoping Oprah will run,” she said. “He’s no Oprah.”

Sean Piccoli and Edgar Sandoval contributed reporting.

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