In November 2013, a little-known progressive stunned the elite of New York City by capturing the mayoralty by a landslide. Bill de Blasio's promise to end the "Tale of Two Cities" had struck a chord among ordinary residents still struggling to recover from the Great Recession.
De Blasio's election heralded the advent of the most progressive New York City government in generations. Not since the legendary Fiorello La Guardia in the 1930s had so many populist candidates captured government office at the same time. Gotham, in other words, had been suddenly reclaimed in the name of its people.
How did this happen? De Blasio's victory, journalist legend Juan González argues, was not just a routine change of government but a popular rebellion against corporate-friendly policies that had dominated New York for decades. Reflecting that broader change, liberal Democrats Bill Peduto in Pittsburgh, Betsy Hodges in Minneapolis, and Martin Walsh of Boston also won mayoral elections that same year, as did insurgent Ras Baraka in Newark the following year. This new generation of municipal leaders offers valuable lessons for those seeking grassroots reform.
Juan González is one of this country's best-known Latino journalists. He was a staff columnist for New York’s Daily News from 1987 to 2016 and has been a co-host since 1996 of Democracy Now! He is
the author of Harvest of Empire, News for All the People, Fallout (The New Press), and Reclaiming Gotham (The New Press). Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, he was raised in New York City, where he now lives.
John Avalos is a life-long activist and former San Francisco Supervisor representing District 11. He is a union organizer with the National Union of Healthcare Workers. A firm believer in power of residents in cities and at the grassroots level, as supervisor Avalos spearheaded community development efforts in his district supporting emerging leaders and new organizations to create housing, arts and urban agriculture
Since its inception six years ago, the Renaissance Journalism and Storytelling Center has focused on a range of critical social justice issues, such as educational equity, the enduring legacy of Agent Orange contamination in Vietnam, and the fiscal crisis in Detroit and Michigan.
What has been said about the work of Juan González:
"The future is never charted in Washington. The future always begins at the grassroots, in our great cities. Our ablest chronicler of urban affairs, Juan González, has with Reclaiming Gotham produced the essential book on today’s American politics—and, more importantly, on the next American politics. This is a visionary book that begins in New York and takes us to cities across the United States. Brilliantly reported, intensely honest, Reclaiming Gotham goes to the heart of the city and finds what the finest reporters always uncover there: struggle, courage, and, above all, hope."
—John Nichols,The Nation
"Juan González, whose radical light has never dimmed, is simply one of the greatest urban reporters of our time. Here he tells the story of Bill de Blasio’s hopeful, if often lurching, crusade to turn America’s richest metropolis into a city with equity for all. "
—Tom Robbins, investigative journalist in residence at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, winner of the 2016 Hillman Prize for Newspaper Journalist and 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist for Investigative Reporting
"A leading Latino journalist looks at the left-populist uprising that brought Bill de Blasio into the New York mayor’s office and sharpened the nation’s blue-red divide. . . . Urban activists in other cities have much to learn from New York’s experience, and González’s book makes a good place to start."
“A warm and deeply read and well-informed view of Mayor de Blasio that clarifies the important achievements that he and the forces who brought him into office have achieved, without losing sight of the compromises that they made on the journey to influence.”
—John Mollenkopf, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology and director of the Center for Urban Research at the Graduate Center, City University of New York