De Blasio's rivals: Scott Stringer weighs in on the mayor

De Blasio's rivals: Scott Stringer weighs in on the mayor

De Blasio's rivals: Scott Stringer weighs in on the mayor
January 23, 2017

Jokes about New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s political aspirations bookended a Jewish heritage celebration Stringer hosted last month.

“It gives me personal great pleasure to introduce an individual who I look forward to see continue growing in this position, and eventually, step up to maybe, one day, serving as our mayor of New York City,” Moshe Zakheim, president of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush, told the more than 100 people gathered in the New York State Supreme Court Building lobby.

Stringer laughed off the remark, saying, “Moshe, Moshe, you’re in trouble now.” But he did not bother responding when the final honoree of the evening, former Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, hinted that Stringer’s current post may be up for grabs. “Mr. Comptroller, I don’t know what your future holds for you,” Goldfeder said. “But I would say I look pretty good behind this podium.”

For months, Stringer has reportedly been privately conferring with supporters and consultants about a potential mayoral run, but once leaked to reporters, he declined to discuss such ruminations in detail. He has, however, been vocal about where he thinks de Blasio is falling short, issuing audits and reports faulting the administration on everything from not doing enough business with minority- and women-owned firms to conditions in the Rikers Island jails.

Asked at the courthouse event how the city is faring, Stringer said, “We have some real challenges.” He ticked through federal funding issues that could arise under President Donald Trump and concerns with the city’s handling of child welfare and homelessness, two issues on which he has released scathing audits.

What is going well? Crime remains low and the economy is strong, Stringer said, while noting that concerns about the market beginning to sag worry him every day.

Given their mandate to audit city agencies, comptrollers have long clashed with mayors. They also frequently mount mayoral campaigns. In the past six decades, all but one city comptroller ran for mayor, according to The New York Times. And Stringer has already pursued the post, albeit only briefly. He dropped out of the last mayoral primary when he failed to gain traction in the polls, and decided to run for comptroller instead.

As comptroller, Stringer has moved the city’s various pension forms toward consolidation by holding a common investment meeting. He has encouraged corporate shareholders to seek access to proxy ballots for nominating board directors, which Stringer has framed as a way to compel corporations to diversify their boards, rethink their approach to climate change and rein in executive compensation. The city pension funds themselves, however, have been falling short of revenue targets, forcing the city to pay more into them than anticipated. The comptroller’s office has said the pension funds performed better in a tough market than many of their counterparts across the country.

Before being elected comptroller, Stringer developed a reputation as a prolific fundraiser and a policy wonk. As the son of a former city councilwoman and a staffer of former Mayor Abraham Beame, Stringer embraced politics at a young age. Former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger recalled at the Jewish heritage event how a young Stringer handed out leaflets during her campaigns. He went on to win an Upper West Side Assembly seat and the Manhattan borough presidency.

Asked about mounting another mayoral campaign, Stringer said he was focused on improving the city, without mentioning in what specific elected capacity.

“Obviously, it’s not about what office or the politics of the moment,” he said, while taking a break from shaking hands and posing for photos under the mosaics covering the court lobby’s domed roof. “We’re doing the strong work of the city, and I just want to focus on that for as long as I can.”

Sarina Trangle