In the world of New York politics, it’s simple to search out individuals who admire Kathryn Garcia, town’s former commissioner of sanitation. Last 12 months, when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and Mayor Bill de Blasio requested her to function town’s emergency “food czar,” a local headline dubbed her “New York City’s go-to crisis manager.” In September, when Garcia, who has led or helped lead three giant metropolis businesses by means of two mayoral administrations, was making ready to run for mayor herself, a supportive op-ed argued that she had lengthy been “a kind of shadow mayor” for town. In March, she was described within the Times as a “deft manager” and a “bringer of accountability.” And but, for all of the admiration, most individuals in metropolis politics give Garcia little probability of truly being elected mayor. She can be nice, her admirers say, if she may win. A candidate can spend a whole marketing campaign making an attempt to untangle herself from such logic.
Many of the identical insiders who give her little probability of victory additionally say that the following mayor, whoever it’s, ought to make full use of her expertise and expertise, maybe putting in Garcia within the job of chief of employees, or deputy mayor. The most notable determine to embrace this view is Andrew Yang, the race’s front-runner, who has repeatedly stated that Garcia is his second alternative on the poll for the Democratic Party’s mayoral nomination, behind himself. “I think she’d make a phenomenal partner in my administration,” he said in a current interview. “She’s the kind of experienced operator that can deliver a lot of value [for] New Yorkers.”
A number of days in the past, I sat throughout from Garcia, who has positioned no higher than fifth within the polls, within the again yard of her good-looking row home in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and requested her about being Yang’s second alternative. “I would like Andrew Yang to stop saying that,” she stated, wearily. “I’m not running for No. 2.” Garcia believes that Yang, who has by no means labored in authorities, is making an attempt to handle questions on his lack of expertise by swiping a few of hers. “And he’s not the only one, by the way,” she stated. “Eric Adams”—the Brooklyn borough president, whom polls have proven in second place within the race—“has straight up told other people, particularly when going for endorsements, ‘Well, I’d make her deputy mayor.’ ” Garcia sat casually in a wrought-iron chair under a patio umbrella, carrying a pink blazer and a necklace that spelled out her first title in gold letters. “It’s totally sexist. Totally sexist,” she stated. “It makes it sound like they’re giving me a compliment, but they’re not.” She continued, “Are you not strong enough to actually do this job, without me helping you? You should be strong enough. You shouldn’t need me. To be quite clear: I don’t need you guys, to run this government.”
Garcia can be a primary for New York City on no less than two counts. The metropolis has by no means elected a girl as mayor. It has additionally by no means promoted a bureaucrat from inside metropolis authorities—the businesses and departments that execute the insurance policies set by elected officers—as much as the highest job at City Hall. Garcia is a second-generation civil servant; her mom labored within the metropolis’s Human Resources Administration, and later taught English at Medgar Evers College. Her father was a labor negotiator for Ed Koch, and served as president of the Long Island Railroad. Garcia grew up in a home two blocks from the one the place she now lives. And, whereas her mom was born in Texas, and her father in Montana, she speaks with a touch of an old-Brooklyn accent. In 1992, she acquired an internship on the Department of Sanitation, the place, she has stated, she “fell in love with garbage.” At one level in our dialog, she knowledgeable me, with a contented gleam in her eye, “You can see the wastewater peak at halftime during the Super Bowl.”
During Michael Bloomberg’s administration, Garcia labored for town’s Department of Environmental Protection, ultimately rising to chief working officer. In 2014, Bill de Blasio picked her to steer the Department of Sanitation, the place she pushed eco-conscious reforms, together with expanded compost applications and electronic-waste pickup. Many days, she woke at 3:30 A.M. to attend the division’s morning roll calls. She additionally developed a status as a general-purpose municipal Ms. Fix-It. In 2018, two years earlier than asking Garcia to be his “food czar,” de Blasio requested her to be his “lead czar,” overseeing town’s efforts to cut back childhood lead publicity. In 2019, he requested her to quickly run the New York City Housing Authority, town’s public-housing company, which was beneath hearth for mismanagement.
Last September, she stop, sending de Blasio a resignation letter touting her document, and protesting the price range cuts and coverage adjustments that he was planning to implement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I leave with a heavy heart as many of our most innovative programs designed to fight climate change were the first to fall to the budget axe,” she wrote. The letter shortly and conveniently made its method to the press. Really, she was leaving to run for his job.
I requested Garcia why she thought company heads or deputy mayors, the folks most carefully acquainted with town’s operations, hadn’t made viable mayoral candidates up to now. Richard Ravitch, for instance, who helped steer New York City by means of its monetary disaster within the nineteen-seventies after which served as chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, got here in third within the Democratic Party main in 1989, in what the Times called a “predictable defeat.” Elected officers, well-financed outsiders—that’s who New York City voters have picked for his or her mayor. Garcia chalked this up partly to the strictures that city-agency heads, who management giant authorities contracts, face in fund-raising. “My general counsel, as I was getting close to leaving, was, like, ‘You may ask no one for money. You may not discuss it,’ ” she stated, of her last days on the Department of Sanitation. But Garcia additionally acknowledged a distinction between securing budgets and executing coverage, and the favored politics it takes to win an election in a metropolis of tens of millions of individuals. “I’m actually a relatively shy person,” she stated. “The concept of being watched all the time was something I needed to have a little courage to get over.” In September, the identical month she stop her commissioner job, Garcia arrange her first Twitter account.
What Garcia is asking voters to think about, primarily, is a City Hall with out Bill de Blasio getting in the way in which of Kathryn Garcia. She has tried to make a clear break from her former boss. “You have someone who does not know how to manage, and does not understand how to get the city to run,” she stated. “We don’t want fancy right now. We want bread and butter, get the work done.” Her voter, she stated, is “someone who wants the city to function.” Like most of her opponents in the race, Garcia speaks of her candidacy in two registers: grand-vision rhetoric, and nitty-gritty coverage element. Her grand imaginative and prescient is of a metropolis that addresses local weather change head-on, and the place it’s attainable for folks to boost households on civil-servant-level salaries, as her mother and father did, and as she hopes her two kids may have an opportunity to do. But she appears happiest when discussing the nitty-gritty, like her plan to transform town’s school-bus fleet to electrical autos. One massive public-policy takeaway from the pandemic, in her thoughts, is that town businesses that had been set as much as deal with emergencies—the Fire Department, the N.Y.P.D., the Department of Sanitation—weathered the disaster effectively sufficient, whereas the businesses that weren’t—the Department of Education, the Department for the Aging—buckled beneath the stress. The subsequent mayor, she believes, ought to repair that discrepancy.
In pitching herself as a reliable supervisor, Garcia has additionally set herself aside from the candidates within the race, corresponding to Maya Wiley and Dianne Morales, who’ve made express overtures to the left wing of the Democratic Party. “We’re not quite in as progressive a moment in the electorate as we were six months ago,” Garcia stated. “You have to run the race that you want to run. And not get moved around by what’s happening.”
Ranked-choice voting, which New York City is adopting in its municipal elections this 12 months, will permit voters to help as much as 5 candidates on their ballots, so as of desire. This can create incentives for candidates to staff up, or triangulate off each other. A front-runner like Yang could also be speaking up somebody decrease down within the polls, like Garcia, out of real enthusiasm. “Andrew has enormous respect for Kathryn Garcia and that’s why he’s often said he’d seek her partnership at city hall if elected mayor,” Sasha Ahuja, Yang’s co-campaign supervisor, informed me in an announcement. “If there’s anyone else he’d be happy to see elected, it’s Kathryn.” Pointing his supporters to a less-competitive second alternative may have a tactical profit: encouraging voters to rank his extra well-liked opponents decrease on their ballots.
The primary problem going through Garcia within the subsequent seven weeks is that so few New Yorkers even know her title. “It’s going to be retail politics,” she stated. She lately reduce her first TV advert, and he or she spoke concerning the significance of voter contact: calls, texts, getting on the market, incomes votes. “I really do deeply love this city, and I deeply believe that it needs someone who can insure that you are keeping the lights on,” she stated. “I wish we didn’t have to talk about viability.”