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Six questions for New York Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson

The former adviser to Hillary Clinton and current Deputy Mayor of New York talks to The Cycle.
Howard Wolfson
Howard Wolfson, deputy mayor of New York, speaks during a news conference on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, in New York.

The former adviser to Hillary Clinton and current Deputy Mayor of New York talks about the achievements of the Bloomberg administration, the controversy over stop and frisk policing, New York's rising homeless rate -- and some challenges facing the next mayor.

Ari: What is the biggest accomplishment of the Bloomberg administration?

Howard: I don't think there is one signal accomplishment -- we have record low crime; record number of private sector jobs; we have a record life expectancy; record number of parks; we have cleanest air in our city's industry.

I think that this mayor will go down as one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- in New York history.

Ari: What's your reaction to the recent ruling in the Stop and Frisk lawsuit?

Howard: [It was] a fairly extraordinary moment in judicial history -- the judge who ruled against the city was thrown off the case by a higher court, because she was biased. That was obviously good news for us, because we will not have a monitor that she had mandated between now and when we leave office.

Ari: But when see young black men in New York, according to the data from the NYPD, the majority of them have been stopped under this policy, and the majority haven't done anything wrong when you look at the aggregate data. 

Howard: I'm not sure that you can extrapolate that the majority of young African American men in the city have been stopped. You can look at aggregate data on the number of stops.

Ari: But aggregate data on the number of stops for one year as you know, this has been well debated, for one year it was higher than the population.

Howard: Whether that was a one to one correlation is…

Ari: When you speak over four to five years as it becomes triple, quadruple statistically it looks not only like bare majority but a large majority.

But do you ever feel bad about it, when you look at people who were overwhelmingly stopped, from one racial group, and who were not ever charged with a crime, let alone convicted?

Howard: If I were stopped, and I was not carrying a weapon, and if I had not done anything wrong -- I would be angry.

And if I was treated poorly after the stop -- if it wasn't explained to me why I'd been stopped, or if the police officer was disrespectful -- I would be even more angry.

On the other hand, this is the safest big city in America. Our crime rate and our murder rate is significantly lower than any other big city.

The next mayor may or may not change police policy -- certainly he has run on a platform of doing that. But if crime goes up as a result, you may have a different reaction among people in this city. We are proud of the record we have built to keep crime low, to bring crime down, to keep people safe.

[And] most of the victims of crimes in the city are African American or Latino. By keeping crime low, by keeping murder low, we are saving lives in those communities.

This is not a 20-80 issue -- this is a 50-50 issue, and there are certainly many people who are furious against this, in the African American community, and then there are others who say 'we understand it, we don't love it, but we do think it keeps streets safe.'

Ari: What are the biggest differences in your experience working for Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Clinton?

Howard: The mayor comes from a business background -- first and foremost, he views himself as a manager.

Hillary Clinton is a more of a -- she is a fierce advocate. She has brought that advocacy through every stage of her life, whether she has fought for women, or fought for children, or fought for healthcare, but it comes from more of an advocacy perspective. It is just a different temperature [and] a different approach to problem solving.