Bill de Blasio* was born on May 8, 1961, in Manhattan. His given name was Warren Wilhelm Jr. His parents Maria Angela (née de Blasio) and Warren Wilhelm divorced when he was seven. His father committed suicide while suffering from incurable lung cancer when de Blasio was 18.
He was raised in Cambridge, MA, and graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in 1979. When he was 22, he adopted his mother’s surname because his father was “largely absent,” and he wanted to embrace his Italian heritage. He hyphenated it to Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm in 1983, and formally adopted the name Bill de Blasio in December 2001.
He received his undergraduate degree from New York University and a master’s from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
His first job was part of the Urban Fellows Program for the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice in 1984. In 1987, shortly after completing graduate school, de Blasio was hired to work as a political organizer by the Quixote Center in Maryland. In 1988, he traveled with the Quixote Center to Nicaragua to distribute food and medicine during the Nicaraguan Revolution. After returning from Nicaragua, de Blasio moved to New York City, where he worked for a nonprofit organization focused on improving health care in Central America.
De Blasio began his career in public service in 1989 as part of David N. Dinkins’ mayoral campaign and worked in the Dinkins Administration. In 1994, he served as campaign manager for Rep. Charles Rangel.
In 1997, de Blasio was appointed to serve as the regional director for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for New York and New Jersey. In 1999, he was elected to the board for Brooklyn School District 15. The following year, he served as campaign manager for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign for the U.S. Senate.
In 2002, de Blasio joined the New York City Council, representing Brooklyn’s 39th district. He was reelected twice. He served as the city’s Public Advocate from 2009 until 2013 when he was elected the 109th Mayor of New York City. He was reelected in 2017.
On May 16, 2019, de Blasio declared his candidacy in the Democratic primaries for the 2020 presidential election.
de Blasio is married to Chirlane McCray. They have two children, Chiara and Dante.
“I believe in the right to free speech, so I will use my right to free speech to oppose BDS. But I’m not telling other people they don’t have the right to free speech.” (JewishInsider, July 23, 2019)
- Regarding Rep. Ocasio-Cortez comparing U.S. immigration detention camps to concentration camps: “They are entirely different realities. I respect her greatly and I feel very close to her in terms of philosophy, but of course she was wrong. You cannot compare what the Nazis did in the concentration camps... It’s a horrible moment in history. There’s no way to compare.” (MEDIAite, June 19, 2019).
- “To have a place that is a refuge for the Jewish people is absolutely necessary. I believe 100 percent in protecting the state of Israel and I believe that the BDS movement – very misguided – is undermining the economy and the existence and the survival of the State of Israel.”
“I think the ideological movement that is antisemitic is the right-wing movement. That's just abundantly — it’s been clear down the history... After World War II, a huge number of the former Nazis and former fascists were allowed to reintegrate into society. Right-wing parties developed even in the 50s and 60s in the same countries that had experienced fascism and Nazism. They have continued to grow… So, I want to be very, very clear — the violent threat, the threat that is ideological is very much from the right.” (JewishInsider, June 6, 2019)
- Regarding comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar: “Let me be really clear, suggesting that support for Israel is beholden to a foreign power is absolutely unacceptable — and it’s illogical too. I believe strongly in the state of Israel. I don’t feel beholden one bit to a foreign power... There’s a long anti-Semitic tradition associated with that kind of comment.” (New York Post, June 4, 2019)
“I believe, I’ve always believed, I still believe it’s possible to have a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.” (JewishInsider, July 23, 2019)
Asked by the New York Times, “Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?” de Blasio responded, “I believe in the state of Israel and I think Israel is not only a crucial ally, the one true democracy in the Middle East, and they do respect the rights of all people. There is always more work to be done. And I’d like to see a two-state solution. I think that’s the best way to move forward for peace and human rights for Israel and for the Palestinian people. I think there’s a lot of work to be done, but it begins with a strong commitment to Israel. Look, as a New Yorker where the ties to Israel are so strong. I have been to Israel four times. I have spent a lot of time seeing the threats that Israel faces. I firmly believe that we have to defend the state of Israel. We have to fight against the movements that undercut Israel, like BDS. But at the same time, I believe that the current Israeli government has made a lot of mistakes that have hindered the peace process. And I believe in a two-state solution. I think that’s where America should put its energy. That’s the best way to address both, peace and human rights concerns for Israelis and Palestinians.” (New York Times, June 19, 2019)
- “To have a place that is a refuge for the Jewish people is absolutely necessary. I believe 100 percent in protecting the state of Israel and I believe that the BDS movement – very misguided – is undermining the economy and the existence and the survival of the State of Israel. I also believe in a two-state solution, and I've always believed in a two-state solution. As President, I would work very hard for [a] two-state solution, which I think is still within reach. But I want to convince my fellow Democrats and fellow progressives who have moved in a different direction that they're making a mistake. I also want to say, that is by far a minority of the Democratic Party. The vast majority of the Democratic Party, the vast majority of Democratic office holders are pro-Israel.” (JewishInsider, June 6, 2019)
“Innocent civilians lie dead in the wake of Hamas’ brutal rocket attacks in Israel,” de Blasio tweeted. “It’s an affront to humanity. This city stands united against this indiscriminate violence and we join the world in mourning the lives lost.” (JTA, May 6, 2019)
Sources: City of New York;
“Bill de Blasio,” Wikipedia;
Ron Kampeas, “4 Democratic Presidential Candidates Weighed In On The Gaza Violence,” JTA, (May 6, 2019);
Julia Marsh, “De Blasio says anti-Semitism is strictly a ‘right-wing movement,’” New York Post, (June 4, 2019);
JewishInsider, (June 6, 2019);
“18 Questions. 21 Democrats. Here’s What They Said,” New York Times, (June 19, 2019);
Josh Feldman, “De Blasio Criticizes Ocasio-Cortez for Concentration Camp Remarks: ‘Of Course She Was Wrong,’” MEDIAite, (June 19, 2019);
Laura Kelly, “De Blasio: ‘I will use my right to free speech to oppose BDS,’” JewishInsider, (July 23, 2019).
Photo: Kevin Case, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.