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New York mayor-elect solicits grass-roots advice

New York mayor-elect Bill de Blasio on Wednesday visited an outreach center soliciting advice from thousands of ordinary people on what his administration must do to reform the city.

“This is an extraordinary effort,” he told reporters. “There’s tremendous excitement about what’s happening here.”

In a transparent tent on the edge of New York’s upmarket Tribeca neighborhood people were invited to complete a short survey on tablet computers and write out their wishes on little white stickers.

The tent is home to workshops on some of the most pressing concerns among middle-class and less-affluent New Yorkers, namely affordable housing, education, police relations, healthcare and employment.

De Blasio, 52, won a landslide election victory on November 5, pledging to alleviate growing inequality and improve public services such as education. He takes office on January 1.

On Wednesday he also announced a 60-person transition committee that includes “Sex And The City” actress Cynthia Nixon, to help him build a progressive, competent and diverse city government.

“We are well on our way to achieving these goals,” he said.

Grass-roots organizations that are also desperately hoping for a change of policy in New York set up the two-week “Talking Transition” tent initiative to last until November 23.

Besides the digital center on the corner of 6th Avenue and Canal Street, five mobile trucks are going through New York’s five boroughs in order to reach as wide a cross section as possible.

Ad production manager Carl Cherebin, 57, who stopped by on his lunch break, told AFP it was a wonderful idea that enabled ordinary people to feel more engaged in politics.

“I don’t know what he can accomplish in terms of stopping hospitals from closing … but I’m very impressed with him for his outreach to the people.”

Canvasser Manny Lampon said the idea was to encourage ordinary people to engage with the transition and said the initiative would have been done regardless of who won the mayoral election.

“I think the response has been really great,” he said.

Heated to greenhouse temperatures in stark contrast with the chilly afternoon outside, the tent was illuminated by lights attached to plastic crates and suspended from the ceiling next to heaters.

Benches of tablet computers offering interactive surveys in seven languages about key issues were on offer, along with stickers for visitors to mark up their most pressing desires.

Subject matter ranged from landfills to education, support for hospitals and rent stabilization, to the more quirky such as stopping air-conditioner noise.

De Blasio arrived 40 minutes late and despite the high-tech gadgetry on display, had no microphone to amplify his remarks.

He has presented himself as the polar opposite to outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is widely respected for transforming the city but whose rule coincided with a growing inequality.

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