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A few years ago, as Republican obstinacy was grinding Barack Obama's legislative agenda to a halt, a novel argument took shape among political thinkers on the center and left. By destiny or by default, this argument went, cities had become the great hope of those who would like to see U.S. governments tackle important social problems. In the new political school dubbed "do-it-yourself urbanism," New York City's last two mayors, Michael Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio, embody its two different reform styles—Bloomberg, the data-driven manager; de Blasio, the sworn enemy of urban inequality. Their records show the promise of the "cities rising" paradigm, but also the limits of cities going it alone and a progressivism that evades fundamental issues of race and class.
Mason B. Williams reviews The Creative Destruction of New York City: Engineering the City for the Elite by Alessandro Busà, Reclaiming Gotham: Bill de Blasio and the Movement to End America's Tale of Two Cities by Juan González, Bloomberg: A Billionaire's Ambition by Chris McNickle, and The Pragmatist: Bill de Blasio's Quest to Save the Soul of New York by Joseph P. Viteritti.