To Mayor Bill de Blasio, the recent commotion over Rachel Noerdlinger, his wife’s top aide — who failed to disclose during a background check that she lives with a boyfriend who has a serious criminal history — is a tabloid-fueled personal attack that merits no further discussion.
“Case closed,” the mayor said this week, adopting the move-it-along-folks attitude that has quickly become a de Blasio signature during his first nine months in office.
It is not unusual for mayors to want irritating story lines to go away. But the Noerdlinger episode has fueled a broader question about Mr. de Blasio and the values of his young administration: how a onetime champion of transparency and accountability can square those ideals with the newfound power — and frustrations — of his office.
As a candidate, Mr. de Blasio pledged an ask-me-anything era at City Hall, promoting himself as a different, friendlier breed of political leader. And as public advocate, he frequently assailed former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg for standing by senior aides, such as the former schools chief Cathleen P. Black, who had found themselves under fire.
Now, experiencing some of the same difficulties faced by his predecessors, Mr. de Blasio is responding with the same sort of peevishness and obfuscation he once bemoaned.
The mayor has shut down questions about why he phoned a high-ranking police official after the arrest of a campaign supporter, telling reporters, “That’s the end of the story.” Told by a television reporter that New Yorkers wanted to know why his police-issued S.U.V. was speeding on residential streets in Queens, the mayor replied, “I’m not interested in the construct of what you as an individual think many New Yorkers think.”
Even lighthearted queries can prompt a stony response. Last month, Mr. de Blasio refused to say how he felt after learning of the death of Staten Island Chuck, the groundhog who fell from his arms in a ceremonial mishap. “Talk to the Staten Island Zoo,” the mayor said, mirthlessly.
Determined not to let critics or news coverage set their agenda, Mr. de Blasio and his City Hall advisers have taken to ignoring inquiries on matters that displease them. His communications team believes strongly that most negative stories will disappear, or at least be forgotten by the time Mr. de Blasio’s re-election effort rolls around in 2017.
I think a bigger question is why a first lady needs a chief of staff.