Gone are the self-conscious jokes, the dry references to business leaders as a tough crowd. His vocabulary is careful, smoothed free of buzzwords likely to offend. Mayor Bill de Blasio still talks about inequality, but for these audiences he emphasizes that the causes of New York City’s economic divide are complex and global in nature.
More than a year after taking office, Mr. de Blasio is engaged in his first sustained courtship of the city’s most powerful private sector executives. The mayor, who ran for office railing against “moneyed interests,” is now making what corporate chieftains describe as a long-delayed, sometimes awkward, attempt to meet them on their home turf.
He has wooed them in private phone calls and unannounced meetings at City Hall, and has staged several striking events: On a visit last month to Morgan Stanley, for example, he posed for selfies with employees and joked that moving into Gracie Mansion was like living in a museum. Mr. de Blasio, as part of his getting-to-know-you tour, also dined recently with about a dozen business and nonprofit leaders at the home of Ralph Schlosstein, chief executive of the investment firm Evercore Partners.
As a candidate, Mr. de Blasio defined himself in opposition to big business, vowing to increase taxes on the rich and to turn the page on the policies of his billionaire predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg. Upon taking office, he quickly pressed for a new tax on wealthy New Yorkers to pay for universal prekindergarten. (Mr. de Blasio got a prekindergarten program, but state lawmakers blocked the tax.)
Mr. de Blasio has not abandoned his populist rhetoric: Meeting with finance leaders at City Hall in early March, he urged them to invest in companies that pay their workers well. Addressing the Association for a Better New York, a business-minded civic group, at the Pierre Hotel, he called on companies to raise wages voluntarily.
The mayor also hosted a meeting for liberal activists at Gracie Mansion on April 2 and announced plans for a national agenda intended to address economic inequality.
Yet business leaders say they have also detected a softening of Mr. de Blasio’s tone and posture, and perhaps new traces of ambivalence about wielding the executive set as a political foil.