Mayor Bill de Blasio is turning to a longtime supporter as he considers his next political move.
De Blasio, who has signaled he may run for governor, addressed a Brooklyn church Sunday headed by a political pal pastor the mayor once called an NYPD official about when he faced a night behind bars — the latest clue suggesting Hizzoner is “very clearly” testing the waters ahead of a longshot bid.
During Sunday morning services, the lame-duck mayor delivered a speech to Bishop Orlando Findlayter’s New Hope Christian Fellowship congregation in East Flatbush. Before de Blasio spoke, the pastor gifted him with effusive praise to the crowd of churchgoers, declaring that the mayor “has done an excellent job over the last eight years.”
“There are a lot of Johnny-come-lately, but we have been with the mayor from Day 1. And as he gets ready to end the season, we wanted to have him to say thank you for all that you have done,” gushed Findlayter. “I hope one day that, when the books are written, the books will say that Bill de Blasio was one of the greatest mayors in the city of New York.”
De Blasio praised New Hope’s “special spirit” and called Findlayter a “great man,” before transitioning to a possible version of a campaign speech if he jumped in the June Democratic gubernatorial primary.
“Was the world before the pandemic so perfect? No, we’ve got to regain the momentum to make changes in our lives and society,” he said. “We’ve got a lot more change to make.”
He also touted his record on policing, including presiding over the NYPD’s decreased usage of stop-and-frisk, universal pre-K and mental health initiatives, and recounted a conversation with the pastor in which he wondered if the Big Apple would ever return to its pre-pandemic greatness.
De Blasio, in his telling, guaranteed the five boroughs would be a revamped version of its prior self.
“Because as good as the city is, as glorious as it is in so many ways, there are still too many things that are not fair,” he said. “There are still too many people who left out.”
“There’s still too many things wrong for me to say I just want to regain that past glory,” he went on. “I said, ‘No, Pastor, we need to look ahead, we need to build something new, we need to build something better. The better question is when will we reach our greater glory,’ and let’s do that together. That is our mission.”
The mayor — who is not considered a “serious” contender in the 2022 New York governor’s race by at least one pollster and stands in dead last in one survey of potential candidates— noted that he was a late-blooming underdog in his 2013 mayoral race and triumphed despite being “counted out.”
“Whatever our challenges, never let people tell us what we can’t do,” he said.
In March, The Post reported de Blasio was talking to his inner circle and union allies about challenging then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And with his disgraced longtime nemesis now out of Albany, he repeatedly hasn’t ruled out throwing his hat in the ring.
During a recent press conference, de Blasio made no attempt at denying the thrust of reports about him readying a bid to serve as the state’s chief executive, saying he intends to “continue in public service.”
“I want to continue in public service. There’s a lot to do,” he told reporters on Oct. 6. “I’m very proud of what this city government has done to fight back COVID and move us forward. I got a lot to offer. I want to do more in public service, how that’s going to play out there’s time to figure it out, but that’s my goal.”
One Democratic operative said Sunday’s church appearance was a direct indication de Blasio is earnestly mulling a challenge against the newly sworn-in Gov. Kathy Hochul.
“The mayor is very clearly thinking about running for governor, and he obviously knows that if he has a chance to be competitive, he’s going to need to rely on the same base that propelled him in the 2013 primary,” said the political pro. “It makes sense for him to go to these churches now, as he gauges if his old allies could be with him next year.”
“A lot of people said he wouldn’t have the gumption to run for president, and then he did that, and I think we should take his ambitions to run for governor very seriously.”
“He’s reactivating his core base of support,” said another Democratic campaign operative. “There’s definitely no difference between what he was doing today and how he would proceed if he was a declared candidate. He’s trying to convince the world right now that he should be taken seriously.”
The 2022 Democratic gubernatorial primary field could potentially include Hochul, state Attorney General Letitia James, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and Rep. Tom Suozzi.
On Sunday, among those at the church services were Councilwoman Farah Louis (D- East Flatbush), who Hizzoner endorsed in her 2019 race, and Rita Joseph, a Democratic candidate for City Council in Flatbush who is almost certain to serve on the body next year.
De Blasio’s close relationship with the church includes Findlayter’s endorsement of de Blasio in the June 2013 primary race, which he won in September that year with a base of support in middle- and working-class predominantly black neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn. The bishop subsequently served on de Blasio’s transition team and inaugural committee before de Blasio took office in January 2014.
Early in de Blasio’s tenure, Findlayter was arrested for a pair of open warrants, but didn’t spend a night in jail after the mayor called an NYPD official to inquire about his ally.
Findlayter — who helped in delivering black Democratic primary voters to de Blasio the year before — was pulled over in East Flatbush in February 2014 for making a left turn without signaling, police said at the time. After cops discovered two outstanding warrants, Findlayter was hit with a traffic violation and charged with driving without a license.
Findlayter was expected to spend a night in custody, because the arrests came too late for him to be arraigned, prompting clergy friends to reach out to the mayor and the NYPD. The mayor “reached out to Deputy Chief Royster to get clarification on word that there had been an arrest of a respected local clergyman,” said a then-de Blasio spokesman.
The 67th Precinct’s commanding officer at the time went to the station house to personally free the bishop.
In response, de Blasio admitted to calling a top police spokeswoman about the matter, but insisted his actions were “absolutely appropriate” and that he didn’t ask for special treatment for Findlayter.
“This is an unusual situation where a very prominent member of the clergy obviously was experiencing a very unusual situation,” de Blasio told reporters in February 2014. “So I thought it was appropriate to make an inquiry, and I got a response.”
Findlayter once headed a citywide network of 12,000 worshippers via an umbrella organization Churches United to Save and Heal (CUSH) — a network of 40 mostly Caribbean churches in Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx, The Post reported in 2014. He served as chairman of the group from 2005 to 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile.