It is not a surprise that politics has morphed into an entertainment vehicle. The people who populate the White House could easily be mistaken for participants in reality tv and the Mayor of New York appears to prefer the look and style of a television celebrity rather than a government official who was “elected” to govern New York – not someone with a signed movie deal or auditioning for his next starring role.
Officially the Town Hall event was moderated by New York City Council member, Keith Powers; however, in “reality” it was the Mayor who took over the event and played both the Host and the Invited Guest.
The Mayor took over the center ring (the venue was the Hunter College gymnasium), dominating the space where he could beckon his Commissioners and elected officials to respond to questions that he could not answer.
It is true that the Mayor is tall, slim, attractive and one of the few New York politicians that wears a suit as if it were tailored for him and not grabbed off the rack at Walmart. It is also true that the Commissioners serve at the pleasure of the Mayor. What I found disturbing (in terms of optics), was the way in which the Mayor “summoned” his Commissioners to respond to questions that were beyond or beside his expertise or interest. The Commissioners appeared to play the role of handmaiden, emerging from their seats when beckoned and quietly returning to their chairs when their advice was no longer required. How much better it would have looked if the Commissioners been seated in the center of the gym with the Mayor – and presented as a part of a team, and not hired help.
Perhaps the Commissioners were delighted to see the Mayor, even in a public forum, regardless of the scenario. According to William Neuman (NY Times, December5, 2018), “Mr. de Blasio, in fact, rarely meets with many of his commissioners, according to the schedules, at times making it difficult for department heads to advance new ideas at City Hall, or to inform the mayor about problems at their agencies.”
Neuman found that, “In 2015, he averaged 17 days a month at City Hall; in 2016 it fell to 14; last year, it dropped to nine. This year, through September, Mr. de Blasio averaged 10 days, according to his official schedules.”
It was difficult to determine if the questions raised at the Town Hall meeting were planted by the Mayor or truly of key concern to the community. I was told, in no uncertain terms, by Jose Bayona, Director of Community and Ethnic Media, Office of the Mayor, that, as a member of the press, I would not be permitted to ask a question (although I do live in the 10022-zip code).
To emphasize his point he told me, “Press is not allowed to ask questions. Asking questions is restricted to members of the community.” When I said that I was a member of the community and a member of the press I was offered an ultimatum: Keep my front row seat and be a member of the community or keep my “press” status, and be moved to the back of the gym, out of range for photos and questions.
With questions restricted to the “community” (or at least the Office of the Mayors description of “community”) the issues raised could be filed under “quality of life.”
The major issues brought to the attention of the Mayor included (in alphabetical order):
- Additional inspectors for housing violations (including lead paint, mold, non-working elevators)
- Air pollution from construction of subway tunnels (MTA)
- Amazon and immigrants
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has used the Amazon technology in face-recognition for deportation procedures. Amazon’s tax breaks and incentives were important issues as was the fact that the City Council was not consulted on the decisions. The Mayor tried to deflect his links with big business by declaring, “Anyone who is frustrated with corporate America, I’m happy to align with.”
- Construction permits; after-hours variances
- E-bike usage
- Free legal services for residents being illegally evicted
- Neighborhood schools for middle and high school students
- Out-of-state registration for automobiles and street parking
- Issuance of residential vehicle permits for street parking opportunities
- Pedestrian congestion along the 14th Street corridor in light of the L train shutdown
- Racial profiling
- Street vendors
- Tourist helicopter routings
- Voting irregularities
Town Hall VIPs
Waterside Plaza Tenants
Interested in the activities of Mayor de Blasio? Click here.
© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.