Three days after walking out of a news conference as reporters shouted questions at his back, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday finally fielded inquiries about his motorcade’s caught-on-camera violations of traffic laws — but he could not resist offering reporters some pointed criticism of his own.
Of course, Mr. de Blasio said, every city employee needed to respect the law, including the traffic laws, and to “comport themselves in a way that’s safe.”
But when asked if he had the discretion to tell his drivers how fast to go, Mr. de Blasio said: “I don’t tell the N.Y.P.D. how to do their work when it comes to protecting me. They’re the experts. I respect that. So, in any given moment, they may see something I don’t see, they may act in a way that isn’t immediately understandable to me, but they’re trained to handle things in a certain way.”
Mr. de Blasio had ducked questions about the WCBS-TV report since it aired. His office first referred reporters to the Police Department. Then, on Friday afternoon, after a lengthy news conference at City Hall about a settlement of litigation over Long Island College Hospital, Mr. de Blasio read a short statement and walked out. He held no events over the weekend; aides said he was on a family trip to Pennsylvania.
His news conference on Monday came at Staten Island Borough Hall, where the mayor met with the borough president, James S. Oddo, and other local officials about Hurricane Sandy recovery. A new report by a group called Alliance for a Just Rebuilding found that the city’s program for home repairs had essentially proved a failure so far: Not one of the 19,920 owners of single-family homes who had applied for help had started construction, and only three of 1,051 applicants to a program for multifamily buildings had begun repairs.
Invoking Mr. de Blasio’s key campaign theme, the report suggested ways in which he could use storm recovery to “reduce inequality,” including by directing more aid to renters and low-income homeowners and ensuring that repairs to public housing leave the buildings in better shape than before the storm. Mr. de Blasio, who expressed similar goals during the campaign, said on Monday that he still agreed with that approach.
“I think it’s about taking a moment of crisis, trying to find the transformative possibilities within it, taking the resources that are coming in, and not just spending them in a sort of narrow, siloed way, but saying, what is the most we can get out of these resources that will leave people in better shape,” Mr. de Blasio said.
Mr. de Blasio said that he understood frustrations with the slow pace of help, and that his administration was fully reviewing all Hurricane Sandy-related programs. But he offered few specifics or immediate plans.
The topic of the hurricane did, however, enable him to take a shot at the press corps for their attention to less weighty matters.
“Today we’re talking about preparing our city against further natural disasters — we’re talking about trying to help thousands on thousands of people back on their feet,” he said.
“On Friday we were talking about saving community health care and hopefully resetting a dynamic where we’ve lost over a dozen hospitals over the last 12 years. These are issues that fundamentally affect people’s lives, and I think that’s where the public debate should reside. And I think too much of the time the debate veers away into, you know, sideshows.”
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