New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday that his office had not been contacted about a federal investigation into two of his campaign donors.
“We haven’t been contacted in any way, shape or form by any federal agencies,” De Blasio said in a pretaped “Ask The Mayor” segment that aired Sunday on NBC 4 New York. “So what I did, I instructed a lawyer for my campaign to reach out to the U.S. attorney’s office to say we’re happy to help in any way we can. We still have not been asked any questions.”
The mayor also said he was “surprised” to hear U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara say city and state executive offices were “far from immune from the creeping show-me-the-money culture.”
“I was a little surprised by that . . . I don’t know what he’s referring to,” de Blasio said of last week’s remarks from Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor. “The distance between the New York City of the past, which really was rife with corruption, and today’s New York City” is “night and day,” de Blasio said.
The probe by the city’s Department of Investigation and Bharara’s office, among other law enforcement agencies, centers on possible gifts given by Brooklyn businessmen to police brass, according to law enforcement sources. Investigators are also probing donations given to a nonprofit established for the mayor to promote his policy agenda, as well as a land deal that removed a restrictive deed on former AIDS housing in order to rezone the land for luxury condominiums. James Capalino, a top mayoral fundraiser, played a lobbying role in the deal, sources have said.
No one has been charged in the investigation, which sources have said is taking a preliminary look at de Blasio’s campaign finances. An attorney for de Blasio’s campaign, Barry Berke, has reached out to federal authorities “to be helpful in any way we can,” de Blasio has said.
Mark Peters, a former campaign treasurer for de Blasio who serves as the city’s chief anti-corruption investigator, recused himself from the probe of campaign donors last week. Peters had earlier resisted calls to step down, saying he was impartial.
The mayor talked potholes, affordable housing and the city’s homeless problem in the “Ask the Mayor” segment, answering questions recorded earlier from city residents and, in person, from hosts Chuck Scarborough and Melissa Russo.
Taking questions from residents, de Blasio defended many of his administration’s policies.
When a resident complained of too many potholes in the city’s outer boroughs, de Blasio said more than a million had been filled since he took office in 2014. More important, he said, the city was pouring resources into repaving the roads.
He addressed school crowding, saying that while overcrowding in city schools has been relieved with the addition of hundreds of millions of dollars to add more seats to classrooms, the city’s population has swelled in neighborhoods such as central Queens.
“Even with these new investments, we’re not going to be able to get class size where we want it in the near term,” de Blasio said. “Some neighborhoods have been growing so rapidly, and it takes so long to build a new building, we’re not going to address this situation ideally.”
The mayor also said the perception of the city’s homeless population should change. It is not the “stigma” of a single man who is mentally ill or unemployed, but rather a broad swath of people who are unemployed or are searching for work, de Blasio said.