‘Brush up on your facts’: Candid de Blasio hardly impressed by candidates at mayoral debate

Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a media availability at City Hall on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a media availability at City Hall on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Reporters peppered Mayor Bill de Blasio with plenty of questions Thursday morning about the June 2 Democratic mayoral primary debate, and Hizzoner offered a frank assessment: He wasn’t inspired by what he saw.

In de Blasio’s eyes, the slate of eight candidates vying to succeed him did little during the two-hour discourse on Wednesday to prove themselves worthy of becoming the 110th mayor of New York City. He charged that many of the candidates seemed misinformed about his administration’s record, or about how the city functions.

“Sadly, I don’t think it was much of a debate,” the mayor began in his analysis of the June 2 proceedings. “I don’t think it shed a lot of light, and New Yorkers need a lot more information about these candidates. They need a lot clearer vision from these candidates.”

The eight debate participants included two former members of the de Blasio administration — civil rights attorney Maya Wiley and former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia — as well as three other candidates with an intimate knowledge of city government: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, who worked in the Bloomberg administration. 

But in speaking of the debate field as a whole, and not referencing any one candidate by name, de Blasio charged that the group didn’t really have a handle on what they were talking about.

“What I heard a lot of was candidates announcing they would do bold new things that actually are things my administration is doing right now already,” de Blasio said. “I heard a lot of statements that reflect a lack of information about city government and how the city actually works. That was not inspiring to me.”

Pressed for examples, he pointed out statements made by two candidates, again, without mentioning their names.

“First of all, how ironic that a former federal housing sec doesn’t know the facts about homelessness in New York City,” de Blasio said, an obvious reference to Donovan. “His charges were just absolutely numerically inaccurate. We’ll be happy to show you what we presented publicly already about a huge decline in shelter population and a really meaningful decline in homelessness in our HOPE count.”

De Blasio also indirectly chastised Yang for suggesting that the city shouldn’t immediately spend federal stimulus dollars “when, in fact, the entire idea is to spend stimulus dollars.”

“That’s why it’s called stimulus, and we’re [not] spending all the money now when anyone who’s looked at the law understands those numbers come in traunches over time,” he opined. “I get pandering, I really do, but it would be nice if people would just get their facts straight, and those weren’t facts.”

De Blasio offered all the candidates, in so many words, some advice: Do your homework before the next debate.

“What I would say to all these candidates is brush up on the facts, bring us a more coherent vision,” the mayor said. “People are trying to make a serious decision, and I don’t think they’ve been given enough yet.” 

The mayor also said he didn’t feel slighted that, when the candidates asked for a show of hands if they would welcome his support, only one (Yang) raised their hand. Still, he declined to offer specific anything specific about any one candidate — or if he would offer an endorsement down the road.

“If I want to say anything about any of the candidates, I will come to that decision at the right moment,” he added. 

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