Mayor Bill de Blasio, voting Tuesday with his wife in Brooklyn, took the rear door of his polling place and avoided activists who say he’s moving too slowly to shut down the violence-plagued Rikers Island jails.
As dozens of activists from the group #CLOSErikers chanted “Mayor Bill de Blasio, we’re calling out your name! Ten years of pain! Ten years of shame!” de Blasio, a Democrat, was breaking with his long-running practice of entering the Park Slope library polling site by the front door.
In March, de Blasio reversed his stance on closing down Rikers, which the U.S. Justice Department has said is beset by a “deep-seated culture of violence” and corruption.
De Blasio has frustrated activists by insisting that the closure would take 10 years — long after he’s out of office — and punting to a future mayor the politically fraught choice of where to open replacement lockups and whether to actually shutter the complex.
The state’s former chief judge Jonathan Lippman, who oversaw a panel that recommended closing Rikers, wrote in an opinion piece in amNewYork in October the timeline could be shorter and that de Blasio’s plan “won’t get us across the finish line.”
De Blasio on Tuesday did not address the Rikers controversy, and chants were inaudible from inside the library. Asked after voting why he went in the back door, he said, “We wanted to keep it simple today.”
The same group of activists had greeted the mayor in September, when he voted in the primary election. That morning, he walked past them and spoke to the press as activists chanted in the background.
Among the activists both mornings was Darren Mack, who in June confronted de Blasio while the mayor stretched on a mat during his workout at the YMCA. Mack shook his head when reporters told him that the mayor had already been in and out of the library.
“It’s just a sign that he’s running from everyday New Yorkers,” Mack said. “Today is just an example of what he’s done for the last seven months since he announced that Rikers was gonna be closed: He just says stuff, and he hasn’t done anything.”
Opinion polls show de Blasio, who was first elected mayor in 2013, with a 40-point lead over his closest rival, Republican Nicole Malliotakis. She opposes shuttering Rikers and wants to keep the jails there.