The long goodbye: Mayor de Blasio ducks the press and protesters at City Hall departure

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A member of de Blasio’s staff weeps as he makes his farewell address.
Photo by Dean Moses

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s last day at City Hall on Thursday turned into a long, drawn out affair in which hizzoner blew off the press, and a bunch of protesters waiting to give him an unceremonious departure.

The last day in office for New York City’s 109th mayor was scheduled to be a literal walk in the park, with de Blasio waving goodbye to the city he has overseen for eight years. But what’s normally a triumphant day for a departing mayor turned into a dragged-out spectacle that ended with the soon to be former chief executive of the Five Boroughs hunkering down in City Hall into the evening on Dec. 30 in attempt to evade media.  

According to his office, the mayor was set to leave City Hall for the final time on Thursday with a grand walkout ceremony at around 3 p.m. on Dec. 30, but that never took place.

That may be because a crowd of de Blasio haters had assembled outside City Hall Park since noon Thursday. The angry assemblage erected crude banners depicting their dislike of his administration. Waving flags, they yelled: “Goodbye sh*t head!”

Seemingly unwilling to confront the angry faces amassing outside, staff moved the podium outside City Hall back inside. 

New Yorkers unhappy with last eight years said their own goodbye. Photo by Dean Moses
Protesters gathered outside of City Hall to admonish de Blasio’s eight years as mayor. Photo by Dean Moses

Legions of reporters, photographers, and videographers were crammed into the lobby of City Hall awaiting the mayor’s arrival, which didn’t take place until over two hours after it was originally scheduled.

At last, de Blasio emerged in the City Hall rotunda at about 5 p.m. — just in time for the start of many local newscasts. Accompanied by outgoing First Lady Chirlane McCray, de Blasio received applause from aides lining the rotunda’s twin staircases, paying tribute to the outgoing mayor’s eight years of service to the city.

Many of them fist-bumped de Blasio as he made his way to the podium to make his official farewell.

The podium was removed from what was set to be an outdoor ceremony. Photo by Dean Moses

“Everybody, what we did here in these eight years has profoundly changed the city and the effects of what we have done have only begun to be felt. I want everyone to feel this. What you have all done and there was so much passion that as I look around, I can feel the times when we work together to make something happen and so often we were told that could not be done,” de Blasio said. “But you did it. You changed millions of people’s lives. You changed the way people are educated. We changed the way people get housing and the way people get mental health care that was so often denied. We changed policing in this town. We’ve changed so many things.”

De Blasio fist-bumped staff. Photo by Dean Moses

McCray described the years she spent with her husband in office as surprising and meaningful, and lauded de Blasio as an “extraordinary leader.”

“Thank you for the honor it has been to serve as first lady. I never knew what this experience would be like, could be like,” McCray said. “It still has been a true surprise and meaningful beyond my wildest imagination. So, thank you to everybody for giving our family this opportunity to serve. I look forward to getting back home to Brooklyn, but I want all of you to know that one way or another that Bill and I will still be around ready to serve and support you in some form or fashion whenever it’s needed in the years to come.”

The mayor himself also reminisced on his time spent in office, specifically election night in 2013, when he said he reiterated that they “won the right to be here,” and the countless meetings and discussions his administration had within City Hall.

The mayor made his farewell address inside City Hall. Photo by Dean Moses
Bill de Blasio gives his staff a round of applause. Photo by Dean Moses

​“So, eight years ago at this moment, we’re about to embark on the great unknown of coming into here and leaving this city. But for everyone who was part of making it happen from the very beginning I really want to stress my appreciation,” de Blasio said, becoming nostalgic.  He described his staff and those he worked with as a group of kindred souls who were passionate about their mission.

“More than we dreamed happened in these eight years because we put together a dream team and you show that change is possible,” de Blasio said. As he spoke, several members of his staff and the First Lady became emotional.

The speech was to segue toward de Blasio walking down City Hall’s front steps one last time before reporters. But instead, the mayor re-ascended the rotunda stairwell — and shortly after the speech ended, a press rep informed the waiting members of the Fourth Estate that de Blasio had opted to go back to work in his office.

About a half-hour later, with most reporters and photographers having departed, de Blasio — who’s been teasing a gubernatorial run for weeks now, only to demur whenever asked about it — slunk out of City Hall under the cover of darkness, hopped into a waiting SUV and took off.   

So much for a triumphant exit.

A kiss goodbye. Photo by Dean Moses
Despite Thursday being his last day on the job, the mayor was all smiles. Photo by Dean Moses