COVID-19 was just beginning to take hold of New York City in March 2020 when reporters last set foot in City Hall’s Blue Room for a press briefing with Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Since the pandemic began, with exception of the occasional on-site outing, the mayor’s interactions with members of the press have been limited to daily briefings conducted remotely — with the mayor conducting business from the Blue Room and taking questions from journalists calling in through a Webex conference.
Even as other parts of City Hall have reopened to the public in recent months — including Room 9, where reporters typically gather — journalists still cannot get within arm’s reach of de Blasio during the daily briefings. It’s become the subject of much tension between the mayor and a frustrated City Hall press corps looking to regain its physical access to the city’s chief executive.
But de Blasio stuck to his guns Tuesday when WNBC’s Andrew Siff and WCBS-TV’s Andrea Grymes pressed hizzoner about the restricted press access at City Hall.
“This news conference that we’re doing right now is essentially remote,” said Siff, who pointed out that City Council hearings also continue to be exclusively remote. “Doesn’t that sort of contradict the same message that you’re saying? The tourists are back, Broadway’s back, the hotels are back, everybody’s vaccinated. Why are all these events still remote?”
The mayor countered that he continues to believe the remote briefings are the best way, at least in his view.
“I think what we’ve been doing lately really works, because we’re able to bring in voices from all over the city, all over the nation, and allow journalists to participate where they are,” de Blasio said. “I think it just works. I don’t think it’s anything but that. It works. It’s a good way of doing things over time.”
De Blasio’s approach to press briefings appears to be in sharp contrast with that of Governor Kathy Hochul. Since just before taking office in August, following the resignation of disgraced ex-Governor Andrew Cuomo, Hochul’s briefings have often been a hybrid of questions from both in-person reporters and journalists calling in via Zoom from other parts of the state and country.
The NYPD and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea have also regularly held press conferences with reporters on site, taking questions on subject matter and other issues regarding police policy.
Still, it seems that the mayor isn’t budging on his briefing policy anytime soon.
In answering a follow-up question from Grymes, de Blasio seemed to indicate that the daily briefings would remain off-limits to in-person reporters through the end of his tenure, on Dec. 31. After then, it’s up to Mayor-elect Eric Adams to create his own press policies.
“This is what we’re doing now. A new administration will have whatever approach they think makes sense, but this has been just a very good approach for getting the message out about what’s happened as we fight back COVID,” the mayor added.
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s office declined to provide clarification, referring instead to de Blasio’s remarks at Tuesday’s briefing.
amNewYork Metro reached out to the Adams campaign for comment, and is awaiting responses.