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De Blasio suggests he may start doing town halls

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks outside the U.S. Capitol on May 12, 2015, in Washington, D.C. Credit: Getty Images / Win McNamee

Mayor Bill de Blasio signaled Thursday that he may be reconsidering his avoidance of town hall-type settings to hear constituents' concerns.

"I spend a lot of time with everyday New Yorkers, and I'll do that in formal ways, informal ways," he said at an unrelated news conference in Staten Island. "I look forward, certainly, to open forums in different neighborhoods, whether it's a town-hall meeting or other types of approaches."

Leaders of civic groups that have hosted past mayors at town halls told Newsday earlier this month that they're frustrated by the lack of access to City Hall and believe de Blasio was neglecting his backyard as he traveled nationally to push for progressive change. A de Blasio spokesman said in reply that the mayor speaks to New Yorkers regularly at his old Park Slope haunts -- the Colson Patisserie and the YMCA -- and on subway rides.

De Blasio told reporters Thursday during his third official visit to Staten Island this year that he had engaged New Yorkers just that morning on the subway.

"You don't do this work if you don't want to spend time listening to what everyday people feel and believe," he said.

Unlike his two immediate predecessors, de Blasio has not undergone unfiltered questioning by New Yorkers through town halls or call-in radio. He held town halls in his previous job as public advocate.

As de Blasio wrapped up the Staten Island news conference, a resident got his attention and beckoned him over. Chris Altieri, 49, of New Dorp, and the mayor spoke for several heated minutes about property tax rates and a speed camera Altieri believed is illegally placed.

"You want the revenue," the retiree said accusingly.

"Trust me, we want to save people's lives," de Blasio replied.

Asked afterward whether the mayor should appear at town halls, Altieri said, "He absolutely should be more available where people like me can air our grievances."

De Blasio told reporters he understands the importance of retail politics, having campaigned door to door for his local school board and the City Council.

"A lot of times, your fellow citizens have some of the best ideas about what we can do," said de Blasio, who now lives in Gracie Mansion in Yorkville. "And you've got to stay connected, and it's part of why I go back to the neighborhood I come from all the time."

The mayor was in Staten Island Thursday to detail his administration's plans to repave 2,500 miles of lanes across the city at an added cost of $242 million through fiscal year 2017.

De Blasio, who travels primarily by car around the city, said the Cross Bronx Expressway -- a state responsibility -- was No. 1 on his "personal list of highways that one should not go on if you ever want to get where you're trying to get." He said he believes Manhattan's 10th Avenue is in the best condition.


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