The final debate between mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota will be held Wednesday night after both candidates Sunday asked for a one-day delay to mark the first anniversary of superstorm Sandy Tuesday, a debate sponsor said Sunday.
"This is the most respectful and appropriate way to honor the memories of those who were lost, and to stand with those who are still struggling to recover," the candidates had said during the weekend in a joint statement. "This day should be marked with solemn reflection and remembrance."
The 90-minute debate will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday and will be hosted by WNBC-TV, said officials with the Campaign Finance Board, a debate sponsor. "Out of respect to those who are still rebuilding, we join all New Yorkers in commemorating the storm on Tuesday," the board said in a statement last night.
Board spokesman Matt Sollars said that Sunday was the first time the campaigns brought up the anniversary issue, months after the debate schedule was announced in June. The final faceoff before the Nov. 5 election was set for 7 Tuesday night.
Both candidates had made it known previously that they were concerned about having a debate on the storm's anniversary. "When it was scheduled, I made the CFB aware of this issue," Lhota said Sunday night. De Blasio's campaign said it alerted the board to the conflict Oct. 17.
At a campaign stop in Crown Heights on Saturday, Lhota said he had "heard complaints from people in Staten Island and in Rockaways and in Brooklyn that it's insensitive because they want to be able to observe the fact that at 7 [p.m.], 8 o'clock one year ago is when the storm hit, and that's exactly when the debate is going to be."
"I'd rather be holding hands along the shoreline," said Lhota, who was MTA chairman when Sandy struck, killing dozens and leaving communities in tatters.
De Blasio, who toured fire- and flood-ravaged Breezy Point Sunday, met with leaders in the private beach community, where more than 100 homes were destroyed by fire and floods. "Today is sobering, because there's so much to do, but . . . absolutely breathtaking progress has been made and people should be very, very proud," the Democratic front-runner said. He hailed the volunteer firefighters and members of the military who rescued residents, noting that "through all of that tragedy, not a single life was lost, and that's an extraordinary statement."
De Blasio vowed to work with local, state and federal officials to help funnel more aid into the communities. "People are doing the right thing here. We want to keep the momentum going."