New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio met one-on-one with dozens of Staten Islanders Tuesday, as part of a five-day stint working from the only borough he lost four years ago — a Republican stronghold that elected President Donald Trump last November.
The mayor’s aides have billed the initiative, which comes in the final year of his first term, as an outreach effort meant to make City Hall more accessible to residents living far from lower Manhattan.
In 2013, de Blasio lost Staten Island 53-44 percent to GOP candidate Joe Lhota. The mayor has since faced complaints from locals who say he hasn’t visited the borough as often as other parts of the city that embrace his progressive agenda.
But as the Democratic mayor and his top aides fielded complaints and questions from residents gathered at Staten Island Borough Hall, Republican mayoral candidate Paul Massey took aim at the mayor’s so-called “City Hall in Your Borough” initiative, calling it a “taxpayer funded campaign gimmick.”
“Mayor Bill de Blasio should reimburse taxpayers for his elaborate taxpayer-funded stunt of moving city government to each borough for a week, starting now with Staten Island after neglecting the people there for years,” Massey said in a statement emailed to reporters.
Massey, a real estate sales executive, criticized the timing of de Blasio’s pitch to work from the five boroughs, saying “it is because he realizes he is going to lose this election.”
A Quinnipiac Poll released Feb. 28 showed de Blasio leading Massey in every borough except Staten Island, where the Republican political newcomer leads with 59 percent support to de Blasio’s 23 percent.
“Whether taking on the opioid epidemic head-on, investing more than $240 million to repave hundreds of lane miles of streets, or driving crime down to record-low levels, Mayor de Blasio is fighting for Staten Island every single day,” said de Blasio campaign spokesman Phil Walzak when asked about Massey’s comments.
Gary Phaneuf, 61, who stood outside Staten Island Borough Hall holding a “Dump de Blasio” sign, said he took issue with the mayor in part for not being “respectful” of Trump’s agenda. De Blasio has repeatedly pushed back against the Trump administration’s orders on immigration enforcement.
“It’s important to be respectful of the president,” said Phaneuf, who wore a shirt bearing Trump’s photo.
Meanwhile, Olivia Brennan, 70, lauded de Blasio for choosing Staten Island to kick off his satellite city hall program.
Brennan, a registered Democrat, said she voted for de Blasio in 2013 “even though I’m not as liberal as he is.”
She said she appreciated the mayor “standing here for hours. It shows that he cares.”
Also Tuesday, De Blasio announced the city will expand an electronic waste collection program that started in Staten Island last year. The program will allow residents in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens to schedule curbside pick-up of large electronics and appliances. The program will expand over the next three years, the mayor said.