For Mayor DeBlasio, politics always takes precedence, including over remembering those killed in a terrorist attack.
Last week on Halloween, the mayor held a memorial at the bike lane along Manhattan’s West Side Highway, where a terrorist a year to the day earlier drove a truck onto the path, killing eight and injuring a dozen more before a police officer shot him down.
Unfortunately, DeBlasio waited until the day before to invite some of the victims’ families, and didn’t mention the names of those killed — until someone in the crowd loudly wondered why he didn’t recognize them. And he forwent sharing any details about the victims at the memorial.
What DeBlasio did do, however, was make sure to publicly name-check and praise his fellow Democratic elected officials in attendance. Talk about disgraceful.
Following his remarks, a victim’s family member publicly admonished the mayor for his speech, and he awkwardly rushed back to the podium, where he named each person killed and called for a moment of silence. But he allegedly mispronounced some of the names, leading some to blast the entire event as an afterthought because it was reportedly organized only a few days before the attack’s anniversary, likely only after a city staffer realized it was about to slip by unnoticed.
Hugh Hales-Tooke attended the memorial on behalf of a friend, Monica Milso, whose son, Nicholas Cleves, was killed. Milso didn’t make it because she was out of town, and was among those next of kin who only found out about the memorial the day before. So it might not come as a surprise that Hales-Tooke left DeBlasio’s hand hanging when he extended it to him.
Hales-Tooke, summing up what many of the mourners likely thought about the event, said, “I didn’t hear a thing about the lives, the people. Nicholas was born and bred in New York. He loved this city. His mother is destroyed by this. I thought that’s what this was about, that this is a moment where we would say, ’You know, we care, we really do care.’ But I didn’t get the feeling.”
The mayor blamed his staff for the shortcomings. He claimed they put the memorial together “way too late,” saying, “I don’t think this was handled right. I didn’t have anything to do with the details of putting together the event.”
I have worked in senior positions with two Republican politicians, former Brooklyn Congressmen Vito Fossella and Bob Turner, and two Democrats, former Borough Presidents Howard Golden and Marty Markowitz. I can say confidently that each would have made sure the victims of this tragedy — or any — were properly honored at such a memorial. They would also demand that their names were spoken to them phonetically in advance if need be, to ensure proper pronunciation. It is simply a cop out to blame your employees.
After all, staff members to elected officials take their bosses’ cues, and cater to their preferences. DeBlasio’s employees know his priority is politics, which is probably why they made sure his remarks included the names of the elected officials in attendance, but not the victims’. The buck stops with the mayor.
DeBlasio even uses our taxpayer dollars to fund his perennial focus on politics. Recently released emails revealed that when the mayor was planning to visit Washington, D.C., in September of 2015 to push his progressive agenda, he pulled a scam to pass the cost on to us.
Public funds can only be used for travel expenses if there is city-related business involved. On this trip, there was none planned — until the mayor realized he needed something official. In an email to staff, DeBlasio wrote, “We need at least one good hit to build the trip around. One important government meeting, or one speaking opportunity, or one presser.”
New Yorkers deserve a mayor who will govern to solve our homeless crisis, improve our mass-transit system, stop the financial bloodletting of our public-hospital system, end the horrible conditions at public-housing facilities, and yes, remember to honor victims of a terrorist attack — including Cleves, Diego Enrique Angelini, Ann-Laure Decadt, Darren Drake, Ariel Erlij, Hernan Ferruchi, Hernan Diego Mendoza, and Alejandro Damian Pagrucco, who all died last Halloween.
That is more important than politics.
Bob Capano is the chairman of the Brooklyn Reform Party and is a professor of political science.