Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Mayor de Blasio admitted Monday that he has a long history of doing favors for community members who need help with city business — but claims it's OK because he "never pressures" his department heads.
During his first interview since being grilled Friday by federal prosecutors reviewing his campaign fund-raising, de Blasio tried to paint a rosy picture of the more than four-hour meeting by telling NY1 it went "fine."
However, he declined to discuss specifics about the session. Hizzoner also would neither confirm nor deny various media reports over the weekend that he helped Brooklyn Rabbi Moishe Indig, who raised money for him, in getting the Buildings Department in 2014 to lift a partial vacate order at a Hasidic school.
"I am not going to go into the tick-tock of it all," said de Blasio.
However, De Blasio did not deny picking up the phone in the past to try to remove bureaucratic red tape on behalf of certain individuals — dating back to his years holding public office before he became mayor.
"I will tell you, when I was a City Council member, public advocate and again as mayor, I believe it is perfectly appropriate to put an issue on the agency's plate, and the agency has to make the decision they see as right," de Blasio said.
Department heads might not directly answer to council members and the public advocate — but they answer to the mayor.
When asked by a Post reporter whether de Blasio's remarks were contradictory because the mayor calls the shots at City Hall, his spokesman Eric Phillips fired back, "You're being absurd if you think he should make every agency decision in a 350,000-person bureaucracy."
The mayor also denied recent allegations by John Ciafone, the husband of production company Broadway Stages owner Gina Argento, that his wife was pressured into delivering big-buck donations to de Blasio's 2013 mayoral campaign and now-shuttered nonprofit Campaign for One New York.
"I would never pressure anyone," the mayor said.
De Blasio was questioned for about 4½ hours Friday during a long-anticipated sit-down with prosecutors from Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara's office.
De Blasio defended taking off much of Wednesday and Thursday to prepare for the meeting, claiming the city still operated fine because he can "walk and chew gum" at the same time.
He said he believes"that all the topics" prosecutors raised "were covered" and that the session went well.
"I was happy to go in and recount the facts," he said. "It was fine."
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