De Blasio leaves questions unanswered


When a local resident asked Mayor Bill de Blasio if he would make a commitment to extending the Hudson River Greenway into Riverdale his answer was a definite “maybe.”

De Blasio conceded on Feb. 21 that he was not aware of the ongoing efforts by residents of the northwest Bronx to extend the Greenway, but did promise to add the item to his agenda of issues he would consider supporting. 

At a town hall meeting hosted by Councilman Andrew Cohen last week, de Blasio took questions from residents from throughout Cohen’s district, which includes parts of Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Woodlawn. 

It served as an opportunity for residents to voice concerns on issues ranging from efforts in Washington to repeal the Affordable Care Act to homelessness to school overcrowding. 

“I love town hall meetings mostly because anyone who is at a town hall meeting after a busy day is someone who cares deeply about their community,” de Blasio said at the start of the event. 

The mayor expertly fielded questions about national issues like immigration or about his public opposition to President Trump, but sometimes faltered on some hyper-local issues like the Hudson River Greenway. 

“I try to always, if I’ve never heard an idea before, to say I’ve never heard it before, so thank you for putting it on my agenda, it sounds like a very good idea,” he told a resident who asked him about the Greenway. “I also don’t commit to things, especially if they may involve a lot of work or a lot of money, until I fully understand it.  So, here’s what I’ll say: you put it on my agenda.”

De Blasio pledged to follow up on the topic of the greenway with Cohen, and pursue the issue further. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo directly addressed the topic of the Hudson River Greenway in one of his six State of the State addresses in Purchase, New York, where he proposed spending $200 million on completing the Empire State Trail from New York City to Canada. 

On many questions, de Blasio deferred his answer to other elected or city officials to provide a more holistic answer. 

For example, a representative of Mosholu Montefiore’s Universal Pre-K program about when its employees would start getting paid on time and why the Education Department opened its own UPK center in the Shalom Alechem Houses—an area where the Montefiore center and the Amalgamated Nursery School were already operating just a few blocks away. De Blasio handed the microphone to the deputy chancellor of the Education Department, Josh Wallick. 

“We can talk after, and you can tell me the details,” Wallick told the resident. “We definitely want you to get paid.”

The second question, regarding the Education Department’s UPK center, went unanswered.  

However, de Blasio did take a very hard stance on a few local and citywide issues like homelessness and school overcrowding. 

Regarding the Van Cortlandt Motel, which the city has been using as emergency homeless housing, de Blasio said he and his administration were hard at work finding an alternative to placing homeless people, often families, in hotels.  

“As the shelter population grows, the city turned to hotels and motels as a last resort. It doesn’t make sense, it’s costly, it’s not great for housing, and it’s not great for the community,” he said. “Our mission is to get us out of the hotels.”

The mayor said he was aware of the issues at the Van Cortlandt Motel but minced no words in the difficulty of finding a better, more permanent solution to homelessness in the city. 

“In the next couple of weeks, I am going to lay out the next couple of steps we are going to take in addressing homelessness,” said de Blasio. “It will take time, it will not be easy.  The things going on around us in the world will have an impact. The goal is to get people out of hotels across the board. This hotel will take time, I’m going to be very consistent.  I’m not promising people anything I cannot promise in full.  This is going to take time.”

Near the end of the three-hour town hall, de Blasio took a question from a member of IN-Tech Academy’s debate team, who asked for more funding for the club. 

“I don’t know if you know anything about my family.  Did you know that my son Dante was on the debate team at his high school?.. Did you know that he was a state champion debater?” de Blasio asked the student. “Because of my strong interest in debate teams, we are going to see if we can help you get computers for your debate team, but if we succeed you have to lecture the other members of the debate team that you were the one who stayed out late at the town hall meeting to get the computers.”