2019-08-07 by W.M.
When de Blasio’s Daughter Moved, His Security Detail Carried the Futon
It was not so long ago when Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke eloquently about New York being a “tale of two cities,” a place where the privileged had all the advantages, and the working class and poor had none.
Mr. de Blasio aimed to change that, using his office to create and expand universal prekindergarten and introduce paid sick leave — accomplishments that form the core of his long-shot bid for the Democratic nomination for president.
But for all of Mr. de Blasio’s focus on income inequality, his mayoralty has been dogged by questions of whether his personal behavior contradicts his political message.
The latest example came this week, as city officials acknowledged that last year the New York Police Department executive protection unit assigned to guard Mr. de Blasio and his family helped his daughter Chiara, 24, move her belongings from an apartment in Brooklyn to Gracie Mansion.
Using city resources for personal use is typically a violation of the city’s Conflicts of Interest Law, and having police detectives assist in a relative’s move would seem to cross ethical lines, according to Betsy Gotbaum, the executive director of Citizens Union, a good-government group.
“I don’t think its an appropriate use of the detail. You can rent a van and have people help you move,” said Ms. Gotbaum, who wondered why so many repeated ethical questions about the mayor, “little snippets here and there,” keep popping up. “That’s upsetting,” she said.
Indeed, Mr. de Blasio continues to take an almost daily 11-mile chauffeured ride from Gracie Mansion to the Y.M.C.A. in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, near where he and his wife own two homes. He has faced investigations about his fund-raising as he has solicited money and hosted fund-raisers with people and companies with business before the city.
Mr. de Blasio, who earned more than $251,000 in salary last year, denied knowledge of the incident during an interview on Monday with NY1’s Errol Louis. “I wasn’t there. I just honestly cannot go into something I didn’t see,” the mayor said.
He asserted that “throwing this kind of allegation against my family is just unfair,” before adding: “Of course my family goes in official vehicles.”
Ms. de Blasio declined to comment.
Mr. de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, was present when members of the protection unit used a city police van to move some of the couple’s daughter’s belongings last August, the mayor’s spokeswoman and police officials admitted on Monday.
“Chiara did the majority of the move on her own by subway, but her mother helped with the last few boxes — something many parents do,” said Freddi Goldstein, the mayor’s press secretary. “Members of the family’s detail were standing by and offered to help. Their involvement was strictly voluntary.”
The items moved by the detail included a rolled-up futon mattress but no heavy furniture, according to Ms. Goldstein.
Michael J. Palladino, the president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, which represents many of the officers in the detail, said that helping a family member of the mayor move out of her apartment would be outside of the job description for a detective.
“It’s definitely not something that the union would sanction because it’s out of the job title and it’s at the expense of the detective and the taxpayer,” Mr. Palladino said.
Phil Walzak, the top police spokesman, suggested that lending a hand in this case may have been the simpler solution for the officers involved. Had Ms. de Blasio hired her own mover, that person would have had to be vetted with a full background check before being allowed into Gracie Mansion, Mr. Walzak said. And members of the security detail would have accompanied her during the move.
Prof. Jeanne Zaino, who teaches political science at Iona College, called that a “weak excuse,” especially for someone who is championing a fix to income inequality.
“Bill de Blasio has made his career on bringing up the middle class by taxing the wealthy,” Professor Zaino said. “There are many people who believe he’s right and want a champion, but not just someone who is saying it, but living it.”
Several former members of Mr. de Blasio’s executive protection unit have filed lawsuits against the city alleging discrimination and that they were bypassed for promotions, said Marshall B. Bellovin, an attorney representing the detectives.
A flood of embarrassing disclosures about Mr. de Blasio related to the unit have been published in the city’s tabloids, including an item that the head of the unit allegedly covered up a 2015 car crash in a vehicle where the mayor was a back-seat passenger because of his initiative to reduce traffic fatalities.
The cumulative effect of these episodes can leave the impression that the mayor does not “live what you preach, and that you say one thing for political reasons and do another,” Professor Zaino said. “So the 1 percent he criticizes. He is living like them, but on the public dime.”