John Catsimatidis and Joe Lhota face off in last GOP mayoral debate

Former MTA chairman Joe Lhota and Gristedes head John Catsimatidis spar in the last televised debate before the Republican primary. Credit: NBC New York
Former MTA chairman Joe Lhota and Gristedes head John Catsimatidis spar in the last televised debate before the Republican primary.
Credit: NBC New York

The top two Republican candidates for mayor faced off in the final debate Sunday, making noise about public safety, crime and each other’s faults.

Early on, Gristedes head John Catsimatidis slammed former MTA chairman Joe Lhota for communications problems between first responders on 9/11 while he was deputy to Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Catsimatidis said Lhota had the ability to fix potential problems with police and fire radios after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

Though he took “responsibility for what happened,” Lhota noted Catsimatidis incorrectly placed the city’s emergency management center on a “high” floor when it was on the third floor in WTC 7.

“John, get your facts straight,” Lhota said.

Throughout the rest of the debate, Lhota pointed out several other factual mistakes in his rival’s comments. For one, the mayor is sworn in on Jan. 1, not Jan. 3, he said.

In an awkward moment, Catsimatidis suggested Lhota would have trouble winning the general election, noting his own support among Latino and black voters or, as he called them, “the minorities.”

“All the minorities I’ve been to in the last three months, they love me,” Catsimatidis said. “I have a love factor with the minorities. I’ve been to every minority neighborhood, they all give me hugs.”

Catsimatidis further painted himself as a “visionary” with experience creating jobs, while calling Lhota a “technical person.”

Lhota insisted he isn’t a bureaucrat.

Both candidates agreed they would keep on NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, if possible, and said they would hire more police officers.

Lhota has been ahead of both Catsimatidis and Doe Fund founder George McDonald, who did not qualify for this debate, in the most recent polls.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio leads the latest polls among Democrats.

Asked which Democrat would be best for the city during the debate, Catsimatidis said former City Comptroller Bill Thompson.

Lhota said none of them.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders


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