There were chants, rants, jeers, cheers and even a spectator tossed out, but it was no sporting event. No, this was the first general election mayoral debate between incumbent Democrat Bill de Blasio, Republican Nicole Malliotakis and independent Bo Dietl.
Tuesday’s 90-minute spectacle started with a bang during the candidate’s opening remarks, which Dietl began by highlighting his three decades as an NYPD detective and running his security and investigative business after retiring from the force.
Staten Island Assemblywoman Malliotakis came out of the gate attacking de Blasio.
“We need to restore New York City as a beacon of hope and opportunity for all, and I’m ready to clean up his mess,” she said.
The mayor was booed as he started talking, causing moderator and NY1 political anchor Errol Lewis to chide the rowdy audience for the first of many times. When able to speak, de Blasio also went for the jugular, calling his two challengers “right-wing Republicans who voted for Donald Trump” before highlighting his campaign cornerstones like crime reduction and education stats from his past four years in office.
The three candidates sparred over the homeless crisis, which Malliotakis said the mayor “turned into a business” and suggested supportive housing and investing in vocational training, while Dietl reiterated his plan to build homeless centers on Randall’s and Ward’s Islands.
Regarding the city’s transit crisis, de Blasio again called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who controls the MTA, to return $450 million diverted from the agency and plugged his proposed millionaire’s tax to fund repairs for the aged system.
“It’s his responsibility,” Dietl said of the mayor, and questioned why the city’s $4 billion surplus hasn’t been put into transit.
Malliotakis agreed the mayor has a responsibility to fix the subway and that she “absolutely” would work with Cuomo before asking the mayor, “Are you afraid of Gov. Cuomo?”
“I am very comfortable taking on the governor when he does something wrong for the city and working with him when he does something right,” the mayor replied.
On education and school safety and desegregation, Malliotakis said the Department of Education “needs a total overhaul,” but offered little insight into what she would do if elected.
When asked a third time about her support of Trump, the assemblywoman went on the offensive, accusing panelist Grace Rauh of “carrying the mayor’s water right now” as he previously asked her about the president.
“Nobody agrees with anyone 100 percent of the time,” she said. “When something’s going to hurt the people of this city, I will speak out against it. My interest is the people of New York, that we have roads that aren’t broken and trains that are running.”
Throughout the course of the debate, the candidates interrupted each other and the crowd did keep quiet for long. Dietl’s microphone was cut off twice, and one audience member was ejected.
The second and final debate will take place Nov. 1. Election Day is Nov. 7.