Vickie Paladino burst into New York’s political consciousness last month when she directed a no-holds-barred, spur-of-the-moment dressing-down of Mayor Bill de Blasio after he held a news conference in Queens.
“You let our police officers down!” was Palladino’s fiery cry, which spread far on conservative media, where little love is lost for New York’s left-wing mayor.
Days later, Paladino joined the campaign of Bo Dietl, a former NYPD detective and media personality who is running as an independent, as a community liaison, speaking to voters in neighborhoods around the city to help convince them to support an independent candidate. While she has participated in campaigns before, her moment in the spotlight was a complete shock, she said, coming spontaneously while she was on the way home from getting her nails done.
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“My husband said, ‘Look! There’s the mayor.’ I said, ‘No kidding.’ He pulled the car over, and the rest, as they say, is history,” Paladino told Metro. “I went viral. Who knew?”
The encounter came shortly after the death of police Officer Miosotis Familia, and Paladino was livid that de Blasio went to Germany to attend protests at the G-20 conference after the death, not to mention her blame for de Blasio over general quality of life and crime issues. She disagreed with early media accounts that described her as a mere “heckler.”
“This was not a heckler – this was an angry New Yorker who had something on her mind,” Paladino said.“He’s using New York City as a stepping stone to the White House or to pursue a global fantasy. … People are mad as hell. Doesn’t matter what party you belong to. People don’t like him. They hate him; they hate what he’s done to the city.”
De Blasio’s campaign did not respond individually to Paladino’s criticisms.
“Mayor de Blasio expanded pre-K for every 4-year-old and will do the same for every 3-year-old. Crime is at record lows, jobs are at a record high, New York City is building affordable housing at a record pace, and rents were frozen for more than 2 million tenants. That is the mayor’s record, and it is one that New Yorkers are rallying around,” a campaign spokesman said.
With that record under his belt, de Blasio looks set to cruise to a smooth re-election as mayor this November. He has a clear lead in the primary polls over other Democrats, and a Quinnipiac University poll last month found he is likely to beat Republican challenger Nicole Malliotakis, 57 to 22 percent. Throw Dietl in the mix, and the numbers change to 52 percent for de Blasio, 15 percent for Malliotakis and 11 percent for Dietl, Quinnipiac found.
But Paladino, 63, a former interior decorator and Whitestone native, is certain that “de BLAAHsio,” as she calls him (when not referring to him by his birth name, Warren Wilhelm, as she called his renaming a sign of a "deception"), is the wrong leader for the city, and she believes Dietl can still win.
“If he wins, we’re doomed. You’ll see more ‘for sale’ signs than you ever dreamed about. There will be a mass exodus out of here,” she said. “The city is heading back to the Dinkins and Lindsay days. … It’s about what he’s done to morale and our quality of life. … He has brought the quality of life down to subhuman conditions for all these people who ride on subways.” (De Blasio has proposed a new tax on the wealthy to fund the MTA, but he also says the state is responsible for paying to fix the aging transit system.)
Agree or disagree, Paladino’s sentiment are often echoed by many others around the city and on social media, who either strongly disagree with De Blasio’s policies or deeply fear the social reforms he champions.
“It’s got nothing to do with Democrat, Republican, conservative, liberal. It’s about saving this city,” she said. “He is an egotistical maniac using New York as a stepping stone for his global agenda, which is sheer fantasy.”