By LOUIS FLORES
Officials in the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) have reportedly instructed members of the New York City Council to avoid granting interviews to a media outlet that has been critical of the mayor.
Information about the administrative order was revealed in a report filed by the journalist Michael Gartland for The New York Post -- the same critical media outlet that New York City Councilmembers had been ordered to shun.
de Blasio administration officials Jon Lupo and Emma Wolfe were identified by The New York Post as ordering the media blackout several months ago, a charge that a City Hall spokesperson denied, according to Mr. Gartland's report.
For this report, the City Hall press office did not answer requests made by Progress Queens for an interview.
In Mr. Garland's report for The New York Post, two members of the Queens delegation to the New York City Council, Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley (D-Maspeth) and Rory Lancman (D-Kew Gardens), were quoted as saying that public officials shouldn't pick and choose their relationship with the media.
However, for past reports investigated or published by Progress Queens, Councilmembers Crowley and Lancman have each never answered requests for interviews or for documents. For this report, requests made by Progress Queens to each of Councilmembers Crowley and Lancman were not answered.
The revelation that the de Blasio administration had been actively engaged in denying The New York Post access to public officials for its news reports is certain to increase tensions between Mayor de Blasio and the City Hall press corps.
Last week, the relationship between Mayor de Blasio and journalists working on the municipal Government beat reached a flashpoint after Mayor de Blasio cast aspersions on the motivations of Yoav Gonen, the City Hall bureau chief of The New York Post, and on the publication which employed him.
An increase in tension was observed during the Columbus Day Parade on Monday, when Mayor de Blasio granted exclusive media access to two reporters, leaving other reporters behind a barricade with police officers to keep unwanted journalists at bay, according to social media posts shared by reporters on the scene.
Mayor de Blasio's aversion to criticism in the press is coming to the fore in the wake of escalating efforts by journalists to access public records.
After former de Blasio administration counsel Maya Wiley denied access to correspondence between Mayor de Blasio and political operatives and lobbyists by invoking an "agents of the city" exemption, the parent companies of the NY1 cable news channel and The New York Post jointly filed a lawsuit against Mayor de Blasio and the Office of the Mayor, seeking access to those records under the State's Freedom of Information Law.
The moves by City Hall to oppose transparency are also taking place as Federal prosecutors are reportedly working up investigations into Mayor de Blasio that may result in the possible filing of criminal charges. Federal prosecutors are reportedly under some pressure to conclude their reported corruption investigations in time before the nation's top Federal prosecutor in Manhattan, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, may be forced to relinquish his office if former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected as the nation's President in November.
It is the custom of high-ranking officials within the U.S. Department of Justice to offer to resign so that a new presidential administration can politicize the nation's top law enforcement agency.
In recent weeks, U.S. Attorney Bharara has acknowledged the role of muckraking journalists in prompting his office to commence corruption investigations. Reportedly, the work of Investigative Post, an online news Web site, may have played a role in the launching of Federal corruption investigations into the Upstate economic development program known as the Buffalo Billion. Investigative Post published its first report about questions about the Buffalo Billion after State officials refused to release records under the State's Freedom of Information Law.