By LOUIS FLORES
Continuing with past efforts to control the attendees of town hall meetings, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) provided late and defective notice to the office of State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) about the mayor’s planned town hall meeting scheduled for Monday night in Bayside, Queens.
The mayor’s office provided only one day’s notice to the State Senator’s office by having sent an e-mail addressed to an old campaign e-mail account of State Sen. Avella’s and to one State Sen. Avella’s staff members.
State Sen. Avella has been a critic of Mayor de Blasio, and when Mayor de Blasio holds town halls, he has been known to screen out critics from attending.
In response to the late and defective notice, State Sen. Avella issued a tersely-worded letter, accusing Mayor de Blasio of engaging in cynical political machinations. “Your strategy … seems to be to invite only your supporters and those you can intimidate,” adding, in relevant part, “The purpose of these town halls is to transcend politics and work together for the betterment of our community. I find your actions to have worked against that end and have lowered the integrity of the office which you hold.”
A request for an interview made to the office of State Sen. Avella was not answered. Mayor de Blasio’s spokesperson, Karen Hinton, promised that a response would be provided to Progress Queens in respect of a request made to City Hall, but no response was ever provided.
This is not the first time that Mayor de Blasio has been accused of deliberately scheduling town hall meetings under circumstances to his political advantage. As reported by Progress Queens, a November 2015 town hall featuring Mayor de Blasio in Jackson Heights was gatekept by Councilmember Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights). The publisher of Progress Queens followed the instructions to request a reserved seat with Councilmember Dromm’s office, but the request was never answered. On the evening of the Jackson Heights town hall, Curtis Sliwa, a prominent critic of Mayor de Blasio’s, and others were denied entry. The wait outside the town hall became interminable, and some left. Others, who stayed, were forced to stand outside in the rain.
Mayor de Blasio’s recent efforts to orchestrate town halls have stemmed from collapsing approval ratings.
In late October 2015, a Quinnipiac University poll found 45 per cent. of New Yorkers approved of the job he was doing as mayor and 46 per cent. disapproved. In Queens, the split was worse : 44-49 per cent., respectively. Since then, through over-managed town halls and limited radio interviews on liberal outlets, like WNYC 93.9 FM, the mayor’s approval ratings have managed to recover, but only by a few points.
In recent months, Mayor de Blasio’s aides have been monitoring any possible primary challenger to his expected 2017 reëlection campaign, the journalist Josh Dawsey noted in a report he filed for The Wall Street Journal. The aides presumably do this monitoring from within City Hall. Even though Mayor de Blasio has managed to trade access in exchange for support from civic groups, according to information obtained by Progress Queens, the mayor remains worried about losing Queens should he face a primary challenger, a harbinger of the mayor's electoral vulnerability. Adding to the mayor’s political woes in Queens, the Republican National Committee is opening an office in Queens in anticipation of Councilmember Eric Ulrich (R-South Ozone Park) possibly running for mayor in 2017.