The annual memorial service marking the 2001 crash of American Airlines Flight #587 was held Saturday morning. Mayor Bill de Blasio joined attendees at the service, held at the memorial constructed just off the beach on Rockaway’s Beach 116th Street. The flight was headed from JFK to the Dominican Republic and the majority of those onboard were Dominican Americans and Dominican nationals. The crash also killed five people on the ground in Rockaway.
de Blasio was infamously late to the 2014 memorial service, his first as mayor. He missed the moment of silence, provoking a firestorm of criticism over his then-frequent tardiness to public events. This year, as in 2015, de Blasio arrived early and worked his way through the audience shaking hands, hugging and talking with attendees before the service began.
Council Member Eric Ulrich drew several Queens elected officials to a City Hall rally Friday, objecting to the de Blasio administration’s efforts at using hotels in Maspeth and Rockaway as homeless shelters. The electeds’ objections, substantially focused on the process and lack of communication by the administration, left them exposed to the deep anger of the 150 or so people attending the rally. Those attendees, predominantly from Maspeth with a minority from Rockaway, deeply oppose siting a shelter in their neighborhood no matter what process or communication is used. Their anger eventually overwhelmed the elected officials’ efforts to conduct a press conference, driving those elected officials into City Hall as the crowd chanted outside on the City Hall portico and briefly marched on City Hall plaza.
Council Member Eric Ulrich harshly condemned the City’s Build It Back program Monday, calling for the resignation of Amy Peterson, the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations who oversees Build It Back. Speaking at a press conference on Beach 117th Street in Rockaway, Ulrich described Build It Back as hopelessly failing with little visible prospect of success.
The owner of the home Ulrich spoke in front of has been displaced since February, having moved out in anticipation of substantial work through Build It Back. Shortly after the owner relocated Build It Back erected a fence, effectively locking out the homeowner and preparing the property for that work. According to Ulrich and the daughter of the homeowner that work has not yet begun, however. Ulrich further described this homeowner’s experience as common, saying that many of his constituents are in similar circumstances.
Mayor de Blasio today attended his second Flight 587 memorial service as mayor, arriving early and avoiding a repeat of his 2014 public relations disaster.
The memorial service is held annually in Rockaway on the date of the 2001 crash of American Airlines flight #587, with a moment of silence timed to the exact moment of the crash. Last year de Blasio infamously arrived after the moment of silence, bringing simmering discontent with his then-frequent lateness to a boil. Today de Blasio arrived early, speaking with many mourners before the 9:05 ceremony began and visiting the granite memorial wall afterwards. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, NYS Senator Adriano Espaillat and NYS Assembly Member Guillermo Linares also attended.
Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Breezy Point today, joined by Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro. Their appearance two days ahead of the third anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s landfall was intended to laud the progress in the City’s Build It Back program, and included a separate visit with a Breezy Point family just returned to their rebuilt home. de Blasio and Castro were joined by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder (who represents Rockaway), Council Member, HPD Commissioner Vicki Been, Housing Recovery Office Director Amy Peterson, Resiliency Director Dan Zarilli, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary Marion McFadden and HUD Regional Administrator Holly Leicht.
Mayor de Blasio’s staff had announced the press conference as fielding “on topic” questions only. de Blasio implemented that restriction even more restrictively, declining to answer “on topic” questions addressing the planning and future operation of the ongoing recovery efforts. Question topics included the estimated time for completion of all of the Sandy recovery home rebuilding, the implementation of new flood maps, whether de Blasio’s reported future endorsement of Hillary Clinton is tied to a longterm need for federal government assistance, whether in Secretary Castro’s view the City could do better on any element of Sandy recovery efforts, communicating an increased sense of urgency to City agencies, significant variations in the reported number of Build It Back applicants, how the City will continue its increased rate of repairs, details on the construction firms used in the program and praise for developer Gerry Romski.
Governor Andrew Cuomo came to Breezy Point this afternoon, holding a bill signing ceremony at the Point Breeze Clubhouse. Joined by State Senator Joe Addabbo and State Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder, Cuomo signed into law a bill extending an exemption for Breezy Point residents from an pre-existing requirement that they obtain a special permit from New York City for rebuilding or repairs. Cuomo also announced a state study of raising the elevation of homes in Breezy Point.
Cuomo spoke with the press following the signing ceremony. Question topics included Bill de Blasio (multiple times), Uber, Cuomo’s recently increased rate of public appearances, concerns expressed by district attorneys on Cuomo’s executive order appointing the NYS attorney general as a special prosecutor in all police killings of unarmed civilians and the City’s Sandy recovery programs.
Update – Uber:
Cuomo suggested that his administration will wade into the escalating confrontation between Uber and the de Blasio administration:
Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Rockaway Friday afternoon, joining the annual beach opening celebration and holding a press conference. During his visit de Blasio announced that any surplus federal funding from the ongoing boardwalk rebuilding will be applied to other Rockaway projects. de Blasio was well-received, with elected officials offering praise and attendees providing applause. Elected officials joining de Blasio included Senators Joe Addabbo and James Sanders, Assembly Members Phil Goldfeder and Michele Titus, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Council Members Donovan Richards and Eric Ulrich. Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver and EDC President Kyle Kimball also joined de Blasio. Our photo gallery is here.
de Blasio has had a bumpy relationship with many in Rockaway, particularly in the western areas of Belle Harbor and Breezy Point. Those hard feelings were set aside Friday, however, with the combination of the festive summer beach opening and notable progress on boardwalk rebuilding. The audience of several hundred people applauded de Blasio’s boardwalk rebuilding and funding comments, although they sat silently as de Blasio praised FEMA. They responded to Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s request for “a round of applause for Mayor de Blasio”, prompting a smiling mayor to reply “that just shows the generosity of Queens.”
Out of sight, out of mind. That notion applied to the few sign-holding Rockaway residents who appeared at Mayor de Blasio’s boardwalk press conference on Friday. The four I spotted were relegated to a “free speech zone” invisible to Mayor de Blasio and most of the several hundred people in attendance.
In this view from the camera riser, looking away from the lectern on the boardwalk where Mayor de Blasio spoke, the “free speech zone” is faintly visible deep in the center of the picture and close to the white trucks on Shore Front Parkway. The “free speech zone” is also about 10-15 feet lower than the boardwalk, ensuring that the Mayor and other speakers could not see the “free speech zone”, much less the signs.
Police directed sign-holders to the “free speech zone,” despite objections.
Mayor Bill de Blasio marked the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy with a press conference on the beach in the Midland Beach section of Staten Island. Earlier, he had participated in a home rebuilding in Coney Island.
de Blasio was joined at the press conference by members of his administration, including Amy Peterson, Dan Zarelli, Mitch Silver and Bill Goldstein, and elected officials including state senators Diane Savino and Andrew Lanza, council members Steve Matteo and Alan Maisal, Borough President Jimmy Oddo and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
We’ve divided the video of his Q&A as de Blasio did during the press conference; Sandy-related, Ebola-related and off-topic.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has recently spoken about a broad plan for economic development and transportation improvements in Rockaway. He’s spoken only in very general terms, however, without offering any details or more than a vague timeline.
He first discussed it at a press conference in Far Rockaway on October 15th, offering that he anticipates putting forth a “holistic development plan” that will outline a “long term vision for the economic growth of the Rockaways and the transportation to go with it.” When I asked about the timing, he responded that “you’re going to hear some more announcements in the coming months related to the Rockaways that are specific and then thereafter you’re going to see a much bigger plan … I think that’s something you’re going to see next year.” Today the Mayor responded that a plan, or at least elements of a plan, would be released “in the coming weeks and months.”
It’s unclear precisely what the Mayor intends, but his words clearly, indeed expressly, create big expectations.
One note – the Mayor’s schedule for Thursday includes “a meeting at City Hall with administration and elected officials to discuss Rockaway redevelopment.” That’s consistent with recent reports that Rockaway elected officials seeking to stave off the looming end of Rockaway ferry service would meet with de Blasio. His schedule gives a broader cast to that meeting, “Rockaway redevelopment,” rather than just ferry service.
Rob Astorino returned to Rockaway today, touring Beach 116th Street on the two year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. As his visit wrapped up, he spoke with reporters at the beach end of Beach 116th.
Here are selected excerpts. Among the question topics are transportation infrastructure, Governor Cuomo’s lack of appearances in Rockaway, what he would do differently concerning the state’s Sandy recovery efforts and whether he views Governor Cuomo’s heavy use of official events as “abusing the power of his office.”
Republican Electeds Support:
I asked Astorino about the limited support that he’s received from Republican elected officials.
Our coverage of Astorino’s prior visits to Rockaway are here and here.
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