Republican mayoral candidate Paul Massey made a brief visit to the Upper East Side Monday, greeting passersby at 86th Street and Lexington for about 15 minutes and speaking with the press for about 10 minutes. He received an unremarkable reception, with most people streaming past him on the busy corner while a few said hi, shook his hand or stopped to chat on a hot summer evening.
In a post-meet & greet Q&A I asked Massey about two topics; the realities of his campaign call for greater mayoral action on the MTA and whether ratcheting up criticism of rival candidate Nicole Malliotakis reflects concern that she’s had some successes recently.
Republican citywide candidates face a significant challenge in simply finding their voters. 61,000 of the 8 million plus people in New York City voted in the 2013 mayoral primary. Literally meeting likely 2017 primary voters is a challenge for the candidates as those prospective voters are such a minuscule portion of the City. It’s a challenge even on the Upper East Side; Massey stood on a corner in the 73rd Assembly District, which produced just over 3,000 of the 61,000 2013 votes but actual Republican primary voters were fairly scarce.
Massey began by greeting a group of three women; two were visitors from England and the third was their host. Massey chatted with them amiably, but unproductively. The Brits are obviously not voters and, as far as I could hear, Massey didn’t ask the third if she’s a registered Republican or even a registered voter. He had nice conversations with a few children, sometimes with an accompanying parent also engaging with Massey, but not always. A few people expressed support for Massey while others were interested in talking with him, but without expressing whether they support him.
In the Q&A Massey spoke of the recent rash of subway troubles and traffic congestion as issues that he would address as mayor. Saying that he plans to release a broad statement of transportation policies next week, Massey declared that he would “initiate [a] system overhaul immediately” to address “major switching problems” responsible for many of the recent subway delays. While that’s an appealing suggestion of action it doesn’t account for the reality that the governor, not the mayor controls the MTA and the City’s subways.
I asked Massey if the City should simply commit on its own to putting additional funding into the subway system, whether operating or capital, and if so, how much. He criticized the mayor for a “complete lack of leadership” on transportation issues and then condemned the MTA’s statement that Long Islanders working in the City should consider working from home during upcoming Penn Station repairs, eventually getting around to the position that any further capital funding from the City should be conditioned on “increased mayoral control and influence.” He didn’t offer any suggested amount that the City should fund or how the City would pay for such additional funding. When I again pressed the point that the mayor doesn’t control the state agency, and the mayor therefor can not direct it take any action, Massey spoke of building consensus as the path to gaining control or increased influence over the subway system, pledging to work with the governor.
On the topic of his main Republican rival, Massey returned to his earlier formula of praising Malliotakis’ public service without further discussion of her candidacy. Massey instead quickly turned to casting the election as “a referendum on the mayor’s failure to do his job” and on Massey’s character and management ability. In an uncharacteristically harsh statement on Friday Massey described Malliotakis as a “failed, ineffective career politician.” She’s had some successes recently, drawing notable several endorsements. It’s unclear whether worries about those endorsements prompted Massey’s attack.
On the pressing topic of an extension of mayoral control of the City’s school system, Massey ignored my question of whether he supports any of the bills currently being considered in Albany.
Here’s my exchange with Massey on the MTA and rival candidate Nicole Malliotakis:
Video – Full Q&A:
Here’s Massey’s full Q&A: