CIVIC CENTER — Mayor Bill de Blasio's first online Google Hangouts chat — billed as a chance for the mayor to speak to “New Yorkers from all five boroughs" — ended up being a back-patting session with supporters.
All of the six participants in Friday's midday online chat were vetted and selected by the city's Community Affairs Unit, which reached out to "dozens" of potential chatters to make sure all five boroughs were represented, according to the mayor's office.
The office couldn't explain why many of the participants selected had pre-existing relationships with the mayor, including a number of campaign donors and a member of de Blasio's campaign transition team.
"I think a dialogue like the one we’re having today is…bringing up the needs of the people on the ground, and demanding of policy makers that we be just as as good as the people we represent, in terms of actually responding to their lives," de Blasio said just before launching into the chat session.
Jeff Cadavid, a small business owner from Brooklyn who donated $70 to the mayor’s campaign, kicked off the chat with a question about gentrification.
Jukay Hsu, the founder of the nonprofit Coalition for Queens and a member of the de Blasio campaign’s transition team, was the second person to ask a question on the hourlong video conference — tossing the mayor a softball question about the tech industry.
Imam Tahir Kukiqi, who donated $1,000 to de Blasio's campaign last October, according to Campaign Finance Records, began his question about universal pre-K by saying, “Hello, Mr. mayor, it has been a privilege and an honor knowing you even before being elected for mayor."
Christine Datz-Romero, the co-founder and executive director of the Lower East Side Ecology Center, who donated $100 to de Blasio's campaign in August 2013, according to Campaign Finance Records, thanked the mayor “for inviting her” to participate in the Google Hangout.
“We’ve worked together in the past when you were still a council person, so I know you have a commitment to the environment,” Datz-Romero told the mayor, before discussing composting.
In addition to the six video chatters, questions were also submitted to the chat moderator, Huffington Post host and producer Alicia Menendez, by the public before and during the program. Of the 49 questions submitted, Menendez selected a total of five to ask the mayor, two of which were combined to discuss the issue of banning horse carriages.
Ahead of the chat, Menendez said the mayor was not aware of the questions he would be asked in advance, a statement echoed by de Blasio’s office.