UPPER WEST SIDE — "Stop the presses" almost took on a whole new meaning at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Upper West Side town hall meeting this week, after several media outlets were initially barred from attending the event.
Mayor Bill de Blasio met with residents from the Upper West Side, West Harlem and Washington Heights Thursday at the Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School at 140 W. 102nd St. to talk about his policies on housing, education and how he plans to work with the communities moving forward.
But when press tried to enter the event shortly after the mayor arrived, NYPD officers told reporters they were given instructions not to let anyone else in, including the media, because the venue was full.
After one reporter threatened to call his editors about the lack of access, officials standing nearby informed the mayor’s office, who then got wind of the commotion going on outside and escorted the media into the town hall.
A spokeswoman from the Mayor’s office said the situation with the press was an “honest miscommunication” and that “once the Mayor’s team was notified press were outside and requesting entry, they were immediately let into the venue.”
The town hall, organized by Councilman Mark Levine, included several members of de Blasio’s administration, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and several other local officials’ representatives, as well as almost 200 other participants.
The local tenant activist Thomas Lopez-Pierre — who is running against Levine for City Council — said he was also barred, after registering for the event and receiving a call for confirmation from the Mayor's office on Monday.
Levine said Lopez-Pierre has a "violent history" and "has behaved in threatening ways at numerous such events."
Levine said there was "some vetting for security concerns," but that a mixture of about two dozen community organizations, including nonprofits and NYCHA tenant groups, brought their own constituents. There was open registration as well, in which those interested could register by calling or emailing a designated number.
Lopez-Pierre said he also spoke to Paola Ruiz, the Manhattan Borough Director for the mayor’s community affairs unit, on Dec. 6 to directly register for the event.
Meanwhile outside, dozens of demonstrators braved the freezing temperatures to protest the event and highlight the conditions of shelter sites throughout the city, which were also brought up by several residents inside.
The protestors wanted to highlight the growing concerns surrounding cluster shelters, after two children were killed in a building owned by a landlord contracted with the city.
"Where is the $3,000 a month that these slumlords are getting per unit, per family – where is the money going," asked Lisa Milhouse, 42, from Staten Island. "They throw you in an apartment with a bed and nothing else? Where is it going? With holes in the walls, it’s horrible. Nobody should have to live like that. Not even an animal. The mayor needs to fix these apartments immediately. Charge the slumlords."
De Blasio did not address the cluster shelters, but did state that "the imperative I’m grappling with is the affordability crisis in this city, and this is what I need to find a solution for."