KIPS BAY — Republican mayoral candidate Paul Massey attacked Mayor Bill de Blasio as "corrupt" and "incompetent" during his first press conference on the steps of City Hall Tuesday.
But de Blasio, who at the same time was four and a half miles away introducing the new commissioner for the Administration for Children's Services, answered his challenger's critiques in real time, laughing at the commercial real estate broker for not having a position on the controversial NYPD tactic of stop-and-frisk.
"I think I need to look at what's going on in the city now ... and see what the best police practices are going to be," Massey said when asked whether stop and frisk should become a national policing tactic as President Donald Trump has suggested.
Pressed further, he said: "I haven't established an answer."
De Blasio jumped on the response.
"The issue really hasn't been in the news the last few years so who could blame him," de Blasio said with a chuckle. "Yeah, I would suggest you need to have an answer on that one."
Massey has advertised himself as a Michael Bloomberg-style businessman who would be better able to manage the city than de Blasio. He cited the ongoing federal and state probes of the mayor's fundraising practices.
"New Yorkers know their quality of life is getting worse and now they know why," Massey said. "Bill de Blasio is so distracted with corruption charges that he has no time to actually run the city."
He also criticized de Blasio's plan to set up a defense fund to pay his legal bills while already allocating almost $12 million for lawyers to represent city employees who might be questioned or called to testify in the probes.
The mayor said last week that his lawyer Barry Berke of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, has yet to be paid even though he has been representing de Blasio for months. Massey sent a letter to federal, state and city prosecutors asking them to investigate whether the mayor's setup violates any criminal laws or ethics policies.
"No ordinary person can get legal services with no plan to pay for them," said Massey.
De Blasio has declined to release additional details of the arrangement, such as whether he would raise money from entities with business before the city, saying that he and his lawyer are working out the details of the legal defense fund.
"I'm not a millionaire or billionaire. I'm not in a position to do this and pay these bills myself. We're not asking the taxpayer to pay my bill. So when the time comes we'll structure something and make sure it's fair," the mayor said.
De Blasio dismissed Massey's critique that life is getting worse for New Yorkers.
"I don't think he knows a lot about the City of New York," de Blasio said before reeling off a list of his accomplishments on affordable housing, crime, education and employment.
"I don't know what metrics he's pointing to," the mayor added.
In addition to not having a position on the expansion of stop-and-frisk, Massey also did not have details on what he would do to stem the city's record homelessness. Massey said only that he would put a team in place before he took office to examine the issue.
"Hitting on the mayor on corruption is a smart political tactic but it will not be enough unless the mayor is charged with a crime or top aides are charged," said Jeanne Zaino, a political science professor at Iona College.
She added that Massey will have to be better prepared to answer basic policy questions if he wants to legitimately challenge the mayor.
"A candidate needs to be able to answer key questions asked by the press especially if he's holding a press conference," said Zaino. "It's fair to say, 'I will get back to you on specifics,' but it's not like stop and frisk is an obscure issue."
Still, Zaino said, it's a long way from the mayoral primaries in September and the general election in November.
"I'm not sure many New Yorkers are focused on the race," said Zaino "but that will change."