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Yelling, Insults and Not Much Policy on Display at Mayoral Debate

By Katie Honan | October 11, 2017 7:54am
 Mayor Bill de Blasio debated Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and Bo Dietl for the first time. 
Mayor Bill de Blasio debated Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis and Bo Dietl for the first time. 
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UPPER WEST SIDE — In the first general debate of the season, incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday stood his ground and defended his record as his opponents, with help from a raucous crowd, sought to cut him down.

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican, and Bo Dietl, who is running on the "Dump de Blasio" line, both lobbed insults at the mayor at the debate held at Symphony Space in Manhattan.

Supporters of all the candidates traded boos and cheers, and the debate was so wild moderator Errol Louis of NY1 threatened to eject members of the audience. One person was kicked out after repeatedly yelling "liar" as the mayor answered questions.

But in between all the yelling, there wasn't much policy discussed.

“First of all, I’ve got to say, go Yankees!” Dietl shouted in his opening statement.

He then pointed at the mayor and reminded the audience that the mayor is a Red Sox fan.

"Bill de Blasio has abused the working class," Malliotakis, who represents Staten Island, said during her opening remarks. 

Neither of de Blasio's opponents could answer questions about topics ranging from congestion pricing to police accountability without first taking a jab at the mayor. 

"He has turned homelessness into a business," Malliotakis said when asked about how she would reduce the city's record number of homeless residents, which is at more than 60,000.

Dietl suggested putting "homeless centers" on Randall's and Wards islands, although there is already a shelter on Randall's Island.

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Asked if she would provide the state with more funding for the subways or if she endorsed congestion pricing, Malliotakis said she'd give whatever money was needed — and chided the mayor for not visiting the scene of derailments.

She said the city needs to invest in upgraded signaling on the subways like London, Paris and Copenhagen. And she told Blasio he should do it "even if you don't get the credit."

"Are you afraid of Governor Cuomo?" she asked, referencing the feud between the state's leading Democrats.

Both opposed de Blasio's plan to close Rikers Island and replace it with smaller jails around the city.

Malliotakis called for criminal justice reform and faster trials for inmates. Dietl said the city should just fix the jails on the island — and suggested both he and the mayor spend a night at Rikers to see who would do better. 

De Blasio, as he'd done during his debates with Sal Albanese during the Democratic primary, responded to the criticisms with his record. 

Over the past four years, the city introduced universal pre-K program for students, embarked on an ambitious affordable housing plan, and has ranked as the safest big city in America.

When given the opportunity to question an opponent, he asked Malliotakis about her vote for President Donald Trump and if she thought he was a better option for the city.

"This election is not about Donald Trump," Malliotakis said, later telling him to "stop trying to deflect from your lousy record as mayor."

Time ran out before any of the candidates could give a closing statement. 

The trio will meet again on Nov. 1, ahead of the Nov. 7 general election.