Democratic mayoral challenger Sal Albanese tagged Mayor de Blasio with a series of body blows Wednesday night, jabbing his administration as the “least transparent” in city history and suggesting de Blasio should have been indicted for corruption.
The two sparred for an hour and a half at the first Democratic primary debate, which was held on the Upper West Side and featured several testy exchanges over affordable housing, homelessness and government corruption.
Both sides claimed victory after it was all through. But it was Albanese, a heavy underdog, who appeared to be on the offensive most and land the toughest shots — coming back time and again to allegations of a pay-to-play structure at City Hall.
At one point, the challenger argued that crime continues to drop not because of de Blasio’s policies, but because of the work of the NYPD and prior administrations.
“If Mickey Mouse was mayor we would still have crime going down,” Albanese said.
De Blasio, who has overseen a consistent drop in serious crimes, responded that the policies of a mayor matter, and noted he had been exonerated in multiple investigations into his administration.
Albanese shot back that both the US Attorney and Manhattan DA questioned de Blasio’s ethics when it came to providing special treatment to political donors.
“It’s very murky that Mr. de Blasio didn’t get indicted,” Albanese said. “I think we need a higher standard in a mayor than not getting indicted.”
But Albanese struggled to articulate a vision on a number of issues — including an affordable housing plan, saying at one point he would revisit the policies of Mayor Koch.
“Sal, it’s not the 1980s anymore, You can’t do what Ed Koch did” de Blasio said, adding that enacting Albanese’s proposals to primarily use non-profit developers “would put tens of thousands of construction workers out of a job.”
De Blasio also won points when he pledged not to run for president if re-elected and not to use a non-profit to raise money apart from the city’s campaign finance system.
He hit Albanese, a former City Councilman, for working in finance and for his lack of recent government experience.
“Sal has been out of public life for the past 20 years,” de Blasio said.
But Albanese also got in a number of shots in at de Blasio over transparency — criticizing him for failing to publicly release a list of donors who had contributed money to his causes, but who got no special treatment in return.
The list had been promised last year.
“You’re the least transparent mayor in the city’s history,” Albanese told de Blasio during an exchange about the administration’s responsiveness to public records requests.
De Blasio shot back with a refrain he used more than once during the NY1-sponsored debate – that Albanese didn’t have his facts straight.
“If I have an email exchange with anybody about city business — whether it is on a government email or a personal email — we disclose it if there’s a [records] request about it,” de Blasio said.
Good government groups have also questioned the administration’s transparency on public disclosure, however.
Albanese would have to score a knockout in the second debate to have a chance of unseating the incumbent mayor.
An NY1-Baruch College poll released last month showed showed only four percent of surveyed voters saying they would pull the lever for him in the Sept. 12 primary, while De Blasio would garner 43 percent of registered Democrats polled.