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NYC mayor's plan for rail strike? He's outta here

NEW YORK (AP) - The city's tabloid newspaper front pages next week are easy to imagine: a photo of a nightmarish traffic jam caused by a strike at the nation's largest commuter railroad juxtaposed with a shot of Mayor Bill de Blasio sunning on an Italian beach.

Despite the potentially damaging political optics, the Democratic mayor appears set on embarking Friday on a 10-day Italian vacation in the face of a looming Long Island Rail Road strike, which if it happens Sunday could paralyze portions of the nation's largest city. The mayor had said he would return from his trip if a crisis arose but signaled this week that he believed his team could manage without him.

Some political consultants said the trip would look bad for de Blasio.

"If I were on his staff, and it looked like the strike was going to happen, I would tell him not to go," said Jeanne Zaino, a political science professor at Iona College. "It's going to look very bad, and he's going to be hit really hard."

The Daily News has offered a sneak peek of what could be in store for de Blasio: Its story on Tuesday about the impending strike was accompanied by the headline "Good luck on that, I'm off to Italy."

The LIRR, which connects the city and Long Island and has 300,000 daily riders, is operated by a state agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, meaning the ultimate political responsibility lies with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but the impact in the city would be undeniable. Roads would clog, already crowded subway trains and buses would be even more packed and businesses with fewer customers or workers showing up could lose millions of dollars.

De Blasio said Monday that he was optimistic a deal would be brokered amid a feud over pay and contributions to pension and health care plans and that the MTA's contingency plans were "very strong" even as the MTA's top spokesman said the commute for most riders would be "a nightmare."

The mayor downplayed the impact of a possible strike.

"We benefit from the fact it's July, and I think the amount of travel is reduced in July," he said. "We benefit from the fact that a lot of people now, because of technology, can work from home."

Those comments appeared tone-deaf to some critics, who noted that the workers who can't afford to take vacations or whose jobs don't allow for telecommuting are the working- and middle-class people de Blasio pledged to support during his victorious mayoral campaign last year.

"It's perhaps among one of the most irresponsible choices a leader could make," said Laurence Blank, a family court lawyer who commutes on the LIRR. "God help him if there are deaths on the highway because they're too backed up from the strike or if an emergency can't be addressed."

De Blasio, his wife and their two teenage children are planning to visit his ancestral homeland, journeying to the towns his grandparents called home, meeting local officials and taking their first family vacation in years.

But even before the LIRR labor talks broke down, the trip, funded in part by taxpayers, raised eyebrows. De Blasio has been in office only since January, and his vacation is scheduled to last longer than those of recent mayors.

His predecessor, independent Michael Bloomberg, never took a full week off, though he did frequently use his personal plane to escape for long weekends in Bermuda or London. Republican Rudy Giuliani also rarely took time off and said in a radio interview Tuesday that, "The mayor has got to be present when an emergency takes place."

But some political observers said they believe the criticism is unwarranted.

"He's entitled to time off, and being away is not that big of a deal," said Joseph Mercurio, an unaffiliated political consultant. "Modern technology lets him stay in touch. Bad media coverage would be unfair."

De Blasio's team stressed that the heads of the city's emergency response units will be in town and the mayor could still postpone or cut his trip short, if needed.

Being away during a crisis, particularly one that was anticipated, has been problematic for other elected officials. New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie took criticism for being at Disney World when a monster 2010 blizzard bore down on his state. Bloomberg was in Bermuda for that storm, and his city's preparations fell woefully short.

While some observers say de Blasio would provide a psychological boost by being in the city, others note there's never a good time for the mayor of New York to take a vacation.

"Even so-called quiet days on the calendar of a mayor can burst into crisis at a moment's notice," said former mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, who added de Blasio "may be wishing that he had access to Mayor Bloomberg's fleet of aircraft in a few days."

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kabube July 16 2014 at 1:39 PM

Typical democrat!

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
liondog96 kabube July 17 2014 at 2:10 AM

Don't tell anyone that 90% of the US prison population are registered democratics. That's our secret.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
kjmooney17 July 16 2014 at 2:03 PM

The people of NYC elected this fool. Having spent most of my life on Long Island, I can only hope that he doesn't accomplish what David Dinkins, the 9/11 terrorists and Hurricane Sandy failed to do, destroy NYC.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
gstev75035 July 16 2014 at 2:11 PM

Taking a page out of the Obama book....when all else fails, go on vacation.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
edennism26 July 16 2014 at 3:15 PM

That this insipid, goofy looking--and acting--fool was elected to be the mayor of NYC speaks volumes about the people who elected him into office.

Every deadbeat, liberal, bleeding heart must have fallen for his bullshit rhetoric and his dysfunctional family and have bought into the fact that he will destroy the greatest city in the world.

There will no longer be a middle class in the city, only the poor and very rich--the former of which will multiply in droves, given all of the freebies which will be available for the taking due to his lunatic mentality.

He should have been elected the city's dogcatcher instead of its mayor.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
jacks_sam July 16 2014 at 2:14 PM

NY has gone as loopy as California. They deserve it for voting for it.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Loneagle July 16 2014 at 2:49 PM

Typical Demo...
Promise to take care of the "little people" to get elected and SCREW them first chance you get after the election!

He must be taking cues fro no-bama!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
j.pr3 July 16 2014 at 3:25 PM

WOW! This guy must be an Obama trainee - guess he will be running for President next and the stupid people will most likely vote for him! He is just what the leadership of NYC and then our country needs!! NOT!!!!!!!!!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
freddiebiker July 16 2014 at 5:36 PM

I wouldn't mind de Blasio going to Italy as long as he did not come back.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
BAHBI July 16 2014 at 1:54 PM

the first strike in 1965 was a shock but now it's a ploy to raise the price all the time. How much is too much and when is it going to stop? All the drama when they know they are going to raise it. They do this as if they did you a favor when they know all along they are raising it. Where is all this money going?????

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Mary July 16 2014 at 4:08 PM

Taught by Obama fun first,country @ bottom of list...How sad we american's have taken soooo much abuse from demoRATS!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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