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Eye On Politics: Lhota Wants To Continue Legacies Of Giuliani, Bloomberg

Mayoral Hopeful Said City Is Getting Better And Better Every Day
New York City Republican Mayoral Candidate Joseph Lhota (file / credit: Joe Lhota for Mayor)

New York City Republican Mayoral Candidate Joseph Lhota (file / credit: Joe Lhota for Mayor)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - New York City Republican mayoral hopeful Joseph Lhota said that everything great that has happened over the past 20 years is quite fragile and he said this election is going to have consequences.

Lhota spoke with WCBS 880′s Steve Scott in the Eye on Politics segment on Thursday and as part of a continuing series of interviews with those vying for the city’s top office.

Lhota cited as among those great things a “reduction in crime” and an “enhanced quality of life.”

He said “we need to elect someone who is going to continue all of the great things that have happened in New York under Mayor Giuliani and Mayor Bloomberg.”

Lhota served as First Deputy Mayor under Giuliani.

In town meetings being held by CBS New York across the five boroughs, education has been a big topic, with parents, especially in the outer boroughs, saying that the public schools aren’t giving their kids a quality education.

How would Lhota improve the city schools?

“I’m going to improve the city schools when I’m mayor by focusing on our teachers and making sure that we have the best possible teachers,” Lhota told Scott. “You know, I actually think teaching is more than just a job. It’s more than just a profession. It’s a calling. Young people coming out of school who want to help train young minds and educate them. That’s a special position and I want to help them become great teachers. If they have the calling, I’m going to spend the money necessary to make our teachers great. Great teachers are exactly what we need at all of our public schools to make sure that our kids are being properly taught.”

Many parents have said they need to either spend $40,000 a year for private school, move to a neighborhood like Chelsea, or leave the city altogether to get their kids a good education.

“Unfortunately, that might be true for some and I’m sorry that it is,” Lhota said. “I’ve called today for state legislation to double the number of charter public schools that we have. These charter public schools are teaching our kids… new approaches and new ways and I have been to many of them and they are as good if not better than private schools.”

Lhota also spoke about the cost of housing.

“One of the things we need to do is we need to figure out how to build more affordable housing in New York. Quite honestly, I think the middle class is being pummeled by the increase in cost, the increasing taxes that we have to pay, which are having an effect on rents or if you own a single-family home, our assessed values are going up when the market value of our homes are going down. The fees, the fines, the water bills alone…. This year, it went up six percent. For the last 10 years, it’s gone up 10 percent. It’s more than doubled. Yeah, the government of the city of New York’s gotta put itself on a financial diet. It’s got to reduce it’s growth rate because it’s being done directly on the backs of middle class New Yorkers,” Lhota said.

Scott asked if New York City is no longer a place for the “middle class” to live.

“New York City will always be a great place for the middle class to live. While I’m mayor I will do everything I possibly can to enhance the quality of life in this city and by that I just don’t mean the reduction in crime. I mean lower taxes, lower fees, lower fines, cleaner parks, better schools,” Lhota said.

Lhota said he would keep the controversial stop-and-frisk policy of the NYPD, but was very particular about how he referred to it.

“It’s stop, question, and frisk. That’s what the law says. That’s what the Supreme Court calls it. Headline writers call it stop-and-frisk. It’s stop, question, and frisk,” he said. “It ought to be kept.”

Lhota said he wouldn’t be opposed to keeping Ray Kelly on as police commissioner, but wouldn’t commit to it.

“I have steadfastly said I’m kinda superstitious. I don’t talk about who I would select for commissioners,” he said. “Ray, however, has been a friend of mine for quite a long time. I work very closely with him. The NYPD patrols and keeps our subways safe. I think the world of Ray. I will have a discussion with him when and if, not when and if, when I get elected.”

As for the NYPD itself, Lhota said it needs neither an inspector general or a federal monitor, and struck back at the Justice Department.

“The idea that the Justice Department is calling for a federal monitor of the NYPD, this is the same Justice Department that’s allowing other parts of the federal government to infringe on the First Amendment rights of reporters and reporters’ families,” Lhota said. “They need a monitor.”

As for an inspector general, he said it made no sense and cited the five district attorneys, the two U.S. Attorneys, the state Attorney General, U.S. Attorney General, and Civilian Complaint Review Board “all of which have oversight and all of which can audit and can bring charges against the NYPD.”

He said it would be a “waste of time” and a “waste of money.”

Lhota was conditionally supportive of bike lanes, saying some “are good” and some bike lanes “are not so good.”

He said putting a bike lane on Columbus Avenue in a commercial area was a bad idea, suggesting putting it over on West End Avenue, in a residential area, would have been better.

He said there will be more people riding bikes in New York and the city has to find a way to accommodate them along with the pedestrians and cars.

“I think we need to have a DOT… that thinks about making sure they’re doing what’s in the right interest of the community,” he said.

Lhota was also asked about his having referred to the Port Authority Police as “mall cops.” He was asked what made him make the comment, though his answer didn’t seem to quite explain it.

“I was being interviewed during a debate by the president of the New York City chapter of the National Association of Women wherein she said the following ‘John F. Kennedy Airport is the center of human trafficking in the United States. What will you do to enhance the security at the JFK Airport?’ They were talking about human trafficking, women that are being brought to this country and being used in quite illicit ways. That’s what I was thinking about when I made that very unfortunate comment,” Lhota said.

Thirty-seven members of the Port Authority Police died on 9/11 and some have said his comment was disrespectful of those deaths.

“The people who want to make a connection to my comment to 9/11, I think they’re grasping at straws. I lost friends. I lost some very very close friends. I was trapped in the World Trade Center… I had cancer – Hodgkin’s Disease – directly linked to the amount of time that I spent both in search and rescue and the cleanup of the World Trade Center,” Lhota said. “I feel for the families and some of my friends. I still think about them every single day. My comment had nothing to do whatsoever about the brave men and women who lost their lives on 9/11 and anybody who wants to politicize 9/11 is making a very big mistake in my book.”

Finally, Scott asked Lhota what kind of guy he is.

“I’m actually a pretty friendly guy. I need to smile a little more often, but quite honestly, I have lots of friends. My friends like to be with me. I love to tell a good story. I like to go out with my friends and have dinner, maybe even a drink every now and then,” Lhota said. “But most importantly, I love New York City. I love its diversity. I love its neighborhoods. I love all of its people. And I grew up in New York, been a New Yorker my entire life. The city is getting better and better every single day.”

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