NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday night played down the impact of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s point of view on city and police policy.
“This is not what one leader or another leader says,” de Blasio said.
As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, the mayor made a late-night stop at the Ingersoll Community Center in Brooklyn, after days of silence following fiery comments by the Rev. Al Sharpton on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Sharpton lashed out at critics who questioned his right to tell de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton how to police the city in the wake of Eric Garner’s death in police custody on Staten Island.
“We won the election,” Sharpton said on Wednesday. “We came out as a coalition against stop and frisk. We came out against some profiling. It determined the results of the mayor’s election.”
When CBS 2 asked Mayor de Blasio to react to Sharpton’s strong statement, he played down the impact of the outspoken leader’s voice.
“This is not about personalities. This is not about rhetoric. This is about a fundamental change we have to make, and the election was about that change,” de Blasio said. “My mandate is to bring police and community together.”
Sharpton has made many waves in the city over the past few weeks, leading the protests against the chokehold death of Garner at the hands of police in the Tompkinsville section of Staten Island.
Sharpton has announced plans to lead thousands across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Aug. 23. But he still has no permit, and city leaders have urged him to make alternate plans.
“There are very real logistical challenges vis-à-vis the bridge, and I think the reverend has acknowledged that,” de Blasio said. “So I think we’ll wait and see how next few days play out, but we have good chance of coming to a solution that works fairly.”
The Medical Examiner’s office ruled the Staten Island father of six’s death a homicide, citing the chokehold as a contributing factor.
Compromise Coming On Planned Bridge March?
Earlier Friday, representatives of Sharpton’s National Action Network met with the NYPD Inspector General and others Friday to discuss the Verrazano Bridge march.
Comments by Kirsten John Foy of Sharpton’s group after the meeting indicated that a compromise may be in the works in which the group might have protesters take buses over the bridge so the entire span would not have to be shut down.
“Staten Island is an island. The way to get on the island is to go over the bridge,” Foy said. “We are going to go over the bridge one way or another, on foot or on heels or on wheels.”
Foy said the issue has never been whether the bridge will be shut down.
‘We will be taking thousands of people to Staten Island. The issue has never been the bridge,” he said. “Reverend Sharpton has said from the beginning – the issue is about justice for Eric Garner, and if that means we’ve got to ride Staten Island, we’ll ride. If we’ve got to fly, we’ll fly.”
Bratton said earlier Friday that Sharpton would be asked to get a permit for a march.
“We would not make a request… in other words, if somebody wants to march on the Verrazano Bridge, they would first have to apply for a permit with the police department and the city,” NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton told Kramer Friday.
Buck passing, as Kramer put it, has been the order of the week as de Blasio — through Bratton, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo — through the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority, bicker over whose job it is to give Sharpton a permit to hold a protest march across the bridge.
“They [MTA] own the bridge,” Bratton said. “The initial authority would have to come from them.”
But the MTA said it’s not their job either.
“The MTA closes the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to traffic only twice a year, when New York City requests to use the bridge for special events,” the agency said in a statement. “If New York City requests that the MTA closes the bridge to accommodate this event, the MTA will be cooperative.”
Bratton said he will not comply with the MTA’s request that the city ask it to close the Verrazano.
“There are very significant safety issues involved,” Bratton told Kramer. “It’s an expansion bridge to accommodate pedestrians like we do during the marathon or the bicycle race. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to put down special ramps over those expansions. Who’s going to pay for that? The city should not be obligated to pay for that.”
What the city and de Blasio doesn’t want to pay for is the angry political fallout from Staten Islanders about the traffic chaos caused by closing the only connector to Brooklyn, Kramer reported.
A number of Staten Island officials oppose the closing, citing traffic woes and lack of access by emergency vehicles, WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported.
City Council Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio (R-51st) is just one of a chorus of elected official and Staten Island residents demanding that the march be moved to a safer, more appropriate location.
“This is about shutting down the artery to my borough, which would cause chaos, traffic chaos,” Ignizio said. “You just cannot close the bridge on a Saturday. The administration, particularly Mayor de Blasio, should intervene here.”
Staten Island residents also sounded off over the march.
“The mayor should stop it,” said Staten Island resident Al Felline. “And if he don’t stop it, he’s not getting my vote. In four years he ain’t getting my vote.”
“Who’s running this city? Is Al Sharpton running this city?” Well, if Al Sharpton’s running this city, I’m ready to move,” Staten Island resident Bill D’Ambrosio told Kramer.
Len Hickey, another S.I. resident told Kramer “I would think the mayor should stop him but this mayor is not going to stop him.” When asked why, Hickey said “He don’t have the chops to do it. He’s not Giuliani.”
Dolan To Host Meeting Of Religious Leaders
Meanwhile, Timothy Cardinal Dolan has answered the city’s call for help, and will be hosting a meeting later this month of influential religious leaders, including Sharpton, to discuss Garner’s death, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
As CBS 2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the mayor asked Dolan to convene religious leaders from all five boroughs and every faith to meet and try to heal the deepening rift between police and the community.
“It was incredibly gratifying to me to have Cardinal Dolan to agree to join in these efforts today, which I think is going to be very, very helpful to gather faith leaders,” de Blasio said Friday night. “This has to be a turning point moment.”
“I am grateful for Mayor de Blasio’s invitation to host a group of religious leaders from throughout New York City, who will come together to try to be a source of continued healing and reconciliation between our police force and the community it serves,” Dolan said. “I very much look forward to serving alongside Pastors, Rabbis and Imams, as well as the Mayor, Police Commissioner Bratton, and the NYPD.”
Details of when and where the meeting would be held were not immediately available.