NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio has angered some victims’ relatives and local residents, after he arrived late to a ceremony in the Rockaways Wednesday memorializing the 260 people who died on American Airlines Flight 587 13 years ago.
CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported Wednesday that the empty podium where de Blasio was supposed to be standing said everything about a pattern of tardiness for which the mayor has been criticized.
De Blasio arrived about 20 minutes late for the ceremony. A moment of silence for the victims of the crash was held at 9:16 a.m. – the time the plane crashed in Belle Harbor, Queens. Mayor de Blasio did not arrive until 9:23 a.m.
Thus, the mayor missed the ringing of a bell to begin the rite, which infuriated the families who lost loved ones.
“The fact that someone else was ringing the bell, and someone else was giving the opening remarks instead of the mayor, was very, very uncomfortable,” said Mark Healey, a reporter for the Rockaway newspaper The Wave. “It was very upsetting. People were distracted by that.”
Local residents were also angry.
“He should have been on time. It’s a very important thing for a lot of people,” said Matthew Greer. “There’s a lot of people that don’t have very much respect for the mayor right now.”
“It’s unbelievable; it shouldn’t be like that,” another man said.
“He’s not such a good mayor after all,” said a third man, Howard Pike. “I won’t vote for him again.”
The mayor’s response was twofold. City Hall aides said he traveled to the site by police boat and the boat was delayed by heavy fog.
“The fog was unexpected and did slow us down quite a bit,” de Blasio said. “The fog caught us off guard.”
But Kramer pointed out that weather reports on Tuesday and early on Wednesday warned of heavy fog. But then, the mayor offered another weather-related explanation of sorts – he was under the weather himself.
“I was just not feeling well this morning. I had a very rough night and woke up sluggish, and I should have gotten myself together,” the mayor said. “I woke up in the middle of the night couldn’t get back to sleep and felt really sluggish and off-kilter this morning.”
De Blasio apologized to those at the ceremony as he spoke to Kramer.
“I apologized to them out there – yes, I’ll apologize again, absolutely. Again, I say it’s all my responsibility,” he said.
Family members of the victims of the plane crash were also upset that the Mayor’s office did not supply other items for the event, such as enough chairs for them to sit on, and flowers to put on the memorial.
But a representative of a victims’ family group said de Blasio’s office has supported them for months as they organized this year’s event.
“Mayor de Blasio’s office has supported us for months to organize our annual remembrance event,” Belkis Lora, president of the Committee in Memory of Flight 587, said in a statement. “The size or the look of the event is not as important for us as to have the opportunity to come here every year, get together as families affected by this unfathomable tragedy and remember the lives of those we lost that day. We hope to continue to work with the Mayor’s team for many more years.”
Flight 587 crashed shortly after takeoff on Nov. 12, 2001. It was headed to the Dominican Republic. All the passengers and five people on the ground were killed.
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