Mayor Bill de Blasio faced more questions Friday about why his official vehicles were videotaped breaking traffic laws, and why he was seen crossing a street against the light, only two days after he rolled out a sweeping traffic safety plan.
De Blasio deferred to the New York Police Department when met by reporters Friday morning on his way to the gym. The mayor’s cars are typically driven by members of his security detail, made up of NYPD detectives.
“The NYPD provides security protocol for the drivers. Talk to them about that,” he said.
After his weekly meeting with the mayor on Friday, Police Commissioner William Bratton downplayed the video, saying that the drivers have special training to make decisions based on security needs and won’t face questioning.
“I’m not overly concerned by what I saw,” Bratton said.
Asked if the mayor can tell his drivers to slow down, the commissioner responded, “He could raise it, but the security concerns would override any of his concerns.”
De Blasio cited Bratton’s comments later Friday, saying, “Commissioner Bratton addressed the topic of my security detail earlier today. I am very comfortable with what Commissioner Bratton said and I refer you to his comments.”
Despite having said earlier that he would address the apparent speeding, De Blasio refused to answer reporters’ shouted questions about the matter.
De Blasio was in the front passenger seat of the lead SUV of a two-vehicle caravan that was captured on video speeding, running through a pair of stop signs and not signaling when changing lanes.
The footage, which aired on WCBS, shows de Blasio’s vehicles starting their journey in a quiet residential stretch of Maspeth, where the mayor had just held a news conference discussing his plans to combat potholes.
The two bulky, black vehicles did not stop at two stop signs in the neighborhood. Later, the CBS camera — which was in a car that followed the mayor’s motorcade — showed de Blasio going 40 mph in an area where the speed limit was 30 mph, and then nearly 60 mph in a 45 mph zone. The total number of violations witnessed by the news crew — at 13, two more than the 11 limit — would yield a suspended license.
It was not clear from the footage if de Blasio was aware of the traffic infractions. Also, even at the accelerated speed, the SUV was not driving faster than other vehicles on the road.
Security protocols suggest that de Blasio sit in the backseat because the SUV’s side windows, unlike the front windshield, are comprised of bulletproof-glass. But de Blasio, who is 6-foot-6, frequently sits in the front, where he has more room to stretch out.
Just two days earlier, de Blasio released his “Vision Zero” traffic safety plan which aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities. The plan proposed reducing the citywide speed limit to 25 mph, detailing more cops to enforce speeding violations and toughening penalties for speeding drivers.
“We hope that every time someone reads one of your stories, they’re also asking themselves the question, are they handling their vehicle as responsibly as they could?” the mayor told reporters at the Tuesday press conference.
Brian Zumhagen, communications manager for the transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, said in a statement that “no driver is above traffic law.”
“We look forward to other city officials leading by example as well,” said Zumhagen, who suggested that it could be a teaching moment for all drivers.
Asked about the contradiction Friday, de Blasio said, “We’re very serious about ‘Vision Zero.’ We’re going to keep moving forward with it.”