NYPD Decides Whether Motorcade Speeds, de Blasio Says

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a press conference announcing his traffic safety plan in New York on Feb. 18, 2014. Photographer: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose SUV was caught on video speeding and ignoring stop signs two days after he demanded that drivers obey traffic laws, said the New York Police Department was responsible for the vehicle’s operation.

“The NYPD provides security protocol for the drivers; talk to them about that,” de Blasio, who took office last month, told reporters outside his Brooklyn home this morning. He said he would answer questions about the incident at a news conference this afternoon.

WCBS-TV in New York broadcast video yesterday showing the mayor’s two-vehicle caravan speeding through an icy residential area of the city’s Queens borough and running past two stop signs while en route to City Hall after a news conference about filling potholes. Two days earlier, de Blasio personally vowed to abide by a 63-point program that included reducing speed limits and enforcing laws to eliminate traffic deaths.

William Bratton, de Blasio’s appointed police commissioner, said the mayor didn’t flout the law, and that he wouldn’t review the police detail’s judgment.

Disobeying motor-vehicle regulations is “not a privilege” of the office, Bratton told reporters today after emerging from a City Hall meeting with de Blasio. “He’s the mayor of the city of New York and his security is paramount.”

De Blasio met with reporters at City Hall this evening to deliver a statement endorsing Bratton’s comments. He declined to take questions.

‘Traffic Safety’

“I have great respect for NYPD’s security training and protocol; I’m committed obviously to traffic safety and safe streets in NYC,” de Blasio said. “I’m very comfortable with what Commissioner Bratton said.”

De Blasio, 52, is New York’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years. He won election in November by the largest margin for a non-incumbent in city history after decrying income inequality, pledging an open administration and promising that his actions as mayor would conform to his words.

The WCBS camera crew reported that the mayor’s motorcade was traveling 40 miles per hour where the speed limit was 30 mph, and later exceeded the limit in a 45 mph zone. The vehicles also changed lanes without using directional signals, according to the video.

“We’ve put a very bold plan before you and we want the public to know we’re holding ourselves to this standard -- and we intend to achieve these goals,” he said at a Feb. 18 press conference announcing his traffic-safety plan.

Law Breakers

The plan would reduce the citywide speed limit by 5 mph to 25 mph to cut down on accidents that kill more than 250 people and seriously injure 4,000 each year in the most populous U.S. city.

De Blasio also proposed increasing speed and red-light monitoring cameras, harsher penalties for traffic-law breakers and adding highway-unit police to catch violators. Parts of the plan would need approval from lawmakers in Albany, the state capital.

Earlier this month, de Blasio drew criticism for calling the NYPD about the arrest of a political ally, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, who was stopped for a traffic violation and arrested on an outstanding warrant stemming from his actions during a pro-immigration demonstration last year.

The bishop was later released on a desk appearance ticket instead of spending a night in jail. De Blasio said he acted appropriately and Bratton backed him up, saying the mayor may call anyone he wants.

Corzine Crash

De Blasio isn’t the first local elected leader to raise issues of safety in the operation of official vehicles. In 1998, The Daily News reported that it observed former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s car exceeding the speed limit by more than 20 mph on Staten Island. Giuliani denied breaking the law.

In 2007, former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine’s SUV crashed into a guardrail while traveling at 91 mph on the Garden State Parkway, with a state trooper at the wheel. Corzine, in the front passenger seat, was critically injured and hospitalized for 18 days. He later apologized, paid a $46 fine for failing to obey the state’s seat belt law, and made a public service announcement about the importance of buckling up.