Republican Mayoral Candidate Fernando Mateo Says Public Safety is Key to NYC’s Recovery
By Lynda Lopez, WCBS Newsradio 880
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — In one month, New York City residents will head to the polls to vote in the mayoral primaries.
It’s likely that the winner of the Democratic primary will be the next mayor of New York City, but there are two Republican candidates vying for the job: Fernando Mateo and Curtis Sliwa.
For this week’s 880 Weekly Rewind, anchor Lynda Lopez spoke with Mateo, a 63-year-old Dominican Republic-born entrepreneur and activist for taxi drivers and bodega workers.
As crime rates rise in New York and the city mounts a recovery from the pandemic that has devastated the local economy, disproportionately hurting those in Black and Latino communities, Lopez asked Mateo what his priority would be to get the city back on track.
“Well the first thing we need to do is make our city safe,” Mateo said. “Public safety is the most important thing because no one can afford to live in a city that’s not safe. Businesses will not thrive, people will not go out, people will be afraid to commute to and out of the city, we will not have tourism.”
He said his first order of business would be “refunding the police” followed by “reforming bail reform.”
“And then making sure we get our law enforcement agency to work very closely to engage our communities, to engage the people in the communities, to become part of New York City’s people,” Mateo said. “Let’s not forget, cops are human beings like we are. They just wear a uniform and they go out to work to serve and protect, but they’re just like you and I. They’re parents, they’re brothers, they’re sisters, they have mothers, they’ve got fathers, they are part of what the fabric of New York City is all about. So it’s about getting them more to engage.”
Mateo said the NYPD hasn’t had leadership in seven and a half years.
“They haven’t had a mayor that backed them, they haven’t had a police commissioner that backed them, they’ve had no support in seven and a half years. So we’ve destroyed the fabric of public safety in New York City and we’ve gotta bring it back and I am the person to do that,” Mateo said. “I was able to work with the NYPD through many situations, cabbies getting killed — two and three a week, bodega owners being killed and robbed — five, 10 a day, and we were able to create programs that united both industries and brought them together to make our city a better city, a safer city and the Democratic administration has destroyed that in seven and a half years.”
For weeks, the MTA has publicly criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio for stalling their request for more police officers in the subway to combat a rash of violent attacks on riders.
The mayor on Monday announced he would be adding 250 uniformed officers underground, on top of the 3,000 already deployed throughout the system.
Some of the Democratic candidates are saying police have not been deployed effectively in the subways.
Lopez asked Mateo how police should be used to tackle this problem in the transit system.
“Read my words, because I’ve been saying this for three and a half months since I declared my candidacy — I will have two police officers in every train station platform throughout New York City. I will make sure that every subway platform becomes a safe haven for anyone that’s seeking refuge, help, or running away from a crime or a criminal. I Will make sure that there are zero victims in the train stations. 24/7, seven days a week, you will see two men or women in blue protecting anyone that enters those subway stations. We need police resources, we need to make sure that people are safe and how dumb can you be to defund the only agency that keeps New Yorkers safe.”
On the Democratic side, former New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia is gaining momentum, rising in the polls and receiving a wave of recent endorsements, namely the editorial boards of the New York Times and the Daily News, as well as the Four Freedoms Democratic Club.
Lopez asked her if she credits those media endorsements for her rise in the polls.
“Our strategy has always been that we wanted to be peaking in May when the electorate really is paying attention. The endorsements have been fabulous, we are super thrilled to have gotten both the New York Times and the Daily News because the city really needs someone who knows how to get things done and can deliver on the vision,” Garcia said.
Turning to the current situation with the crime in the subways, Lopez asked Garcia what needs to be done to address the violence, other than injecting more police into the system.
“Well, first and foremost, we need to listen when the MTA says we’ve got a problem because that’s the city’s job. We’re in charge of making sure the subways are safe. It’s also true that we need to embedding mental health professionals with police so that they can address people who may be a danger to themselves or others,” Garcia said. “It is real, we have seen an increase in subway crime, and it has to be stopped because the subways are our arteries, they’re our life blood. we need to be on them so that we can get to work and get to school.”
Last month, the NYPD’s transit chief accused the MTA of “fearmongering” and said police statistics show crime is down 53% in the system, year-to-date.
Listen to The 880 Weekly Rewind with Lynda Lopez for in-depth reporting and deeper analysis of the top stories of the week, produced by Neil A. Carousso for WCBS-AM New York.