October 18, 2016

America Rising Formally Requests Records Into de Blasio’s Helicopter Controversy

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who claims helicopter rides are “not my thing,” finds himself embroiled in a growing controversy involving a controversial helicopter ride. When pictures of de Blasio’s helicopter were captured on Friday, they immediately went viral. Major news outlets, including the New York Post, The New York Daily News, Politico, and the Wall Street Journal, raced to cover the story.

Today, America Rising is filing a Freedom Of Information Law (FOIL) request seeking de Blasio’s work calendar on Friday and communications in his office related to the helicopter’s use.

Given that de Blasio has used the City helicopter for non-official business recently, government watchdogs have called on the Mayor’s campaign to reimburse City taxpayers. Yet, the Mayor’s office refuses to disclose why exactly de Blasio felt it justified to use a helicopter on Friday:

“Besides saying Mr. de Blasio had a ‘series of meetings,’ City Hall officials would not describe the mayor’s preflight activities in Brooklyn, where he regularly travels to go to the gym and also goes for meetings at favorite restaurants in his old neighborhood.”

Pressed repeatedly, de Blasio’s top spokesman refused to explain if a “personal errand” necessitated the use of a helicopter for the Mayor’s travel:

“’We don’t detail internal or personal meetings,’ Mr. Phillips said, raising the possibility that Mr. de Blasio had been engaged in a personal errand that delayed him enough to necessitate air travel over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. ‘He had a series of meetings in Brooklyn.’ Pressed as to whether the meetings were personal or city business, Mr. Phillips repeated himself: ‘I’m saying he had a series of meetings in Brooklyn, and I’m declining to make public the details of nonpublic meetings.’”

According to the New York Post, de Blasio has been using time on Fridays for political activities:

“But a source with knowledge of de Blasio’s daily routine said he’s been spending Fridays holding meetings and making fund-raising phone calls related to his re-election campaign at the Bar Toto restaurant and Colson Patisserie coffee shop near his old 11th Street home in Park Slope.”

Other city officials have gone even further, saying that no details would be released except by a Freedom of Information Law request:

“In each case, Mr. Phillips said, the decision to go by helicopter was made by the mayor’s police detail. He described the flights as ‘infrequent,’ and directed questions about the total number of trips to the Police Department, whose officials declined to provide the data, saying it would have to be requested under the state Freedom of Information Law.”

The constant and consistent stonewalling by New York City officials is a disservice to good government. City officials have laid down the challenge of FOILing for exactly why de Blasio used a helicopter and America Rising is picking that challenge up. The voters of New York City deserve to know if their mayor is using a city helicopter for personal and political use.

October 18, 2016

VIA EMAIL:  foil@cityhall.nyc.gov

Records Access Officer

The Office of the Mayor

City Hall

New York, NY 10007

Dear Records Access Officer:

On October 17, 2016, multiple news outlets reported that Mayor de Blasio used a city-owned helicopter on October 14, 2016, to travel to Queens from Brooklyn, where he had been attending meetings that City Hall officials refused to describe.   See, e.g., J. David Goodman & William Neuman, Helicopter Trip Becomes Another Stumble for Mayor de Blasio, N.Y. Times, Oct. 17, 2016, http://nyti.ms/2e2Qo8H; Jennifer Fermino & Rocco Parascandolo, Mayor de Blasio beats rush-hour traffic by using helicopter from Brooklyn to Queens, Daily News, Oct. 17, 2016, http://nydn.us/2enIiSE.

In light of this news, America Rising hereby requests access to the following records under New York’s Freedom of Information Law:

  1. All communications sent to and by Eric F. Phillips, the mayor’s press secretary, which mention or refer to the Mayor’s helicopter ride from Brooklyn to Queens on October 14, 2016. The time period of the requested communications is October 14, 2016, through October 17, 2016; and
  1. A copy of the Mayor’s work calendar for October 14, 2016.

America Rising agrees to pay applicable fees up to $25.00.  If fees will exceed $25.00, please provide a fee estimate before processing the request further.  In order to ease the burden of production, America Rising is willing to accept the responsive records in electronic format and/or double-sided copies.