Lhota Attacks de Blasio for Role in Crown Heights Riots

Joe Lhota in Dyker Heights today.
Joe Lhota at a Brooklyn senior center today.

Republican Joe Lhota claimed today that a young Bill de Blasio mishandled the Crown Heights riots more than 20 years ago, withholding crucial information from a top deputy to then-Mayor David Dinkins.

Mr. Lhota didn’t say what information his front-running rival allegedly failed to disclose, but insisted Mr. de Blasio’s experience during the Crown Heights demonstrated that he is ill-prepared to govern the city.

“Dealing with that riot that happened in Crown Heights was an unmitigated failure because information wasn’t given to the people at the top,” Mr. Lhota charged outside a campaign event in Brooklyn today. “Bill de Blasio was given information by people in the community. They’ve all testified to the fact. It stayed there. It stayed there with Bill de Blasio.”

Mr. Lhota was referring to a Daily News story that detailed Mr. de Blasio’s role in handling the racially-charged riots. Mr. de Blasio, then a relatively low-level staffer working under Deputy Mayor Bill Lynch, told the paper that he had been stationed in City Hall as the city struggled to ease escalating violence between the African-American and Orthodox Jewish communities of Central Brooklyn, and only had a minor role, taking constituent calls.

A report commissioned in the riot’s aftermath criticized Mr. Lynch for not quickly deploying more police in response to events on the ground, but did not specifically cite Mr. de Blasio.

None of this deterred Mr. Lhota–whose former boss, Rudy Giuliani, defeated Mr. Dinkins’s re-election bid partially because of the riots’s political fallout–from tearing into his Democratic rival.

“It’s so emblematic of Bill de Blasio’s complete and total experience to be the mayor,” Mr. Lhota argued. “He doesn’t understand what you need to do … as a mayor. He worked as a mayoral staffer, he didn’t provide information up to his boss. That’s just purely understanding the chain of command.”

Mr. de Blasio’s campaign declined to respond to Mr. Lhota’s comments, but this morning, the candidate stressed the limits of his involvement.

“I was in City Hall working on the staff. I did receive calls from concerned community leaders around the city and that’s all … I was not on the site. I came away with very strong views, but I did not participate directly,” he said, adding: “There should have been a very, very strong show of force from the very beginning.”

With reporting by Jill Colvin

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