Faith leaders who organized a large nonpartisan forum for the city’s mayoral candidates were left fuming Thursday night when the biggest names pulled out at eleventh-hour– including Mayor de Blasio who cited a scheduling conflict and Republican real estate mogul Paul Massey who complained the questions were too tough.
Also not showing up at the Harlem forum hosted by Faith in New York, a coalition of religious groups, was state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island), who had planned to come but said she got delayed in Albany having to cast legislative votes.
The lone invitees were showed were three little-known challengers to de Blasio in Democratic primary: former Brooklyn Councilman Sal Albanese, police-reform activist Robert Gangi and tech entrepreneur Michael Tolkin.
“When politicians only want show up when they have agenda, it is morally wrong, and it is sinful,” Onleilove Alston, executive director of Faith in New York, told more than 500 people who packed First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem.
Organizers expressed disappointment with de Blasio, saying he knew about the forum for six weeks before recently backing out. However, they were particularly perturbed with Massey, who they said dropped out hours earlier only after seeing a list of revised candidate questions that were made tougher on topics of policing practices and religious freedom for local Muslims.
“It is our right as New Yorkers and faith leaders to ask our candidates about the policies that matter to us, those we serve and our families,” Alston said.
A Massey spokesperson said Massey was initially “excited” about attending but had a change of heart after a new moderator was brought in at the “last minute, and a [new] set of questions sent over … indicated a different focus than what we agreed with.”
Both Malliotakis and de Blasio said through spokespersons that they plan to meet privately with Faith in New York leaders.