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De Blasio Discusses Airbnb, Occupy, Pope Francis & Pizza in Reddit AMA

BY Miranda Neubauer | Tuesday, October 8 2013

de Blasio/Twitter

In his first Reddit AMA, leading New York City Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio responded to policy questions on Airbnb, the Occupy movement, the tech community and to personal questions about his religious views, favorite books and his son's famous hair.

His shortest answer came in response to the question of whether he would participate in more AMAs as mayor: "you betcha." He added later that "my nephew Ben and his wife Natalie told me glowingly how important Reddit is to them and how much news and insight they get from it. So it's really cool to finally experience it, and I appreciate everyone's passion and concern on these issues."

The other week, long-shot independent candidate, tech entrepreneur Jack Hidary, had held the first Reddit AMA of the campaign. But de Blasio's attracted far more interest, with over 200 comments, compared with the around 30 questions for Hidary, on everything from affordable housing and education to taxi street hails.

De Blasio gave a careful answer with regard to the question about the legality of Airbnb rentals.

"While I wholly agree that 'slumlords' and 'bad actors' who are abusing the airBNB system by holding property solely to re-let on short term rentals should be stopped, do you think that normal hard working New Yorkers should be able to rent out their apartmetns [sic] when they go away on vacation, or otherwise? " the user had asked.

"First of all, define the word 'normal' in terms of New Yorkers. :)," he began. "While I appreciate the potential of the sharing economy, and I do think there's some historical precedent, the challenges posed by AirBnB today are real, in terms of safety, public tax revenue, etc. I'm just beginning to learn about the extent of these challenges, and I plan on meeting with the various stakeholders, but I really want to emphasize that the safety issue is very different when you're talking about a million visitors a year versus the much smaller reality that used to exist of people renting out their apartments individually."

Another user asked him how he would have responded to the Occupy movement differently than Mayor Bloomberg. "First of all, Occupy was and is an important movement focused on the inequalities we must address in our society. I spent time at the protests and came to appreciate what an impact it made," he wrote. "I think the Mayor could have worked with members of Occupy to find an appropriate alternate location even when it was clear that Zuccoti Park couldn't continue to be a livable space for the protesters and the community. I also think that media access in situations like this must be constant and unquestioned, and i think it was a mistake by this administration to exclude the media when the protesters were removed."

De Blasio expressed optimism about his relationship with the technology community in response to a question about how he would gain its support given that many entrepreneurs had backed his Democratic rival Christine Quinn. "I've met with a number of folks in the community over the last few weeks and think we've found a lot of common ground. I think the City can do a lot more to facilitate the tech sector, starting with making sure we get fully wired for high-speed internet citywide as quickly as possible," he replied. "So I can feel already that there's going to be a good and close working relationship between my administration and tech community if the people choose me."

He also responded to some users who had more specific concerns, such as a question about the transit connection to Staten Island and a question about support for low-cost film productions. "I think the Office of Film and TV can help make life easier for smaller productions too -- cutting red tape and making it easier for folks involved to work with the neighborhood they're filming in," de Blasio wrote. "So if I'm elected, I would certainly make sure the office is consistently responsive to independent productions."

He called his opponent, Republican Joe Lhota, "a smart and affable guy," and said he appreciated his "wry sense of humor."

Asked what sparked his interest in politics, de Blasio recalled being "riveted by my television for the entire Watergate summer. And at the age of 12, watched the greatest morality play in the history of American politics unfold," and named Franklin Roosevelt and Fiorello La Guardia "as examples of effective progressives who were in touch with the people they serve." He said his favorite book growing up had been the Autobiography of Malcolm X, and more recently Nothing to Fear by Adam Cohen about the New Deal.

"Although my mother was raised a Catholic, she did not bring me up in the Church," he wrote in response to a question about his religious views. "I considered myself a spiritual person but unaffiliated, and I was definitely very influenced by the liberation theology movement in Latin America. And BOY am I a fan of Pope Francis!"

He also answered some more light-hearted questions. He said the best pizza in New York City is at Di Fara Pizzeria in Midwood, Brooklyn, adding that "they use buffalo milk mozzarella, which is beloved in my grandfather's provence in Italy." He wrote that his soon Dante works "VERY conscientiously" on his hair. "He does not leave the house in the morning without carefully using his pick to strike a perfect geometric balance."

De Blasio also said he likely would not bike to work, acknowledging that he had not used his bike very much in recent years.

After the conclusion of the Q&A, his staff invited supporters to join Redditors for de Blasio. As techPresident previously reported, his campaign has been at the forefront of using social media and online advertising.