New York Mayor Bill de Blasio remained at a Brooklyn gym to finish his workout while cops were in the midst of a standoff with a suspect who had shot a firefighter on Staten Island Friday morning, his press office acknowledged.
Deblasio’s press secretary, Karen Hinton, said the mayor arrived at the Park Slope YMCA at 9 a.m. and remained there for nearly an hour and a half while dozens of police officers engaged in a six-hour standoff with a wanted high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang that began at 6 a.m.
Garland Tyree, 38, barricaded himself inside his girlfriend's Staten Island home armed with an AK-47 after shooting FDNY Lt. James S. Hayes. Tyree had earlier lit a commercial-grade smoke bomb inside the residence, prompting firefighters to respond. When Hayes went into the home to investigate, he was shot in left calf and buttocks, officials said.
Meanwhile, de Blasio was at the gym in the Brooklyn neighborhood where his family still owns and rents out the home they lived in before moving into Gracie Mansion in Manhattan.
When NBC 4 New York asked the mayor about his trip trip to the gym during a news conference about the standoff, de Blasio said, "We're briefing you on a very serious situation, and that's just not a serious question."
Hinton later said the mayor was on calls with FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton throughout the morning starting at 7 a.m., and continued receiving updates until he left for Staten Island.
"This includes leaving the gym to make and take a series of calls from approximately 10:40 to 11:15, when he departed for Staten Island," Hinton said in an e-mailed statement. "The mayor has met with the wounded firefighter and his fellow firefighters at the hospital, and will soon update the media on both the situation on the ground in Staten Island and the wounded firefighter’s condition.”
Rev. Michael Faulkner, senior pastor at New Horizon Church of New York in Harlem and a frequent critic of the mayor, pounced on the situation, saying in a statement it showed disrespect to the wounded firefighter and that his actions showed "a serious lack of judgment and common sense during a crisis when we are counting on him for direction and leadership."
"We need a mayor who is accountable and understands that his top priority is serving the people who elected him to office," Hinton said. "We need a mayor who is more concerned with running this city rather than maintaining the size of his waistline."
The union representing FDNY firefighters declined to comment. The president of the only police union that commented, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said "I am once again saddened for all New Yorkers as to the lack of leadership from City Hall."
De Blasio has received flak in the past for his tardiness to events like the St. Patrick's Day March in the Rockaways,and the ceremony last November for the victims killed in American Airlines Flight 587.
Tyree was to be arrested early Friday morning at his girlfriend's apartment in a two-family Staten Island home by four U.S. Marshals and four New York City detectives for violating parole. But he refused to open the door, officials said, and then ignited a commercial-grade smoke bomb, prompting the officers to call the FDNY.
When FDNY Lt. James S. Hayes arrived at the scene, he spoke with Tyree through the door and entered the apartment before he was shot in the left calf and buttocks, officials said. Hayes, a 31-year veteran of the department, is in stable condition at a hospital and is the first city firefighter to be shot responding to a scene since 1994.
A member of the task force fired once at the home as he dragged Hayes to safety, officials said.
An emergency response team was then called and the house was surrounded as hostage negotiators got to work, getting his sister and girlfriend on the phone — and even flying Tyree's mother in a police helicopter from Delaware to Staten Island, authorities said. Three times before the deadly confrontation, Tyree fired his weapon and officers didn't return fire, Bratton said.
When he did emerge, wearing a bulletproof vest, his shots struck police cars and a neighbor's house, officials said. He was shot and killed in return.