Mayor Bill de Blasio’s two-month-old presidential campaign is taking a toll on New Yorkers — already costing taxpayers at least $100,000 in travel expenses for NYPD bodyguards, an analysis by THE CITY found.
The mayor is often accompanied by his wife, Chirlane McCray, and both have security details that follow them everywhere — from Jim Clyburn’s World Famous Fish Fry in South Carolina to Iowa towns with populations smaller than a crowded subway train during rush hour.
Sources tell THE CITY that between the two security details, at least 10 cops — including two supervisors — routinely fly with the couple, stay at the same hotels and drive the rental cars that ferry de Blasio and McCray from event to event.
While de Blasio’s campaign pays the travel expenses of the mayor, his wife and his campaign staff, taxpayers foot the bill for the couple’s security entourages. That includes every airline ticket and hotel room, along with meals, rental cars and gasoline.
This past weekend, McCray traveled with her NYPD guards to South Carolina, while de Blasio went with his to Iowa. He ended up leaving Saturday night for a morning flight home from Chicago after learning of the blackout that crippled much of Manhattan’s west side.
THE CITY calculated that taxpayers have so far coughed up at least $100,810 for 18 nights in hotels, 28 flights, and 29 days of meals for the cops on the road with the mayor and his wife.
And that’s a conservative estimate based on airfare, hotel and per diem meal rates set by the federal government for official travel, and followed by the NYPD. Those rates are often far below what an airline ticket or a hotel room costs in the cities de Blasio and McCray have visited since he declared his long-shot candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president.
And it doesn’t include the regular salaried work time of the on-duty detectives and supervisors accompanying the mayor — or any overtime that might be racked up.
NYPD Silent on Security
The NYPD confirmed that de Blasio and McCray each get their own details, but declined to answer most of THE CITY’s questions about the scope and cost of the ongoing expenses.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Phil Walzak released a written response asserting that revealing the number of assigned cops, the amount of overtime paid, or even the total cost of airfare, hotels and rental cars would risk disclosing the full extent of the couple’s security details, making them vulnerable.
“We have as a matter of long-standing policy going back several administrations declined to answer questions about specific numbers of personnel or data that could be used to extrapolate the same,” Walzak’s statement said.
But Detectives’ Endowment Association head Michael Palladino — whose members make up the bulk of the mayor’s detail — made clear in an interview with THE CITY that the cost of providing this kind of 24/7 blanket coverage on the road is substantial.
“A politician’s security detail is complicated and costly,” Palladino said.
NYPD Stays Close By
Traditionally, each out-of-town mayor trip includes about 10 NYPD staff: four detectives in the car (a driver, a main bodyguard and two other detectives), two detectives in a backup car, and one or two advance detectives, according to a former detective assigned to the mayor’s security detail during Michael Bloomberg’s tenure.
The detail also generally includes one or two supervisors.
The former detective said that at least two members of the team are on overtime, due to scheduling issues: “That’s a given.”
Before each trip, one or two detectives travels a day early to scope out every location the mayor and his campaign is set to visit, eyeing exits and possible hazards, and trying to touch base with local law enforcement.
Once in town, the entire team always tries to stay close to the mayor. They all sleep in the same hotel, and one detective is typically asked to guard the mayor’s room overnight. That detective also is responsible for waking the mayor in case of an emergency back in New York.
During the day, the team typically drives in two rented SUVs. The advance team checks each spot the day of the event to look for possible protestors and to map out the mayor’s arrival and departure.
To date, this taxpayer-subsidized platoon of cops has shadowed the mayor and his wife at a wide variety of events — from “house party” sessions with local voters to Democratic Party meetings to de Blasio’s appearance in Miami at the Democratic National Committee’s first debate.
Last-minute planning could further burden taxpayers because flights, rental cars and hotel rooms booked on short notice often cost substantially more.
On Friday, for instance, de Blasio suddenly added Wisconsin to his campaign trip. Expedia listed the cost of a one-way New York City to Milwaukee ticket at $243 that day, exceeding the $171 federal fare limit.
The NYPD can waive the cap under certain circumstances, including emergencies. Police officials declined to answer THE CITY’s questions about whether they’ve ever exceeded the travel-cost limits for de Blasio’s campaign jaunts.
At times, the trips find de Blasio, his wife and their security teams jetting from city to city within one campaign swing.
A Busy Holiday Weekend
The mayor and his wife flew to Iowa on Independence Day to celebrate the holiday in Cedar Rapids, where he marched in a parade with other presidential aspirants.
The cost of the flight, under federal guidelines, would be $227 to $241 per cop, one way, depending on whether they flew through Des Moines or straight to Cedar Rapids.
That evening, the entourage then jumped on a plane to Houston, where de Blasio was to attend a meeting of the National Education Association. The cost of that flight per cop would be $394, per the federal guidelines. They stayed in a Houston hotel, where the guidelines allow for a payment of $120 per night.
The next afternoon de Blasio gave a speech, in which he railed against charter schools. The group then flew to New Orleans, where de Blasio spoke at a music festival held by Essence magazine that included appearances by several other presidential candidates.
He and his wife missed the evening performance by Missy Elliott, according to a campaign spokesperson.
De Blasio, McCray and their security entourages all stayed in New Orleans that night, where the feds allow for a $118 a night room. Hotels in New Orleans charge typically higher rates than that.
The next day, the entire crew jetted off to Columbia, South Carolina, a state that will hold one of the crucial early primaries and where the mayor was to attend a house party with local Democrats.
The group spent the night there. The Columbia hotel rate allowed by the feds is $109 per night, while the airfare between there and New Orleans is capped at $240.
On the final day of the trip, the mayor spoke at local churches and participated in a town hall meeting with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, according to de Blasio’s campaign spokesperson. Then de Blasio, his wife and the NYPD entourage got on yet another plane to fly home.
Total cost per cop for that one trip: at least $1,910. For 10 cops: $19,100.
Sign up for “THE CITY Scoop,” our daily newsletter where we send you stories like this first thing in the morning.
Want to republish this story? See our republication guidelines.