Dante de Blasio was first introduced to most New Yorkers when he appeared in a campaign ad for his father’s 2013 mayoral campaign, at age 15.
Now he’s moved behind the camera, bringing along a friend from Yale to shoot short video spots highlighting some of Bill de Blasio’s accomplishments as the two-term mayor gets ready to leave office and potentially launch a run for governor.
The first video focused on the “Open Streets” section of 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens, and was shared on the mayor’s official social media channels without mention of Dante’s involvement.
A person close to the production told THE CITY Dante actively worked on the spot.
“A registered volunteer [Dante] promoted a beloved city program alongside a qualified freelancer — they created a great video,” Danielle Filson, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said in an email in response to questions about the circumstances of the younger de Blasio’s working for City Hall.
Filson said the freelancer was hired and paid through a temp agency used by the city for freelance projects, which she described as standard practice. The administration has worked with 20 video and photography freelancers over the years, she said, but declined to say how much he was being paid.
The freelance filmmaker happens to be James Nydam, who attended fellow Yale University at the same time as Dante de Blasio and has worked on at least two personal film projects with the mayor’s son. Their most recent production shot in August, according to Dante de Blasio’s social media accounts.
Five Films for NYC
The accounts featured photos of Nydam and de Blasio at work on “The Ostracism of Tyler Hart” this summer while they were “on vacation in West Virginia.”
Nydam also directed “Clean Man Makes Tyler Make a Mess” which co-starred de Blasio and won a student film award in 2019 at their Ivy League alma mater.
Filson would not comment directly on Nydam’s relationship with the mayor’s son. Nydam did not respond to multiple requests seeking comment. His website says he is based in Wellesley, Mass., but travels around the Northeast for projects.
The duo has worked on a total of five films for the city, including four still in production, Filson said. The videos were already scheduled before their involvement, she added.
A spokesperson for the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board said while city ethics laws “prohibit public servants from using their positions to benefit themselves and people with whom they as associated, the definition of ‘associated’ is limited to a defined group of close family members and people with whom the public servant has business or financial ties; it does not extend to friends or acquaintances.”
That means, while it wouldn’t be above board for the mayor to give his friend a job, or his son a job, he can take on his son as a volunteer. The Mayor’s Office implied that it is merely a coincidence that Dante de Blasio and Nydam have a previous relationship.
There are six members of the mayor’s creative communication’s team, which includes photographers and videographers. Filson said it’s not uncommon for the mayor’s communications team to work with freelancers on various video projects.
Last year, THE CITY reported that a videographer was added to First Lady Chirlane McCray’s staff — which she doubled during the pandemic.
The film work comes as Dante de Blasio has moved more into the public eye since graduating from Yale two years ago — as his dad eyes his next job after leaving office at the end of the year.
He worked on his father’s failed presidential campaign as a paid policy analyst, and more recently spent time working as a volunteer on some of the city’s COVID-19 initiatives, including vaccine outreach.
He’s also mentioned in a recent Department of Investigation report about the mayor’s alleged misuse of his police detail. The NYPD had transported Dante de Blasio back and forth to Yale, the report found, and the detail was described as a “concierge service” for the mayor’s kids.
The mayor has defended this use of NYPD officers, saying his children — his daughter, Chiara, and Dante — are designated protectees who are allowed security. The mayor also blasted the report as inaccurate.
He’s also moving toward a potential gubernatorial run, and last week began to finalize paperwork to create a candidate committee with the state Board of Elections, according to POLITICO.
Asked last week about a potential run as Attorney General Letitia James was about to announce her own gubernatorial campaign, de Blasio said his “decisions are based on my desire to serve the people of this city, this state in every way I can.
“I’m going to be moving on my own timeline in my own way,” he said. “It has nothing to do with what anyone else decides to do.”