NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) - Republican mayoral nominee Joe Lhota warned a group of prominent New York City business leaders Tuesday that crime could surge if his Democratic opponent Bill de Blasio is elected mayor.
Though the city's overall crime rates have plunged dramatically during outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 12 years in office, Lhota suggested a recent spike in high-profile crimes could foreshadow what would happen if de Blasio is elected.
He denounced the shooting death of a 1-year-old Brooklyn boy last month, a stabbing spree in a Manhattan park, and the violence that erupted last week during a confrontation between a SUV driver and a group of motorcyclists.
Lhota Slams Opponent, Warns Of Regressive Policies If De Blasio Is Elected
Video shows about two dozen riders slowing down and swarming the SUV after it bumped a biker. As some approached the vehicle, it sped away, knocking over and injuring a biker. The bikers later caught up to the SUV and assaulted the driver. Several of the motorcyclists have been arrested.
"An entire nation, if not the entire world,'' Lhota, a former deputy mayor to Rudolph Giuliani, told the Association for a Better New York, "was stunned as a man who was just trying to celebrate his wedding anniversary was brutally beaten by a biker gang - a wilding, by bikers - in front of his family, on the West Side Highway.''
Lhota's use of the highly charged word "wilding'' evoked an infamous 1989 case in which a jogger was raped in Central Park. Five teenagers were convicted in the assault, which was dubbed a wilding in the media. The convictions were overturned, but the sense of lawlessness that surrounded the city during the time of the rape helped propel Giuliani's election four years later.
Lhota sharply condemned de Blasio's plans to reform stop-and-frisk, a tactic that allows police to stop people deemed suspicious, and his criticisms of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
"Candidates for mayor should not use Ray Kelly as a punching bag and subject him to character assassination, nor should they do that to the brave men and women who keep us safe every day. Instead, all of us - both candidates, all people in the city of New York - need to say thank you for the great work they've done and how they've made this city so much safer," Lhota said.
The Republican hopeful said the judge's ruling on stop-and-frisk would serve to handcuff the police, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported.
As WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported, Lhota's speech focused on his plans for job creation and education, but he couldn't resist a few jabs, mocking his opponent's mantra of change.
"The next leader of our city must bring the right kind of change. That doesn't mean change from independent leadership to be a mayor beholden to special interest, that doesn't mean change that tears down any of the improvements that might have happened and that doesn't mean change that reverses the policies that have made us the safest large city in America," Lhota said.
The pro-business Association for a Better New York is generally friendly territory for Republicans, and Lhota was warmly cheered at the speech's end. However, the turnout was half the size what heard de Blasio last week.
De Blasio, who was given a standing ovation was coldly received by the group a year ago for proposing a tax cut on the wealthy to fund his universal pre-kindergarten program. The change in reception could perhaps be attributed to de Blasio's standing in the polls, which have him up nearly 50 points on Lhota ahead of the Nov. 5 general election.
Unlike de Blasio, who barely mentioned Lhota in his speech, the Republican repeatedly assailed his rival's positions on charter schools, tax increases, and the liberal Democrat's claim last week that he was a "progressive activist fiscal conservative.''
"My name is Joe Lhota, and I am a fiscal conservative,'' is how the former head of the city's transit agency opened his speech. Lhota even mocked the Massachusetts-raised de Blasio's allegiance to the Boston Red Sox, saying that he himself has "always supported the New York Yankees.''
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