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De Blasio Participates in Internet Chat as Biggest Challenge May Lie Ahead

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The mayor kicked off his second 100 days with an interactive video web chat, and while he marked some of his accomplishments to date in a speech Thursday, his biggest challenge may lie straight ahead. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent his Fridays fielding mostly friendly questions from radio host John Gambling.

This Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio joined an online Google hangout. It had a similarly friendly audience, including one member of the mayor's transition team.

De Blasio did talk plenty of policy, including how to connect more New Yorkers to tech jobs.

"We're going to do a lot more in our schools to prepare our young people for tech jobs," de Blasio said. "We're going to do a lot more with CUNY."

He also talked about his plan to ban horse-drawn carriages.

"We expect action on it this year," the mayor said.

In addition, he expressed enthusiasm for the idea of a hip-hop museum in the Bronx.

"I'm very pumped up by that notion," he said.

There was no mention, though, of one major road bump ahead. Just about everyone seems to agree that the big challenge now facing the administration moving forward is labor negotiations.

Some 150 municipal unions are currently without a contract, and they're seeking not only pay raises moving forward, but also retroactive raises dating back years, which could blow an enormous hole in the city budget.

Richie Steier is editor of the civil-service newspaper The Chief-Leader.

"You're talking about billions of dollars if you just look in terms of the teacher contract," Steier said. "It's been estimated that at this point, the back pay would amount to about $3.4 billion."

De Blasio said cost savings must be found, but also emphasized that there's respect and dialogue with the unions.

"That's opening the door to finding some creative way forward, so I'm hopeful," he said Thursday night. "It's going to take a while, but I'm hopeful."

The city's chief fiscal officer has warned that contracts should be settled by the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

"It's very important that when we analyze the fiscal health of the city and I do my due diligence, I would like to see those labor contracts happen sooner rather than later, and I think we have a chance or a path to do that," said City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

It's at the top of the to-do list for the next 100 days.

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