Mayor Bill de Blasio is discovering how hard it can be to take a vacation when you are in charge of running City Hall. NY1's Grace Rauh is following the mayor as he vacations in Italy and filed the following report from Rome.
ROME - Campo de Fiori is a bustling neighborhood in Rome where Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family were supposed to be spending the first night of a nine-day vacation.
But Romans will have to wait another day to catch a glimpse of the towering mayor who traces his family roots to this country.
The mayor postponed his trip after a Staten Island man, Eric Garner, died in police custody on Thursday. Video of the incident appears to show an officer putting him in a chokehold.
"As we've said throughout, the city's business comes first, and the mayor has always said he's prepared to make alterations to his schedule if circumstances require it," said Phil Walzak, the mayor's press secretary.
The mayor's press secretary is one of three City Hall aides already on the ground in Rome for a trip that is being billed as a vacation with some official events sprinkled throughout.
"So obviously, this is a family vacation first, and the mayor has been very clear about that, that they want to spend some quality time together," Walzak said.
Walzak and the mayor's other aides are paying for part of the trip themselves, but taxpayers are picking up most of the bill, which comes to nearly $13,000. Aides have declined to discuss the cost of the mayor's security team. The mayor is paying his own way and covering his family's expenses.
Even before Eric Garner's death, de Blasio faced criticism for planning such a long trip abroad while the city was preparing for a possible Long Island Rail Road strike.
Stefania Di Lellis, the foreign editor of la Repubblica, a major newspaper in Rome, said Italians are amused by the controversy.
''For us, it's quite a strange thing to discuss about this subject, because for us, nine days' vacation is not such a long time," Di Lellis said.
The mayor won't have much down time here after he lands on Sunday. He is scheduled to meet with the mayor of Rome in the evening. The following day, he's expected to to see Italy's foreign minister and the former minister of integration before leaving for Capri.