And then there was one.
Mayoral hopeful John Liu was the only candidate on stage by the end of a well-attended forum on community safety in upper Manhattan Thursday, after Bill de Blasio left early and eight other contenders didn’t attend.
Around 300 people turned out for the early evening event in Morningside Heights, according to organizers Communities United for Police Reform.
They had hoped to hear invited candidates such as City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former MTA chairman Joseph Lhota and Adolfo Carrion address issues like the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy. Instead, attendees were left staring at empty chairs on a platform inside Riverside Church.
“[It’s] a Democratic run-off, it looks like it, right? You’re the only two candidates,” joked moderator and NY1 Noticias political reporter Juan Manuel Benitez at the outset.
“At least we’re here!” Mr. Liu later said to cheers from the audience following a question on how he and Mr. de Blasio would prove they were different from the other candidates.
He added: “I’m sorry, I don’t know why the others aren’t here because we all have a lot of commitments; I’ve got a lot of events right after this. But this is a forum that strikes at the heart of the most important issues in our community—safety.”
The no-shows were particularly galling to dozens of attendees who had been transported to the venue on hired school buses from Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
“I think it is kind of rude. From all of them, only two showed up,” said Althea York, 76 years old, who had traveled from the south Bronx. “I wanted to evaluate what each one had to say.”
Others were more understanding. “Their schedules are very busy,” said La Guardia College student Jaritza Geigel, 22, of Bushwick, Brooklyn. “It was great the two candidates came.”
Mr. de Blasio participated for 45 minutes of the hour-long debate, which was also sponsored by the Amsterdam News, then apologized for leaving to attend another forum in the Bronx. The remaining candidates offered various reasons for their non-attendance.
Democrat Sal Albanese got stuck in traffic, according to event organizers, while former comptroller William Thompson and Mr. Carrion blamed scheduling conflicts. “We try to get to as many as possible,” said Thomas J. Basile, Mr. Carrion’s spokesman, adding the candidate had done roughly 20 forums so far and had another dozen lined up. “Unfortunately yesterday’s schedule did not permit our participation.”
Robert H. Ryan, a representative for Republican contender John Catsimatidis, said the candidate was being honored at a Brooklyn party dinner “way out by Marine Park,” adding, “and obviously that’s where the GOP votes are.”
Meanwhile, Republican hopeful George McDonald campaign blamed the lack of primary rivals there. “As a general rule, given the fact we are in a primary, we only do forums with other GOP candidates,” said spokesperson David M. Catalfamo. “There will be plenty of opportunities post primary for the party nominees to square off.”
The campaigns for Ms. Quinn, Mr. Lhota, and Erick Salgado—a lesser-known invited candidate vying for the Democratic nomination—did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
As for the last man sitting, Mr. Liu was relaxed with the stage to himself. After an organizer repeatedly held up a time card indicating his permitted speaking time had elapsed, he joked to a chorus of laughter: “I don’t know why they keep telling me my time is up… who else is going to be speaking?”
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