De Blasio traveling overseas earlier than previous mayors

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De Blasio. (Diana Robinson for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio)
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Bill de Blasio's upcoming vacation to Italy is one of the earliest overseas trips for a new city mayor and among the longest personal trips by a mayor in recent memory, several former City Hall senior aides told Capital in interviews on Friday.

The first family's trip, which begins the evening of July 18 and ends with a return flight the afternoon of July 27, is being described by the mayor's staff as a family getaway to embrace the mayor's Italian heritage, sprinkled with visits with local government officials.

De Blasio, who took office in January, will travel with his wife, Chirlane McCray, and their two children, Dante, 16, and Chiara, 19. They plan to visit Rome, Naples, Capri, Venice and two towns where his grandparents lived before emigrating to the United States.

Overseas trips by sitting mayors are not unusual.

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Former mayor Ed Koch took several during his 12 years in office, many of which were directly related to his job running the city, said Diane Coffey, his former chief of staff.

“His personal life was his professional life, and his professional life was his personal life,” Coffey said.

But, she said, Koch's purely pleasure getaways never spanned more than a weekend and were usually spent on Long Island. In 1978, his first year in office, Koch did not leave New York City for more than a few days at a time, Coffey said.

Unlike de Blasio, Koch was not married and had no children.

Coffey ticked off from memory a list of overseas trips Koch took, including a 14-day excursion in 1980 to China and Japan to visit New York City's "sister city" Tokyo and establish a similar relationship with Beijing. It was, she believed, the longest trip of his three terms.

Koch, who was Jewish, also visited Israel in 1985. Two years later, he traveled for nine days to Poland and Hungary—a trip that included a visit to Auschwitz and another Nazi death camp, Coffey said.

Koch also headed a delegation of New Yorkers who traveled to Nicaragua to monitor a regional peace accord.

According to an article in the the Pittsburgh Press, Koch met with the president of El Salvador during that trip and spent four days in Nicaragua “to absorb, monitor and to help further the peace accords.”

Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor from 1994 to 2002, rarely took time off, said Joe Lhota, one of his former deputy mayors.

"I don't ever remember a family [vacation]. Rudy would go to the Hamptons on weekends, stuff like that," Lhota said. "I don't have any recollection of Rudy taking a vacation in the eight years [he was mayor]."

Giuliani did take several fund-raising trips during his run for U.S. Senate in 1999 and 2000 but, Lhota said, those were only for several days at a time.

"Rudy never went anywhere while mayor. In fact, I once wrote a column recommending that he travel more, especially abroad," Clyde Haberman, a former New York Times columnist and reporter, told Capital via email. "This was when he was at his height of UN-bashing and other jingoistic tirades. Learning a bit about others would broaden him, I wrote."

De Blasio’s immediate predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, did a substantial amount of traveling while in office. However, Bloomberg had a standing policy of refusing to disclose any of his personal trips, which de Blasio has done.

Bloomberg generally left New York City only on weekends, unless the trips were directly related to his government job, such as attending an environmental summit in Brazil and delivering speeches on urban sustainability in Singapore and Vietnam on behalf his philanthropic foundation.

His frequent but brief trips did turn into a public relations debacle in 2010, when he refused to disclose where he had been the day before a massive snowstorm buried New York City. It turned out he was in Bermuda and returned on his private jet the day the blizzard began, but was away during the crucial planning the day before.

Former mayor David Dinkins went on a one-week vacation to Puerto Rico in 1993, a few months before the end of his only term. A report from the New York Times said that upon his return, the mayor would “begin to confront important questions about his future, ranging from where he and Mrs. Dinkins will live to what the mayor will do when he leaves office in January."

Dinkins was in Japan, at a trade mission, during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

A press release issued by de Blasio's office Friday afternoon said the mayor would "convene daily check-in calls with senior cabinet officials while he's in Italy. In the case of an emergency, the mayor will cut short his trip to return to New York City to attend to city business."

The City Charter says that if the mayor is away from the city for more than nine consecutive days, the public advocate assumes responsibility. De Blasio's trip will last nine days. In announcing the trip, de Blasio's office said Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris would be in charge while the mayor is away. Public Advocate Tish James said on Friday she would help “if he (Shorris) needs me.”