Public safety has been a major issue in this year’s campaign for mayor of New York, and for weeks the candidates have talked at length about whether they would replace the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, whether they would continue to allow the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk practice, and whether the department should be monitored by an inspector general. But on Friday, during a forum on technology, the candidates got a question that posed a new test of their views on police practices: Should the department be allowed to use unmanned drones?
Only Adolfo Carrión Jr., a former Bronx borough president running for mayor on the Independence Party line, refused to rule out using drones for surveillance. “I think the responsible answer is you use the tools that are available to you,” he said.
For Democrats, the idea was a nonstarter. “I don’t want drones peeking in people’s homes,” said William C. Thompson Jr., a former comptroller making his second bid for mayor.
John C. Liu, the current comptroller, compared drones to the cyborgs in “RoboCop.” Although he said that the movie was one of his favorites, he opposed having RoboCops – or drones – in New York City. And Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn said that, although she supported increased use of mobile cameras, “I don’t think drones are a safe security measure in New York City.”
The drone question highlighted an unusual candidates’ forum in which the moderator, Ben Smith, the editor of the Web site Buzzfeed, managed to catch the candidates off guard on a few occasions.
Mr. Smith noted that the venture capitalist Fred Wilson had complained about city laws that, at times, make Airbnb, a Web site that allows people to rent rooms or apartments cheaply by the night, technically illegal in New York. (An Airbnb spokeswoman said later that the legal question involved the rental of entire apartments, not rooms.) Mr. Smith asked the candidates if they thought that Airbnb should be allowed to operate in the city. He posed the question first to Mr. Liu, who seemed unfamiliar with the debate.
“Should who—?” he asked quizzically.
Bill de Blasio, the public advocate, and Ms. Quinn then jumped in, both agreeing that Airbnb was potentially troublesome. Mr. de Blasio suggested that it exposed building residents to unwelcome comings-and-goings. Ms. Quinn said the conversion of buildings to rental units for tourists diminished the supply of affordable housing for full-time residents.
Other surprising areas of agreement emerged at the forum, which took place during a conference on technology organized by the Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, at New York Law School. Mr. Stringer, a Democrat, is a candidate for comptroller.
After Mr. Liu said that as mayor he would lift the ban on students bringing cellphones to school, the other candidates onstage all quickly said that they would, too, prompting Mr. Smith to quip that “the under-18 vote” was now fully spoken for.
The candidates also all espoused interest in expanding Internet access to city residents and public school students. Mr. de Blasio, in particular, knocked Verizon several times for slowness in expanding its fiber optic service around the city, saying that the service was still unavailable in many low-income neighborhoods.
However, the moment most likely to be remembered from the forum was when Mr. de Blasio, picking up on a reference by Mr. Carrión to the city’s competition with Silicon Valley for tech companies, decided to try out his Arnold Schwarzenegger impression on the crowd.
“If Arnold Schwarzenegger were here, he would say, ‘Noh-thern Califoh-nia, your domination of the tech industry is being teh-minated,’” Mr. de Blasio said, to laughs from the crowd and some groans from the others onstage.