Schools Chief Plays Peacemaker

When a fight broke out between two reporters in the rotunda of City Hall on Friday, nobody seemed quite sure what to do. Enter Dennis M. Walcott, schools chancellor, peacemaker and former kindergarten teacher.

Mr. Walcott had just finished speaking with a group of reporters about Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s budget when Rafael Martínez Alequin, a blogger, and Dave B. Evans, a political reporter for WABC-TV, began yelling at each other.

The scene was tense to begin with: a dozen or so reporters, along with several cameras, were huddled elbow-to-elbow in a busy corridor of City Hall. Mr. Evans was frustrated because Mr. Martínez Alequin was blocking his camera. The two began jostling, and Mr. Martínez Alequin, growing more incensed, shouted an expletive.

Then Mr. Walcott intervened. He placed himself in between the two reporters and urged them to calm down. He guided Mr. Evans past a security desk and spoke with him privately.

It is not the first time Mr. Walcott has been called upon to resolve a dispute. He is known in City Hall for his diplomatic skills, whether in calming down furious parents or settling feuds with the teachers’ union.

Mr. Walcott has said his cool personality has always been a part of his identity. In an interview last month, he recalled playing on an all-black football team in an all-white league in the 1970s. When an opponent sucker-punched in the jaw, he looked the other way, hoping to avoid a racial conflict.

In an interview, Mr. Martínez Alequin, 78, who has covered city politics for 25 years, said he regretted the incident. “It’s a sad thing that this happened,” he said. Mr. Evans declined to comment.

Barbara Morgan, a spokesman for Mr. Walcott, declined to discuss what Mr. Walcott said to Mr. Evans in private. But, she added, “His instinctual response was to step in in order to help facilitate a calmer tone and conversation.”

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