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July 16, 2014 AT 6:15 AM
Despite the potentially damaging political optics, New York City's Mayor Bill De Blasio appears set on embarking Friday on a 10-day Italian vacation in the face of a looming Long Island Rail Road strike, which if it happens Sunday could paralyze portions of the nation's largest city. Even before the Long Island Rail Road labor talks broke down, the trip, funded in part by taxpayers, raised eyebrows. De Blasio said Monday that he was optimistic a deal would be brokered amid a feud over pay and contributions to pension and health care plans and that the MTA's contingency plans were "very strong" even as the MTA's top spokesman said the commute for most riders would be "a nightmare." The mayor had said he would return from his trip if a crisis arose.