January 22, 2019
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you so much, Shealyn – and, how many years since you had insurance?
Shealyn Brand: 10.
Mayor: 10 years without health insurance. Shealyn, really, thank you so much for telling your story and for reminding all New Yorkers that under this new plan it is easy to sign up for health care coverage. Shealyn is living proof of it, and it's so important. And Shealyn, your story is going to reach a lot of people and they make a difference. Let's give her a round of applause. Let’s thank her.
Every New Yorker [inaudible] who does not have health insurance should follow Shealyn’s example and reach out to GetCoveredNYC, because it's going to make a difference in your life and your family's life. I want to take a moment – first of all, I just think the world of the folks who work for GetCoveredNYC. They make such a difference in people's lives. They have these very sporty polo shirts, too. Let's thank everyone at GetCoveredNYC for all the good work they do.
And then I want to say, it is a joy to be in a very special borough, the most populous borough, the borough of the birth of my children –
And to be with all the folks who do such extraordinary work – all the doctors, nurses, the medical staff, all of the staff at King's County. You guys are lifesavers and difference-makers. Everyone, give your neighbor a round of applause. Thank you for all you do.
Now I want to take a survey of the room and see what you think, because here's the reality that has pervaded for years and years and years in this city, in this country where people have to ration their health care. The decision is, do I pay the rent? Do I get health care? Do I get food? Do I get healthcare? Do I get education? Do I get health care? That kind of rationing has happened for a long, long time. Do we think in the United States of America people should have to ration their health care?
Mayor: We think that's right?
Mayor: Let me ask you this – here's a reality that has been common for a long, long time, probably for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers – the place to go for health care is the emergency room. When they have a problem, they don't have a primary care doctor. They don't have the relationships they need to get the help they need, just like Shealyn talked about.
Do we think the emergency room should be people's primary care doctor?
Mayor: Is that just playing crazy?
Mayor: See, I’ve proven that they could do yes and no.
And we also know that is too common that people's lives are up ended by a medical bill they can't pay. Literally, their lives paralyzed because they can't handle the cost of health care. Should we ever allow people's lives to be up ended because they can't pay a medical bill?
Mayor: Say it louder.
Mayor: There you go, now I believe you. We say, right here, health care is a right. Health care is a right. It has been treated as a privilege for generations. It never was meant to be a privilege, it was meant to be a right. Here in New York City, we are making it a right for everyone. Everyone gets health care here.
I want to thank so many members of my administration who have worked very hard in this initiative, and the work has just begun, as we're about to describe, because we're going to get the entire City government, all of the agencies that serve the people in New York City to be a part of this effort toward universal health care. We're going to get every single element of our government involved. And I want to thank some of the key people who will be leading the charge. You're going to hear from our Deputy Mayor in a moment, but I want to thank some of the other key leaders who are here – of course, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, our Health Commissioner. Thank you, Dr. Barbot.
Our Social Services Commissioner Steve Banks; the Administrator of the Human Resources Administration Grace Bonilla; the Small Business Services Commissioner Greg Bishop; Commissioner for the Office of Immigrant Affairs Bitta Mostofi; and the Acting Director of the Public Engagement Unit Eric Rotundi.
And, Eric, a special thank you to you and everyone. The outreach has been absolutely amazing and it's changing lives. Thank you so much.
Well, here's what we all know. We are the biggest city in the richest nation on earth and yet there are 600,000 people who do not have health care coverage – 600,000. I want to remind everyone that is the size of the entire population of Milwaukee or Baltimore. That's a whole city-worth of people who don't have health care and they don't know where to turn. They live in fear of something going wrong. And we know one thing for sure, they do not get the health care they need when they need it. That's that emergency room trap again. If they get health care, it's when it's already too late. That leads to emergency room visits and that leads to hospitalizations that could have been avoided in the first place – everyone loses then. Certainly, the patient loses when they didn't have primary care, when they didn't have specialists when they needed them, so they end up in the emergency room or they end up in the hospital when it could have been solved on the front-end. That's bad by any measure.
I'll tell you something else, the taxpayer loses too when all that money is spent when it's too late rather than a lot less being spent when it could make a bigger difference. We only can break through that problem by getting everyone covered. And I want to emphasize to everyone, this is a different mindset. I talked about this previously. You know, once we said to people that pre-K was for everyone, families knew they could depend on it and they made their choices, they decided how they're were going to approach things with that knowledge that it was universal. It help people organize their lives and it answered a lot of questions. You knew you weren't going to have to wonder. You knew you weren't going to get your child rejected from pre-K. A lot of parents for years and years and years tried to get their children to pre-K, there was no slot that worked for them, they got rejected, they have to come up with something else, they did something less good. Well, that's what 600,000 New Yorkers would be doing when it comes to health care. They couldn't find an insurance that worked for them or they weren't eligible, so they did something less good and they waited, and they got sick, and then they got sicker, and then they went to the emergency room.
When every single New Yorker knows that health care is there for them, they will act differently. They will get help when they need help. They won't put it off. What Shealyn talked about is a great example. When you know it's there for you, you go to the doctor when you need it and that will make us a healthier city. You know, every single person you stand next to in the subway, everyone you work with, you want them to be healthy for their sake and yours. Here's a way to actually achieve that goal and it's in our reach. So, I hasten to add, because I want it to be crystal clear – if you said to me, is the ideal to have Medicare for All at the federal level? Of course. If that could happen tomorrow, that would be a game-changer. Or, single-payer in Albany? Of course. I want to see those things happen. I believe we'll get to that day, but until that day comes, we have to take care of our own people and we have to show cities and states around the country that it can be done right here on the ground. We have to push the spectrum. We have to show people that the notion of universal health care is living and alive and doable right here in the nation's biggest city. That's what we're going to do.
Now, let's be really clear how we're going to proceed. Every single New Yorker who does not have coverage, we'll get coverage under this plan. If you are like Shealyn and you are eligible, we are going to reach out to you, we are going to make it easier than ever to sign up. We're going to provide you with better care through MetroPlus than you've ever seen before. It is going to be 24-7 help available for you.
When you have a problem, you will get to call a phone number, talk to a trained person who will tell you immediately where you can get the help you need right away. If you need primary care, you're going to have that option because you will be assigned a primary care doctor with a name, with an address, an actual human being who becomes your doctor all the time. When you need specialists, there'll be available. People haven't experienced this before, where there was a public option available that was high-quality, that was in every part of the City, that was easy to use. This is going to be a game-changer and the more and more people we reach, the bigger difference it will make.
So we’ve got about 300,000 people who are eligible but not signed up. Our goal in the next six months is to reach the first 30,000. There's going to be an intensive GetCovered effort, a brand new wave of GetCoveredNYC. This extraordinary group of dedicated professionals is going to go out, but we're going to also have working with them for the first time, all of the people who work for the City and everyday talk to their fellow New Yorkers. Imagine whenever a parent goes to their school, they’re going to have an opportunity to sign up for health insurance if they're eligible and they don't have it. Think about the reach of our school system – 1.1 million children, all the family members that we can reach through them. All the 400,000 New Yorkers who live in public housing – we communicate with them every single day, but we've never communicate with them on the fact that they could sign up for health insurance. Every City agency – every agency that works on behalf of the people of New York City, will become a part of it. So, all the good people at GetCoveredNYC are going to have a lot of new allies and a lot of help. So our goal by July is to sign up the first 30,000 who are now eligible but uninsured. Overall, we want to reach 300,000 people and that effort will speed up as the City agencies become a part of this initiative.
Now I want to remind people that while we're promoting this option and showing people what an impact it can make, there are the other options available on the insurance exchange. And there's a lot of great choices for people who need them as well, but you only have until January 31st of this year for those options on the exchange. So, I'm going to ask all our colleagues in the media, please include in your coverage that January 31st is the deadline to sign up for health insurance via the exchange. That's just nine days from now. And it's a wide range options for those who are eligible and want choice – the best bet is to sign up in the next nine days. But after, that there's no question of our ability to keep signing up people from MetroPlus – that's year-round. That's something we control right here in New York City, and that enrollment effort is going to begin immediately and it's never going to stop. It's going to grow and grow and grow. So those are the immediate things we're going to do.
Also want to remind people the NYC Care initiative is starting soon and that's focused as well on the folks who are not eligible, but they need health care just as much. There are 300,000 New Yorkers who work beside us, live beside us, contribute to this City, they happen to be undocumented. They're our neighbors. They deserve healthcare too. If they're healthy, we're all healthy. That's what NYC Care will do, because, again, if they are healthy, we are all healthy. It's going to make a huge difference.
So everyone, if you want to know how to sign up, again, you heard Shealyn say how easy it is. Right away, GetCoveredNYC, you can find it online, you can call 3-1-1. You heard what she said – two seconds to connect and then a very quick process to sign up and then right away you've got a doctor, you're in business, you're going to do better.
We are now going to take the formal step of instructing and ordering all City agencies to involve themselves in the outreach effort. I expect every single City agency, every agency that serves New Yorkers to do their maximum to ensure that people are signed up for health insurance. This is everybody's business. This is a matter of commitment for all agencies to be a part of this effort. And to make sure that happens and that starts right away, I will sign an executive order instructing the agencies to act immediately – and here it is.
[Mayor de Blasio signs executive order]
There it is, everybody. You're all in business.
We need you now – all city agencies will help us make sure every New Yorker has access to health care – every single one. Are you ready for the mission?
Mayor: Are you ready for the mission?
Mayor: Okay, I believe you now.
Okay, whatever you do from this point on, if you go for job training, small business services, if you pay your taxes through Department of Finance, if you pay a parking ticket, if you go and get assistance for your family, wherever you are, you will have the opportunity to sign up for health insurance. And I want to make clear that this is a very poignant moment to think about what we're doing here today, because yesterday we celebrated the holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., and I talked about yesterday the fact that he didn't just talk about civil rights, he talked about economic justice as well. And if you really look at his writings, his speeches, everything he was talking about, it went a lot deeper than sometimes you hear at the various commemorations.
Here is a quote that says it all about what we're doing here today, because Dr. King understood that healthcare was a human right. He said, of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman. Those were the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – the most shocking and inhuman, and yet it's been tolerated for too long in this country. Here in New York City, we are heading Dr. King's words, and we're going to make a difference right here in our city.
A few quick words in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
Alright, and now one of the masterminds of this great new plan, and I want to thank her for her leadership, our Deputy Mayor, Dr. Herminia Palacio.
Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio, Health and Human Services: Good morning. Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor, for the introduction and for your incredible commitment to bringing health justice to New York City.
Thank you, Shealyn, for sharing your story enthusiastically and for saying how important it is and how easy it is. Thank you Kings County and all of Health + Hospitals and Dr. Katz, my partner in crime.
Two weeks ago you heard the Mayor announced NYC Care to help New Yorkers without insurance access quality affordable care. And as you've just heard today, we are not letting up. This is a march towards health justice. The executive order that he just signed, we are going – we're taking another step in this march. The executive order, as you've heard, will require all City agencies that interact with New Yorkers to provide them information about affordable health insurance. People will be connected with GetCovered. The order will impact all Health and Human Services agencies, but other agencies that you don't think about necessarily for health like the Small Businesses Services, Department of Finance, Parks.
You may encounter information about health insurance options when you walk into the Office of Workforce Development for job placement training, you may encounter it when you visit the Department of Finance business centers to pay property taxes, or you're simply attending Parks programs for your diversion and your health. As a physician, more importantly as a primary care doctor and nothing makes me happier. We have talked about the importance of primary care. Often people think about that in terms of the science of medicine.
Let us not forget that a primary care doctor brings you the art of medicine. A primary care doctor brings you compassionate, holistic care. A primary care doctor engages with you in a dialogue, not just that one day, but sometimes over years, sometimes over a lifetime. A primary care doctor listens to you, gets to understand you, and I have to say as somebody who practiced for a long time, a primary care doctor is happy to see you -- is happy to see you like as a human being.
So getting a primary care doctor is about making sure that you get things like preventative care. It is about being able to go to somebody when you have a sore throat or a cold, but it's also knowing that when you go with a concern, sometimes the most intimate of concerns that you have, you have a trusted ear who's listening to you, a trusted hand you can hold as you're facing sometimes very scary things.
So effective immediately with this executive order, the Public Engagement Unit, which oversees GetCoveredNYC will work in coordination with my office and City agencies to implement this new requirement. They'll be ensuring that agencies have all the resources they need to communicate with people who need insurance. They will be training frontline staff. The executive order will increase our outreach efforts, reminding people that the city's public health option, MetroPlus is here for them.
No greater testimony than Shealyn's testimony today. We will be doubling down on the existing efforts referring the uninsured to enrollment insurance, but our goal is to find new opportunities, new ways to spread the word, new ways to reach out, new ways to find you where you are, and get you the care that you need. We want to be all doors and all windows into MetroPlus and health care insurance.
New Yorkers have the right to health care and they have options. We urge New Yorkers without health insurance to get in touch with GetCoveredNYC before January 1st for the State’s open enrollment period, but this work is not going to end for us in nine days, as you heard the Mayor said. We will be enrolling ongoing seniors, low-income New Yorkers can enroll year round. Anybody who has an event such as getting married or changing jobs or having a child or adopting a child, those are all events that qualify you to enroll even after the open enrollment period.
We know that navigating some of these health insurance options can be daunting. It can be confusing. But that's why we're here with GetCovered in NYC. People who can help you connect. Because as you heard, we believe that health care is a human right. So if someone in your life needs health insurance, call 3-1-1 or visit nyc.gov/getcoverednyc.
And now I will say a few words in Spanish as well and access.
[Deputy Mayor Palacio speaks in Spanish]
A happy, healthy 2009 for everyone – 19.
Mayor: They had 2009 already, let’s give them 2019. So there are elected officials who bring an extraordinary experience to their work and Council Member Mathieu Eugene not only represents this community and this wonderful facility, but he has been a health care professional throughout his life and he has made it his life's mission to help people who are underserved and a lot of folks who didn't have the help and the access they needed. So I know he brings a special perspective to this. Council Member Mathieu Eugene –
Mayor: Okay, so we’re going to first take questions from the media on this announcement today and then we’re going to take a quick break so all these good folks can get back to other important things. But first let’s take media questions on this? Gloria?
Mayor: Yeah, January 31st – I’ll start as the layman and then Herminia can jump in with more expertise. In terms of what the Exchange does, look I’m a big believer in the Affordable Care Act, I’d like to see us go a lot farther than the affordable care act, the one of the very good things that it has done is giving people choice that they didn’t have before and the Exchange is the vehicle through which you get to choose among available health insurance plans. That window goes until January 31st.
So if someone is uninsured and they want the most consumer choice, get online, look at what’s available, if you find one that works for you, go take it. After that though we’re quite clear about the fact that we keep going because there’s a huge number of people who qualify for Metroplus and we’re going to keep going year-round to get them signed up. So I would say the simple way to interpret it people is you have the most choices up until January 31st until the next enrollment period which I think is November you said? But, if – so you want to maximize those choices, jump now, you have nine whole days, but after that, we’re going to be here and we’re going to keep signing up a huge number of people.
Mayor: Correct, correct, but I think part of the issue and you’ve probably watched this is clearly the Trump administration has tried to discourage people from signing up. They’ve taken away a lot of the promotional efforts, they’ve suggested that Obamacare wouldn’t be there in the future, there was obviously a court decision but that’s been stayed, we want to make it loud and clear to all New Yorkers that the Affordable Care Act is alive and well and you can sign up, up until January 31st on the Exchange. But then we’re going to keep going after that with the tools we have. Any questions on this, yes, please?
Question: I’m just curious since - why you needed sign an executive order if this is just sort of an initiative to other agencies to publicize the City –
Mayor: No, it’s much more than publicized. I appreciate the question. This is – they have to be active participants to signing people up. This will now be an obligation to use time and energy to make sure people are signed up for health insurance who qualify and don’t have it and when we have done that, we did that obviously with pre-K and 3-K, it had a huge impact. These good folks from GetCovered have done amazing things, and this is again the difference, before the GetCovered initiative, a huge number of people who were eligible and could have gotten insurance were not getting it, this team and all of their partners around the city have signed up 130,000 people in the last two years because there was a target outreach effort. Let’s do that again, 130,000 New Yorkers got signed up, let’s give them a round of applause, thank you.
And that was because there was a targeted effort, but that was not every city agency treating this as a priority and putting real time and energy and focus into it. So now it is a formal instruction and direction to all agencies that this is now part of their mission too.
Question: Will there be data that shows the Department of Sanitation [inaudible] NYPD [inaudible].
Mayor: Sure, one we will – this initiatives the action today with the executive order. I agree 100 percent, every agency will determine goals with according to how much they interrelate with people and what their circumstances are. Obviously an agency dealing with security has other issues that will come into play. But let’s take obvious ones, like Department of Education, where there is a huge amount of connection with families and that opportunity is not being tapped right now. I think there’s a lot of other ones like that as you heard previously. So we will figure out what each agency, what they can do, and then we’ll work with them to have real goals and I’m very comfortable with saying we will publish what each of them did on a regular basis because we want it to work. The initial goal is to add 30,000 more – so one tenth of overall goal – by July, but again, the agencies will just be ramping during that period. A lot of that will be – GetCovered obviously, but as the agencies get more and more engaged, that number can continue to grow. Yes?
Question: Is there anybody from MetroPlus here?
Mayor: Is there anybody from MetroPlus here? I guess there are people from MetroPlus here.
Question: Who runs it and could they tell us how many people are currently signed up and when you say you’re going to sign up 30,000 people in six months, does that mean 30,000 policy holders or for instance, I have health insurance, I have three kids—
Question: —there’s four of us, so am I one under your goal or are we four?
Mayor: If – let me just answer that one last question before you – if you signed up today, you would be covered, your children would be covered, and your new beard would be covered.
You went right by that, so.
Deputy Mayor Palacio: So there are currently about 520,000 people enrolled in MetroPlus, the 30,000 goal is really GetCovered enrolls through the exchange and MetroPlus, that’s sort of the overall universe. Really, our goal is to make sure New Yorkers have an insurance plan. We want to make sure that people know that MetroPlus is a public option. I want to go back to something that the Mayor said. After January 31st, we will continue to enroll in the MetroPlus Essential Plan. It’s important that people understand that the premiums are on average about $20 a month and can go down to zero so it’s really important for people to understand. This is a very affordable plan, the essential plan in MetroPlus – you can enroll throughout the year, but as the Mayor said, if you want, on the exchange, the New York State Exchange, which has lots of the private insurers as well, that – there, that enrollment needs to be completed by January 31st.
Mayor: Other questions, last call media questions, yes?
Question: We could just go back to the executive order. I’m still pretty confused about why it’s necessary. You are already kind of, you know, in charge of all these city agencies, like why did it have to be in the form of an executive order—
Mayor: When you do an executive order it ensures that the instruction is followed up on – it’s as simple as that. These are agencies with a lot to do, I think everyone here would testify to that fact – they’ve got plenty of important work to do. We’re saying this is now a priority mission for all city agencies – that we need everyone covered, that will have huge positive impacts for this city and it’s part of their work plan now. So the executive order makes very clear this is not an option, this is now a priority for all agencies.
Question: And again, this might be too in the weeds for something that you just signed but how will – what will count as signing someone up? Will it be a teacher saying “oh hey, you’re mom should sign up” and then actually going through the motion [inaudible] a parent and a school? Did that [inaudible]—
Mayor: A sign-up is a sign-up. It has to result in people getting insurance.
Question: So it’s not just referring? And if that’s counted, the depth being given to the different agencies, then what is the GetCovered team doing?
Mayor: They’ve got plenty to do because there’s plenty of New Yorkers who don’t interact with a government agency in a way that would be conducive to being educated on health insurance or signing up for health insurance. What they’ve been doing brilliantly is they go everywhere. They go to community events. They go any place where people are – famously, one of the things that happened with GetCovered and with the Pre-K and 3K initiative is going to barber shops and beauty salons, community events, local street fairs, block associations, you name it, wherever people are. And it’s proven to be extraordinarily effective, getting people in their community, when they have time to actually think about something, is a big piece of the puzzle, but we also know that the agencies really reach a lot of people, and different people a lot of the times, and we need literally to grab every opportunity to get people signed up. But we’re only going to count towards this number if someone actually has coverage.
See if there’s anything else on this? Go ahead, Rich.
Question: Do you sign people up at bus stops because that’s one of the few places where New Yorkers can’t run away from you?
Mayor: I like that. You’re a visionary. No I think—
Mayor: That’s right. I’m going to – I’ll do a survey [inaudible] bus stops, I would also say subway platforms, where people – you have a captive audience. Bus stops, subway platforms, do you do that?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: Subway platforms.
Mayor: Subway platforms for sure. We’re going to start doing bus stops now. Yes, we are doing bus stops.
Last call. Okay let’s give these folks a chance to go on to their good works. Thank you, everybody.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Okay, here we go. We are going to take questions on other topics. Yes, sir?
Question: [Inaudible] carry firearms outside of city limits [inaudible] –
Mayor: I’m just hearing this now from you so I’m simply going to say we believe that our gun laws protect people in this city and law enforcement in this city believes that too. So, we’ll fight vigorously to protect what we have. We, every single day, are working to make this the safest big city in America. We need the laws we have that protect against guns being on our streets and we will fight to protect those laws. That’s the bottom line.
Question: [Inaudible] concerns about the Supreme Court deciding [inaudible] –
Mayor: I am absolutely concerned because again anything that takes away our right to protect our own people would hurt this city deeply. We’re the safest big city in America for a reason. The laws we have now are working. And I know how deeply Commissioner O’Neill believes that. So, we will fight to protect. But to give you any more detail I’d have to see the current state of play.
Question: [Inaudible] State Assembly is considering a bill [inaudible] has come out with a statement already assuming it’s going to be approved and signed by the Governor this afternoon. And he talks about [inaudible]. Is that – where do you see [inaudible] and what do tell people who see this as [inaudible]?
Mayor: I support this act. It’s crucial that we protect a woman’s right to choose particularly at this moment in history where women’s rights are under attack. Clearly we need to do everything we can to help people avoid unwanted pregnancies and that’s why things like Planned Parenthood are so important. I believe this is the right policy but I also believe it’s incumbent upon us to educate people, to make sure that birth control services are available widely, to do everything we can to help make sure that people only end up with the situations that they want. But yes, this act is necessary. Go ahead.
Question: Mr. Mayor, it’s show-and-tell day –
Mayor: Show-and-tell day, I didn’t know that.
Question: [Inaudible] videos that show homeless people taking over subways [inaudible] not sleeping on benches [inaudible] one case a woman [inaudible] –
Mayor: Well, Marcia, we –
Mayor: Marcia, it’s an unacceptable situation. You know in this city – and I would like you to report on this too – there were encampments, full blown encampments for decades under my predecessors where there were full structures, there were mattresses, there were homeless people living in villages, and nothing was done about it. During this administration we ended that once and for all. Any attempt to create any kind of structure is immediately addressed by the Police Department and Homeless Services and the Sanitation Department.
I would like you to take a look at that situation because it will give you a window into what we’re going to do in the subways as well. We will not tolerate people bringing a vast amount of belongings into a subway car. We won’t tolerate people sleeping on the benches and stretching out and making it impossible for other people to ride in peace. We have the tools to act on it.
And I’ve spoken to Commissioner O’Neill about this and you’re going to see a consistent police presence dealing with that problem.
Question: [Inaudible] bring their stuff off the subway car –
Mayor: The first thing is to address the problem. Is someone is lying out on a bench, we want them to stop doing that and to conform with the law. If they refuse, we have the opportunity to take them out of the subways and depending in the circumstance, there obviously is the potential for arrest. But our goal is not arrest. Our goal is to address the problem.
On the belongings – no one can put their belongings in a place that obstructs other New Yorkers. So, that’s going to have to be a judgement call on behalf of our police officers and our outreach workers from the Department of Homeless Services. But we have addressed this problem above ground and we’re going to address it below ground as well. And I got to take other questions – go ahead. Go ahead – Marcia, I’ll get back to you.
Question: Tom Snyder [inaudible] similar to [inaudible] service. Why did Snyder leave, were there any allegations of any sort wither formal –
Mayor: No, there were not at all and it was simply a decision together that it was time for a change.
Question: Mayor, I wanted to ask you about the City’s plan to [inaudible] housing apartments [inaudible] faced criminal charges before. I just wanted to get your reaction [inaudible] and also why [inaudible].
Mayor: So, I’ll start and Commissioner Banks can give a little more insight. First of all, we are not going to take – with all due respect to the media – we’re not going to take media reports wholesale when it comes to the question of an investigation. We are going to ask the investigatory agencies what exactly is going on because we are in the middle of trying to take these buildings and turn them into permanent affordable housing that would no longer involve that family and that is obviously in everyone’s interest. So, we have a pause, that is for sure but until we confirm what is happening we’re not going to pre-judge the situation. Our goal is still to turn that into permanent affordable housing as quickly as possible.
Question: Is eminent domain still an [inaudible] –
Mayor: Eminent domain is always an option in a situation like this but Commissioner Banks can speak to it.
Commissioner Steve Banks, Department of Social Services: Eminent domain has always been a tool that is available to us. I just you know, want to make sure that everyone understands. These buildings have been used by the City during prior administrations for many years and our initiative is to stop this 18-year-old cluster program- we are at half the cluster units already and we think it’s an important public purpose to convert units that were used as cluster apartments into permeant housing for homeless families. One way to do that is to have a – use the eminent domain tool, another way to do that is to reach an out of court resolution without going the eminent domain route. But this is certainly a goal that we have to make sure that families with children are in permanent housing as opposed to these cluster apartments that have been used for the last 18 years.
Question: If I could follow up I know from what I’ve taken [inaudible] home sales but an associate of the Podolskys [inaudible] in prison right now for tax issues he’s involved in this so it’s not just media reports. What do you guys look at and a lot of these are owned by LLCs and what do you think [inaudible] LLCs and how much [inaudible]?
Mayor: No, it’s a very good question. So of course we, any time we get new information we are going to do our due diligence. But I want to caution, I don’t know this family, I don’t know the history of this family but I don’t know if the gentleman who is in prison has anything to do with what we are talking about here or not. What we have is a report of investigations. We are literally going to go on a very formal level and ask the agencies that might be involved, do you have an active investigation? If you do then we have to coordinate before we take another action. The important underlying fact here is it is in the public interest to get these buildings under public control so if there is an investigation that causes us to have to pause for an extended period of time so be it but if there is not or the investigatory says, no please continue with your arrangement, we want to see this transaction occur – we would move full speed ahead. Yes.
Question: But did it concern the City at all, I mean obviously you don’t want [inaudible] current investigation at whole sale but these landlords have previously pleaded guilty to crimes in 1986, to cohesion and to grand larceny and to forcing people out of their apartments.
Mayor: I don’t belittle any negative action by a landlord as you know we are increasingly cracking down on bad landlords. I do want to say 1986 was quite a while ago, we are talking about today, I don’t know who the cast of characters is, if it was the same details or not. What I care about is getting these buildings under public control. I want to get to that as quickly as possible but why don’t you speak to –
Commissioner Banks: I would just add to the Mayor’s comments. Those guilty pleas occurred in the 1980’s the City began the cluster program in 2001 and consistently, 2001 to 2009, 2010 began to use these buildings and the aim of this new initiative that we announced is to reclaim these units to be affordable housing for low income families who are in the shelter system and to keep them in that permeant affordable basis. But it’s important to sort of look at the sequence of events and the pleas took place in the mid 1980’s and the City began renting these buildings beginning in 2001 as part of this 18-year-old program. We are saying we want to end this program, we’ve already gotten out of half the units citywide and the – the using, acquiring these buildings either through eminent domain or out of court is part of a strategy of reclaiming these buildings for permanent affordable housing to be managed by non-for-profits. Remember that’s what the transaction is, to finance non-for-profits to purchase these buildings and make sure that they will be permanently affordable for the permanent tenants that were in these buildings as well as converting the units that were clusters into permanent apartments for homeless families.
Question: What exactly are [inaudible]?
Mayor: Sure. Because we are talking about the MTA there is a different set of rules than above ground and there are specific activities that are not allowed. We want the police to enforce those rules clearly. We also want to get people out of the subways, off the streets, once and for all. Now I want to give credit to Commissioner Banks and his whole team and everyone who has been part of the HOME-STAT initiative, again one that I would urge you all to look at and talk about a little bit more. 2,000 people who were street homeless, permanently homeless, in the last two years were brought in off the street through a really extensive doesn’t even be able to explain it – the most extensive homeless outreach effort in the history of the country. Literally Marcia, if it meant going to a homeless individual on the street a hundred times, 200 times to win their trust and convince them to come off the street. You should look at the specific stories, I’m sure Steve will provide them to you. They are unbelievable, people on the street ten years, 15 years, came in, got mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment and staid off the streets and never went back. That’s what’s been happening for the last two years so that’s a huge difference maker. The goal of course, if someone’s there in the subway car and they are making life difficult for their fellow New Yorkers, we want to get them out of that subway car but we don’t want them to just take the problem upstairs and be in the street, we want to get them off the street once and for all. So that’s the goal. But clearly I believe fundamentally and I know Commissioner O’Neill does too, that the NYPD has the right to enforce the laws of the MTA, the rules of the MTA and if someone is doing something inappropriate in the subway, we will get them out of there. It’s as simple as that. Yes.
Question: Mayor, I wanted to ask you about the heat and hot water outages at NYCHA over the weekend, particularly yesterday, just your response to – between I think [inaudible] and [inaudible] but also the HUD Regional Administrator, Lynne Patton – you know the administration’s response with we’re getting these back online quicker than we did last year. Her response was people should not be grateful because their heat and hot water was turned back on faster than before because it’s a basic human condition. So I am wondering if you can respond to that?
Mayor: Sure, I checked in with the NYCHA General Manager, Vito Mustaciuolo just before 5:00 o’clock on Sunday as it was about to get very, very cold. At that moment there were no developments with larger heat outages. Meaning, there have been individual apartments, but no full buildings or developments. By the time we got into Monday, there were four. And we care about every single one. Our job is to not have anybody to go without or hot water, and in the event it happens, to restore it as quickly as humanly possible. We believe to Lynne Patton’s point I would say amen. We believe that public housing residents deserve the same exact life style and support that people in private housing deserve. But I want to now tell you the facts. There were four outages, four from Sunday evening into Monday. The average time for the outage to be resolved was nine hours among the four. That’s even faster than the number we told you about a month or more ago when we were saying 11 hours was our average, it is now down to nine hours in these cases. That is a very fast turnaround when there is an outage and thankfully the buildings do retain heat pretty well, so people hopefully have very little impact from such a brief outage. Now I want to give you the same number for private housing in New York City yesterday. It was over 3,000 calls for heat being out made to 3-1-1. So I do think we have to look at what’s happening here. If we had 3,000 buildings in New York City with heat out yesterday that were private buildings, we had four NYCHA developments with the problem. They were resolved on average in nine hours. That is clearly progress, but we’ve got more to do. We’ve definitely got more to do. Okay, last call, yes?
Question: Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez was on the Colbert Show last night. She was asked how much concerns her that she has gotten [inaudible] from [inaudible] and she said she did not give any fucks. I wonder if you have a reaction to that response and [inaudible]?
Mayor: I am not worried about that, its language we all use. It probably is best not to use it in public, but its language we all use. No, the bottom line here is not her colorful language, it’s what she values. I have a lot of respect for her. I agree with her on a whole lot of things and I think she’s a leader that is saying things we need to pay attention to in terms of the kind of changes we need. So no – that’s not what concerns me. What concerns me is her values and I agree with her values.
Question: Do you think – when you think of her [inaudible] primary?
Mayor: Well, I think you should be careful respectfully on that one. I haven’t seen that quote from her. I have seen organizations that she has a relationship with call for that. So I want to be careful that we only hold her accountable for her own words. But I would also say as a broader rule, our party needs to change. It is moving in a more progressive direction, it has to keep moving in a more progressive direction. It’s the only way we will change things in this country. It’s the only way we’re going to win elections. So I am not uncomfortable with the notion of primaries. I think primaries can often be healthy, because they represent honest values being debated. Yes?
Question: Are you wearing [inaudible] these days?
Mayor: That’s awfully personal. But no I – my very hearty New England background makes me impervious to this weather. So no I have not been. Like the New England Patriots, I might add, very good in cold weather environments. I just had to share that.
Question: So are you rooting for the Patriots?
Mayor: I always root for the Patriots.
Question: Do you want to tell us your thoughts on the game?
Mayor: I was – it’s super human at this point. It’s just Tom Brady – it’s super human, it’s he – no, I am Patriots fan. I’ve been a Patriots fan since I was a little kid when they totally sucked and they could not win anything. And – now Gloria is going to say I used a bad word. The – I am a lifelong Patriots fan, I am proud of it, I have always been clear about it. And on the final drive on Sunday to see Tom Brady wave off the timeout, I was like in heaven, I mean that was just –
Question: [Inaudible] turn it around?
Mayor: I did and when he waved off the time out I thought it was a beautiful – like that was confidence that was leadership, telling his whole team we can do this, we don’t even need the timeout. Unbelievable, good things ahead, that’s my prediction.
Mayor: I would never engage myself in the betting enterprise, Marcia. But L.A. is a formidable team, but I think what you just saw from the New England Patriots tells you everything you need to know about the Super Bowl.
Thank you, everyone.