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Transcript: Mayor Adams Releases "The Road Forward," New Blueprint to Handle Asylum Seeker Crisis Moving Forward

March 7, 2023

Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom, Health and Human Services: Good morning, everyone. My name is Anne Williams-Isom. I am the deputy mayor for health and human services, and we're here to talk about an issue this morning that really affects all of us as New Yorkers, the recent asylum seeker humanitarian crisis that we've been dealing with.

But before I do that, I'd like to acknowledge some of the folks that are in back of me. Today, we have from the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs, Commissioner Manny Castro and some members of his team. We have Zach Iscol, the commissioner of New York City Emergency Management; Pastor Gil Monrose and Fernando Cabrera from the Mayor's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives; Irfan Ahmed from the Mayor's Fund of New York City; our chief housing officer, Jessica Katz; doctors Mitch Katz, Ted Long, and Jonathan Jimenez from Health + Hospitals; Commissioner Jess Dannhauser from ACS; Chancellor Banks from the Department of Education; Executive Director of Workforce and Talent Development Abby Jo Siegel, acting Department of Social Services commissioner, Molly Park, and others from her team; Commissioner Fred Kreizman, who leads our Mayor's Office of — Mayor's Community Affairs Unit; and the consul general of Mexico is here with us today, Jorge Islas López. Thank you all for being here. Can we give them all a round of applause, please?

When we talk about a whole government approach, this is what we mean. All these different organizations, all these different agencies came together in order to really deal with this. Many faith-based organizations, nonprofits, all volunteering and working to bring us today.

As you see, the numbers are staggering. I sometimes think we keep on saying them, so it's hard to get them and to realize them. Today, we are going to have somebody who's going to try to put a face on this and really center us in this work. We know that the situation is not over. And so, while today we're going to be talking about a path forward, it's acknowledging what we've done, it's seeing what we want to do now, and then really looking towards the future.

Now, I'd like to hand it over to the mayor to get us into the details. Thank you.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you so much. I think two significant parts of the conversation today is to the right of me, my amazing commissioner of immigrant affairs, who's a former dreamer. And every time I'm with him and we talk about this and he re-lives the journey of coming here with his mom and he brings that passion to this entire issue. I really want to thank you, commissioner, for just a personal touch that you're bringing to us. And to the left of me, I'm having an asylum seeker who's here, who's standing in City Hall, standing next to the mayor of what I believe is the greatest city on the globe. And that's unimaginable, that you could spend months making your way here to a country, where others have tossed you to the side. Others did not give you the basic opportunity to participate in the American Dream, but New York did, and the men and women behind me played that role, the full government approach.

And I always remember when First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright took us to the Museum of the City of New York, and we look at those old headlines in articles from previous administrations. And every day I wake up and state, "What do I want in that museum?" And no matter what anyone has to say about this administration, this has been one of the most compassionate response to a humanitarian crisis. While we was keeping the lights on in this city, while we were making sure that the trains were running on time and dealing with so many other crises, they did the job.

My chancellor, what we up to, 13,000?

13,000 children had to come into our school system. Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, opening HERRCs, over a hundred locations we had to open. January 1st 2022, we had… When we opened our HERRCs… when we started this, January 1st 2022, I was saying we had 35,000 people in our care from all those years. In one year, one year, we had to address 37,000. We are now up to 50,000 that we have to manage, to care for, healthcare for.

And no matter where I go, I'm hearing the same thing from the asylum seekers, "We don't want to be a burden. We want to work. We want to be part of all that we heard about, being in this country," and the national barriers that's preventing this is in the way. And all of this has fallen onto New York City. And we've done our job and we stood up and we're going to continue to stand up and we are going to continue to pivot and shift each level as we move and deal with this unprecedented crisis that we are facing.

And so, today, I'm proud to release The Road Forward…


The Road Forward, a blueprint to address New York City's response to the asylum seeker crisis. And we're hoping that people read through this report and see what our response has been, what it's going to continue to be as we move forward in the next year to come.

This is a serious crisis that we're facing in New York, and I've stated it over and over again. We were happy to see that the City Council heard our call of taking some of the discretionary dollars. They gave us a million out of a $4.2 billion potential call. I think they got to dig a little deeper. We believe that the federal government must, in an expeditious way, move for the $800 million that Senator Schumer and Congressman Jeffries and the New York delegation was able to get in the omnibus bill we needed. We've got 8 million thus far, but as you know, the numbers are high and we need so much more.

It's crucial that we find innovative ways of doing what I would continue to call the decompression strategy. That decompression strategy must take place in the country and it must take place throughout the entire state. All of us have an obligation and responsibility of dealing with the crises that we are facing. I declared in October that this was a state of emergency and that we needed to respond effectively to this emergency, as we navigated the already fiscal crises that we were facing as the city.

And this blueprint that we are releasing today highlights what we have accomplished, assisted crisis. And it is extremely impressive when you do an analysis of the movement and the compassion that we have shown. It also is going to show the changes we have put in place to move from an emergency response to a steady state of operation. And we have accomplished this over time, as well as... What are our ask? Clarity is crucial here. We are very specific on the things that we are asking for. We cannot do this alone and we have been doing it alone thus far, and that must stop. And not doing it alone is a federal response.

We know we need real immigration policies. We know with Title 42, what's going to happen in the next few months. The response can be enormous and it falls on New York. Other municipalities, asylum seekers pass through, but they end up here, in our city. So the response must become on the federal level. We need a response on the state level. And guess what? We need a response on the city level. We need our local electors to play a more active role. And that active role can't be, you don't want a shelter in your district. It can't be that you don't want to participate in this part. That's why we are elected. We elected to solve these problems together.

In order to move from an emergency response to a steady state, we will create an Office of Asylum Seeker Operation, which will oversee our efforts. This office is going to allow us to have our other agencies that have been focused on this to go back and not to do roles that they're doing now, but to move forward with the obligations they have in the city.

Now, we already have the individuals in place that are doing this job, so it's not as though we have to find the individuals to do the job. They are doing the job, but we're going to put it under one office, so they can focus on this. And all the agencies that have been currently doing it, they're going to now be able to not do just a new job, but to focus on their role as keeping the city operated.

And instead of just having everyone come to the Port Authority as central location, the city will also create a new centralized 24/7 arrival center. So we shifted from the Port Authority, what we had there. We're going to have a 24/7 arrival center so we can process... Asylum seekers can continue to receive assistance with basic needs, like food and a safe place to sleep. Our goal is to help them to become self-sufficient as soon as possible. That is the number one goal we have, to allow these asylum seekers to become self-sufficient.

We will continue to work closely with our local partners, faith-based organizations, and community organizations to provide options for asylum seekers. I really want to thank Pastor Gil Monrose and his team, and what they're doing with other faith-based leaders and institutions that have played a significant role in dealing with the asylum seekers' needs.

We're going to move towards long-term housing and resettlement, including resettlement to pre-vetted cities and municipalities that welcome asylum seekers. There are many cities within the state and across the country that are saying they want to help. We want to create the pathway to do that. And please don't ask me which cities, because I don't need you running to the cities and stopping us from getting the asylum seekers there. So we're not telling you. We'll tell you when they get there. Because I know you enjoy pitting cities against cities, so we are not giving you that information.

We also focus on training and workforce development. We know it's a while before you get the actual ability to work, but nothing stops us from training right now. I know it's hard for a lot of people to believe, but there's a lot of job vacancies, even in city government. There's job vacancies everywhere. Even among reporters, there are job vacancies. So, we want to make sure that people are prepared to fill the jobs when they are able to get their work permits, and we want to help them with the aspects of getting their work permits in place.

And we're going to assist them in managing the complicated immigration process. The goal is to assist them in filling out the paperwork and to get to the point that they can apply for the necessary work permit that they deserve. Asylum seekers want to work. I hear that over and over again, as I indicated, and we need to be there to help them over the hurdle. We want to ensure that they can self-sustain themselves.

The Office of Asylum Seeker Operation will continue to mobilize all sectors of society to assist us, including the organizations and our business community and the philanthropic community that would like to play a role. Our blueprint additionally lays out what we need from our partners on the state and federal levels. Again, specificity is something that I want to clearly lay out, so people can know where the needs are, and we will continue to urgently call for national immigration reform, expedite right to work authorization for asylum seekers, federal and state emergency funding and operational resources, and much more.

Listen, this crisis is not a New York crisis, it's a United States crisis. And it's time for our national government to play the role. We are clear that we have to lay out the pathway forward for the city, and that is what this report is doing. This, the road forward, this is our blueprint, this is our response to this crisis. What we have done, what we're doing, and what we need help to continue the job that we are doing.

I want to thank all of my agency heads and employees and brokers and staffers who have been up late nights and who have just really dedicated themselves, because we don't see these families and individuals as numbers. We see them as individuals, one of them that stand here today. And we're proud that they want to be part of the American experience.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Thank you, Mayor Adams. Also with us today that I didn't mention was Commissioner of International Affairs Ed Mermelstein, also, two people who have done so much work on this plan and in this area, Chief of Staff Camille Varlack... Did I do it best? I always do the V. The VS. The CVS. CJV. And First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright, who's... There she is.

Next, speaking of people who stay up day and night, and those first couple of days of when the buses first started coming, mayor, I think, Manny, you were at Port Authority for 16 hour days and I was like, "Where's Manny?" "He's at Port Authority." The love that you've shown, the leadership you've shown. You're a new commissioner, so it wasn't easy. You had all of two minutes to kind of get up to speed. I'm so appreciative of all that I've learned for you, of how proud you've made this administration, so now I'd like to bring you up to the podium please.

Commissioner Manuel Castro, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs: Good morning everyone. My name is Manuel Castro. I'm the commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. Today I'm going to share some words in Spanish, but before that, I want to sincerely thank Mayor Adams and Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom for leading us through this crisis. They are exactly the leaders we needed in this moment and so I want to thank you for everything that you've done in support of our work. I want to thank everyone here today, Dr. Long, Zach Iscol, Molly Park. I wish I can shout out every single person here because you have all had a big part in responding to this challenge. And of course, as Mayor Adams stated, I want to thank the thousands of city employees and our partners for coming together in support of asylum seekers with such great compassion and care.

I speak with asylum seekers often and they share with me often how different it has been for them here in New York City compared to all the countries. Many have traveled through 10-plus countries to get here, and through the different states and regions in the United States.

And so I think this is something we have to be proud of. What this team has accomplished in such a short amount of time is monumental. But feats like these don't happen on their own, which is why we're standing here with every single member in our leadership that has contributed to this effort. It has taken great leadership and individuals committed to meeting and uphold the values of our city in something that is ultimately bigger than ourselves. And so this is a testament to the team that Mayor Adams has built.

Mayor, you have been there from the beginning, welcoming asylum seekers at Port Authority early on. No other mayor or national leader in this country has done something like this. Welcome families, embracing them, embracing children as they arrive. You visited the US-Mexico border to highlight the impact of this situation and asylum seekers crossing the border in localities. And if you can recall, the idea for this blueprint came about as we were at the US-Mexico border observing what was happening.

And throughout these many months, you've taken great effort and time to meet and speak with and learn from asylum seekers and about their journey in search for the American Dream. And I have to say, Mayor Adams, not only are asylum seekers appreciative, but all the immigrant community that is watching you engage in this matter feels that they matter to you. No matter whether they recently arrived or they've arrived decades ago or generations ago, they know that you care. And so I want to thank you for your leadership and for showing us that we need to turn a challenge in a difficult situation into purpose. So, thank you Mayor Adams for leading us in that effort.

So now I want to share a few words in Spanish about our announcement today. [Speaks in Spanish.] Sorry, I lost my place here. [Speaks in Spanish.] Thank you so much.

Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Don't go too far, Manny. You'll often hear us talk about folks with lived experience and how much it is important to us as an administration. Many of us bring our lived experience to this work and it's not something we try to hide. It's actually something that we try to center in our policies, in our programs, and in our planning. Today, we'd like to have Abraham talk to us a little bit and share with us his story as it informs the work that we do moving forward. Manny and Abraham.

Abraham: [Speaks in Spanish.]

Commissioner Castro: [Translating Abraham] Good morning. My name is Abraham and I am from Venezuela.

Firstly, I want to thank God for allowing me to be here today and share some of my story with you.

I want to first thank the mayor, the commissioner, and to the city for all the support that you have given me in all the asylum seekers in New York City today.

One of the most impactful parts of my journey was having to cross the jungle in order to get here.

I had to cross through a river and through so much, but I want to thank God for taking me on this journey and allowing me to get here safely.

Now, all I want to ask is for the federal government to speed up the asylum process so that we can finally settle here.

This is because as immigrants, we too want to contribute back to the city and to the United States of America.

And to conclude my remarks, I want to send a message to all the asylum seekers throughout the city to keep calm and be respectful and continue moving forward because the city is doing everything possible to make sure that you have the support that you need.

Thank you so much. May God bless you.

Mayor Adams: We'll —

Agitator: Mr. Mayor, I wish you would stop lying about the tax stuff. You're trying to cut the budgets for all these programs and services and housing. Poor people need it.

Moderator: Sir, we're taking questions.

Agitator: ... right to shelter here too, sir.

Mayor Adams: Let him finish.

Agitator: (Inaudible.)

Mayor Adams: Okay. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing your opinion. Thank you for sharing your opinion and disrespecting everyone that's standing here. I hope your children get better manners than what you're showing.

Take care.

Moderator: All right. We're going to open it to some on-topic questions.

Question: (Inaudible) and I knew it was reported in The Daily News that a lot of the nonprofits and volunteers who work for the Port Authority, they said they won't be included. I don't know if you wanted to talk about that.

Mayor Adams: We are doing a complete assessment of all of our volunteers. We want to thank all of them. Some of them I saw when I was at the Port Authority the days that I visited. We want to thank them. We want to make sure as we open up the new center, the new location, that we do it in an organized fashion to make sure we can continue to have those who want to volunteer do it in a very organized way. We're shifting from the response of dealing with that emergency influx to a very organized way, and we're doing an assessment of everyone to make that determination.

Question: Mr. Mayor, you were recently named to an advisory panel for President Biden's reelection.


Question: How will you use that platform to then advocate for the resources that you need for the city, for the migrant process?


Mayor Adams: Kate, Okay. Okay. Hold on, hold on, hold on, Kate. The definition of an off topic is determined by Kate, not that you feel is on or off. We're going to do off topic. If she says this is not on topic, Kate makes that decision. Thank you so much, Kate.

Moderator: Thank you. We'll come back to you. Mike.

Question: Thanks, Kate. Just to follow up on Katie's question, both her questions, where is the new center going to be? And also on the topic of the story we had before, you've talked about the importance of the city as a whole kind of being involved in the migrant crisis, and some of these groups that wanted to be here felt kind of iced out of this event and iced out of the new center you're doing. What message does it send, they feel pushed aside, to do that when you're also kind of calling on people to be more involved and more civically minded on this issue?

Mayor Adams: Well, I think the hallmark of this administration and those who you have covered me know I believe in doing things in a very structured and organized way. That's just how I operate. As we stated, we're going to open a location, we're going to let everyone know where the location is, and we are going to make a determination of the structured way to make sure the resources that people want to bring is done in an orderly fashion. I don't do things in a disorganized way. We will make sure all those who want to assist the asylum seekers get an opportunity to do so.

Question: Mr. Mayor, earlier you had indicated that you wanted to revisit the right to shelter settlement as at least as it relates to migrants.

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Question: Do you still want to do that? And for Abraham, can you discuss the basis for your asylum claim?

Mayor Adams: I don't want him going into the basis of his asylum. That's a technical issue and I don't want to do anything that's going to infringe on that. This is a humanitarian crisis. Part of the right to shelter states that if you come in at a certain hour, you have to be out at a certain hour. When that was created, no one thought we would get 800 people in one day. No one thought that in one week, we would get 3,000 people. And so we see this as a humanitarian crisis and that's how we treat it as humanitarian crisis. But no family had to sleep on the streets because we did not respond to the humanitarian crisis that we've witnessed.

Question: Mr. Mayor, you mentioned that you wanted to move from an emergency response to a steady response. Is it fair to assume that, because you don't expect this to level off anytime soon, you don't expect aid from the state and federal anytime soon?

Mayor Adams: No. We want aid from the state, the federal, and local. State, federal, and local. I want to be clear of that because we often talk about what we need from the federal and the state, but we also need local participation. We want that and we're going to continue to ask for that, but we have to put in place moving from the Port Authority to a permanent place that we could operate and put in place a permanent office that can manage this so I can allow these commissioners and others to not have these dual roles that they're carrying out now. That they can refocus their attention on the primary roles they have and have someone oversee this entire operation.

Question: (Inaudible.)

Mayor Adams: I am concerned about what's going to happen when the borders reopen. New York City is still a destination. There's still fake Facebook pages in countries that are stating, “Come to New York.” So I am concerned, and so we need to be prepared for whatever is in the future.

Question: How soon will this 24/7 shelter, or excuse me, 24/7 site will open? And then also what kind of jobs are you guys going to be helping connect —

Then also, what kind of jobs are you guys going to be helping connect asylum seekers with?

Mayor Adams: The deputy mayor just sharing with me, she's planning on... We'll announce exactly when it's open. We will make sure that everyone knows ahead of time and every job that's available, everything from the shortage in restaurant employees. There's a real shortage in restaurant employees. I hear it all the time, of those who can get their commercial driver's license. We have a shortage in truck operators. We have a shortage in... You name the field. When I sit down with the leaders of the business community all over the city, in fact all over the globe, people are saying they have a shortage of workers. So we're going to identify the areas that are in higher demand with our partnerships and business and we're going to connect people with those jobs that are available and start giving them the training now.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor Adams: How're you?

Question: Do you have a person in mind yet to run this new office? Secondly, what will the role of H + H be then going forward? Because I know that they've really been the ones, the system that has been managing both the shelter and the health services. It seems as if it was working, right?

Mayor Adams: Well, it was working. When you look at the volume, as I stated, I think we're either at 50,000 added on to the already 35,000. The response has been just truly remarkable because you're not feeling it every day. As we saw in other cities, we were in El Paso, people were sleeping in the airports. They were sleeping on the streets. They were sleeping around churches. We're not seeing that response here based on the way we responded and our numbers are far more than there. We're going to identify the right person. That's the role of the deputy mayor. She's going to identify the right person. We already have employees who are doing the work now. The individual that the deputy mayor determines will now coordinate the entire effort instead of having to be coordinated through several different agencies. I trust our ability to pick the right person for the job.

Question: Yeah, Mr. Mayor, you talked about having elected officials and local officials cooperate with you as far as locating shelter. So where would they be and where do you want to put them and how would they operate for this?

Mayor Adams: We get a lot of calls from our local electeds who state that they don't want to shelter in their location and we don't have that option. We don't have the option. Wherever we can find the space, we've opened a number of emergency hotels, I believe 90, over 90. 94 emergency hotels, a number of HERRCs as well. Everyone has not been in approval of the locations that we've been opening but we don't have an opportunity to decide. We are going to continue to try to find a space that's available. We need help from our local electeds. They should be telling us, "Here's a location that you could utilize" instead of saying they don't want it in their districts.

Question: Mr. Mayor, you say that you want money from the city, the state, and the federal government to pay for these programs, but your budget director yesterday told the City Council it was unlikely that the federal government was going to come through. So my question to you is twofold. Where will the money come from? Are you asking for more money from the governor and the state legislature? But also since the city is going to have to pay a bigger amount of the share of the cost of these programs, will other city services have to be cut in order for the city to afford to deal with the asylum crisis?

Mayor Adams: As Jacques has laid out, we spent over $650 million, I think $654 million from July to February. When you look at that number, that's an astronomical number. It's estimated that this fiscal year next is going to be $4.2 billion. Those are real numbers. I said this before and I'm going to say it again. Every service in the city is going to be impacted. Every service in the city is going to be impacted.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you?

Mayor Adams: Quite well. How are you?

Question: Can you talk a little bit about how your administration will deal with the asylum seekers who are each day returning to Port Authority in search of services from your shelters? Sometimes they go back asking for help. And is that what you're referring to when you're talking about disorganization? Then (inaudible) I want to ask about (inaudible).

Mayor Adams: And that's the purpose of identifying one location, making sure they have one location. There's a natural process of knowing where to go. We're going to make sure that Port Authority staff is aware. For the first day or so, we will have our teams there redirecting them. But as long as the Port Authority officials can tell people, give them a handout, give them a pamphlet, and say, "This is the new location," it will be a smooth, organized transition.

Question: Can I just ask one more question?

Mayor Adams: Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can ask.

Question: And ask you about the work permits. It's been 180 days since some of these asylum seekers have arrived last spring. I'm just wondering if you have any numbers of how many asylum seekers have actually filed their request for work permits. Have any of them or how many have received them? And when you expect them to start coming with the pipeline?

Commissioner Castro: That's a good question. That's exactly the intention of this blueprint. We are pivoting to supporting asylum seekers to apply for not just a work permit, but for also their asylum claims. If I can speak to what's happening at the Port Authority and with nonprofit organizations, we've contracted with a number of partner nonprofit organizations. Many of them are listed in the back of this blueprint. You can take a look at that. Our plan with this blueprint moving forward would allow us to contract with even more nonprofit partners that will provide exactly the support and assessment as to how many people are applying.

Question: Has anyone gotten the work permit?

Commissioner Castro: Oh, yes, yes. People have been. We don't have that specific number but not enough. We want to scale this so that as many people apply. We will get some information to you but the intention of this blueprint is to scale.

Question: Yes, Mr. Mayor…

Mayor Adams: Just on that question, there are many nonprofit organizations that are assisting people with filling out the paperwork. I was out in Queens two weeks ago on Saturday. They are sitting down, having volunteers that are coming in, paralegals, attorneys. They are assisting people to fill out that paperwork because it can be extremely complicated, particularly if English is not your language of birth or knowledge. So there's a large number of volunteer organizations that have participated in allowing people now that at this point on showing them how to fill out those paperworks. We're going to continue to partner with them.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor Adams: How are you?

Question: With this new blueprint, you're mentioning all these other services that you're going to provide for asylum seekers. I'm wondering what additional funding is this office going to cost the city?

Mayor Adams: Well, some of the services that we are going to provide are coordinating pre-existing services under one entity. One of the partnerships we're doing in Sullivan County that is going to do give people the training of some of the jobs that are available. When you look at some of these services that we're providing, it's not coming with a high price tag. It is utilizing pre-existing services that we have. But we're organizing them in the fashion that we can produce a better product. There is going to be a dollar amount that's attached, but it is a greater investment to get people self-sufficient. That's what we want. This investment is to get people self-sufficient as they want to be and as the city needs to be.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor Adams: How are you doing?

Question: Good. I know you earlier said you didn't want to name any cities, but I was wondering if you could talk just more generally about this vetting process of these other municipalities volunteering to work with you and seeking them out. What's the parameters there? I was curious if you had a number or a share in mind of as far as decompression goes, how much you'd like to maybe reduce the population of asylum seekers in New York City.

Mayor Adams: That's a good question. The first question is that the cities we are dealing with are cities that are saying they want to step up and help. There are cities in the state and across the country that they want to play their role. They realize that this is a national problem. Many of them understand that they too came from somewhere. So that's the relationship that we are developing. When you talk about the numbers, as I stated, I believe New York is going to continue to get the influx and the bulk of asylum seekers. So the more people we can show how to stabilize in other parts of the country, the better it is for us to be able to handle the influx that we have. So I don't have a magical number out of the 50,000 that we receive. There's no magical number that I can point to, but we want to make sure people know that there are other places in the country where they can have the quality of life that they deserve.

Question: Mr. Mayor, before you mentioned the City Council, the allocation that they did last week, I believe it was $1.2 million from them and then another $1 million from nonprofit groups or philanthropies, rather. So what would you like to see? You said you wanted to see more from them. Is there a figure in mind and you think they haven't been doing enough in general to help you with the crisis?

Mayor Adams: Well, I think that if you — when I say you, I'm saying those of us who cover this, those of you who cover this story — if you do an analysis of the severity of this crisis, we have to ask ourselves, have they amplified their voices to Washington, DC? I believe it was not until late last year that the first letter was actually put out. It wasn't until late last year before the first tweet. You can tweet from your shower. This was probably the top crisis in our city. There should have been a response from our local electors. They should have been lobbying government to say, "This is unfair to New York because it's unfair to our constituency." As Marcia asked the question, every service is going to be impacted.

Now if something is happening in our city where every service is impacted, shouldn't the individuals that are responsible for delivery of services to their constituency, should they be standing up and saying that, "Hey, this is impacting every service." We didn't see that and we should not go into 2023 with the same… That's the mayor's problem. No, this is all of our problem because it impacts the Department of Education when you get 13,000 children. It impacts… So someone should have been saying to state ed, "We need more money." Someone should be saying to the federal government, "We need more money." We were not hearing that. That's what I need. I need them to match the urgency of the moment that we are facing.

Question: So you've made it clear you want money from Washington. When we're talking about actual immigration reform, which you've also talked about, are you specifically asking the Biden administration for anything? Just yesterday, the Times reported that they're considering reviving the practice of detaining migrant families across the border. Is that something that you would like to see in a way that it would stop people coming to New York City?

Mayor Adams: I'll be very clear throughout the year. There's three things we need. We need financial support. FEMA must come up with how they are going to distribute the $800 million that Senator Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries in the New York delegation fought for. That has taken far too long. We have to get that done. Let's get the money flowing. Number two, there needs to be an individual who is dedicated to do the decompression strategy for the federal government. Someone should be at these entry points, El Paso, Brownsville, Texas, and others to organize a real decompression strategy across the entire country.

One person we should be looking at, it is often stated that it's the role of the VP. That's too much in her portfolio to be focused on just doing that decompression strategy. If not, the decompression strategy can't be New York City. That's what we have basically, a witness. Lastly, we need real immigration reform. This is a real problem that we have to address. We need real immigration reform. What the president is going to do with families, that is the role of the White House. That is not something that I'm responsible for saying.

Okay, let's do a few off topic. Thank you. Thank you.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor, round two. So Mr. Mayor, you were just added to this national advisory group, I guess, for President Biden's re-election campaign. And you've been very critical about his border policies. And again, we've seen no money from Washington and no relent of this crisis. So will being on that panel compromise your ability to advocate for resources for New York City and again being able to talk about the border policies that you were very critical about on the federal end?

Mayor Adams: No, I think to the contrary, and again, those who cover me and know me know that I'm going to speak on behalf of the people of this city, no matter what panel I am on. And being the president comes with a menu of items, it doesn't mean there's not going to be an item on that menu that I dislike. I dislike what we're doing around the asylum seekers, but I always say that I believe the president is just a blue-collar president, I'm a blue-collar mayor. I like his policies. I think he's good for the country, and it doesn't mean I'm going to agree with him 100 percent on everything. I don't agree with myself all the time. So I'm not going to agree with someone else all the time.

I think that he's moving the country in the right direction and I'm happy to be part of his panel. I'm glad he thought enough of New York City and what I'm doing around public safety, what I'm doing around navigating us during this difficult time. I know it's hard for people to realize, but our bond rating was increased because of how I'm handling the fiscal responsibility of the city. And I think the president sees something in what I'm doing in New York. And for him to ask me to join his panel, I'm happy to do it. I'm looking forward to it.

Question: Mr. Mayor, yesterday you suggested that people who go into bodega should take their masks off for a second or two, I guess, so that you can get face recognition and then leave it to, I guess the bodega owner to enforce this. I wonder if you think this is a viable option for people who own bodegas or work at bodegas to say to somebody, take your mask off. Two things. One, is it safe? And if somebody is a criminal, are they going to really want to comply? They're going to stab you with their knife. Or if you're immunocompromised, is it a safety thing? So there's two aspects of this. And is this an admission that the cops just can't handle these kinds of crimes?

Mayor Adams: Well, okay, a couple of things I was really surprised… I don't know. Was that your story Mike, or was that Chris' story? I don't know whose story it was about the mask. I think it was Chris. That was you. Okay.

Question: (Inaudible.)

Mayor Adams: Right, right. And it's not lost on me that I don't see a mask on any of you. It's not lost on me. And I mean there's sometimes in this city that you lose your credibility that no matter what someone does, you criticize it anyway. To have a doctor state that to remove your mask for six seconds you're causing a health crisis. I mean you lose your credibility. I would not get on a plane at JFK if everyone could get on without them showing their faces so that the TSA and others will have a visual of that. This is a responsible way to ensure that we deal with those who are wearing these masks, because they are committing crimes. And so when you say that, does this mean that we cannot solve the crimes? We have a record number of crimes that we're solving. What it does is it allows us to use the video surveillance and technology to identify the person faster. We're solving these cases because there are ways our detectives are doing that.

Question: The reason I'm asking the question is sometimes the people who go into these bodegas intent on committing a crime are not nice people, a hundred percent of the time. And sometimes they're a little bit crazy. So if they walk in and the poor guy behind the counter says, "You got to take off your mask." Doesn't that exacerbate their aggressiveness and doesn't it cause a bigger problem for the guy who's making the demand? And could that cause more bloodshed, more than this, more crime?

Mayor Adams: We're not asking the bodega to tell the person when they walk in, “Hey sir, you have to take off your mask.” There's a sign at the door that the Bodega Association helped us create. Let's be clear on that. The Bodega Association helped us create a sign that says, “Please upon entering remove your mask. And you could put it back on.”

But think about this for a moment. As I looked at some of the videos, I looked at about 30 videos of people who committed the robberies in smoke shops and in bodegas. In each one of those videos, you saw the person inside walking around with his mask on. And if you did a real analysis of it, you see that hey, this guy's up to something. So if you are refusing to remove your mask, don't confront the person. But now you are saying, wait a minute, now let me pay attention to this person that is in the store lingering around with the mask. We've got so used to the mask that we don't realize there's a large volume of people that are wearing it not because of Covid, because they're criminals.

Question: I'm only saying that asking somebody to remove the mask for a minute is like a deterrent because you're basically saying to the person, oh, we're going to catch your face now. So maybe you shouldn't do that evil thing that you wanted to do.

Mayor Adams: No, it's not so much a deterrent. When you are able to get… Two things, Marcia, that's very important here as we do an analysis of these crimes. They're repeat offenders, and by the time we catch that one person, they did seven other robberies. If we're able to identify their face fast enough, we're able to broadcast it on TV. They said we recognize the person and we identified them. Not having the video surveillance we are allowing the repeated offenders to continue until we catch them. If you take the mask out of the equation, are you able to identify the face of the person, number one, you catch them faster. Number two, you are able to broadcast it out, because we are building a network out with our bodegas that we are going to be able to shoot out to them if there is a pattern somewhere. So we are really involving people in the crime-fighting tactics. Masks have done a great job in preventing Covid. Now we must do a great job in preventing crimes.

Question: So on that, just to follow up on a couple of those things. Now if somebody's walking around the store, like you described, with a mask on, they haven't taken off and looked suspicious. What is the store owner then supposed to do? And just one quick one after that.

Mayor Adams: Well, first of all, he should be aware of what's happening because as I analyze the videos with Chief Maddrey and his team, you could almost analyze the videos that I looked at. Like I said, it was a substantial number. And there's this pattern of behavior inside the store. Some of these places, they have a security guard there, they have a secondhand person that's in the establishment. You should become aware and conscious of this person that's in your store. The more knowledge you have beforehand, you should have a direct connection to your local community affairs officer. If you feel unsafe, you can report what the possibility. But we are partnering with the bodegas associations.

Question: (Inaudible) on this. You talk about with crime, like crime going down, there's still like a fear. There’s still this fear exists. Now people who are immunocompromised — And we're talking about taking a mask off for just six seconds and Fabien sent me the CDC stuff. I mean there's a fear those folks have of, if I take it off for just a little, it might make things worse. Well how do you address that? Is there a way the city can address this in your messaging that you think could be helpful?

Mayor Adams: Listen… I'm a strong believer, I'm not going to interpret the fear of someone, because fear is personalized to who you are and how you're feeling. If someone is immunocompromised and they believe that if I take my mask off for three seconds that I may catch something, I got to respect that. This is a broader conversation of part of our public safety plan, and it's really commendable from Chief Maddrey to understand and see the connection of those who are wearing a mask and those who are committing crimes. And it is about giving the store owners the additional tools. There is not one tool to safety. This is an additional tool that he or she will have if a person is not compliant with the basic rule of when you come in, remove your mask upon entry. This is a basic understanding.

Now don't kid yourself that everyone that's wearing a masks is fearing they’re immunocompromised. Don't believe that hustle. If I'm a bodega owner, 3 am in the morning, someone walks in after they see the sign that says, "Please remove your mask upon entry." And they're lingering around the store like many of these guys have been doing, I want to be knowledgeable that, hey, this is a person I need to keep my eye on.

Question: Mr. Mayor, I want to follow up on Bern’s question about the President Biden advisory board. I’m wondering how big of a commitment do you think this will hold? Do you envision yourself traveling as a surrogate, and is there any particular place in the country or particular group of people you think the president needs to reach most?

Mayor Adams: He's the quarterback and whatever position on the field he wants me to play to continue to move our country forward, I'm willing to do so. In no way am I going to neglect my responsibility as a city. And no matter what you write, there's no one in here that is not going to say I'm one of them hardest… Probably LaGuardia is the other mayor that worked as hard as I am. So I'm going to continue to do my obligation as the mayor. But our country needs real leadership and I just think the president provides that and I want to make sure that wherever he needs me and however he needs me, I'm willing to do so.

Question: Mr. Mayor, regarding retail theft. How good an idea is this situation where retailers and bodegas are buzzing people in? Because now they have to decide who they're letting into the store. That may reduce the number of people coming into the store purchasing things. So does it give them less business? Are we caving into the criminal and are we really throwing the community under the bus because they don't have the freedom to come and go in and out of a store when they want?

Mayor Adams: It depends on the store. Depends on the store. And if we are talking about a local bodega, you don't have to buzz people in and out. If I'm in a high-end jewelry store, having the tool of seeing someone at my door, no matter who they are. And if they're not willing to comply with the mask, I'm not buzzing you in. And I should make the decision if I want to buzz you in or not. Here's this basic rule that I'm asking. You could put your mask back on, but I think that jewelry store operator, that high-end pocketbook store, that high-end watch store. If someone comes to your door, and here's a basic rule I'm asking you as you enter so we could properly identify who you are, my spider senses will go up if you are telling me, "No, I'm not willing to show you who I am."

I think that jewelry store should have the right to say, based on my safety protocols, I am not going to buzz you into my store. And it's not a surrender. It is using smart practices. The reason many of these stores put in place video surveillance so if something happens, it's a deterrence, and if something happens, you could identify the person that carried out the action. To not respect the right to allow people in who are willing to comply with your basic request, I think a shop owner is being smart by making that decision.


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