July 19, 2022
Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom, Health and Human Services: Good morning, everyone. My name is Anne Williams-Isom and I'm the deputy mayor for Health and Human Services. The mayor is constantly asking us to think creatively about how we address issues facing our city and how to enlist the whole community in problem solving. It's not just government or just business or just community groups and advocates. It is all of us working together and it's about individuals all across the city putting their time, effort and energy into making New York City stronger, safer, and more equitable. Today's announcement shows the power of individuals coming together to work to help our fellow New Yorkers. I want to thank the mayor for bringing us together this morning and for leading this effort, and for always providing us with the north star that we need in order to move towards and to move forward. I'd now like to introduce Mayor Eric Adams to kick off this announcement.
Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thank you so much, Deputy Mayor. It's good to be here with friends and allies for so many years. Norman Siegel and I have stood side by side on so many issues. And actually, you saved my job when they tried to fire me in the Police Department.
Mayor Adams: I just realized that. Before we get into the topic at hand, we do have a National Weather Service heat advisory for New York City that will be in effect from Wednesday the 20th through Thursday, July 21st. We're looking at temperatures to be in the upper 90s on Wednesday and Thursday. This is serious heat and we're really concerned about those particularly with pre-existing respiratory conditions, and so we're going to be opening the cooling centers. They will be open through Thursday, and of course, beaches and pools are open for the summer. New Yorkers can also find ways to stay cool at nyc.gov/beattheheat, or by calling 311. And we want to make sure that during these times, there's often a moment with our electricity. We are in contact with Con Edison and PSEG Long Island, and we're going to continue to monitor the situation. The Office Of Emergency Management is on top of this, but we cannot stress enough to take all the necessary precautions, and the basic thing. Check on elders, drink water, rest if you are outdoors and just really be conscious of the heat that we are facing.
Mayor Adams: And so I want to thank Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom, and again, I want to thank Norman Siegel. He approached me when we first started doing our homeless outreach, particularly on the streets, and with his years of experience that goes so many years back in dealing with homelessness, some of the most prominent cases, Norman represented those. And he critiqued. He says, "Listen, I would do it a different way, Eric. I would like to bring my expertise to it. The ways some things that you are doing I just don't agree on," and friends can disagree without being disagreeable.
Mayor Adams: And as I always say, if you've got a better way to build the mouse trap or a better way to deal with the crises, bring your game forward and put skin in the game. Because a lot of people, Norman, they critique but they don't want to do anything. But it's about coming out and getting engaged and that's what he did. He reached out to a real pioneer in this space, Bob Hayes, that really understands this issue. They came together and created this volunteer driven initiative that we are excited about, and he will lay out the full pieces of it. And when he sat down and rolled it out with my team, he met with Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom, Commissioner Gary Jenkins and others, and they sat down and talked about it over and over again. They peeled back layers and layers to deal with how we're going to move forward in this initiative.
Mayor Adams: And our best ideas come from everyday New Yorkers who have spent time in a particular field or who want to do the best they can to solve a real complicated problem.
Mayor Adams: Friday, I was out with Shams DaBaron as we walked the streets of Harlem, and we saw people who really were not in a position to even take the care and services that were being offered. We took the bus over to Wards Island around 11, 12 o'clock at night and spoke to some of the men and women who were going into shelters or who were just outside. Those who want to simplify the complexity of homelessness, there's a reason no one has gotten it right thus far. There's a reason, and part of that reason is because no one was willing to listen to all aspects of this. This administration is willing to hear those who have great ideas. We care about this city. One can say what they want but you cannot take away from the fact, I love this city. And the people I love in this city are those who are living in homes and those who are homeless, because I speak with them every day that I could possibly talk to them, particularly our brothers and sisters who are experiencing homelessness.
Mayor Adams: There's no dignity in living on the streets. There's no dignity, and the conversation is what is the pathway to take people off the streets and into permanent housing? So we could have a conversation on what pathway. I'm using my pathway, and today, Norman is going to lay out what he believes is another pathway, another layer to do this. But there's one thing we don't disagree on, there is no dignity in living on the streets. That we agree on and so we are going to lean into the things we agree on and not the things that we disagree on. And I'm pleased to announce that four months into our subway safety efforts... I remember the day. Week one, we had 22 people and everyone talked about the failure of our initiative. We're up to over 1,700 people that we were able to build a relationship with off our subway system and put them in a pathway to our shelters, and want to put them in a pathway to permanent housing.
Mayor Adams: You could raise a conversation with how long did they stay? Did they stay forever? One day off the street is a day towards permanent housing, that's what it's about. It is actually doing something. Too many administrations have stood by and watched people on our subway system and act like they didn't see them. Well, you know what? I saw them. I saw them from day one and I am pleased with the plan. Our teams are making approximately 814 engagements each day, and several of them I make when I speak with people on the street. And we are engaging people, building trust. They're becoming familiar with our faces. We are bringing them to a place of trust because it's all about trust.
Mayor Adams: And listen, a recent poll that we saw, 60% of New Yorkers understand this is a real issue and they understand that we are leaning into this issue, and so we know that we have to solve this problem. We cannot just walk by and pretend it's someone else's problem. It is our problem. I am responsible for taking people off the streets and placing them in permanent housing. And so starting in early August, for those who are harder to reach, there's a lot of layers to reaching some folks when you've been doing this work. They're harder to reach and for those, we developed a new strategy. In close coordination with advocates and partners, we are going to take an approach that other administrations have not tried. We're going to connect one on one, heart to heart, with New Yorkers that are living on the street.
Mayor Adams: And I'm calling on all those who are out there that have Tweeted and Instagrammed and Googled and wrote articles. I'm calling all of you now to get skin in the game. Come and volunteer, because when I hear someone complain, the first thing I'm going to ask, did you volunteer? It's a right to complain and that right starts with you volunteering. And so this initiative is an all hands on deck situation and we have no time to lose. We will pair you with city outreach workers, we'll give you the proper training. We're looking for everyone to participate, those with lived experience of homelessness, faith leaders, retirees, and everyday citizens. This is about building trust and we want our unhoused neighbors, because these are our neighbors, we want to offer solutions like independent housing, mental health services and substance use programs.
Mayor Adams: Yesterday, we were at Fountain House, walking through Fountain House, an amazing model. And keep in mind, my commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene came from Fountain House. This entire administration is filled with people who have private experience of showing compassion to those who are in need. Listen, this is not going to be easy, but we have a moral duty and a moral responsibility to stop neglecting and denying those who are in need. And we're asking people that if you see someone who needs help, please call 311. Social change happens one person at a time, one call at a time, and rest assured, your individual acts of compassion will become contagious and we will all start believing the possibility is here.
Mayor Adams: And so I want to thank, again, Norman and Robert for their years of commitment and their willingness to come and use their efforts to make this happen. And to my young interns that are out there, I see you guys and ladies back there. You are now part of our administration, and trust me, this is the most exciting administration you're ever going to be a part of. I told the press when I first got elected, y'all are going to have so much fun covering me, and so we enjoy this. I want to turn this over to my friend.
Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: I'm going to come back.
Mayor Adams: Okay. You come on.
Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Sorry, sorry. I know he's going to get mad at me.
Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: The other thing I was going to say is you said we went from 22 to 1,700, but it was because you leaned into us and you made sure that we got the work done. And you said that failure is not an option and that failure will teach us, but you kept on pushing us, so I just want to note that and appreciate that. The other thing that you said, mayor, was you talked about dignity. And I don't know if you remember a couple of weeks ago, I texted you when I was out at a restaurant with my friend and there was a homeless man that was in front of the restaurant. And somebody must have called the police, and as soon as the police showed up, my friend and I ran out and we engaged with this man.
Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: We found out his name. We found out that he had two daughters that lived in Florida. We found out that he had seven brothers and sisters here in New York City. He wasn't just a person that was acting crazy out in front of the restaurant, he was a person who needed support. So we stayed with him and we talked with him until the DHS outreach workers came, and when he was leaving, he said, "Hey sis, can you pray with me?" So I grabbed his hands and we said the Lord's Prayer together. I almost couldn't concentrate because he remembered the words almost better than me. So I knew that in there, there was someone who didn't need a new life. He had a life, we needed to reconnect him to the services and to the homes that he needs. That's what we're about and that's why we're here.
Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: So, to Norman Siegel, a person who really doesn't need an introduction. Norman has been a champion for New Yorkers and everyone fighting for civil rights for decades. He formally served as the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union chapter here in the city, serving the organization in various roles for some 25 years and has a distinguished legal career. Even though you left the ACLU, you never stopped serving the city. You have worked time and again with our Mayor Adams on issues ranging from police community relations to FEMA rule changes during the heart of the pandemic, and so many others. And as a fellow attorney, Norman, you've led the way for so many of us who are advocates across the city and across the nation. It is my pleasure to present Norman Siegel.
Mayor Adams: Thank you. Thank you for your work. Before we open to questions, I just realized I have one of my former Borough Hall employees. Sherman, come and tell your story.
Mayor Adams: Thank you.
Mayor Adams: Thank you. Thank you. Please give Sherman information. There's always a job for you no matter where I am. So they didn't understand your value in Borough Hall. They're going to understand it in City Hall.
Mayor Adams: And it's just fascinating. First of all, it shows the power of the media. Ladies and gentlemen, you take hits from time to time, particularly from me. But the reality is that story started a movement. I remember drinking my smoothie in the morning, reading that story. This was a prominent leader in the news industry. Well respected, people knew him, and there by the grace of God, we don't know what crisis is facing us. And he was just such an asset for me in Borough Hall. And I benefited from him coming on our team. He helped us navigate some of the problems in the shelter system.
Mayor Adams: He was able to be just a voice for those who were unheard, and he just became a friend. And I just thank him for his service. And I am just happy that he knows that we would love to have him to be part of our City Hall team. This is a complex problem. It's a complex problem. You have a former reporter, now he's placing in an environment… But some people are coming right home from Rikers Island going to Wards Ireland. And now you put in this mixture, this almost toxic soup together. And when I walked through to Wards Island Friday, I said, "What is difference between what I saw on Wards Island and what I saw on Rikers Island in the dormitory setting?"
Mayor Adams: And we would like to be able to, as Bob stated, give every person that's homeless a single room and all the amenities. We would love to do that, but the inventory is not there. The amount of money we're spending on homelessness, it's just astronomical during these tough financial times. So I have to play the hand that the situation was dealt to me. I have to make sure if I have a population that is going to be in congregate setting, the congregate settings must be suitable.
Mayor Adams: Those who need safe havens and other wraparound services, we need to make sure they're in those places. So this complicated chess game of homelessness, we need everyone to be a part of it. And that's why we are willing to listen to everyone for these solutions. And it's my responsibility. And damn it, I want that responsibility. I sat on the sideline and complained of the failures of the past, and I want the ball in my hand. And you go across the country, a group of mayors are here today at the Bloomberg School, and I went to the dinner yesterday. Every mayor I sat down and talked to, you know what they said? Eric, we're facing homelessness, crime, affordability, COVID, and our economy. Every city, every city. No one has the answers yet, but we are going to try. So we are opening up to on topic.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor Adams: How are you?
Question: Good. Thanks. Are there concerns about safety with regard to people going out who are not with one of the organizations that's very versed in homeless outreach?
Mayor Adams: Yes, and we're going to partner the teams with our personnel and that's part of the training, to know how to engage. But we want to create those partnerships and make sure that we could do it to ensure as much safety as possible. What we don't want to do, we don't want the outreach team to be partnered with a uniformed police officer because that sends the wrong message. So we're going to do it in a very safe way, to ensure that we minimize any interaction that could be harmful. It's about the right training and right engagement.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor, how are you?
Mayor Adams: Good.
Question: Couple of quick questions. First is how much funding is this getting from the city? And second... Nothing from...
Norman Siegel, Civil Rights Attorney: We don't want any money.
Question: Why is that?
Siegel: We believe in the spirit of people volunteering and coming together. We also think that when I'm out on the streets and I approach someone, when I tell them what we're doing and they realize I'm not from the government. I'm a civil rights person. I'm a New Yorker. I'm here to listen. Then maybe after a couple of times, we're going to go out every Thursday night. We're going to come to City Hall with the volunteers. We're going to ask various speakers from government, from the non-profit sector, former homeless people.
Siegel: We'll have pizza, water, in deference, some plant-based whatever it's called. And then we'll hit the streets. The teams will be of four or five people, one or two from the city, two or three of us. We'll go to the same locations every Thursday night from 7:00 to 9:00. At 9:00, we'll go to a coffee shop or something a little stronger, and we'll sit down, we'll do our metrics, our report, to find out whether or not our assumptions turn out to be valid. We think by doing that without government funding, with the bureaucracies and the regulations, we'll be free to do what we think we have to do. That's my answer.
Question: Mr. Mayor, if I could, one other question on the statement you sent out this morning, on asylum seekers that are putting a strain on the shelter system. What's your message to the federal government? Do you think they shouldn't be sent here in the first place? I know you said some from the state governments are being sent here on buses. How much of an issue is this becoming? And what's the solution?
Mayor Adams: It's a real issue. We are a right-to-shelter city and we welcome people during difficult times. We have been in close communication with the White House. The White House, this administration has been a great partner with us on a number of issues, but let's not leave out Arkansas and Texas and other municipalities. They are sending people to New York and New York is willing to show its humanitarian outreach and compassion and we need to get the resources to go with it. We have close to 2,500 in the last, probably six to seven weeks, that are here. We already had an overburdened shelter system. So we need, not only federal government, but we need some of those states that have been giving people one way tickets. We need them to understand that this must be a partnership in this country to deal with those who are coming here, seeking refuge or asylum. New York is going to do its share, but we have an overburdened shelter system now.
Question: [Inaudible] conversations with the Texas government and how they're sending people here?
Mayor Adams: Yeah. I don't know if those guys like talking.
Question: Mr. Mayor.
Mayor Adams: Yes.
Question: How are you?
Mayor Adams: Good. Yourself?
Question: Doing all right.
Mayor Adams: You don't know Nolan? This is the legendary Nolan Hicks.
Question: What gap are you guys specifically trying to fill? And the city offers a lot of services, it has outreach teams, it has counseling, supportive shelters, Barrett shelters. There's a suite of services. What's the gap this volunteer effort is trying to fill specifically?
Mayor Adams: Great question. Great question. Like yesterday when I was out with Shams, I was amazed at... it's almost an inner ability to connect with people when you've gone through that, because Shams was able to talk to people on the streets that I'm sure, if a professional outreach worker would've done that, I don't know if they would've responded the same way. We walked up and down 125th Street from Lenox over to Lexington. Even when we got on the bus, people were just connecting with Shams. So the gap we are trying to handle is the hard-reach population. Yeah, we got to 1,700.
Mayor Adams: I'm pretty sure if you go through the subway system, you'll be challenged to find an encampment, but there's still those that's just the hard to reach. We need folks who have gone through this before to help us reaching that hard-to-reach population, particularly with mental health issues. And it's repeated. It's over and over again, talking to them, building trust, becoming familiar with the face of the individual. We're going to try to keep doing that, but I just think that they're going to bring an extra layer to our ability to reach that population.
Siegel: Can I just add one other thing?
Mayor Adams: Yes, you can.
Siegel: To answer your question, New York City in the past has refused to acknowledge the racial overtones to homelessness from way back when Bob and I, in the eighties, were doing our work. For example, the city put out studies, 45% of the people in the shelter system, their last known place was an SRO. When they got rid of the SROs, which got you the J-51 program to build different kinds of housing. Remember the SROs were not huge facilities. They're usually five or six story buildings. It didn't have hundreds of people there. So people got pushed out as part of the gentrification, especially in Upper West Side of Manhattan. But in addition, the overwhelming percentage back then, we'll confirm it in our work now, there's a racial overtone. I have been quoted many times saying if the homeless were Caucasian, the city would've dealt with it differently.
Siegel: The overwhelming percentage of homeless people in the past were Black and brown people. Also I got in trouble by saying the following, and I'll say it again, even the brown people, they were dark skinned. The reality of the homeless problem, we'll in our metrics see whether it's still accurate in 2022, my observations anecdotally, again. It's people, dark skinned, poor people. People who've run across hard times. Every one of our teams ideally will have a former homeless person who will be able to say to the person out on the street, "I've been there. I understand." I, as the lawyer, will be on the team, but I'll be in the background. And yes sir, we are concerned about that. But in my own personal experience from years of doing this stuff, never had a problem. In my opening, I said, if you approach people respectfully...
Siegel: And that's our training. Our trainings are going to be three hour sessions. We're going to train people to ideally, if we find that someone doesn't adhere to that kind of commitment, they're not coming out with us. We will do it a pilot initially. We want to make sure my famous saying, "I hate to fail. I hate to lose." It's the difference between wanting to win and hating to lose. Coach Gordon at Utrecht High School when I played JV basketball instilled that into me back in 1958 and '59. I still remember it. Thank you, Coach Gordon. So there's a racial aspect to this and we appeal to the private sector to face up to it, help us out. And you're talking about, we don't want any government money. The private sector, you can come forward and help us out. No public money.
Mayor Adams: Just my commissioner shared with me, it is Arizona that's sending folks up. Arizona. Sorry, Arkansas. Don't you do it though.
Question: My question, couple questions. You talked about the training. [Inaudible] in more detail what the training looks like, what these four or five groups consist of. You said you were going to go out. Then my other question is, how successful is this expected to be. [Inaudible] monkeypox cases are going up COVID is surging. They're all wearing face masks. How can you expect people to go out at a time where they're going to be quite at risk as well?
Siegel: Well, because we care. When you care, I'm aware, we keep wanting to not go public because of COVID. I read the papers, the sixth surge, we'll wear our masks. If we have to go back to putting on gloves again, we'll do that. But that will be off-putting. We'll go out with masks in our pocket to give some of the folks on the street, so that we'll talk to them about that. That'll win over hopefully some trust, because they'll understand we're there. We'll go back again and again. I did this many years ago, we went to a particular area. There were 13 people.
Siegel: The first week, we came with a cup of coffee and we spent some time. It was incredible. They had a street operation. We disagree on the encampment raids, I call them. They're counterproductive, they're negative, but we're still going to agree to disagree on that. Hopefully, I can prove to the mayor that encampment raids are a mistake, they're counterproductive. Do you remember that Saturday? We had a 30 minute intense phone conversation between Eric and I about that issue. I still think he's wrong on that. We'll keep pushing, that's what advocates do. But in the context of that, we said we'd come back the next week. We came back that Tuesday at that time, I think we went there at 9:00 and the group was shocked. And I said, "What are you shocked?" And they said, "You came back." And I said, "We said we'd come back." And they said, "Nobody ever comes back."
Siegel: I read the Coalition For the Homeless report in 2021, page 32 of their report, they had two people specifically saying, "People didn't come back." So we're going to come back and we'll be prepared, be concerned about safety, concerned about the issue that you just raised. But I'll speak for myself, I can't just sit in my house. I can't sit in my office knowing that people are out there, we got to do something. That doesn't mean I'm going to succeed, but we're going to do it. We're going to try. And I'm sure knowing some of you, now that I know Mr. Nolan Hicks, whatever, all I'm going to say is you'll call us. We'll try to be as forthright and honest in our responses, but we want to make a difference, bottom line.
Question: So what is the training?
Siegel: Oh, the training. I'm looking at my program for our training and I'll share it with you afterwards. We're going to have two panels. The first panel, I'll just give it to you. Homeless history, legal cases. Robert Klein who's one of our lawyers who's prepared, Callahan, Eldridge, McCabe. Those are the seminal cases. We're going to spend a half an hour on them. What does it mean? We're then going to talk about the shelter system itself. The rules, the regulations, the barriers, the lived experience and possible solutions. It's 60 minutes. People like Bob, people like Sherman, Harriet, a DHS representative, questions, and answers.
Siegel: Then we're going to have a second role playing, interaction with person experiencing homelessness. 30 minutes. Mark Greenberg, executive director Interfaith Assembly Homeless and Housing will have an example of someone on the street, how he interacts with them, how to teach people that. The final panel, which goes for 45 minutes, the dos and do-nots of interacting with homeless people. People like Larry Woods from Goddard Riverside, Muzzy Rosenblatt from the Bowery Residence Committee. We'll have other people in addition.
Siegel: We hope our first training session will be August 1. It will be from 3:00 to 6:00. That's the training. We have metrics, the metrics form that we're going to hand out, which is very important so we can quantify and answer your questions. To the person who volunteers, put your name on the form. Who did you speak with? Name, location, phone number, email address. Was the individual cooperative? Yes/no. Does an individual want to leave the streets? Yes/no. If yes, what does the individual need? Housing, safe haven, stabilization, job. What kind? Mental health placement, addiction placement, other. Does an individual want to see if I can help? Yes or no.
Siegel: Those are the kinds of things. We have a volunteer recruitment intake form, which is three pages, maybe a little too burdensome for volunteers, but in response to Melissa's very good question, we have to vet the people who are going to be out there. So we’re going to have people who potentially don't know how to respond to someone who's out of control or people who create the environment to make the person on the street out of control.
Mayor Adams: And what we going do, because there are organizations out there already. Muslims Giving Back, they're on 42nd Street I think just about every Friday, giving out... We gave them a stipend when I was borough president for blankets. They're giving out food, socks, clothing. Now we're going to coordinate this effort of what they're doing with the kiosk over on 42nd Street with the Foundation House. We're going to coordinate with this effort. So there's a lot of disjointed forms of volunteerism that's taking place every day. Young lady came up to me that I introduced Norman to that stated she wants to help. She gives socks.
Siegel: Over here. Dana.
Mayor Adams: I met her at an event in Williamsburg. She gives out socks, she was giving out socks. So we're now going to coordinate the effort instead of having a disjointed effort so that we can accomplish our task. Yes, go ahead, I'm sorry.
Question: I got two quick ones. Thanks for taking my questions. The first is, fiscal hawks might say, "Well, the city's been spending billions on homelessness for years now." What does it say that you're engaging in a volunteer program now, as far as the spending? The second question is, do you envision, if this is successful, turning it into something where there's a stipend attached? Kind of like a city-based AmeriCorps, Peace Corps type thing?
Mayor Adams: Yes, yes. Here's where we’re going, and you're right. We spent billions on an inferior product. We keep believing, throw money at a problem. Money thrown at dysfunctional actions is going to produce a dysfunctional outcome. Everyone just believes, and I'm seeing this over and over in government, everyone believes throw more money, throw more money. No, we're just not going to do that. We're spending billions now. So if we can create a real AmeriCorps, a volunteer corps, this human capital is just unbelievable.
Mayor Adams: A number of students are asking, "What can we do? How can we help?" Many of our clergy organizations are asking that and it's about giving people a pathway to use the human capital. That is where we are in abundance. We're not in abundance with our budget. We're going to go through some serious financial challenges in the next few years. Where we are rich, is in human capital. If we could open that and have folks like Norman and Bob and some of the volunteers that are here, to really empower other people to just not sit on the sideline and complain about what's wrong with the city, but saying that, "I'm going to be part of the agents of change." So we can do that. I just believe that you're going to see a difference in so many areas on how we could use our human capital, but that's what we would like to do.
Siegel: I want to make one specific pitch that I left out. As a proud graduate of Brooklyn College, CUNY system, I make a public appeal to the quarter of a million students in the CUNY system. Contact us when you come back to school. We need you Thursday nights to be part of this effort. You will, like my generation, when I went in 1966, as part of the Law Student Civil Rights Research Council to places like Mississippi and Georgia, I changed my perspective of what I wanted to do with my life. We want to do the same thing. We're not excluding the NYUs, the Columbias, whatever, but I make a pitch because of the racial overtones. We want the CUNY students to be able to be involved… And to give your editorial board a little credit. Yesterday, they raised the issue that the mayor just raised about the economic issues for the future. More important, when we begin, we need those students coming forward from a new generation of people committed to public service.
Question: Thank you all for your time. Mr. Siegel, I wanted to clarify a couple points you made. The first one is, do you have a sense of how many people you would like to sign up at full capacity for this pilot? Then you also mentioned collecting this data and you listed what you're looking for. Is that data going to be published? Is it going to be made available on government websites. Mr. Mayor, is it possible for that data then to inform how you're prioritizing building maybe more supportive housing versus funding a new shelter, for example?
Siegel: Well, as a civil libertarian, I draw a wall between government and the private. The answer to your question, when we get the metrics that we're doing, you call me, I'll give you the answers. I don't know how else to do it. Whether it's going to be in a government website, that ain't my call, that's his call and the folks here. What was you were asking?
Mayor Adams: Well, she was asking about using the data, information.
Siegel: The Op-Ed that Bob and I published, thanks to Josh Greenman at the Daily News, got us about 10 volunteers and Harriet got through The Doe Fund nine. Currently we have 19 volunteers. That's enough for us to begin our pilots because if the four pilots are only going to have two volunteers, out of the 19, we would have to choose eight. But if we're successful and we get the kind of response that hopefully your editors don't tell you that this is not a story to run and we get some responses over the next 10 days or so, we could start thinking about if the pilot works going citywide. With regard to how many people, that's such a hard question. I heard him in his press conference say, and when they asked about how many rooms he's going to provide, as many as possible, I'll say as many as possible.
Question: Where is it going to be situated. Are they kind of the spots for where people are talking?
Siegel: We've consulted with the city people and we have three locations in Manhattan and one in the Bronx. That's conscious, disproportionate number of street homeless people are in New York County, but we don't want it to be seen as only New York County. So we'll do one in the Bronx and eventually if we're successful and the metrics prove we're successful, we'll go to every borough. We're also going to potentially go to places where we know that their people are, but we're also going to experiment perhaps in a place where we send out the word, "Come to a different location."
Siegel: I've talked to a couple of not-for-profits about potentially on a weekend, starting in September, doing a concert in some of the parks in the city and the different… Tompkins Square Park would be a good place, maybe other places, Riverside in Manhattan, and have performers perform so that it's a magnet to people to come also during the daytime with family settings, et cetera, as opposed to when we go out Thursday night, seven tonight. Once it starts getting dark, one of the reasons we want to begin now is when we go out at seven o'clock tonight, it's still light. Once it gets to the colder weather, it's more difficult, especially doing this kind of stuff when it's 28 degrees and it's snowing, but we'll be there. As the post office used to say, "We'll be there rain, shine, et cetera."
Mayor Adams: It's important to point out. I think we want to take one more, then we'll take about two or three off topics because I know I got to bounce, but this is not in replacement of. We need to be very clear on that. This is not in replacement of what we are doing as a city. This is a compliment to. And we want others who have other ways of doing this and willing to put skin in the game. So this is not, I don't want it to come across as we are now having a new way of dealing with homelessness in the city. This is a compliment to what we are doing with Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom and Gary are carrying out. So I just want to be clear on that. I'm going to take one more then a few off topics.
Question: So Amanda hit on a lot of my questions related to the pilot. The last one, just being, you described the training as being primarily led by, it sounds like, professionals. So you're expecting all of these people who are conducting the training to also be volunteering their time throughout this program?
Siegel: Absolutely. That's a premise.
Question: Logical public safety training portion of this in addition to some of the history of homelessness?
Siegel: Sure. The interaction that Mark is going to do for 30 minutes will… Us lawyers do moot court. Before I go to the court on a big case, when and if I have to sue this guy over here. And when I'm in court, you want your colleagues to question you on how you're going to respond to questions. We're going to do the same thing. It's not just going to be theoretical. It's going to be, someone will be sitting on the floor. Mark will approach them. He'll do that after we've done a panel on theoretically, what are the things to do, what the rights are, et cetera. And then we'll act it out, questions and answers.
Siegel: And again, initially, we're only going to have to choose, we think, about eight volunteers from the group to start the pilot, but then we'll do additional training. The bottom line is we're going to vet the volunteers and the people who go out on the street. For the new people, let's assume there's some volunteers that have never done this before, maybe we'll have one new person with four experienced people so that person will be able to use the private sector on the job training. I think young people, all kinds of folks, learning the legal history of the homeless issue and their practicalities will be worthwhile in and of itself, even if they're not chosen to be one of the people out on the street.
Mayor Adams: We're going to do off-topic. Okay, we going to allow y'all to depart from this...
Question: Mr. Mayor, two things. My editors want your reaction to the decision by Alvin Bragg, DA Bragg, to drop charges against the clerk in the bodega. If you can address that, I would appreciate it.
Question: But on the subject of the asylum seekers, you said we need some partnership from the states that are just putting people on buses or planes. How is this going down? Are they saying, "Here's a one way ticket to New York. Show up at PATH, 151 East 151st Street. They're not going to turn you away.” Are they telling people that? And I just want to give you a chance to respond to the Legal Aid Society's criticism that you might be scapegoating the asylum seekers for what is already a bureaucratic problem in the shelter system caused by other factors like arrests, addictions.
Mayor Adams: That's all good. First, let's peel it back in layers. I'm not quite sure what methods they're using, but based on our interviews and conversations with those who are arriving, they're stating which states they're coming from and the conversation is something in essence, "You could go to New York, they would make sure you have shelter." Now if you're new to our country, you're just trying to find help. And so someone tells, "This is the way to do it." We need to investigate are they giving them one way tickets? We're not sure. This just got on our radar when we started seeing the high numbers show up.
Question: Has there been anything that sort of, presumably these people don't have a lot of money. They're not qualified for food stamps or public assistance, like other shelter residents. How are we making sure that they have food and diapers and all that kind of stuff?
Mayor Adams: There you are. You are hitting on those topics of why we're reaching out to the federal government and stating this is a real burden on New Yorkers, as we're trying to do the right thing of… As I stated, we already have an overburdened shelter system. So now we're talking about, as you stated, food, clothing, school. This is going to impact our schools because we do not turn away individuals because they're undocumented, need translation services. There's just a whole host of things that this is going to produce. And that's why we need help in getting this done and we need to write coordination to make it happen.
Question: One more response to Legal Aid's statement that they've put out saying that it would be wrong to sort of blame the problems at the back end of the shelter system on asylum seekers when there are bureaucratic issues that are really contributing to it.
Mayor Adams: Yeah. Calling for help from the federal and those states. I don't know why they believe that's the blame. I don't know why they believe that's to blame, quoting in the facts and what we are dealing with. So, what we're saying? Our system is already overburdened, fact. These states are sending people to New York without any communication or coordination, fact. We're not receiving any dollars in addition to this new responsibility that we are going to have, fact. So I'm just not clear what Legal Aid believe we are doing that is blaming anyone. We're saying we're going to do our job as New Yorkers, but we do need help to deal with this new wave of those who are in need of shelter.
Mayor Adams: The D.A. And there's probably other people had that question also. They did a thorough investigation and they made a determination. Of my understanding, the charges were dropped. This happens sometimes in cases, the preliminary arrest, after review decisions are made. I think in this case, we had an innocent, hardworking, New Yorker that was doing his job and someone was extremely aggressive towards him. I believe after the DA's review, the DA, in my opinion, made the right decision.
Mayor Adams: He got a tan. He was on the beach.
Question: I see that. [Inaudible] But I want to look at next year, what are you doing, working with the DOE to provide swim lessons to teach kids how to swim [inaudible]. Also perhaps the [inaudible]. I know city public pools, about half of those are open [inaudible] issue for a lot of other reasons. What are you thinking? I think you had the summer of ‘23 to make sure that we don't have the same scrambling that we did this year when it comes to those.
Mayor Adams: No doubt. The lifeguards are under a union. We are already engaging in conversation around some of the practices. We need to be forward thinking. I don't know why we waited until this crisis to happen, which there's a national shortage of lifeguards, but we have too many school pools that are being underutilized. There's a beautiful pool I think at Jefferson that is not being used. We need to do a real canvassing of all of the pools and see what programs we have. We have to be more forward thinking in teaching swimming. I was part of Swim Strong when I was in the borough president's office. We need to be better prepared to deal with the lifeguard issues. Start training young people to be certified. Look at water safety with some of our law enforcement communities. We talk about building a better relationship between police and communities, this is a way to do so. We need to think outside the box so that we are not unprepared in the upcoming years.
Mayor Adams: If that's what's needed to be done, we need to do it. But again, I keep going back to the first thing people say, "We need more money." First, we need to look at what we're doing with the money we have. I keep saying that over and over again as I keep looking at these agencies, what are we doing with the money that we have? Have we tapped into volunteerism? Swim Strong is wanting to be a partner. Who do we have already on staff that's willing to do that? So let's peel back all the other layers and then if we need more money to do so, we should be open to doing that.
Mayor Adams: How are you?
Question: I'm good. On the 1,700 homeless who the subway safety teams have engaged with, how many of them are actually staying off the streets, have they connected to support housing and such?
Mayor Adams: Well, I know we have a couple of hundred that remained off. Some went to live with other loved ones. Some started believing they don't have to live in that condition. But I keep saying every day off the street is a good day. We like to look at the stats. I understand that. But if I got you off that subway system for that night and had you engage, you may go back the next night, but then you may come back and say, "Listen, I got a safe place to go to." So I'm of the mindset every day I get you off the street is closer to getting you to permanent housing.
Question: Mr. Mayor. Yesterday, Congressman Richie Torres had a news conference about monkeypox. He was very critical of the federal delay and rollout. But the community leaders with him said that the only vaccination location is in Bronx Science. They say it's not accessible and it's not really good. Is there any plan to open up more vaccination locations?
Mayor Adams: Well, we need to listen to them because accessibility is important. We haven't heard that. That was not communicated directly to us, but I will speak with the commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene because we have to have accessibility. We have been fighting to get our share. 25% of the cases are here in New York. We were getting almost 50% of the proportionate level of vaccines, but I'm going to speak with the commissioner this afternoon and find out where all of our sites. I know we are big on making sure that it's accessible.
Mayor Adams: Just one question because I'm getting ready, that's who I'm getting ready to have a meeting with right now. The goal is this continuous battle of making sure dangerous people that are arrested are prosecuted, go through the criminal justice system, and off our streets. It's taking too long to sentence dangerous people. While they're on our streets, they continue to commit crimes. We continue to have this catch, release, repeat mindset. We got to get that under control.
Question: When you see numbers that grand larceny is up 49%, auto thefts are up 46%, felony assaults are up 19%. You see those numbers and you attribute all of that to this revolving door?
Mayor Adams: No, but if you, as the commissioner pointed out when she did her release last week or a week and a half ago. She showed you the repeated offenders. She showed you the proportion of people who are getting arrested for grand larceny, out the next day and doing it again. Who ar getting arrested for burglary, out, doing it again. There's a combination, but a substantial number of the people who are doing burglaries, grand larcenies, robberies, they're repeated offenders. If we don't stop that flow, we are going to have a harder time of getting these numbers under control.
Question: When you ran your pitch was, "I'm the former officer. I can get it under control." What do you say to New Yorkers who wake up and see these numbers in my paper, in the daily news about the shootings and the robberies being up, what do you explain?
Mayor Adams: My responsibility, and we will get crime under control. As we see the decrease in shootings, we see a decrease over the last few weeks in homicides. Two areas we had to zero in on, could have taken up a life is significant. Those two important areas. And Chief Maddrey, chief of patrol, is going to focus on those other crimes. But I cannot be clearer that we've created an atmosphere in this city, if not the country, that people who commit these crimes are not being held accountable. That sends a signal on the streets that we could continue to commit these crimes. Catch, release, repeat cannot be a criminal justice mantra.