July 7, 2016
Mayor Bill de Blasio: We want to update everyone on the weather conditions we’re facing. I just got to spend some time with the seniors here at this wonderful center and really wanted to let them know directly that it is so important to take precautions when we have this kind of weather. And I have to say, the seniors were very aware of the dangers and I think they took to heart the warnings we were giving them about how important it is to really take this weather seriously and make sure to take the proper precautions. So, we recognize it is not only very hot weather, but it is potentially dangerous weather we are experiencing today and tomorrow.
I’m going to give you an update on the forecast and on the steps the City is taking and on the kinds of precautions we want to urge all New Yorkers to take, but first let me acknowledge and thank – and you’re going to hear from some of these folks – our OEM Commissioner Joe Esposito, our Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, our Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro, our Social Services Commissioner Steve Banks, the General Manager at of NYCHA Michael Kelly, the Deputy Commissioner for External Affairs at Department for the Aging Karen Resnick, and I want to thank the elected officials who have joined with us and are working with us to get the word out to all their constituents, but particularly the seniors. Senator Gustavo Rivera, Assemblyman Victor Pichardo – we had Councilman Fernando Cabrera upstairs. I know he had to leave. I also want to thank Carlos Torres the Vice President for Emergency Management at Con Ed. And obviously we’ll be working very closely with Con Ed in these next few days.
And one of the things we’re going to talk about is the things we have to do to help make sure that we don’t have power outages. Every New Yorker can be part of not only staying safe, but also making sure this whole City doesn’t deal with power outages. So, let me go over first of all, the forecast as we know it. Today, the temperature will climb to around 90 with heat index values in the mid-90s. And that will continue up until about 8 pm today. Tomorrow, we expect temperatures up to 93 degrees. The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory. That heat advisory will go until 7 pm tomorrow. And we have an air quality alert. It is in effect today until 11 pm, so obviously these kinds of heat conditions also affect the quality of the air and that’s a real concern for seniors and folks with respiratory diseases.
Homeless services – Department of Homeless Services has issued a Code Red. That means that we’re doing outreach to homeless folks. We obviously have much more ability to locate folks who are on the street because of our HOME-STAT program. We’re doing specific outreach to get them to places where they are cool – can be cool and to get them the help they need in this environment. Now, I want to talk very quickly about six things that all New Yorkers should be aware of and six important precautions and steps you can take in this kind of situation. First of all, stay indoors and out of the sun. If you have the opportunity – you don’t have to because of work or travel – be outside a lot, it’s a really good day to stay indoors, not be over exposed to this heat and this sunlight.
We want to make sure that for those who are out that they know the City is doing a number of things to give you some opportunities to stay cool. On the playgrounds, we’re going to be keeping sprinklers on until dark. And at our larger pools, we will be extending hours until 8 pm. So, for folks who are out or folks who want to experience the sprinklers or the pools they are going to be open later. It is also a classic New York City tradition to open up fire hydrants. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it has to be done the right way – with the advice and the support of the Fire Department. That means getting the right kind of spray cap and I’m sure Commissioner Nigro will talk about how to do that. Second, use air conditioning – the most fundamental notion, make sure if you have air conditioning you’re using it to stay cool. Now, some people don’t use a lot of air conditioning. This is a day to be aware that it is necessary, but we’re also going to say as we said in past years, use it, but don’t over use it. Don’t set it too low. So, we’re urging everyone to set air conditioners to 78 degrees. This gives the benefit of keeping people cool enough, but doesn’t over tax our electricity grid. And again, that is a big concern in weather like this.
If you don’t have air conditioning there are places you can go. This senior center is an example – there are 500 centers around the City – libraries, community centers, senior centers, recreation facilities all available for free all over the city – every neighborhood. Anyone who wants to find out where the closest cooling center is, all they have to do is pick up the phone and call 3-1-1 and we will have them open today and tomorrow.
Third, and this is something our mothers always told us when we were kids, drink lots of water and this is one of the most fundamental things. And I urge all New Yorkers drink water whether you feel thirsty or not, just keep drinking water throughout the day, it is one of the most important ways to keep the body cool and healthy.
Fourth, check on your neighbors. Any seniors in your building, any friends, anyone you know might be frail or particularly vulnerable at this moment it is really important to check in on them and see if they need help. Make sure they are drinking water – make sure that they have the air conditioning on.
Fifth, if you’re feeling symptoms that might indicate something dangerous call 9-1-1. As we always say, if you’re just seeking information call 3-1-1, but a lot of times we find – and Dr. Bassett I’m sure will speak to this – the heat sneaks up on people and someone’s having trouble breathing or their heartbeat’s going up or they feel dizzy or they feel nausea and they kind of explain it away rather than recognizing it could be a sign of a very dangerous situation. Anyone who feels those symptoms coming on and feels in danger should call 9-1-1. And we are particularly concerned about seniors who have chronic medical conditions that they take extra precautions.
And finally, six, don’t forget the pets in our lives. Keep our pets safe too in this moment. Pets need to also be hydrated. They need to be in a cool place. Of course, don’t leave pets in a parked car in this kind of heat it could be very, very dangerous. And all of these things people need instruction, if they need information they can call 3-1-1 or go to NYC.gov for further information. Also, on the weather we have another related situation. There is a potential for thunderstorms this afternoon. That might provide some temporary cooling, but we are also concerned it could lead to a lot of rain coming down very, very quickly. So – possibility here of one to two inches very fast rain coming down. This could lead to flash flooding in some parts of the City. So, we want in particular drivers to be aware that later on today the conditions may be dangerous and take precautions and be careful on the roadways.
Just a couple words in Spanish before turning to our colleagues.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, I want to turn to our OEM Commissioner Joe Esposito. And we thank him for all that he is doing and his team is doing to help us deal with this situation.
Commissioner Joe Esposito, Office of Emergency Management: New York City Emergency Management, we’re working very closely with our city partner agencies to keep New York City safe during the heat emergency. We’re also working very closely with the National Weather Service. We were on a conference call just about an hour ago. We stay in constant contact with them to get the latest, as the mayor gave you the degrees and the alerts that are in effect. In addition to the heat and air quality alert, we also have the flash flood watch in effect as the mayor alluded to. That’s between noon and six. We may get some flash flooding through the thunderstorms. That’s in low lying areas, not your typical coastal areas. This is the areas that experience flooding when you get a lot of rain in a short period of time. Those are the areas we’re talking about. We’ve spoken with DEP and Sanitation to go out there and do some pre-emptive work to clean those catch basins to hopefully alleviate that situation to some degree. Because of the moisture in the atmosphere, that thunderstorm could develop very quickly and drop one to two inches. If it starts raining try to get yourself indoors. You don’t want to be in that situation.
We ask you to follow us on Notify NYC. It’s a program we run out of the NYC Emergency Management. It’s where you get the latest information on all types of events throughout the city. I encourage everybody to sign up for that. We have over 400,000 participants right now. We want to get that to even higher. You can sign up for that by going to nyc.gov and you can link right over to that.
Also we’re in constant contact with ConEd. Carlos Torres, who as the mayor said, is the Vice President for Emergency Management for them. He’s sitting next to me. Again, this is a time of weather where you can get very stressed – the system gets very stressed. Right now we have about 150 customers that are out, most of them are in the Astoria or Long Island City area of Queens. We expect it to be back within a few hours. We’re in constant contact with ConEd and PSEG. The staff – we also have the staff member from my shop that’s embedded in ConEd to make sure we get the latest information in a very timely fashion. We have a city heat emergency plan in effect. It’ll stay in effect until the heat emergency is over. We anticipate that to be around 7 or 8 o’clock tomorrow night. We also use our advance warning system. It’s a system where messages go out through healthcare providers and other agencies and other folks who deal with special needs populations. It’s our way of getting information to them in a timely fashion, so they can better serve their clients, especially the homebound and people with medical needs. We use the advanced warnings system for that. ConEd and PSEG have asked us to issue an excavation safety alert. What that does is it alerts contractors who are doing work around the city to be extra cautious when drilling and digging in the streets. The last thing you want to do right now is to sever a power line and cause a blackout in this type of weather condition. We have that alert out also.
We’re in the middle of a three day heat wave. We want to make sure you stay safe by using the air conditioner as the mayor said – 78, not lower than that, visiting one of our cooling centers. We have 500 city-wide that will stay open through most of the day. Visit the pools, the beaches, and don’t forget the check on your neighbors and anybody who is vulnerable. Check on your neighbors, it’s very important.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Joe. Now to talk to us about the real health dangers that exists in this kind of situation, our Health Commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett.
Commissioner Mary Bassett, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. The mayor and Commissioner Esposito have really covered what we need to do to stay safe during these heat emergencies. The Health Department’s role during this time is to echo the words that you should stay cool, stay hydrated, and check on your neighbors. We have a particular role in monitoring emergency department visits and EMS calls, and we also send out alerts to healthcare providers across the city, which we’ve done – alerting them to be aware of the needs of their patients and to look for heat related illnesses in their practices.
It’s very important to remember that heat is not just unpleasant – that it can be a serious and deadly exposure. For many people, the worst risk is in their own home. Eighty percent or more of heat related deaths that we see every year in New York City, and we see about 120 of them, are people who are exposed to heat at home. That’s why it’s so important for people to understand that they should try to get to air-conditioned places, and if they can’t, take other measures to stay cool – such as, sponge baths or taking a lukewarm shower. And that’s why it’s so important that we check on our neighbors to make sure that we identify anyone who’s getting into trouble.
Let me go over the clinical symptoms that you should look for, that you may recognize in another person, so you know when you should call 9-1-1. They are being either hot and dry – which means the person has exhausted their ability to sweat – or being cold and clammy. People who have become confused or disoriented, having nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing, fast heart rate, weakness and dizziness. These are all symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and you should call 9-1-1 and get that person in for prompt medical attention and cooling. Every year we experience about 120 excess deaths due to heat waves, and in recent days – in recent years, we’ve seen this increase by about ten percent. We also see an increase in emergency department visits and heat related hospitalizations, so that’s just again to say – drink water, the best beverage during hot weather, our own New York City water is the best possible beverage. Stay away from alcohol and caffeine drinks. Identify a place where you can go get cool, check on your neighbors.
Mayor: Thank you very, very much. Now I want to hear from our Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro. And Dan, certainly tell people the right way to handle the hydrants in particular.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro: Sure, we’re always worried about water pressure here when you have a heat wave, so spray caps are available in every fire house. Any adult can come and ask for one and receive one. We’re happy to give them out and happy to see kids playing with spray caps, certainly not with hydrants at full force. Extraordinary weather conditions certainly make the difficult job that the members of the Fire Department do all that much more difficult. Some of the advice you hear – wear light clothing, avoid strenuous exercise – we can’t do that. The job is strenuous, and the job entails wearing heavy clothing. It’s a very difficult job. This morning we had a multiple alarm on West 42nd street in a 60-story building. Members operated safely in that building. We had one member hospitalized who’s already out of the hospital, and four civilians with minor injuries. I think it’s a tribute to members operating [inaudible] and efficiently in this kind of weather. We had about a three percent increase in calls yesterday in the heat, which is probably a tribute to people heeding the mayor’s advice and not overwhelming themselves with these conditions. We staffed up again today with our ambulances to be ready for the calls. We know it will go up slightly, so there are additional ambulances on the street and we are prepared to meet this heat wave.
Mayor: Thank you very much, thank you to all the men and woman of the FDNY for all you’re doing, and I think to Dr. Bassett’s point too – it really emphasizes if someone is showing those symptoms, we want people to be better safe than sorry and call 9-1-1 and get help immediately. Finally I want you to hear from Steve Banks, related to everything we’re trying to do help homeless on the streets and all the work that his agency is doing.
Commissioner Steve Banks, Human Resources Administration: Thank you very much. Two quick areas that we’ve been very focused on in this kind of weather. One is in terms of our homeless outreach effort who are nonprofit partners. We have 150 outreach workers out on the street per shift, and they’re making multiple passes very much focused on the most vulnerable people that we have identified as being on the street. Through the HOME-STAT effort we’ve been building a caseload of people, and we’re going to address the people we know to be in the most vulnerable situation, offering them help, and bringing them in. We’ve already had some success over the last most recent 12-hour shift recent from midnight to 8 AM. We encourage people to call 3-1-1, so that we can deploy our outreach teams to people we may not have identified previously, so that we can provide that kind of help. In terms of our HRA services, we’ve identified on an ongoing basis our most vulnerable clients, those who are living without support, our clients in the adult protective services agency, HASA clients with AIDS, homebound clients, and we’re working with our contractors to reach out to them to make sure they are heeding the kinds of advice that Dr. Bassett has provided and that we can be in touch with them and provide them assistance during this heat wave.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Let’s take questions on the weather situation. Anything about the precautions we’re taking? Then I want to talk about another matter and then we’ll go to off-topic questions as well. Yes?
Question: Commissioner Banks, you mentioned that you brought a number of people in last night. Do you have that number by any chance?
Commissioner Banks: During that period of time we brought in eight people between midnight and 8 am. I just would say, historically, winter time is when one has the greatest success bringing people off the streets, summer time typically not. But with HOME-STAT we’ve been able to identify where people are and we are going directly to try to reach those who are most vulnerable. Some of these individuals went to shelters and some of them went to hospitals because they needed medical care.
Question: Last year there were 1,000 power outages on Staten Island because of overhead lines are typically more vulnerable to the heat. Is there anything that’s being this year that’s different to prevent that from happening?
Mayor: Joe? Carlos?
Carlos Torres, Con Edison: What we do normally year after year is we take a look at our performance from prior years and we take a look at our system and we look to enhance. And in the Company last year we spent – last year and this year we spent $1.6 billion enhancing our system. So, we’ve taken a look at that overhead system and we’ve made modifications to it to prevent from happening again.
Question: Like what?
Torres: Reinforcing the cables, looking at the substations and reinforcing the equipment that – we have switches that we can operate to better operate the system.
Mayor: Questions related to heat and the weather. Let’s see if there is anything – please. You may.
Question: Is there any risk of coastal flooding at this point or anything like that on the horizon?
Commissioner Esposito: Well, the thunderstorms are really – it’s going to affect the low-lying areas. This is not a high tide situation where the waves are going to come in. This is more the thunderstorm, a lot of rain in a short period of time. So, those areas that historically flood – parts of the FDR Drive or things like that, that’s the areas that will most likely flood, not the coastal areas. And again, we’ve dealt with DEP and Sanitation and they are out there cleaning the catch basins trying to prevent some of that.
Mayor: Okay. Anything else weather or heat related? Going once, going twice, okay.
Oh, I’m sorry – where?
Question: Mr. Torres, do you expect record lows or do you think we’re going to get away with it?
Torres: I think we’re going to get away with it. I think, based on our forecasted peak we’re nowhere near our forecasted peak, but we are mobilized. It is part of part of our [inaudible]. And we’ve staged people – we’re working 24 hours. We split our resources to have them ready to respond because we want to be always in front of these things before they happen. And I think we’re keeping up with everything that is happening.
Mayor: But Rich I would say that also – again, better safe than sorry for the whole city because what we’re talking about here is one thing. If we had serious power outages it would be a much tougher situation. So, I really want to emphasize to people to set that thermostat at 78. It is a way of really making a difference and, you know, it is the kind of situation that once something starts to go bad – as you know, we’ve all experienced it before – it’s a huge problem to try to fix it after. But this is a situation where people can stay safe, but also avoid the strain on the power system. We think this is going to go only another day, but you never know. The weather has its own ideas sometimes, so we want to be really mindful because with each passing day it puts more and more strain on things.
Okay, I want to just talk for a moment very personally about the police-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. I’m just like so many Americans – I’m just reeling from having to watch these videos. And I just want to say it is an unacceptable state of affairs. This is not what America is supposed to be and we are watching time and time again and it is almost always a young man of color. We’re watching this over and over again and it’s become another one of these horrible American patterns that has to end.
We will always wait for all the facts to come out – that’s the right thing to do. And obviously, every day we honor and respect everyone who is a part of law enforcement, but when you look at those videos it begs the question: what kind of training did those officers receive? What were they told about the way to do their job? Because it’s not the right way. So, in this city we have a long way to go, but I really want to emphasize: this city made a decision to retrain all of our police officers and put a particular emphasis in the training for our new recruits that we would focus on de-escalation approaches, we’d focus on really helping them to communicate better with people in the community. It is making a difference, but it is necessary all over the country. This should be a federal priority that all of our officers get trained in de-escalation and how to work better with communities. It’s obviously also a further example of why we need body cameras. This city is moving aggressively to implement body cameras. This has to be done all over the country because we just cannot have these situations happening over and over. I think it sends a horrible, horrible message to our young people about how this nation values them when we see this kind of thing over and over. And my heart goes out to the families involved. And you know, we all watch the video from Minnesota. I don’t know how that woman had the composure. I don’t understand how anyone in that minute of crisis – that moment of crisis could keep herself together the way she did, but she did something very important for this nation by showing us what happened. And I hope we will use this as finally an opportunity to take a step forward. Yes?
Question: Mr. Mayor, on that note – seeing that video last night and then again this morning does that make you stop and want to accelerate the City’s body camera program? Is there anything that can be done there?
Mayor: I think the retraining is the simple most important – single most important point. I really do. And that has obviously now reached the entire force. And we can see already – you know, we haven’t talked a lot about what the neighborhood policing program is changing and the presence of the NCO’s at the community level, but I’m hearing all the time from community people what a difference it is to know their officers, to have built the relationship. So, I would argue even more than the body cameras the training and the neighborhood policing orientation are the most important thing. But we are moving aggressively on the cameras. There is no question that we’re going to continue to find success with them. We, more than almost any other city, have some of the biggest technological and logistical challenges we have to overcome to get them to full implementation. But we’re moving, I think, at a very good rate. Yes?
Question: Mr. Mayor, you’ve talked in the past about how some of what has to be addressed here are real huge institutional problems and the retraining that has happened – how do you ensure that – what the officers take away from that is reinforced? And that you continue to chip away at what we keep seeing over and over again?
Mayor: This is why I really – I think what Commissioner Bratton and Chief O’Neill have put in motion is going to deepen and going to become an example for the country because it is so pervasive. That’s the way you make change. The training is not one time only. You know, we’re training our officers in de-escalation at the Academy, but we’re also retraining to entire force and then there are refresher trainings that will be annual. On top of that, we have implicit bias training now as part of our curriculum. Now, again, we have to always wait for the facts, but when you look at those two videos it is very hard to believe that bias was not a part of the equation because of the level of overreaction. So, implicit bias training is necessary. We are – you know, the glory of this country is we are the great multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of history we have to overcome. And that kind of training goes right at it – it helps people understand biases they didn’t even know they had, but that could become deadly in the wrong situation. The final point is that the neighborhood policing to me is the thing that glues it all together because – and we see it over and over again – when officers get to know the communities they serve; when the community members get to know the officers. It’s a whole different reality. It humanizes everything. And, it leads to community members helping officers. We’ve seen it time and time again. I’ve heard this from officers directly as recently as out in Staten Island on Monday. I met an NCO who serves on Staten Island who was telling me how community members seek him out with information to help him. That’s what we want because it also helps that officer to feel a deep connection to the people he is serving. And we want to see that all over. So, that’s the direction we have to go in.
Question: Speaking of New York City being the leader nationwide in the retraining and like we’ve done with counterterrorism, this retraining program — is it something that you would take the leadership role and present to the federal authorities not just when asked, but taking a leadership role to share this?
Mayor: Absolutely. And look, more so Commissioner Bratton who obviously has a national reputation for the reforms that he has achieved over decades. I think he is the perfect person to help his colleagues around the country understand the power of this approach. I think it has to be a federal initiative though, meaning if we say to police departments, many of which don’t have a lot of resources, we want you to do a very intensive and costly training and there is no resources to go with it – it’s is a mixed message. So I think we can help to provide a model – a model that is being proven under very tough conditions. But I think if we are serious as a country, we have to put resources into the retraining to help police forces to do it.
Question: New York City has received its fair share of criticism for Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham, Akai Gurley. Do you think New York City is different than the rest of the country when it comes to how police deal with ––?
Mayor: I think yes and I think there is a very important chronology point in what you raised. Those were all horrible incidents that should not have happened. On the other hand, as you know the history of each one – they were before these full, new approaches. Both the neighborhood policing and the NCO Program and the retraining of the entire force have been achieved. I think you are going to see consistent improvement now that that is the case. There is no question in my mind, when you retrain the entire police force you are going to see tangible results. So, you know we have plenty of problems in our past too. I am not trying to say New York City is perfect. I am trying to say we have decided as a result in large measure of those tragedies to change course. It all connects, whether it is the retraining of the entire force and the implicit bias training, the NCO Program – the neighborhood policing approach, obviously the reduction of Stop and Frisk. All of these pieces connect and they are all now finally being fully felt. But they are as a result of that history – it is because of that history that we have to make those changes.
Question: What would you say to New Yorkers who maybe are concerned at this point – we are almost two years after Eric Garner’s death and we haven’t seen any official action from the NYPD against the officer involved? There are people who are certainly not happy with how things went with the officers involved in Ramarley Graham’s death, what would you say?
Mayor: I’d say exactly as I’ve said before. First of all in the case of Eric Garner, the Justice Department controls that situation right now and as you saw in the last day, I think Louisiana handled it exactly right by calling in the Justice Department immediately given that particular situation. The Justice Department is the gold standard, has been the gold standard. This goes back to the Civil Rights Movement and everything over the last half century in this country. So while the Justice Department controls the situation that’s appropriate and we yield to that. In the case of Ramarley Graham, there will be a procedure, there is going to be due process and there’s going to be an outcome. I’ve said that very, very clearly. That is going to happen sooner rather than later. There are specific due process steps that have to happen. And everyone is owed due process but there will be a resolution of that.
Question: Broadening this out a bit, the threshold for using lethal force: we had an incident here in New York where there was an alleged road-rage incident. An off-duty police officer shot and killed the alleged assailant. I don’t even know whether the assailant was black or the police officer was – but the circumstances of that case, you know, we have a person who has been shot dead in what was basically a fist fight over traffic.
Mayor: You know, Henry, I think first thing we have to recognize is we don’t know what happened yet. We really don’t. It’s a very different situation than an on-duty officer performing their role, but nonetheless we all are concerned. We have to know what happened. We have to know if the use of force was appropriate. But as you know now the State Attorney General has taken over that investigation and this one, there are a lot of questions about but that’s about everything that happened. So I don’t want to pass judgement and I do want to emphasize it’s a different reality because it’s not about an officer in the line of duty but, we will get the results of that investigation. Yes?
Question: Mr. Mayor, on a personal note, what was your reaction as a parent to what happened in Louisiana and Minnesota?
Mayor: My feelings are the same as they have always been. No parent of color or parent of a child of color in this country can watch that and not be afraid. It’s – you know, you fear for the life of a child when you see a situation like this because it is inexplicable. And that’s the problem here. Again, I have tremendous respect for law enforcement and I have tremendous appreciation for the dangers they face. And we’ve tried very hard to provide a lot more support for our officers to keep them safe including 2,000 more cops on the street. But, what the age of the cellphone video has done has now made this very personal for all Americans. And you look at some of these situations like ‘How could that be? How is it possible?’ And I was very pained; this is certainly personal for me. You know – one of the family members of the young man from Minnesota was talking about the fact that she always told him – I don’t recall. I think it might have been his mother I just don’t recall – on CNN this morning, it was his mother? She was telling him, saying on camera, ‘I always told him do exactly what the officer says. Just follow their instructions to the letter.’ And we have to see the facts but, if the facts are as his girlfriend recounts; and he told the officer he had a weapon and a permit to have that weapon; and he was communicating fully; and he ends up dead – for parents that is a devastating example. Because we are telling our kids do everything the officer says, and you will be safe.
Question: What do you say to a lot of young people in particular who feel like they can’t trust the system when they see incidents like this?
Mayor: I would tell them that when the biggest city in the country has made the decision to retrain every single one of our officers and to train them in implicit bias, which is a very powerful point. It’s an acknowledgment of an American problem and a history of racism and other biases that we have to overcome; I think that’s a cause for hope. I’d tell them that neighborhood policing is a cause for hope. There’s thousands of times every day where are officers come to the defense and the protection of young men of color. I would tell them to remember that too. But I also have to acknowledge, as a parent, the message that we are trying to get across is do exactly what the officer says. And I hope officers all over the country that there are parents of children of color every single day saying this every day, literally the first things out of our mouths: do exactly what the officer says. But that also has to be a message to our officers to recognize that every one of these situations is being watched so closely. And we want our young people of color to have faith that if they follow the instructions of a police officer that they’ll come out okay. And so this one’s a very painful one.
Question: Just a follow up to that Mr. Mayor, often in lots of families and certainly I can speak to personal experience when something like this happens you give a call to your father – or to your son and you talk about it. Is this something that you’ve spoken about with Dante or even Chiara?
Mayor: I haven’t this time but I’ve spoken with Dante and Chiara about these kinds of situations many times before and I wish I hadn’t had an occasion to speak about them many times before. That’s what is in part spurring my comment. There was a day, I can’t identify it in history – there was a day where a campus mass shooting became commonplace in this country. I don’t want to see these kind of situations become commonplace where a young man of color dies in this fashion and we think it’s just an everyday occurrence. But no, I’ve had many opportunities to talk to him about it.
Okay, anything else? Yes please.
Question: We have an off-topic –
Mayor: Of course.
Question: This is actually for Michael Kelly about the two children who had fallen over the weekend: one in Harlem on Sunday where right now it’s under investigation that the window guard may have fallen off with the child, and then again in the Bronx on Tuesday evening. The child may have climbed over though, that window guard. Can you give us an update on those please?
Michael Kelly, General Manager of NYCHA: Well I was saddened by the tragedy. It’s an ongoing investigation by the Police Department, a recognition that NYCHA inspects window guards regularly as part of our annual inspection process and this particular apartment was inspected last March.
Question: Which one in the Bronx or Harlem?
Kelly: Well the Bronx is not a NYCHA facility, Harlem was.
Mayor: March of 2016. And we also want to emphasize anybody whether in public housing or anywhere – if your landlord is not providing a window guard and you have small children you should call 3-1-1 immediately. And please I ask all of you to help get that message out. If it’s NYCHA, we obviously as the City have a responsibility to fix that situation immediately. If it’s a private landlord, the law requires them to do it. We want to know about it and we want to force their hand and get that fixed.
Commissioner Bassett: That’s correct. The law requires that landlords put window guards in any apartment where there’s a child under the age of 10 and if anyone has a concern that their landlord hasn’t installed this they should call 3-1-1 and make a complaint. HPD enforces this and they will install window guards if the landlord fails to do so and bill the landlord.
Kelly: You know, just to add that if there are any NYCHA residents who have any concerns at all about window guards that they’re to contact the customer contact center at NYCHA. That’s 7-1-8-7-0-7-7-7-7-1.
Mayor: Say that number again, I’m sorry.
Question: Just to clarify, you said the NYPD is investigating, but is there also a NYCHA investigation if in fact the window guard was inspected in March and it fell off with this child?
Kelly: We are looking at that, at the history of the inspector, what the inspector did, and other inspection situations. In that particular case again, it’s one in which it’s tragic. All the other window guards in the apartment were bolted correctly, and it’s something that’s under investigation right now.
Question: Mayor, today Scott Stringer referred to the Campaign for One New York as a ‘slush fund’. I’m wondering your reaction to that and also to the Campaign Finance Board’s decision this week.
Mayor: My reaction is he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. We’ve been very clear – a fully disclosed effort to achieve pre-K for all our children and affordable housing for half a million New Yorkers. And fully disclosed, which is the thing that again, I think this is where the line should be drawn. Any political activity where the sources of the funds are not disclosed – watch out. When it’s fully disclosed and particularly if it’s trying to achieve goals that are needed for the whole city like pre-K and affordable housing. He’s just – he’s missing the point.
Question: [inaudible] Campaign Finance Board including that no law was broken but they’re still examining more recent payments because it’s closer to your reelect.
Mayor: Everything was done appropriately by law. I agree with their assessment that no law was broken, and this was done appropriately. Again, we always focused on disclosure. It’s one of the – I haven’t seen their report, but I think they focus a lot on the importance of disclosure. We did that voluntarily, and I thoroughly believe in that. But it’s quite clear from their report that things were done appropriately.
Question: Mr. Mayor, to follow along with what [inaudible] has been asked, the comptroller said that the standard should not be whether you broke the law, the standard should be - what’s the best practice for conducting political campaigns? But I have a two part question. Number one: your reaction to the fact that the comptroller seems to be attacking you very personally for the first time. And secondly, he released an audit today which basically accuses you and Mayor de Blasio –
Mayor: I am Mayor de Blasio.
Question: I’m sorry, Mayor Bloomberg.
Mayor: Unless I have a second identity I didn’t know about. Oh my god.
Question: Mayor Bloomberg of giving $60 million in tax breaks to people who passed away or corporations that were controlled by people who may have –
Mayor: In defense of Mayor Bloomberg, he didn’t personally give those tax breaks and nor did I. Look, it was a broken policy as you said it predates us. We found it in fact. We’re going to fix it. Wherever appropriate we’re going to work to get the money back, which won’t be easy but we’re going to certainly work to do that. This was obviously something that was not done right, and it’s our job to fix it. As to the comptroller’s personal or political motivations, I’m not going to conjecture. He just has his facts wrong.
Question: Don’t you think it’s unusual for him to have a press conference about tax breaks and then suddenly haul off at you about –
Mayor: Again, I don’t spend time conjecturing about it.
Question: What do you think of the governor’s actions to impose the daycare rules that you had tried to stop? I guess successfully stopped in the legislature, and also can you react to his statement that he’s not going to let your political agenda put children in danger.
Mayor: You know, my statement about the governor all along has been when he helps New York City I will commend him and thank him, and when he works against the interest of New York City I will challenge him. He’s working against the interest of New York City on this one. The legislation would’ve made it harder to appropriately serve our children. And we were absolutely right to not allow a piece of legislation that would actually add more bureaucracy and less ability to protect children. We have put in a whole series of reforms to increase the number of inspections, to raise the standards, we worked very productively with the legislature to report to the public better on the status of each center and what they’ve done so parents know, and that was a good example of the legislature working to help us figure out a way to do something that was actually value added. But, you know, I think the governor is just missing the point here. We actually here the ground have to make sure our kids are safe, and we do it every day.
In the back – all the way back first – wait no, all the way back.
Question: Mr. Mayor, where do you stand on the redevelopment of [inaudible]?
Mayor: I’ve supported it, and I’d love to see it move forward. And you know it’s obviously been a public issue but as Deputy Mayor Glen made very clear, we’re ready to work very cooperatively with the folks involved in that project, and then, right after she said that they sued us, which makes it a little hard to work cooperatively, but we still hope it can be resolved.
Question: Mr. Mayor, it was about a year ago that we were in the peak of the attention being paid to the homeless crisis here in the city. You did the overhaul and made some system changes, and yet the number of homeless men and women in this city is still 30 percent higher than it was when you first took office. So how do you say the city is doing at handling the homeless population right now?
Mayor: I want to check those numbers respectfully. My memory is that the number in shelter was just about 50,000 when I took office. It’s around 58,000 now. I’m not happy one bit that it’s 8,000 more. But I want to give Steve and all the folks at HRA and DHS a lot of credit. For the last year they have held that number pretty steady around 58,000. Look, it is 58,000 too many – I’ll state the obvious. It’s really troubling to me as someone who was working on these issues back 10 and 15 years ago, but the bottom line is for the first time that number is stable. Remember the projection we showed you guys a few months back – if we had not taken all the steps we had took on the anti-eviction legal services, the subsidies, the LINC program, etcetera, that number would probably be closer to 70,000 now. That would be a real crisis for so many families and also the whole city. So I think the most important point is the shelter population is finally stabilized. We have a plan for 15,000 supportive apartments. Bigger investments in affordable housing than we’ve ever had. And remember – most folks are in shelter are for economic reasons and so the affordable housing program is a really big part of the solution. And we believe a day will come when we can turn that number for the long haul. But I think those strategies that have at least begun to change. And then HOME-STAT, which is beginning the change of getting people off the streets, and the fact that we ended all the encampments, which is something that had not been done over the previous 10 or 20 years. These show that change can happen but we got a lot more to do. Steve you want to add?
Commissioner Banks: I’d just add that, you know, as you noted Hazel, the Mayor announced a major reform of the system in April. It’s now just the beginning of July and the numbers really are the context in which those major reforms were announced by the Mayor. In 1994 – January 1, 1994 – there were 24,000 men, women and children in the city’s shelter system. On January 1, 2002, there were 37,000 men women and children in the shelter system, and by January 1, 2014 the number was heading towards 51,000. Our modeling projected that if all the actions that have been taken hadn’t been taken, we’d be in the coming fiscal year at 71,000. Look, as you know, as someone who’s worked with homeless in the city for three decades – or three and a half decades – these are reforms that we’ve been waiting for years that were laid out by the mayor just about 11 or 12 weeks ago. But on the other hand this is reforming a 20-year-old system and we said at the time it won’t happen overnight but you can already see the benefits that some clients have experienced. Other clients the reforms hadn’t taken hold yet. The 24 percent drop in evictions, that’s nearly 25,000 people, men, women and children who are in their homes instead of in the shelter system. Or the 35,000 people that either didn’t enter the system or weren’t moved out as a result of the rental assistance in the housing strategies that the mayor put in place over the last year and a half and that we’ve accelerated during the 90-day review. These are programs that are benefitting real life, flesh-and-blood New Yorkers. The eight people that came in off the streets last night, the 150 people who came off the streets during the most recent month we have data for. All of this shows the approach of taking a case-by-case approach rather than a one size fits all approach – the one size fits all approach lead to that growth from 24,000 to 37,000 to more than 50,000, and we’re not going to be satisfied until we continue to implement these reforms and get the kinds of impact for all the men, women and children in the shelter system or who may need shelter. This is all occurring of course against a background of having lost 400,000 units of affordable housing over the last decade; domestic violence, which is a major driver of people entering the shelter system; and on any given night to the extent we may continue to use for example, hotels. One would want us to rather than turn away a survivor of domestic violence, or one would want us to rather than not pick up someone from the street that we could. But make no mistake about it, when the mayor announced these reforms in April, this is a major system change. It won’t happen overnight but you can see the progress, and we’ve been pretty transparent about that progress.
Question: Any particular reason why there are more and more people becoming homeless or homeless here in this city –?
Mayor: Yes, the economy. We’ve been over this before but I’m happy to go over it again. It is the cost of housing. Everyone in this room can talk about the cost of housing from personal experience. It’s unbelievable that as we went into a recession and then had an aftermath that was not a recovery – right? It was aftermath of the recession where more and more people fell into poverty, and more and more people were suffering economically. The cost of housing just kept shooting upward. It’s like a perfect storm. That’s why 40,000 plus of the folks in shelter are members of families with children. That’s not what we used to have. We used to – a lot of people know this from your own history of reporting – we used to have single males and single females and then some families, but it was overwhelmingly singles – folks with mental health issues, folks with substance abuse issues. The world had got turned on its head as a result of the recession and the total lack of movement in wages and benefits, and on top of that the massive increase in housing costs in the city. It was like a perfect storm, so today’s homeless is more and more an economic problem. But the good news in that is – a family with kids – a lot of whom for example, a lot of the adults in that family are working, kids are going to school – they don’t need supportive housing with all the services, they just need housing they can afford. And when you get them housing they can afford they’re back out on their own and they’re self-sufficient again, which is why things like the LINC program have been such a big deal.
That’s what we lost back in 2011 when the State and the City canceled Advantage and that’s another one of the reasons things got so bad. So, I think it is very fair to say the fact is that this kind of homelessness cuts even deeper into our society and more and more people are susceptible. But on the other hand there are some ways that we can solve it that are better than what we had in the past.
Question: I was wondering what you make of the NYCLU’s criticism of that [inaudible] rights of equal access and you’re making an exception to the Jewish community.
Mayor: No, we are not. I am glad you asked it because I really want to affirm. This was a very thoughtful conversation inside the administration. And we are not repeating what existed previously because we don’t think that was appropriate, meaning the dynamics on the ground were not welcoming for all women. And we want a situation where we can acknowledge that a limited amount of time that is women only has real merit, but it’s all women. So, it doesn’t matter which community you come from, doesn’t matter if you happen to be transgender, everyone is welcome in that time. And that is a different imperative and one that we think makes sense. We’re also very clear everyone must follow the rules. There is a set of rules about how you comport yourself there and you respect everyone else who is there. And that has to be followed. So, it is a different approach.
Mayor: No, because in fact there are, as we said in some of the materials we put out, there are women who feel more comfortable swimming around women just because they feel that generally. There are folks who have been the victims of domestic violence or have had other situations in their life that make them feel safer in an environment that’s only women. We think it is perfectly good public policy done in limited hours and where there is enough demand. But I want to be crystal clear, it’s open to all women – anyone who identifies themselves as a woman and that’s one standard for everyone.
Question: The IBO put out a report today about property tax assessments on Staten Island compared to other outer boroughs. And one of the findings, which has always been pretty clear, is that Staten Island has a higher property tax burden because of the way assessments are capped. And so, if you live in a neighborhood like yours it depreciates faster and you have lower bills. So, I was just curious what would you say to Staten Island homeowners who have higher bills than you might have on your own homes in Brooklyn simply because of where they live?
Mayor: I’ve said this – you know, I have been at town hall meetings all over the City including some neighborhoods where a lot of homeowners had this concern. And I said we will undertake a bigger effort. It’s going to take a lot of planning; it’s going to have to be done very, very carefully for an overhaul of our property tax system. It’s going to be probably years to achieve the goal, but right now there’s too many inconsistencies and too many areas that aren’t transparent enough. So, we will do that in time. But the most important thing – and I say this as a homeowner myself is – we have committed ourselves in the administration to not increasing the property tax rate. And since all homeowners know in the last 15 years in this City property tax rates went up twice and that had a very big impact on homeowners. We’re saying the whole way we do our budgeting is to avoid a property tax rate increase. It has a very tangible impact on all homeowners. Obviously we’re moving to change the water bills as well for homeowners and get them that credit they deserve and stop taking the non-water cost out of the water bills. We’re fighting that in court right now against our dear friends from the Rent Stabilization Association – the landlords who want to stop 660,000 homeowners from getting a credit on their water bill. So, we’re doing things to lighten the burden of homeowners. But what you’re referring to is a real issue, but it is going to take a citywide and very complicated solution.
Question: A follow-up – you’re saying that this is going to take a long time to fix, but you’ve made no movement to actually like fix it other than –
Mayor: I have been very clear we’re going to, but it is going to be a very big endeavor. We just have not been able to put it together yet, but we will.
Question: Will you take another question about the shootings?
Question: I’m wondering if you’ve had the opportunity or when you have the opportunity to talk to your children, what will you say to them? How will you discuss it with them? And what do you expect their response will be?
Mayor: I think they’re going to be very pained and my response is going to be that, you know, we have to make change and change can happen. And again, in this city we’re showing that it’s beginning to happen. But I would also say the same thing – as horrible as the message that comes out of that Minnesota incident is – I would still affirm: do exactly what the officer says. I would say – of course, because as painful as it is, it’s still the right thing to do and it is the safe thing to do. So, what I’m saying to you honestly is I’m so troubled because I think for a lot of kids they’re going to be doubting that advice. A lot of kids wonder about their parents’ advice, and now I’m sure there’s going to be conversations all over America tonight – ‘You told me this, and now look what happened.’ But it is still the right advice, do exactly what the officer says.
Question: I wanted to ask you and Commissioner Banks if you could also comment on this – HRA on the Rivington situation – HRA had reached out to Village Care in January of 2015 to talk about possible other uses for that facility. I was wondering if you were aware that the agency had an interest in that property.
Mayor: You know that – as you know, the whole issue there is under investigation and in terms of any of the details or the tick tock the investigation will yield, I think, a rendition of what happened. That will clarify everything, so I don’t want to talk to any of those kinds of chronology issues. Let’s let the investigation run its course.
Question: Donald Trump gave an interview to the New York Post where he spoke at length about you. He called you “One of the most incompetent men.” And then he also seems to be very upset that you did not thank him for finishing the golf course in the Bronx.
Mayor: His ego needs are outstanding.
Question: “I saved the city’s ass. I never got a phone call.” So, do you think you committed an etiquette faux-pas there?
Mayor: No, no. I didn’t think that golf course was such a good idea to begin with. The – Donald Trump is losing credibility by the day. And he’s a guy who has run a campaign based on racism – it’s the most racially divisive campaign since George Wallace in 1968. You know, I guess I should be honored to be attacked by someone like that but he doesn’t know what he is talking about. He certainly doesn’t understand what’s happening in New York City. And I think there are more and more people in this country that just are ignoring him at this point.
Question: I want to go back to the CFB opinion. They cited three issues – the amounts of your donations [inaudible], who donated – people who have business with the City, people who have issues before the City, and who received the money --- people who were very active in your political campaign. And they said all of these factors create a risk to you – a political risk that you appear to be into a pay-for-play mode and that you’re creating an appearance of impropriety. How do you take those assertions? I mean, do you think that maybe it was a mistake to create this committee in the way it was created?
Mayor: No. I’ll do the quick rendition again and then I just want to give you a bigger point. As we said, we sought guidance every step of the way, which is what we wish people in public life would do – go to the appropriate ethics boards and seek guidance. We disclosed everything, which is what we would like to see everyone do in public life. Does not happen in this city, state, and nation on the regular basis, but we did it voluntarily. And what was the cause we were fighting for? First it was pre-K, then it was affordable housing. Now, you know there’s a whole lot of money in politics in this country that goes to back up the interest of big business and the wealthy and the powerful. We were trying to help children and people who needed affordable housing. So, I feel very comfortable with that choice. The bigger point is when you’re not talking about electoral campaign – and I think it is a very important distinction. Again, I have not read the report, but from what I have heard at least I’m not sure this distinction was made clearly enough. In an electoral campaign in this city we have some of the best campaign finance laws in the country. I commend them. I think they are a model. And I have not only lived by them, I think it is one of the reasons why I am here. But if you’re talking about issues in the post Citizens United world – so, I gave you my latest number was $11 million in advertising against me by landlords, by a major multi-national corporation, by hedge fund managers. There are no rules for those guys. There are no limits; there are no disclosure requirements. We have to work to achieve specific changes and this still has to be seen in the context of unilateral [inaudible]. So, one sector of our society – the wealthy – have no limits on them whatsoever. I’m giving you very specific examples – hedge fund managers, multi-national corporations, and the landlord lobby – $11 million between them. [Inaudible] when those guys have no rules and no limits and someone like me is fighting for a series of changes [inaudible]. So, I understand that and I respect the report and the issues it’s raising. [Inaudible] not an electoral campaign. This is about issues that have to be resolved. Are we only going to allow one side of the equation [inaudible] playing field? Is that the aspiration here as a result of Citizens United? So, the answer in my opinion – let’s go the distance. Let’s get money out of the whole godforsaken system. Let’s repeal Citizens United and I would like to ban all of those interests from being able to advertise and none of us will advertise and then everything would go through you guys, which I think would be great. Let’s have that debate in the public domain with a level playing field, but we don’t have that.
Question: They say as Mayor of the biggest city in the country you have a bully pulpit that [inaudible].
Mayor: I’m rolling my eyes.
Question: You mentioned the figure $11 million.
Mayor: I have to stop you at the first point. I’m sorry, if anyone wants to analyze how information travels in our society, paid media has a particular impact. There is no amount of [inaudible] in the world that can compensate for. So, I’m just – I think that is a fair statement. I’m putting aside the peculiar case of Donald Trump. With normal people, in normal political discourse and there’s more research than you can shake a stick at – paid media plays a particular role; and so, to say the bully pulpit versus nonstop advertising, no.
Mayor: Henry [inaudible] defies common sense. In a campaign, all sides are limited in what they can spend fairly and equally and then the minute we start talking about issues one side of the equation – the wealthy – can spend all they want and the rest of us are supposed to do nothing. That’s what defies common sense.
Josh, you have the final word.
Mayor: I would say a six month delay needs to be put in historic perspective. We said for juveniles we will end it – we ended it. We’ve been moving aggressively to end it for the next group, the 19-21 year olds, but we have to put some additional steps in place to make that work as well as we want to because as you know, Commissioner Ponte – and I want to say Commissioner Ponte, history is smiling on Joe Ponte right now because he has shown in the parts of Rikers where his model is fully taking hold, the reduction in violence is striking. And it’s a long, difficult process, but it is really starting to work. But the ground work has to be in place. The things we’re emphasizing that reduce violence and create order have been laid in place, but more has to be done for us to feel 100 percent ready to make that next big move. But it will be done. And I think there is an understanding by a lot of the folks who care deeply about this issue that this is just putting some final pieces in place and then continuing with our commitment. We decided this proactively. We believe this was the right policy, and we’re going to get it done.
Thank you, everyone.