Secondary Navigation

Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability

August 25, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, good morning, everybody. You know, as you go around New York City lately, you know, there's more and more activity. We're beginning to get up some real momentum as we head into the fall. We've got a lot to do, long way to go, but, all over the city, people are starting to go back to work, people getting ready for the fall and New York City public schools are getting ready to start soon and to be ready to serve our children. So, we're going to talk about all of this and another very important piece, which is something everyone is anticipating, the entire nation anticipating an election that will say so much about our future – only 70 days away now.

But first, I want to talk about preparations for the new school year. And so much effort is going into getting our schools ready. I really want to emphasize to everyone the work that's been done now for weeks and months to prepare our schools for our children and all the hardworking folks who do this work. I think it's so important to appreciate the folks who do custodial services and the folks who run our school buildings, our administrators, our educators, our food service workers, you name it – everyone's getting ready for the school year with great intensity. Now, the most important thing is the health and safety of our school community. We think every single day about what we need to do to keep our school community safe throughout. And when we think about what is working around the world, and we talked about this yesterday, taking the best practices from around the world, combining them into an approach that is New York City's own that's one of the very most rigorous in the entire world. Now, yesterday, we talked about outdoor learning and a very straightforward plan to facilitate outdoor learning – again, the choice of each principal and what works for their school community. But we want to make it easy if a principal wants to go in that direction. And, of course, outdoors is wonderful in every sense, kids have always loved being outdoors and learning outdoors. It's great in terms of health and safety as well. But let's talk about where most learning will occur in the school building, and that of course is indoors. And then when you talk about indoors, then you talk about ventilation and how important it is to get this piece of the equation right. Then, a lot of questions about what is being done to make sure ventilation is strong and high-quality for our kids, for our school community, and that's what we want to talk about today.

Today, we're announcing School Ventilation Action Teams. So, we're marshaling the resources not only of the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority, but other agencies as well coming together to make sure that every school is ready, the ventilation systems are working, that windows are open, even if they weren't open in the past, because there's nothing as powerful as fresh air when it comes to fighting this virus. The School Ventilation Action Teams will be part of a massive cross-agency initiative to make sure every school is ready and every school is safe. And I want to thank – as I was thanking the folks in every school community, let me also thank the School Construction Authority for the incredible work they do, and the professional engineers that they hire and bring in who will be part of this effort. They're already out in the field, checking – and I want to be clear about this – not just every school, every classroom. Professional engineers and other experts, looking at every classroom, going through each one with the same checklist to make sure they're ready. This is what it takes to guarantee that our schools will be safe and we will make sure every school is fully inspected, every classroom is fully inspected, and we're going to hold a high standard. And if anything our engineers look at and our inspectors look at they don't like, work will be done to fix it. So, that's the effort that's going on right now with a variety of agencies working together in common cause. And I want to thank all of the agencies involved because they understand nothing's more precious than protecting our children and our school communities. And here to tell you more about this important new effort is our Chancellor Richard Carranza.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, we have always said, and we hold ourselves to this word, the health and safety of our school communities is our number-one priority. We are proud of the work that has already been done all summer to advance this priority. Now, in addition to our own Department of Education safety checks, every single space will also be inspected by the School Ventilation Action Team. Each action team is made up of independent ventilation experts and professional licensed engineers that are contracted by the School Construction Authority to walk through each and every room where learning will happen. FDNY, Department of Buildings, and our hardworking DOE custodial engineers will also continue to contribute to inspecting and walking through each space to make sure that it's ready for use on day-one. As you have said, Mr. Mayor, each classroom in our schools must pass a checklist with important details like room size and occupancy to ensure proper social distancing, windows and whether they can open, and if we have more work to do on making sure they can open, an examination of supply fans and exhaust fans. Each action team will give us their honest, professional opinion, and they will report back to the Department of Education, which spaces have a clean bill of health and which have issues that must be addressed. The DOE will take those findings and do one of three things. Number one, if room is fine and ready to go, we've been at work on ventilation all summer, we expect this to be by and large the most prevalent result of these inspections. Number two, the room needs some repairs or adjustments, we will make all the necessary changes to ensure sufficient ventilation in that room before the first day of school. Or, number three, take the room offline until repairs can be made. Again, we're in motion already, ready to make good on these promises. We have purchased over 10,000 portable air filters for nurses’ offices, isolation rooms and any rooms that these inspections reveal need additional circulation. And I repeat, if inspections find that entire school or particular rooms do not have adequate ventilation, then we will not allow anyone to use those spaces until they are made safe. These inspections started this morning and they will be completed by next week, September 1st. We will begin pup posting the results later this week and we will have all results online by September 4th, well in advance of the first day of school.

All students or staff will be teaching and learning in safe spaces with proper ventilation. That is our promise to you. The science is clear – well, ventilated buildings are safer buildings and these actions – and these actions and these action teams will help us make that happen. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: Thank you so much, Chancellor. Look, everyone, just an extraordinary effort underway on so many fronts. Again, yesterday, we told you about the standards that we're holding for New York City public schools are the highest in the world in terms of health and safety. And these action teams are going to make sure that every room is looked at carefully. And again, not just Department of Education and our custodial staff – School, Construction Authority, Fire Department, Buildings Department, we're getting a great assist from the Health Department as well. Everybody pitching in, in common cause, to make sure our school communities are safe. So, thank you, Chancellor, to you and your team for this extraordinary effort.

Now, everyone, I mentioned and I’d like everyone to stay focused on the fact that we have an opportunity to make our voices heard in just 70 days and to decide the future of our nation and our city. And everyone has to get involved – literally, the most important election of our lifetime. I think no one can doubt that statement. So, let's do the basics here – if you haven't already registered to vote, it's so important to register to vote and please do it quickly because the deadline for voting for this November's Presidential Election, and all the other offices that are up in November, the deadline is October 9th. So, it's coming up real soon. Please register to vote if you have not. Now, if you need an absentee ballot, request one, please – New York State has passed a new law to allow everyone to vote by mail. So, again, this is not the traditional situation. Anyone, no matter what your situation, can vote by mail. So, please request that absentee ballot. The Board of Education – excuse me, the Board of Elections will start mailing ballots out in late September, and, as soon as you get it, you can mark it and return it. Or, you don't have to wait, you can send it back right away. You can drop it off at any poll site or Board of Elections office that's open. And then, there'll be early voting as well. And that starts in 60 days, October 24 through November 1st. And the bottom line for everyone, if you go someplace in person, of course, face coverings will be required, social distancing will be required at poll sites and Board of Elections offices – that's a given. So, if you prefer in-person, you'll have that option. If you prefer by mail, you'll have that option as well equally. But the important thing is to get involved and to make your voice heard.

Now, before I go to our daily indicators, I just want to spend a moment on something that's getting a lot of attention lately. A lot of people are weighing in, a lot of people are offering their opinions, and it's something that we care about deeply, all of us – the future of this city we love. And it's interesting, I've talked to so many New Yorkers, what they think is going to happen in the years ahead. And so many New Yorkers that I've talked to believe in this place. A lot of them have been through tough times before and are ready to keep fighting for New York City. There was a particular opinion piece put out recently by a hedge fund manager. And if you ever want to see an example of a tale of two cities, what I'm about to tell you is that a hedge fund manager who has presented a very, very dire image of the future in New York City and says he doesn't want to be a part of it. Well, I think a lot of people looked at that and were really troubled by it. And one person decided to weigh in and I'm really glad he did. I want to thank him. You may have seen this piece yesterday in the New York Times – Jerry Seinfeld, and the title of what he wrote is ‘So You Think New York is Dead?’ and then right below it says, it's not. I also want to give the Times credit for understatement – it says by Jerry Seinfeld, and then underneath says, Mr. Seinfeld is a comedian. I think that understates the reality – he’s one of the great comedians of our time, but he's someone who loves New York City as well. And I want to take a moment to thank Jerry, because this is what a true New Yorker does, stands and fights and works to make this place better, no matter what's thrown at us. And I just want to give you two points from what he wrote, because I think it's powerful. He says – and this is in response again to this hedge fund manager who wants to leave us – Jerry Seinfeld says, we're going to keep going with New York City, if that's all right with you; and it will sure as hell be back, because of all the real tough New Yorkers who unlike you, loved it and understood it stayed and rebuilt it well. That's the vast majority of all of you out there because that's what we've seen time and time again. After the crises that this city experienced in the 60’s and 70’s, people stayed, fought, rebuilt. We went through so many challenges after that. Tough times in the 80’s and 90’s. Then we went through 9/11, people fought back. Hurricane Sandy, people fought back. Great Recession, people fought back. New Yorkers, fight back. It's what we do. So to all the people really love this place, to all the real New Yorkers, of course we're coming back. And I believe we'll come back stronger and fairer in many ways. Because we're going to learn from this moment in history and make ourselves even better. That's what New York City does. So thank you, Jerry. Well said, brother.

Now we're going to do some indicators. Number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, that threshold under 200 patients. Today's report, 57 and with a confirmed positive rate of just 8.77 percent. Number two, new reported cases, seven day average, threshold 550 cases, today's report 234. And number three, percentage of people testing positive citywide for COVID-19 threshold, five percent. Today's report 1.42 percent. Again, why are we at 1.42 percent? Because of New Yorkers, because of something no other place has, New Yorkers who have fought back and really been tough in this crisis.

A few words in Spanish –

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish:]

With that, let's turn to our colleagues in the media. Please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.

Moderator: We'll now begin our Q and A. As a reminder, we're joined today by Chancellor Carranza, School Construction Authority Commissioner Grillo, Senior Advisor and General Counsel for Democracy NYC Laura Wood, and Senior Advisor Dr. Jay Varma. The first question today goes to Aundrea from CBS News.

Question: Good morning, everyone. My question is about school opening. Specifically the logistics, first about school nurses. Now it takes six weeks of training before they can work in New York City schools and you still have hundreds of vacancies. How do you do that? And set people up for success with such an important position? Because people are just really questioning the logistics of this whole process.

Mayor: Well, you know, Aundrea I would say, first of all, when you look at what it takes any year to get school up and running, it's a huge logistical undertaking. I really think – I understand why people wouldn't stop to think about it, Aundrea. But every single year, when we begin the school year in New York City, an extraordinary, massive effort is undertaken to get schools ready. And this year it has been much, much deeper. It's been going on for months with a lot of extra components added to ensure safety. So in the past we have not had a nurse in every public school building. Now we will. And as I described a week or two ago, it's because of our colleagues at Health + Hospitals who have stepped up, who are getting those nurses for us, actually footing the bill as well to their great credit. And making sure they are trained and ready working with the Department of Education. So we are in obviously a pandemic. We're doing things in a fast, effective way to be ready. But those nurses will be ready. Go ahead.

Question: Okay. My second question – I don't feel like I got a full answer on my first question, But I have a second question as well. And it's concerning outdoor learning. How is the City expected to evaluate all schools? That's public, charter, private, religious schools. How are they expecting to evaluate the outdoor learning plans and get them up and running with so little time? Especially when you have to interface and coordinate with the DOT, Parks, and Sanitation to make sure the plans are feasible?

Mayor: Yeah, I'll start and turn to the Chancellor. Aundrea, this is not a new thing in many ways. I understand why there's been a discussion about it. I know a lot of people have been enthusiastic about the idea. But it's not new. Principals have used outdoor learning in the past on a school by school basis. And I'm thinking back to the elementary school my kids went to. Streets were closed off for all sorts of things. Play streets are an idea that's been out there for a long time and used for a long time. So it's not mysterious to school leaders to think about this option. And when you think about what we're talking about, you got your school yard, your school courtyard it’s the things the principal already controls. You've got the streets next to the school. If they will work, DOT has a long history of knowing how to shut those off if they need to. You got Parks, which again, often coordinates already with schools. This is something everyone's committed too. And I'm convinced we can make it happen. Go ahead, Chancellor.

Chancellor Carranza: I would only add Mr. Mayor, that when schools and school communities submitted their models of what their in-person learning would look like, many of those models use of outdoor space. So there are hundreds of schools that have already had their outdoor space learning models approved. But we have an all hands on deck approach to reviewing and making sure that the safety precautions, the FDNY, NYPD, Department of Transportation, Parks, everybody is all hands on deck to really flatten the bureaucracy to make sure that these plans get approved. And I'm happy to report that since the announcement yesterday, as of this morning we already have 243 schools that have submitted applications for outdoor learning. So there is a real hunger and a real enthusiasm for that. And our commitment again is to turn these around as soon as possible, which some of them will be turned around today.

Moderator: The next is Henry from Bloomberg.

Question: Good morning Mr. Mayor, how are you doing?

Mayor: Good Henry. How are you?

Question: I'm good. I have heard that in some schools, students in class will actually be using the same computerized instruction that kids are simultaneously getting at home. And I'm just wondering, I know you're a public school parent, but do you acknowledge that the experience of going to school under these circumstances is nothing like the experience your children enjoyed when you were a public school parent? There are going to be intermittent classes. They are going to be confined to one room. They're going to be wearing a mask all day. The teacher's constantly going to be on them to get that mask over their nose. They're going to be eating lunch in that room and talking loudly to each other and laughing and eating. And so that if they're infected, that will be a risk –

Mayor: Henry, that doesn’t sound so bad to me, people laughing and eating. I think that sounds pretty good.

Question: – the experience of going to school under these circumstances, pedagogically in terms of learning is nothing like a traditional school. And in light of all this why do you push for this you know, hybrid system so strongly? It's not as if it's the same kind of experience that in class --

Mayor: Yeah. Henry, you've made your point. You've made your point, brother. Look, I just disagree with you respectfully. It is because I'm a public school parent. It's because of the experience that I've had with my own children and so many other parents and kids that I've met over the years that I think this is so important. Respectfully, if you say, Hey schooling during a pandemic is different than schooling during normal times. Yeah. I agree with you, but that's – we're not presented with, could we just push a button and have normal times? We have a choice and the choice was, do you have children in a school where they can get the support of educators? Where they can have a positive adult presence in their life, the mentorship, the tutoring, the guidance, the mental health support, the physical health support, the food, you name it. Even if it is two days a week, three days a week, even one day a week helps. It all helps compared to nothing. And the more needy a child is, the more it helps that they get something rather than nothing. Because remote learning just can't do for a kid what in-person learning can do. Of course it won't be as good. But I think your question honestly, presents a little contradiction. If the kids are in the classroom and they're laughing and they're having a good time because they're together – yeah it's not as fun perhaps as some of the other things they've done before, but I believe there's many, many parents. I know it for a fact from the surveys, from the choices parents have made, who would rather their kids get some in-person learning than none. There's many, many kids who would much rather have some time back in school with their friends, with their teachers, then none. It's a choice, but I think it's the right choice in terms of what will support our kids. And Richard, to Henry's point about what will be in the classroom, how the classroom will work and his concern about any time the kids are doing anything online,
I think if you'd speak to that and clarify that.

Chancellor Carranza: So we've built tremendous capacity since March, when we pivoted in a matter of days to remote learning. And there's a lot of capacity that's been built. And by that, I mean, teachers have gotten better at using the online environment. There's resources that we've developed, not only as a school system, but in sharing with other school systems, there's more curriculum. Students have devices. Parents have gotten some support as well. So there's a lot of capacity that's been developed to really take it to the next level now. Which is something we've all said we want it to do is how do you personalize instruction for children at a much deeper level? This is an opportunity to do that. Whether it's an in-person environment and to continue to personalize and individualize what the student needs. If a student is already mastered material, how do we enrich and push them farther? If a student needs to catch up, how do we tailor that and use the technology to help them catch up as well? There's a myriad of opportunities here. So we don't look at this from the dystopian view that this is going to be doom and gloom. We know that when students have the interaction with well-trained caring teachers and other students, that that socialization is incredibly important. Now to the Mayor's point, and I want to emphasize this. When you look at the indicators that the Mayor talks about at every one of his press conferences, it is those indicators that have made it possible for us in New York City, unlike any of the other ten large school systems in America, to even consider in-person learning. Because New Yorkers have done their part to put us in a position where this is possible. That is the big, I would say difference between what we're attempting to do in New York City and what others can’t even imagine, because they don't have the hard work that we've done to put us in this position.

Mayor: Go ahead Henry.

Question: Alright, thank you. I appreciate that. But you didn't address the question of kids sitting in their desks with their computers or laptops or mobile devices out, following the same class that students are doing at home. I mean, what's the efficacy of that? Why have students commuting if they're in high school, miles and miles on the subway to sit in a class, open up their device and follow the same class as somebody at home?

Mayor: I'll turn to the Chancellor for expertise, but I'm going to give you the common sense answer. Whatever different technologies use, whatever lesson plans are used. It is a world of difference when there is an adult supervising your work and they are to support you and tutor you and guide you. It just makes a huge difference. A professional educator, there are many, many parents who want to support their kids at home and just can't. They have to work or, you know, remotely, they have to work in-person. They don't have the tech skills, they don't speak English, whatever it is, there is nothing that replaces a professional educator being in your presence when you're a kid. But to the specifics of how technology will be used, if you could just express that so people can understand it, Richard?

Chancellor Carranza: Sure. So Henry, I'm sorry. I don't know where you got your information. It’s just not accurate. An in-person blended learning teacher will be teaching children in-person. They will have lesson plans. They will have unit plans. They will be progressing through the curriculum based on the State standards. That's their job, to teach children in an in-person, not to sit them in front of a computer. Now, when I spoke about maybe a child needs some additional support, they've lost ground academically. Sure. You can have some intervention work that happens with a computerized program or something that's adaptive to help meet the students where they are and accelerate them. That could happen. But the teacher will be teaching children. Now, the teachers that are teaching in a remote setting, they will be teaching remotely. And as we have spoken, there will be a 30 minute period at the beginning of every day where the blended in-person, teacher and the remote teacher are coordinating. They're collaborating to make sure that the children that are in-person are pacing at the same pace as children that are in remote. And that there's coherence in terms of what they're doing. It's a very complex process, but our teachers are up for this because they also understand how important it is to have that in-person experience for children. Not only for the academics, but for the socialization, the social emotional learning, the trauma informed supports, all of those other things that we know are so critically important in the developmental life cycle of a child.

Moderator: The next is Christina from Chalkbeat.

Question: Hi Mayor and Chancellor. Thanks for taking my call. My first question is can you provide some more information about who exactly will be conducting these walkthroughs? How many people are going to be dedicated to this effort and how long each building might take?

Mayor: Yeah, let me get Lorraine Grillo into this too, who runs the School Construction Authority and does an extraordinary job with her team. So Lorraine, why don't you start in terms of describing what a building walkthrough is like and how you use the different professionals to do the work?

President and CEO Lorraine Grillo, School Construction Authority: Sure. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I'm happy to do that. We have over a hundred teams of professional engineers walking through every single space within the building, including bathrooms, public assembly spaces, and all the classrooms. Their job is to examine all of the ventilation possibilities within the building to see what's working. If something isn't working to put it on this report, that will then go to the Department of Education. There will be teams of at least two to four professional engineers in every single school. That effort, we really don't know exactly what the timing is. It began today. But we anticipate that we can get this done by September 1st. So I would say depending upon the size of the school, the age of the school, the condition of the school, some will take longer. Some will be shorter.

Mayor: Go ahead, Christina.

Question: My other question is how are you making the determination that a classroom or a school space is safe and that ventilation is appropriate? It's my understanding that the Education Department has already been doing walkthroughs and assessments. And I have been told of at least one school where teachers raised concerns and they were being told that it was safe. But now it seems like the City is taking a completely new approach. So how are you determining that ventilation and air flow is appropriate and why take this new approach now, if you were already doing walkthroughs?

Mayor: Yeah, Christina, I appreciate the question. I would contest a new approach. I would say we just keep adding more as we go along. There's been work being done the whole summer. I think Lorraine could help all of us by talking about the ongoing work that happens in summers to get schools ready. Again, a lot of what we're doing is based on what would happen to any year, but we're adding to it because we want to reach a very high standard given what we're doing with the coronavirus. So this is a final push before school opens. There's a lot of activity each year before school opens, but we're adding elements to make sure we're just going that extra mile to get everything right. And if there's a concern raised in a school, we want to follow up on it. And we, for example, as the Chancellor said, if we don't like a specific classroom, if we think it needs more work, we hold that classroom out. And it's quite doable. But the goal is with this much time still in a lot of ability to affect the situation, to have every single one ready in time. So Lorraine, could you talk about what you do in a typical summer now, what you're adding in this situation?

President Grillo: Sure. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Yeah. We've been working all summer, as you know, as you just stated, looking at things like supply fans and exhaust fans and whether or not obviously the Department of Ed, Division of School Facilities have been looking at changing filters and the like. The real concern was for example, windows over the years that have been locked closed, we have them reopened so that there's air flow. The goal here is to have air flowing through these, through these classrooms. We have in some schools, classrooms that have no windows. So we have to make sure that the air filters are working. All of those things to make sure that there is good air flow throughout the buildings. We have been working with the Division of School Facilities on any repairs that they deem are unnecessary for DOE – for SCA to do. Again, as the Mayor said, this is one more review of these spaces, A, to make sure that they are adequate, the ventilation is adequate to take care of health and safety of our children and our teachers. And to reassure parents that we are doing absolutely everything we can to make sure that those buildings are safe.

Mayor: Thank you. Yes, go ahead. Chancellor.

Chancellor Carranza: I would also like to add, and I want to thank Lorraine Grillo and her team. They've been fabulous and fantastic at making sure that our spaces for learning are safe. But I also want to address the question in terms of teachers. We are working very closely with UFT. In fact, we have a building safety working group that has already been walking buildings and classrooms that have been identified by the teacher's union as being problematic. So we're taking a united approach to going in and making sure that those classrooms are safe. So I want to encourage any teachers that feel that there is an issue, make sure that your union knows so that that's on that list and we are doing those walkthroughs with them as well.

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.

Moderator: The next is Julia from the Post.

Question: Hi Mr. Mayor and Mr. Chancellor and Commissioner Grillo. I understand what you just said, Mr. Mayor, that some of this work has been going on throughout the summer, but I'm wondering why we're waiting until now about 16 days before students are supposed to return to the class to do this kind of more comprehensive inspection of ventilation systems? And what happens when it gets cold in the winter, are we going to keep the windows open and just blast the heat?

Mayor: So the fact is, again, in the much of the summer, every year, a lot of work is done to get the schools ready. It makes sense to do the inspections as you get closer after all that work has done. But we understand because the coronavirus we're holding a very high bar. So I think that describes it. This is exactly the time to go and confirm that everything is ready. If anything needs some last minute work, it'll get it. If anything isn't ready and needs to be held back, it will be. In terms of the winter. It's a good question. You know, obviously Julia, I hate to say it, but the winters aren't the winters we used to know. So we're going to have a number of days throughout the year where you can have the windows open in a way that works, because this is global warming in action, unfortunately. But you're right. There’s going to be some days where it's really cold and we're going to have to be smart about that. Lorraine, if you could jump in about how, as you're preparing and your team is preparing these classrooms, you're thinking about what to do on the days when it's really cold out, whether you keep windows open under that condition?

President Grillo: Well, yes. You know, we're working very closely with our engineering group to look at that. Basically again, it's really looking at our HVAC systems to make sure they're up and running. And where we need to make changes is we have a block of time now to make those changes and to make those systems work better. Again, there are going to be spaces within the buildings that need long term or long term upgrades. And that's what we're going to be doing.

Mayor: Go ahead Julia.

Question: And then on a different topic. The Comptroller is calling for an end to the emergency contracting system you put up during the height of the pandemic following reports that a number of COVID-19 related contracts worth tens of millions of dollars have been canceled or not fulfilled by vendors that lack the capacity or relevant experience. One example is the donor to your political campaign, who was mentioned yesterday, Charles Tebele who sold computer accessories before getting into the PPE business. And then was unable to fulfill a big $90 million contract. So will you answer the Comptroller's call to end this emergency contracting system? A yes? And if not, why not?

Mayor: Julia, first of all, I don't know if you have all the facts about what has happened up to now. I think you've painted a picture that gives a misimpression. The emergency contracting, we had to, all our agencies had to work together to get whatever PPEs we could for a period of time. We worked with a variety of companies. My understanding is the companies we worked with were able to produce a lot for us when we needed it. So I don't think your characterization paints an accurate picture. But the larger point is I haven't seen the specifics of what the Comptroller put forward, but I would say the obvious, this crisis isn't over. We are doing really well as you heard with this morning's indicators, we're very hopeful about New York City. We're also watching very mindfully as we see the situation in much of Europe where they're seeing a resurgence and obviously the challenges we're seeing in much of the rest of this country. So we are far from out of this crisis and I think we need all the tools and all the flexibility we can to make sure we have what we need when we need it. Go ahead.

Question: [Inaudible] made by the Comptroller, not me.

Mayor: Yeah, go ahead.

Moderator: The next is Matt Troutman from Patch.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I have a question about the upcoming tax lien sale on September 4th. Advocates and some elected officials are raising concerns about it going forward, particularly on the pandemic and apparently without significant outreach. Do you plan to extend the deadline again or cancel it?

Mayor: Well Matt, at this point, the sale is scheduled. It had been postponed previously, and I want to emphasize this is properties that had gone into arrears before the pandemic. So these are not situations caused by the coronavirus. These are situations that predate the coronavirus. The challenge, of course, anytime you put off something that would bring a revenue in is you need that revenue for everything we're talking about – for healthcare workers, for, you know, educators, first responders, everything we're trying to do now, in really tough fiscal times, I believe the dollar figure projected is $57 million. That’s a serious amount of money. So this moment, you know, I think when you add up all the factors and especially that it does predate the crisis, this is scheduled to move forward. Go ahead.

Question: Okay, and just to follow up, you say $57 million is a serious amount of money, but a lot of advocates and again, elected have raised the concern that this could potentially put small homeowners in some serious difficulty. Is $57 million than enough for doing that?

Mayor: Again, we're talking about a situation that, you know, if folks didn't pay what they owed before the crisis and got to the point that their property would be in a tax lien sale, I think we have to think about the fairness for everyone involved. I mean, there's a huge number of people out there, no matter how tough things are, they are and have been paying their taxes – folks who are working to in every way they can keep going, and they depend on government resources. I mean and all the support we provided in terms of food and healthcare, all the things we've done for free for the people of this city – that has to be paid for. There's no stimulus in Washington. There's no long-term borrowing from Albany yet. It's very hard to turn down that amount of revenue when you think about what it means for the people, the city and the services we need to provide for them. Go ahead.

Moderator: The next is Andrew Siff from NBC.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor and Chancellor. The Chancellor mentioned that 243 principals have already submitted their outdoor learning plans. I'm wondering if the Chancellor can give us an example, so the principals who have yet to submit, get an idea of what it might look like. For example, a school that's across the street from a city park, a school that is adjacent to a play street. Is there a concrete example of a plan that is likely to take shape?

Mayor: I'll start and pass to the Chancellor. I mean the most obvious ones Andrew, again, using your schoolyard, courtyard, anything that the school already has, which in the past, for example, might've been used for recess and other types of activities, the decision to use that for different types of classes, again, that's something a principal can do and they control the space already, or the other obvious, which has existed in many schools, what used to be a play street, [inaudible] a street adjoining, and I'm picturing in my mind, the school that my kids went to elementary school on Carroll Street in Brooklyn, you know, there was a small side street and it was just closed off as a play street. You can equally close off the street for class activities. So those are just two obvious examples, but Chancellor, you want to add?

Chancellor Carranza: So, Andrew, we will get you some concrete examples. I just wanted the number this morning. I haven't looked at what those applications look like, but I do think the examples that you've given and that the Mayor have given are most definitely going to be included in what principals are submitting. We've heard, and as I mentioned yesterday, we've had several conversations, principals with very creative ideas. They just needed help navigating the bureaucracy, and I say that very lovingly, the bureaucracy of making sure that the plans are improved. Our approach is to really flatten the bureaucracy, put it all in one place so that we can get decisions made very quickly, and I'm just very excited that we already have 243 of our colleagues that have wasted no time in getting their plans in.

Question: My second question has to do with outdoor dining versus indoor dining. Danny Meyer tweeted yesterday that the outdoor dining, as nice as it has been, is not a sustainable business model. You've heard the question from restaurants about when indoor dining might return, and you've said that there's no plan, but there hasn't really been an explanation for why, for example, the Northern tip of the Bronx, you can't eat indoors. Whereas one block away you can eat indoors in Westchester when the medical data is the same on that same street. I'm wondering if you can answer that and answer why there isn't some kind of a framework for restaurants to plan around.

Mayor: Look, I understand the question, Andrew. I wouldn't ask them – you have every right to ask, however you want, but I wouldn't ask it in terms of the block before the Westchester border. I'd ask it in terms of all five boroughs and all types of neighborhoods because we create the policies for everybody, and outdoor dining has been something that's really worked for almost 10,000 restaurants and, you know, brought back tens of thousands of jobs, and I think it is helping, and obviously delivery, takeout are helping, but it's not the same as having indoor dining. The problem is we talked about a lot, and I think I'll let Dr. Varma in here in a moment, the evidence around the world is so consistent, and again, I'm sure Dr. Varma will talk about what's happening in Europe right now, what's happening in Hong Kong. It's very eye-opening. So we haven't been able to set a firm standard because we see a real problem and challenge here and what we need to do first and foremost, Andrew, is focused on the health and safety of New Yorkers, and I'm bringing back our city smartly and not allowing the mistakes we've seen in so much of the rest of the country and the rest of the world. So Dr. Varma, do you want to explain a little more of that?

Senior Advisor Varma: Sure. Thank you for the question. I think what the Mayor has been highlighting here are really two critical factors that go together. One is the likelihood that indoor dining could lead to outbreaks and a resurgence, and the second is the vulnerability of the city itself. So we know from the experience everywhere around the world and also from the United States that indoor dining is a very high risk activity, and there's a reason for that. One is that you can't wear a mask while eating. Of course, there are other factors as well. You know, the duration of time you're spent in that place, your proximity to other people, the fact that you have social networks that then bridge across other places. So that's really what a lot of our concern is, that this is a high-risk activity, and the second of course is the vulnerability of New York City. We've been through an extremely traumatic time for everybody, with thousands of deaths, and we need to be cautious about introducing a high-risk activity into a place that we know is vulnerable.

Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Kala from PIX.

Question: Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor, this is Kala from PIX 11. Thanks for taking my question. I know that you've encouraged people to get tested before going back to school, and I know that you've said it is free across New York City, but where are we on mandatory testing that's being demanded by the teachers union as they are threatening a strike if they don't get it?

Mayor: Kala, thank you for the question. Again, reminder now I think a lot of New Yorkers know this strikes by public sector workers are illegal in New York State, and I don't think the people of this city ever feel good about public servants not being there when people need them. So let's just talk about the other piece of the equation, which is testing. We want to have the maximum testing we're making it available for free over 200 sites, priority to educators and school staff. Look, we're continuing to talk to the unions about the best way to do it. They've had different views over different times, but you know, we believe that the smart thing here is just everyone who's involved in the school community right now, you can be arranging to get a test for free. We're going to be adding more tests, capacity around schools. We think this is the best way forward, and again, surpasses what you see around the world because in so much of the rest of the world, there was not a systematic plan to make testing available for school communities for free on an ongoing basis. That's what we're doing. Go ahead, Kayla.

Question: And then also I understand that you're saying inspections with the Ventilation Action Team started today on 1,800 schools, but is it possible for 100 teams to really go through these 1,800 schools in just one week and will they work through the weekend? And also one more part to this. I know that the windows in schools is a big focus, and typically windows only open, you know, two to four inches. Will they be open wider for student safety, and the schools that don't have windows, what’s the solution?

Mayor: It's a great question about the windows because again, you know, Dr. Varma’s talked about this before – nothing is as good as fresh air, so the windows count for a lot. I'll let Lorraine Grillo speak to the windows and how much you open the windows, but also the point about what 100 teams can do with the number of schools we have, and Kala I want to emphasize that you're talking about schools again that have been worked on throughout the summer. So these teams are going now to look at the work that's been done and confirm that things are ready and if they see anything outstanding that they want to followed up on, it’ll be followed up on, but I don't want people to have a sort of misunderstanding – the work has been going on for quite a while. Now this is the run through to make sure everything's ready to go. Go ahead, Lorraine.

President Grillo: Yes. thank you, Mr. Mayor. Yes, in answer to part of that question, yes, these teams will be working throughout the weekend. They will work, whatever hours are necessary to get this work done in a timely fashion.

As far as the windows are concerned, I believe, and I'm not absolutely sure, so I'm not going to give you the exact height of each and every window, but I will tell you that there is much more flexibility since we've been doing our work over the summer. We can get you the information on how high these windows will be opened.

Moderator: Last question for today goes to Erin from Politico.

Question: Hi there, Mr. Mayor. Well, one question related to the schools and it actually also relates to the answer that you and Dr. Varma just gave on indoor dining, saying that it's not safe, it's high risk because there are no masks and you're in the room and you're in there for a long time and there are social connections, et cetera. It sounds like all of that would also apply to students eating lunch in a classroom. So why do you think that can be done safely, when indoor dining can’t and you know, are there any steps in place to mitigate the risks of eating in the classroom?

Mayor: Yeah, it's a great question, Erin, I appreciate it, and it's one of those common sense questions that New Yorkers deserve a clear answer to. So I'll start, and then Dr. Varma feel free to jump in. So, let's compare the two activities because I think a lot of people have sort of said, “oh, look, these two things, maybe there's a similarity,” I don't think there's a similarity at all. When we talk about schools, this is something that is mandated for our children to get an education for free and a quality education. We know that we are struggling with an all remote format to give kids what they need and deserve. So we have an imperative, legal imperative, moral imperative, educational imperative to give kids the best education we can. We know that means having at least some time in-person, versus indoor dining, which is obviously a very optional activity, and some people do a lot who have the resources and others can't do it all because they don't have the resources. Indoor dining matters because it's part of the culture of the city because of a lot of jobs, because we admire the people who have created these businesses, but you can't compare the legal and moral imperative of public education with indoor dining they’re really, to me, two very, very different things.

And then the question of what's different between a public sector facility and a private sector facility. In the public sector facility, a school, we have a custodial staff, we have educators, we have principals and assistant principals. We have all sorts of people looking to make sure things are done right, and who are held accountable to the public in an open way. In a restaurant, it's owned by a private owner. We don't have someone in inspector sitting in that restaurant all day. We don't know what happens in that restaurant, unless we get a look at it from time to time. They're very different models in terms of how much you can do to monitor and keep things safe.

And then finally for the period of time, kids are eating lunch, which is not a long period of time. Yes, they'll have their masks off, but they are distanced because the desks are distanced different than diners who are often very close together, and they're supervised by adults whose job is to make sure that the distance is kept. Again, something we don't have in restaurant settings, Dr. Varma, you want to add?

Senior Advisor Varma: I think the Mayor actually highlighted all of the critical points. The only slight addition I would add would be to note that this is the model that has been used in many places around the world. Some places have said that they were either going to have kids sitting at their desks or they'll sit outside, but in most places because of the climate, people are in fact sitting at their desks and, and to date at least there isn't any evidence that those specific lunch sessions have led to outbreaks.

Question: My second question is about the layoffs that are potentially coming. Would you support freezing wages, potentially reducing slightly wages as some private sector companies have done before going forward with these 22,000 layoffs?

Mayor: It’s a very important question, Erin, I appreciate it because look, there's a lot of things that we can and should do short of having layoffs. Layoffs are horrible, layoffs mean, you know, a family doesn't have an income anymore. The people that city don't benefit from the service of that public worker. We want to avert them. We all wanted to see a stimulus. There's just no way to believe in or depend on a stimulus right now from the federal government. What we can do, and I want to say I’m very pleased that the City Council is stepping up and supporting the long-term borrowing. You know, we need our colleagues in Albany to agree to the long-term borrowing. That is the cleanest fastest way to avert the layoffs, but we're also going to work with labor. So the kinds of things you talked about, Erin, those are fair ideas, but by and large, those are the kinds of things you can only do through collective bargaining.

The way the laws are up in this state, in this city, the city has the authority to lay off workers directly, but not to do things like the furloughs, for example, but I think a lot of unions, if there's no other choice would be receptive to that. So look, I hope we can avert this the better way, which is to simply get the long-term borrowing in place quickly. But we continue to talk with labor about all options, and I have to say again, the overwhelmingly the spirit in the labor unions has been to try and work with us and find every, every way of averting layoffs and what we have to move really quickly to make that happen.

Okay, everyone. Look, as we conclude today, I just want to come back to the point I made earlier about New York City and our comeback, which is already starting to happen. We've been through hell. But this city never stops. We never give up. I appreciate it. I held up that, that op-ed from Jerry Seinfeld because it just really speaks to, I think so many New Yorkers’ hearts that we know what it is to fight through things. That's what New Yorkers do, and right now there is a comeback story being written here in New York City. It’s only starting now, it's going to go on for months and months ahead, but it will be one for the ages. This will be a story of perseverance and people being there for each other, people supporting each other, no matter what, and look. In the end, who are we as New Yorkers? We’re people who work really hard, we can all agree on that. We work harder than any place in the country. We think big, we dream great dreams, and then we make them happen. That's what New Yorkers do, and that's why we’re coming back. Thank you, everybody.

Media Contact
(212) 788-2958