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Transcript: Mayor Adams Holds Virtual Media Briefing to Discuss Trip to Israel

August 23, 2023

Deputy Mayor Fabien Levy, Communications: Hello everybody. Thank you again for joining us for a briefing on the mayor's trip to Israel. Apologies for the delay. We have Mayor Adams who's going to provide a couple of remarks. We also have Eric Goldstein again from UJA, the CEO. We appreciate that. And then since today we focused a little bit more on technology, we have First Deputy Commissioner of the NYPD Tania Kinsella here as well. So with that, I'll kick it to Mayor Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: Again, thanks so much. Greetings from Tel Aviv. It really was a great honor to be here. I like to say, just as I say Tel Aviv, New York is the Tel Aviv of America, Tel Aviv is the New York City of Israel.
And really grateful for the warmth and just the friendship that they have shown throughout this entire trip. Everywhere I have gone over the past few days, I've met people who are educated and who have inspired me just to continue to move forward. As we walk the streets, it's amazing how many people know the New York mayor here in Tel Aviv and in Israel.

As mayor of the city, I'm proud to spend the time with Israel leaders from across the political spectrum. Just like New York, there's just so many opinions and thoughts that are here, and it's good to hear as they engage in what I consider to be healthy dialogue.

Today, I met with Israel President Isaac Herzog. I also met with the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Jewish Heritage Meir Porush. And while for scheduling issues, we were caught at looking at technology in their police force, I didn't get a chance to meet with Opposition Party Leader Lapid, but we are trying to meet him tonight before I leave town for the late flight I have. I'm looking forward to sitting down and speaking with him.

As I've said before, I'm here to listen and learn. I have deep respect for the passionate political culture of this great nation. While there may be no perfect agreement on all sides [inaudible] democratic debate and building consists on difficult issues, I think is essential.

One thing we can all agree on, we must work together and fight in any form of antisemitism. The safeguard just came from a great event that was sponsored by Combat Antisemitism, a group that I went to Greece with, with 50 other mayors as I indicated yesterday, and they hosted an event today with a large number of tech leaders.

Early today, I was able to tour the National Police Academy. First deputy mayor and I were able to see some of the great technology that they have there. And we look forward to having a real relationship with them as we explore some of their technology.
We've met with representatives of the Israel security agency, Shin Bet. And first, I want to thank them all for their warm hospitality. All of us are united in our determination to continue to protect public safety here and at home, while ensuring we uphold democratic rights of our citizens, something we are all focused on.

That was the message that we drove home and was very obvious in the demonstrations that we witnessed. You all know that I'm a great fan of technology and all it can do to make our lives easy and safer. And Israel is on the cutting edge of exciting developments in technology that will benefit all of us.

Today, I saw tech at the National Police Academy that specifically takes aim at balancing public safety and justice. I was also able to attend a showcase focused on Israeli food innovation. This is the second day that we saw real promising food innovation that is going to not only balance taste and good visual presentation, but healthy. And we're excited about some of those inventions.

We also learned more about Israeli security technology. This has been more than a physical journey, it has been an emotional and a spiritual journey for me as well. As I indicated, mother always wanted to come here. She did not get an opportunity to do so before she transitioned. Right after we left, I will be meeting with the Tel Aviv mayor. We're at City Hall now. Once we conclude this gathering, we're going to sit down with him.

We also met with a group of tech leaders who are really hungry to come to New York. They did a presentation from everything from drones to how you move traffic forward, to education, particularly with those with learning disabilities. We met with a series of companies that gave us a presentation. And there's one underlying message that keeps coming through. They want to do business in New York. They are excited about doing so.

The number of new companies that have constantly stated they want to be in New York City, it's not on the West Coast. They want to be on the East Coast. It's a closer distance. And we're going to make sure we do everything that's possible to lay out the welcome mat. I also want to bring tonight, as I move back home, we keep in mind of how it felt to do the wreath-laying ceremony at Rabin Square in honor of the assassinated prime minister. And I'm looking forward tonight before I return to New York City. So we're going to open the floor up after we hear from Eric, but I will bring the spirit of Israel home with me as well as many cherished memories and new ideas of this startup nation.

Deputy Mayor Levy: Thank you, mayor. Eric, again, Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA.

Eric Goldstein, CEO, UJA-Federation of New York: So I first want to again, express my enormous gratitude to the mayor for coming to Israel, to spending time here, for taking the opportunity to really listen and learn. I've been to Israel countless times. I have two children who live here in Tel Aviv. But I felt today with the mayor, like I was seeing Israel with some fresh eyes and a lot of the inspiration that I think we sort of lose sight of, meeting with the most innovative technology corporations, not-for-profits, for-profits in every conceivable sector to me. Today, we had a six course meal made with many plant-based foods. I can say as a kosher eating person that I had my first taste of prosciutto today. And I'm told by reliable informants that it tasted like the real thing. And so you really see the greatness of Israel, its inspiration, its can-do, and it's wonderful that the mayor gets to see all of this, understand the complexity of this country, its so many differing sectors, but realizes its enormous potential for years and years to come.So thank you again, mayor.

Mayor Adams: Thank you.

Question: Researching this, I came across one of your Brooklyn Borough Hall Twitter posts saying you were meeting with an NYPD detective, Charlie Ben-Naim, stationed in Israel. So I wanted to talk about security and law enforcement issues. What is now many years later, what is NYPD's relationship with Israeli law enforcement? And can you talk a little bit more about your time at the National Police Academy saying there was something you saw that takes aim at public safety and justice. Can you elaborate on that, what you saw and what kind of products, technology could be coming here to New York in terms of law enforcement?

Mayor Adams: Well, it would take this entire briefing to give you all of that information, but I will give you this. I've been leaning into how do we appropriately use drones and they have some great drone technology on early detection, how to use motorcycles to get to incidents fast so they don't have traffic delays. Vehicles normally have a difficult time to do so. And one thing really caught my eye was utilizing motorcycles and drones together, something that we have not been using in the city to immediately get your location so you don't have traffic delays that police officers are well aware of what is in front of them by the time they arrive.

And how they strategically and successfully deal with a large crowd. Some methods we may not use, but there are other methods that they use that they're really humane in nature. And as when we had a similar incident in our city, how do we do it in the correct way? And they've learned how to do it correctly. And we walked away with some of those tactics, and I'm going to put them in contact with our team. The first deputy commissioner was here and she's going to do the follow-up.

Deputy Mayor Levy: Mayor, if I may add, one thing that I took away from the police academy was they very specifically talked about how they have to balance safety in order with ensuring people's democratic rights are not infringed upon. They very specifically talked about that, so it was great to hear that from them. 

Question: Just to your last point about Israeli police describing the need to ensure democratic rights, human rights organizations have raised alarm about Israeli forces using facial recognition technology and storing biometric data without Palestinians' consent. Is this an issue that came up and how would you account for this if you bring this technology to New York?

Mayor Adams: No, we didn't go in depth. They use various forms of technology. One thing is clear that my directions to the New York City Police Department, we will not use any tool that is not in alignment with the laws of our city and our state and our country. And so many police forces across the globe, they use various methods that are not suitable in our city, and we're not going to use any methods that does not conform with our rights and the laws of our country.

Question: I wanted to ask you, Mayor Adams, I know there's been lots of questions about the NYPD's plan to encrypt its radios in New York City. I don't know if you've learned anything in Israel and I know a lot of the questions have been focused on Israel, but I want to get your take on why the NYPD is doing it. It seems to block out public information, including to journalists to know what's going on throughout the city. So I don't know if you or the first deputy commissioner wants to speak about the encrypted radios.

Mayor Adams: Thank you, Katie. And if some way we could distinguish and prevent bad guys from getting our radios and listening to our message when we are responding. As we learned here today with the Israeli police, bad guys are starting to use drones now to see where police are responding. I think we underestimate the sophistication of bad people that want to do harmful things. We are not going to do anything that's going to restrict transparency. But my number one priority I say over and over again is public safety and justice.

I'm not going to do anything that's going to endanger police officers responding to jobs, nor am I going to do something that is going to allow bad guys to get an upper hand on how we provide the safety we need. Right now they have access to those same channels and same information that you were indicating that the press has access to. And I cannot continue to allow them to have access to that information. And if we could find a way to do things differently, we'll continue to evolve. But right now, I need to make sure that the people in the city are safe and the police officers in the city are safe.

Question: Hi. Thanks, Mr. Mayor. Just wanted to clarify something about your meeting yesterday with Israel Gantz. Mr. Gantz's office said after your meeting that you showed great interest in Jewish settlement growth in the West Bank and that you also agreed to tour that area with Mr. Gantz next time you're in Israel. So I guess number one, did you agree to this tour? And number two, in what way did you show great interest in the growth of these settlements?

Mayor Adams: I don't know if you were on the briefing yesterday, Chris, but I'll reiterate again. In the entire meeting, the word settlement did not come up. He talked about a marathon. Where it was geographically, what area it was in, I don't know every geographical area of the country. He talked about a marathon and the first deputy commissioner, who is a marathon runner, laughed about doing so. At no time in the meeting did the word settlement come up. I said that yesterday, and I'm going to say it again.

Deputy Mayor Levy: Thank you. Mayor, if I may add, the delegation's meeting with the foreign minister was part of a broader engagement strategy to foster dialogue and understanding with various international entities. The conversations centered around Israel's startup culture, like many of the conversations we had while we were here over the last two and a half days, and any discussion around even a potential collaboration in the areas of tourism or education were in line with this administration's commitment to strengthening any ties that benefit New Yorkers. However, I would like to point out it's essential to clarify that these discussions do not translate into any kind of definitive stance on the complex geopolitical issues surrounding Israel or the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And this administration believes in promoting dialogue, understanding cooperation on mutual areas of interest, while also acknowledging the complexities and sensitivities inherent to global affairs. And I would just say personally, as anyone who knows anything about Israel, knows that this is not a black and white issue and will not be solved on our two and a half day trip to the region. Lots of wiser people have tried for a lot longer and they're still working on it. So let's not insult generations of people from different cultures by oversimplifying the matter to fit into just the tweet.

Question: Mr. Mayor, could you go a little bit more detail on what technology you saw today and what you looked to bring back to the NYPD? You had discussed, yesterday, AI, I know you just said today drones, and maybe if you can go into a little bit more detail on what technology you're looking at and how you believe it could be implemented in New York City.

Mayor Adams: Again, we are going to do a full briefing on some of the partnerships we are looking to develop. And all that's not going to be done on a short briefing call. I pointed out some of the areas. Number one, our introduction of drones. They're a little bit more advanced in that, particularly those that are durable in their drones and their ability to be in the air longer, which is always a challenge for those who utilize drones, their ability to do so. Their ability to use them in conjunction with, as I stated, motorcycles, which we have a real traffic issue in our city, particularly in Manhattan and in parts of Brooklyn area. And so it is the methods in which they're using them, the methods in which they are training to use them is what caught my interest. And I'm sure upon returning, Assistant Commissioner Daughtry and First Deputy Commissioner Kinsella can go in depth to all that they walked away with as well. We're not going to be able to cover that in a short briefing like this.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. Since we're talking about technology, I wanted to ask you about a story we published yesterday about the Mayor's Office of Innovation and Emerging Markets, which you created. I talked to some people who were unsure what the purpose, the role of this office is, and also what the qualifications are of the two people who you picked to lead it, Denise Felipe-Adams and Jonathan Salomons. Could you just say specifically what specific things that office has worked on and what the qualifications of Denise and Jonathan are? And also, could you just explain why you never announced that you created it like you have for a lot of other offices?

Mayor Adams: Yeah. The goal is… What happened was that the day-to-day of running a city, I wanted a separate entity to focus on those who bring technology and innovation to us. Their sole purpose is to go through the layers and layers, look at the presentations, to make sure that it has a first level of a smell test. So if someone introduced to us, for instance, long-term use of asphalt, they will go there, vet it, find out if there's a problem with the company. If it passes the first level, they will turn it over to DOT to do the follow-up with their team there. And so there is a long list of items that they have vetted for us, turned over to us, and we're able to see, should we spend a great deal of time doing a preliminary review, doing a preliminary investigation.
Jonathan is a lieutenant with excellent investigatory skills. That's what I needed. I needed someone to look through it to see, before I turn it over to the agencies, did they go through the first level of review? Denise, with her contracting construction background, her knowledge, her ability that I saw in Borough Hall, her ability to look through large volumes of materials and say "Is this presentable for my agency?" They've done a great job. They've looked through a number of innovations, technology, and it has been a real win for us. It saved time for our agencies not having to do the preliminary work that they've accomplished. Just two people have accomplished an amazing job.

Deputy Mayor Levy: Thank you. We had a tech issue with the Times of Israel, so I'll read their question. I was hoping the mayor could elaborate on his meeting with President Herzog and what is his agenda for meeting Opposition Leader Lapid?

Mayor Adams: The meeting, as in all my meetings that I've had here with government officials, was about dialogue, showing respect. The president, when he visited New York City, he walked the streets with me as we walked towards 1 Police Plaza and it was a great conversation with him, and we're going to sit down and talk even more. And so it's just proper protocol. You visit a country, particularly mayors, I'm very close to my mayors both home and abroad. We share ideas, we share conversations. I was giving him insight on their new project of building out a metro for the first time. This is really a good conversation that we're having, part of, intracity, showing respect to the electors that are there. I learned from them, they learned from me.

Question: Hi, Mayor. I was wondering, did you consider visiting the West Bank or Bethlehem during this trip?

Mayor Adams: My team plotted out all my schedule. We wanted to get in contact with many of the tech leaders as possible. They plotted it out. That was not on our agenda at all, and I think they did an amazing job when you look at how many meetings, visits, conversations we've had in two and a half days, so that was not on the agenda at all. You saw who we met with. It was so important that we did so, but it was also exciting to see how well we did in ensuring that we would meet with as many diverse groups as possible and hear many diverse opinions, from Christians to Palestinians and Islamic leaders.

And one of the things I was really curious about was when I was here the last time, the Ethiopian Jews that left Ethiopia, I was really pleased to be able to have a conversation to find out some of their concerns. So that cross-section of different people we met with, different groups, different ethnicities, different beliefs, different religions in two and a half days. The team did an amazing job and hats off to them for being able to accomplish it in two and a half days.

Question: So Mr. Mayor, I'm wondering, as you've gone through this extensive tour of Israel and you've looked at security and you've looked at different food things. Have you had time to think about what's going on at home with the new surge of migrants which have now almost filled the recently opened Creedmoor Center and are spilling over to Randall's Island and the court suit today where you're going to be looking for more aid from New York State and the federal government.

Mayor Adams: It's so important to assemble good teams. I've been on the phone several times a day through direct telephone calls or through text messaging of my chief of staff, my first deputy mayor, and my chief advisor. They have their hands on this. The show must go on and you assemble teams so that the show can go on. I saw that when I got Covid and I was knocked out of action and staying at Gracie Mansion, the team still moved. And so I'm proud of what they're doing on the ground. We know that this is a real issue. I stated it before last year when we were at 15,000. No one should be surprised at what we are facing because if we don't stop the flow and if we don't allow people to work, this is going to have a major impact on every delivery of service for the City of New York.

Deputy Mayor Levy: Great. Thank you, mayor. Thank you, Eric, especially for hosting us or co-hosting with JCRC as well at UJA. We really appreciate the trip. Thank you, First Deputy Commissioner Kinsella, and we will see you all back in New York. Thank you.


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