September 17, 2023
Reverend Al Sharpton: Now I'm proud to be joined by New York Mayor Eric Adams and Houston, Texas, Mayor Sylvester Turner. And for the record, Mayor Turner, I'm in your city. I'm in Houston. I preached at Lily Grove Baptist Church this morning, one of the most able pastors in the country, Reverend Terry Anderson, so I'm in your city. But thank you both for joining me.
On Friday, a news conference hosted by a delegation of Democratic lawmakers who were touring a New York City hotel that serves as a shelter for recently arrived migrants was disrupted by protesters upset over the influx in arrival of asylum seeking migrants.
Over the past year, more than 100,000 migrants have arrived in New York City to seek asylum — according to the New York Times — and their arrivals have coincided with the widespread housing prices in the city. Mayor Adams, you've said yourself that the migrant issue will destroy New York City if we don't get our arms around it. How are you going to move forward in mitigating this crisis; and, it's a crisis that many of us are concerned about that is not just at your doorstep.
I know a lot of faith leaders were talking about coming out this week to say there's a moral issue of dealing with the migrants, but it's also an issue of, if you have to cut resources where the people in the communities that can least afford a cut, and they should not force something on any mayor that he has to choose between who gets hurt, which means the federal government. How do you mitigate this, Mayor Adams?
Mayor Eric Adams: And it was so important, I'm glad you correctly phrased what was said. People attempted to distort the message that we were saying migrants would destroy the city, and that was not what we stated. We are stating this condition has a real destructive part to it that is going to have a rippling effect throughout our entire city.
I've spent the night in a shelter with migrants and spoke with them. I've marched and visited with them and interacted with them. We have provided some of the best care throughout this entire country of migrants and asylum seekers. And we're a city of immigrants, and my support in immigrant communities is strong.
But we cannot ignore the fact, we spent $2 billion already, we're projected to spend $5 billion. That money is going to come from somewhere. We made great strides in supporting foster care children, putting money into housing, putting money into low income New Yorkers an really providing a way for those migrants that are here.
If we don't receive help from the federal government and additional help from the state government, then this is going to come from somewhere, and it's going to hurt low income New Yorkers. And I'm glad the Hispanic Congressional Delegation came through. They saw what we were doing. They walked out and stated that you guys have really done a dignified way of treating the migrants and asylum seekers.
This is wrong for the migrants and asylum seekers to be going through this. It is wrong for long term New Yorkers that depend on this revenue. I have to go back in November and find $5 billion out of our budget. This is just not right to do to this city.
Reverend Sharpton: And that's the concern of many of the faith leaders [come], many gathered last week in New York and many of the denominational leaders I've been talking to, coming out this week, because there's the moral issue here: you cannot choose services for people that need it in the city over what has to happen to migrants if you're trying to be moral. You can't have selective morality.
But in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has been running a high‑profile campaign sending migrants to what he describes as democratic run cities such as New York by bus, claiming that they were overwhelming his state. Out of the more than 100,000 migrants New York has received in the last year, about 13,000 were spent on buses provided by the State of Texas.
The Texas busing program has sent roughly 35,000 migrants to other states since April of 2020. These statistics show that the migrants offered free passage from Texas over the past year, there's just a fraction of those who regularly make their way to cities like New York.
Mayor Turner, what's your take on Governor Abbot's — your governor's — response to an influx of migrants in your state? And it seems like Black mayors — I'm saying this, not the two of you — are the ones that have bared the brunt of this kind of busing, and you've had to bear the brunt as the mayor here in Houston.
Mayor Sylvester Turner: Well, let me just say and be very candid: the Governor of Texas, Governor Abbott, is wrong. Okay? This is not the way to solve the problem. And Reverend Sharpton, you are right: most of the cities have been cities where there have been democratic mayors; and of that number, most of them have been cities where they have been African‑American mayors.
So, if you're talking about New York, he's sending them there. If you're talking about Chicago, he's been sending them there. If you're talking about now LA with Karen Bass, he's sending them there. And then Mayor Hancock was the Mayor of Denver, and he was sending them there as well. So, the policy is fundamentally flawed.
If you want to address the migrant problem ‑‑ and we need to address it ‑‑ then he needs to sit down, discuss it with governors, with mayors in a very respectful fashion. And I think what you will find, we all recognize that the problem needs to be fixed, and there needs to be comprehensive immigration reform. But the way he's choosing to do it is that he's using these people as pawns on a chess table to gain political favor at the people's expense, and that's just wrong.
Reverend Sharpton: Let me switch gears, as I'm honored to have both of you. Shootings in New York City dropped by about 25 percent through the first half of this year compared to the same period last year, showing a downward trend after a spike in violent crime during the Covid pandemic.
Mayor Adams, you've made reversing the trend of gun violence a central goal in your administration, as you promised when you were running. Are you encouraged by these numbers, because many of us that questioned excessive police force also want to see gun violence down. We don't want to be shot by anybody, we don't want violence by anybody. Are you encouraged by these numbers?
Mayor Adams: Yes, and it's something that, you know, you and I have both made clear throughout our entire careers. There's no condolence or consolation prize if you knock on the door and tell the mother, your son was shot with someone in blue jeans and not in a blue police uniform, they still feel the pain.
And this is part of the overall return of our city. Not only have we saw homicides decrease, gun violence decrease and five out of seven major felonies decrease in the city, but you're also seeing vibrant recovery. People are back on the subway system. We're capping at 3.6, 3.8 million riders.
You are seeing 99 percent of the jobs have recovered, tourism is back. We're projecting to 65 million tourists in the city. The vibrancy has returned. Covid has really gave us all a devastating blow, but smart fiscal management of the city saw bond raters give us a AA bond rating because of how we're managing the fiscal crisis of this time. And so we are really pleased because the prerequisite to prosperity is public safety and justice, and we can have both, you don't have to trade them off.
Reverend Sharpton: Now, in Texas, firearm fatalities have reached the highest level in recent years since the 1990s according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as gun laws in the state have become increasingly more relaxed.
Mayor Turner, as Texas republicans argue that loosening regulations on firearms is constitutional and necessary to protect the rights of Texas citizens, I heard at Lily Grove Church today people are concerned about this. How do you address the gun violence epidemic as a democratic leader of the state's largest city?
Mayor Turner: Well, when you're fighting against a state who has really promoted the use of guns and the proliferation of guns on our streets, all water flows downhill. Quite frankly, there are way too many more guns on our streets, and the state has made it easier for those guys to be there.
Having said that, violent crime in the city of Houston — violent and non violent crime in the city of Houston — is down. When I look at the numbers — and I look at them every single day — if you look at where we are today on homicides comparison to 2021, we have 70 fewer homicides than we did in 2021. If you look at 2022, there's about 60 fewer homicides.
So, violent crime is down, even non violent crime is down, and in large part it's because we've employed a very holistic strategy. Like Mayor Adams, we look at it from a more holistic point of view. Well, yes, we are providing more support to law enforcement; yes, we're utilizing more technology.
But we're also focusing in on our reentry program, housing and job opportunities. We're also focusing on more youth engagement, focusing on the population between 16 to 24. Instead of telling youth and others "no, we're giving them something to say yes to.
And community engagement, working with our community leaders, organizations, bringing them in, inviting them to the table; and then, focusing on crisis intervention.
All of those things are where we are placing a great deal of emphasis; and from a holistic point of view, in spite of what's happening at the state, what we are doing locally is proving to work.
Reverend Sharpton: I have to say this, because clearly, there's still many of us that are concerned and don't feel safe. But it seems interesting to me given the data in New York, given what you're doing in Houston, Mayor Turner, it seems to me that Black mayors get all kind of media coverage when crime is spiking, and then when there's some statistics in New York and in Houston where the homicides and gun violence is going down, it seems like a lot of our media don't cover that, Mayor Adams, or at least, don't give credit, they start dealing with other issues.
And we're nowhere out of the woods, but we're clearly, the data speaks that some things are moving in the right direction. And again, as one not only who hosts a show but I'm president of National Action Network — as you know, you were there in the beginning — I'm concerned about the reasoning behind the double standard on Black mayors in terms of how we deal with crime. Mayor Adams.
Mayor Adams: No, so true. And I could not have stated it better. And even how we are managing these cities. We're talking about four of the largest cities in America: Houston, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. When you do an analysis of what we have done in this city since January 1st, 2022, our economic recovery, the comeback, how we've invested in young people, 100,000 summer youth jobs, and how we did full‑year education: 110,000 of our young people have school all year round.
And what we're doing of upstream mindset. We're not pulling young people and families out of the river downstream, we're focusing upstream, everything from dyslexia screening to improving on education. There's a real holistic approach that these mayors are doing and my colleagues are doing in Atlanta, in Washington, St. Louis and other areas.
And so when you look at it, you would think New York City's out of control, it's the wild, wild west, and it's just the opposite. You're seeing a vibrant comeback of the city, and the indicators are showing that we have successfully managed through the Covid crisis.
We are managing even through the asylum seekers: 110,000 individuals showed up at our doorstep, 10,000 a month we are receiving, and not one child or family slept on the streets of the City of New York. We've managed this crisis, but right now we need the help, the help that we deserve as a city.
No city should be going through any of these crises alone. We should be getting the support. That includes the El Paso, Brownsville, Houston. No city should be carrying the weight of these items alone.
Reverend Sharpton: All right. I'm going to have to leave it there. Thank you both, Mayor Eric Adams and Mayor Sylvestor Turner. I know what you're doing here, Reverend Anderson kind of beat me over the head with it most of the morning.
Mayor Adams, Mayor Sylvester Turner, thank you both for being with us.