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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability

November 23, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. Today, we have really good news. We're kicking off today's press conference with my favorite topic, a recovery for all of us. Bringing back this city and bringing it back literally in a way that addresses a lot of the problems of the past, moves us forward into a different and better future. This is very, very exciting.

And we're going to start today talking about something. That's been literally a decade in the works. This is back in my community in Brooklyn. Work that's been done for years and years. City Council, City agencies, community organizations, community board, everyone working together. Today after almost a decade of effort, the Gowanus rezoning is poised to pass the City Council and take us into the future. Big, big deal. This is the biggest rezoning this administration has done over our eight years, 8,500 new homes for New Yorkers, 3,000 of which will be permanently affordable. It's amazing. 3,000 families will have permanent affordable housing, changing their lives, literally for generations. On top of it, huge infrastructure investments, huge investments in the community, in parks and community amenities. $250 million for the community. Another $200 million for the needs of public housing in the community. Really, really big deal. This is exactly the kind of thing we came here to do. And it's such a great pleasure to do this right as we're finishing these eight years together. I want to turn now to someone who has really led the way in the City government now over years and years. First as our Housing Commissioner and now as our Deputy Mayor. And she believed from the beginning, we could bring a new sense of equity, a new approach to everything we did, create a hell of a lot more affordable housing. And she's been one of the architects of the biggest affordable housing plan in New York City history that will ultimately reach 300,000 families. A lot to be proud of. And this is a really good day. I know she's feeling legitimately a whole lot of pride today. Our Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been.

Deputy Mayor Vicki Been, Housing and Economic Development: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for those generous words. It's been an incredible honor to work on this project. And I'm excited to see it past later today. And excited to talk about it. It's really a red letter day for the City of New York. As the Mayor said, the Gowanus rezoning has been truly a collaborative project. And it will make the wonderful Gowanus neighborhood fairer, more resilient, and more diverse while preserving its very funky charm and its distinct history. As HPD Commissioner and now as Deputy Mayor, I've had the incredible privilege to work hand in hand with all those community partners and elected officials and City agencies that the Mayor mentioned to make things happen for the city we love. But this project I have to admit, is definitely one of my favorites. And before I dig into the details of the project, I'd like to thank some of those folks who worked tirelessly and with extraordinary patience and determination to turn what was once a dream into a reality. The Gowanus rezoning simply would not have been possible without Comptroller-elect Brad Lander and Council Member Stephen Levin. Those two and their tireless teams worked day in and day out with City Planning, the City Council's Land Use team, and an alphabet soup of City agencies to ensure close engagement with the community members, the community organizations, the community board, every step of the way. You'll get to hear directly from them about what exactly this means for the community.

But I want to talk for a minute about how this rezoning is really the culmination and the direct result of several of our key initiatives. It's the City's largest rezoning to date, subject to the path breaking Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program that we passed in early 2016. It's a major step forward towards realizing the goals of our Where We Live New York City Fair Housing Plan, which recognized that making the city fairer requires that all neighborhoods across the five boroughs help to provide affordable housing. Today's rezoning is an unprecedented investment in the neighborhood. And it will include brand new waterfront spaces, totally open to the public, according to the new Gowanus Waterfront Access plan, direct support and assistance for small businesses, expanded job opportunities for the community through workforce development program, flexible zoning regulations that incentivize future school seats, transit accessibility, and dedicated space for community use. And overall improvements to the places that are so important to every New Yorker, our parks, our public transportation, and even our basic drainage infrastructure.

To dig into the numbers that the Mayor shared earlier, this will provide over 8,500 new homes that will result from this rezoning. And 3,000 of those homes will be permanently affordable, including 1,000 that will be on the 100 percent affordable Gowanus Green Development that's on City-owned land. So why Gowanus? Why all this investment here? It's not just that this is a neighborhood that can support new housing. It's much more. There are about 1,600 NYCHA homes in Gowanus. And those families deserve not just the renovations to their apartments that will come with this rezoning, but they deserve great schools, the cultural offerings, the beautiful parks, and all the other incredible amenities that will expand in the neighborhood because of this rezoning. And the additional affordable homes that this rezoning will help to create in this neighborhood will make the city and therefore – make the neighborhood and therefore the city fairer and more diverse while providing amazing opportunity for the lucky residents of those new affordable homes. This rezoning delivers on this Mayor's commitment to equity. It shows that when we work together across City Hall’s chambers with the residents and organizations of a neighborhood, and gather around the decision-making table with a solid investment in shared commitments to make New York City fairer and to ensure opportunity is shared. We can make the world a little more just, we can make the city a lot more fair, by opening doors to those who have been left or forced behind. So, thank you Mr. Mayor, for allowing me the opportunity to share today. It's been an incredible honor to serve as your Deputy Mayor and to have led on this project and so many other of our projects that were aimed towards making the city fairer. And it's been a pleasure to work with folks who are so passionate about making as many New Yorkers as possible, have a safe, high-quality home with access to good education, to good transportation, to good parks. All of those things in neighborhoods that they're proud to live in. So, thank you for that.

Mayor: Amen. Well, thank you Deputy Mayor. Job well done to you and your whole team. It’s very, very good day. And talk about passionate commitment. Both sides of City Hall. I want to give a lot of appreciation to Council Member Brad Lander, soon to be our comptroller. He created an extraordinary process at the community level, bringing all the stakeholders together. It was laborious and intense, but it got to a great place because everyone had an opportunity to be a part of that process. And really one thing I know about Brad Lander, focused of course on equity, focused on jobs for working people in the community, focused on affordable housing and brought it together in a really, really big way. So, a great day, congratulations Council Member, let's hear from you. Council Member and Comptroller-elect, Brad Lander.


Mayor: Thank you so much, Council member. You really have a lot to be proud of today. And since, we both live in the same neighborhood, I want to tell you, this is just wonderful for our neighborhood, for all of Brooklyn, for all the city. I really want to thank you for your extraordinary efforts and a special thank you, as well, to your colleague, Steve Levin who really put a lot of energy into this, as well, and shared the same values that you just enunciated. This is a big, big deal. And I think it's a great template for where development can go the right way in New York City in the future. So, you did something great. Congratulations, my friend.

Well, I want to hold you one more second because you just brought back a great memory. I remember the original rezoning along Fourth Avenue and the rather aggressive stance the Bloomberg administration took against inclusionary housing, and they were vehemently opposed to mandatory inclusionary housing. And you were one of the leaders who kept calling for it long before you were in the council. And I'm very glad to have all of us together. We achieved that, huge policy change for the city, but I remember that walk with you very well. And we said, we are going to write the wrongs of the past to make sure that, there's a hell of a lot more affordable housing in our community and brought that it actually happened. Congratulations

All right, everybody. So, that's just amazing example of what a recovery for all of us looks like fair, inclusive. Moving us forward. A lot of energy, a lot of focus on the future in New York City. I love talking about recovery for all of us. And as you may know, I also love talking about something else and that's vaccination. And that is the thing that moves us forward. And New York City is leading the way. The amazing fact, as of today, 88 percent now, even going up a little above that, 88 percent of adults in New York City had received at least one dose of the vaccine, that is stunning and that is going to grow. And that's, what's going to help us continue to be the safest place in this country. We're beating back COVID with all the challenges we're still beating it back.

Now, the way to do this has always been to go out to the people, to focus on the grassroots, to have an equitable, fair distribution of vaccine, to go to the people. And it has been working. And part of why it's been working is we found community-based partners, who were passionate about the work, who had incredible networks, who reached people who spoke their language, who had their trust. And one of the best examples is the organization SOMOS. Community-based health providers, who have been leading the way they've played an absolutely crucial role in informing the public dispelling, this information, encouraging vaccination, encouraging testing. They ran the incredible vaccination site at Yankee Stadium, which was a huge success. SOMOS is a group of health care providers of and by and for the community. And they have been really extraordinary allies in this effort. And we want to keep empowering that work. So, we've now tapped into this great network of healthcare providers, and we're creating the ability for them to vaccinate people in their offices with the $100 incentive. This is a new way of using the$100 incentive to reach everyday New Yorkers. When folks go into a SOMOS facility to get vaccinated, to get the truth, to be encouraged to get vaccinated, they can get everyone who comes get vaccinated can get that. $100 incentive. And this is going to keep moving us forward. Including of course, the kids who come in, we want the families to benefit. We want the kids to benefit. They get that $100 incentive, as well. I want you to hear from two leaders of SOMOS, who have done absolutely amazing work during the pandemic. First of all, Chairman and Founder of SOMOS Community Care, Dr. Ramon Tallaji.


Mayor: Thank you, Dr. Tallaji, and to Henry Muñoz. Thank you. Appreciate the heart and passion of what you said. And I know, you're taking this grassroots approach to healthcare all over the city, in fact, all over the country with SOMOS USA. So, to both of you, extraordinary effort you've made during this pandemic, and we've got a lot more to do, and we're really excited about this new effort. Thank you both so much.

All right, now, the incentives, the outreach, all of this has had a huge impact. It's part of why we are the safest place to be, when it comes to fighting COVID. But let's also talk about mandates. Mandates work. Mandates work. You've heard me say it. I've said it for weeks and months, mandates work, and it's the way of the future. Let me give you the evidence, the mandate we put on our public workforce. Yeah, there was noise. There was controversy, but, in the end, it was the right thing to do. It kept people safe. It kept New Yorkers safe. It kept the whole city safe. Here's the proof, overall 94 percent of City workers vaccinated. Now, that's amazing. That's a stunning number. That's the kind of number that, allows us to move out of the COVID era. Let's go over the numbers in the agencies and you'll see the kind of growth that's occurred since the mandate was in place.

For the NYPD, as of now 87 percent vaccinated. That is up 17 percent since the October 20th announcement. FDNY EMS is at 93 percent. That's up fully 32 percent since the October 20 announcement. FDNY firefighting – 89 percent, up 31 percent. These are really amazing numbers. Sanitation, 88 percent, up 25 percent since the announcement. Folks asked yesterday about Department of Correction, we've seen a surge in vaccinations amongst the uniformed members of the Department of Correction. And just the last few days, we've seen a nine percent jump. That number is now 67 percent. We expect that number to go up a lot. We know mandates work and we've got to double down. I've said all leaders across the country, public sector, private sector need to lean in. And we got another great example just yesterday. The TSA that protects all our airports, they put in place a mandate for their employees. Good for keeping the employees safe, good for protecting holiday travelers. This was the right thing to do.

So, federal government's done an amazing job. The City of New York's led the way, shown what's possible. We've been seen as an inspiration all around the country for strong mandates that work. Let's take the next step. I'm calling on our Governor. Governor Hochul, here's an opportunity to do something that will really help New York City, put a mandate in place for MTA employees. It's time to do it. MTA – listen, we depend on all the good men and women who worked for the MTA. We thank them. They've been heroes during the COVID crisis, but we’ve got to get out of the COVID era. We need them to be vaccinated for the safety of each other and their families, their communities, for the safety of the passengers. It's worked with the New York City workforce. It can work with the MTA as well. Here are folks right here in the same city, serving the same New Yorkers, how about we use the same strategy, everyone required to be vaccinated, and that helps move us forward.  

Okay, everybody, let's talk about today's indicators and they continue to show that people are getting vaccinated more and more. We're almost at 12.5 million, 12,448,395 doses from day one, a stunning figure, and again, great credit to all the folks out there who made this happen, all the vaccinators, all the health care heroes, the good folks at SOMOS, so many others who have been building this number of vaccinations day after day after day. Number two, daily, number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, today's report is 91 patients, confirmed positivity 20.21 percent. Hospitalization rate per 100,000 New Yorkers is 0.65. And new reported cases on a seven-day average, today's report, 1,289 cases. So we're obviously seeing that number go up. This is all the more reason for people to get vaccinated who are not yet vaccinated, and for folks who are ready for that booster, go get that booster. Now open to anyone at 18 and up. Let's get everyone out there, get that booster, protect us during the holiday season. Okay, a few words in Spanish, and this is about the incentive we just announced through SOMOS in the community-based health care offices.  

[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: Good morning. We will now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, we are joined by Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, Vicki Been, Dr. Mitch Katz, President and CEO of New York City Health + Hospitals, Dr. Torian Easterling, First Deputy Commissioner and Chief Equity Officer of the city's Health Department, and Anita Laremont, the Director of the Department of City Planning. Our first question for today goes to Andrew Siff from NBC. 

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, since you were just talking about urging the Governor to do something about the MTA and mandates, I'm wondering, were you invited to today's event on the Second Avenue Subway phase two, or are we back to the Governor and the Mayor not necessarily being on the same page? And sort of related to that do you have any regrets about what you've been able to accomplish on the mass transit front? At one point you proposed a Utica Avenue subway in Brooklyn in a State of the City, it of course never got built, and you never really mentioned it again. So I'm wondering your take on it.  

Mayor: Andrew, very different questions, so I'll do my best here. Look, I'm very, very happy with what we've been able to do on mass transit. We created NYC Ferry, which I think has tremendous potential to grow over the years and decades ahead. We have created the bus ways that never existed before, and now they're part of New York City, that's going to be a great part of our future select bus service has greatly expanded, that's going to be a big part of our future. Of course, Citi Bike, huge expansion, all of these pieces matter. There's going to be opportunity in the future to look at more subway lines, but I think the fact is that because of COVID and because of lack of federal investment until now, it really wasn't possible. Now we have a whole new discussion because the infrastructure bill and we can go back and look at options we didn't have before, and that's exciting.  

In terms of the Governor, I've had lots of conversations with the Governor on many topics. It is night and day compared to what I experienced previously. We don't keep the same schedule. You know, we have different priorities. That's perfectly understandable. But I respect the Governor, we communicate well, we work well together, and what I'm calling for here is, you know, with an atmosphere and a feeling of respect and collegiality. We went out there first. We proved that mandates could work. I think the Governor does care deeply about us getting out of the COVID era. I'm saying, look, here's a way to get something done that will really help the city turn the page and we'll work together on it, for sure. Go ahead, Andrew. 

Question: There's a report today that Eric Adams got a ride on a private jet from a cryptocurrency billionaire on the way to Puerto Rico and that while he was at SOMOS, he tweeted about getting paid in Bitcoin. So, I'm wondering your reaction to that and whether you are concerned that influencers with money might create some ethical problems for the new Mayor-elect? 

Mayor: Look, I think Eric Adams has a real moral center. I really do. I've known him a long time. I've watched him. He is motivated to help working people. That's been his whole life, and he's someone who fought for real reform, real changes in policing when it was not easy. I'm sure he will figure out the right way to handle these things. So, I wouldn't, I wouldn't read too much into one moment. I think he's someone who, you know, he's been a public servant his whole life and for the right reasons. 

Moderator: Our next question goes to Dana Rubinstein from the New York Times. 

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, my first question is about non-citizen voting, as you know, the Council is poised to pass legislation permitting it. Do you still have reservations about non-citizen voting and do you plan to veto the legislation once it passes? 

Mayor: Dana, I do have reservations, but obviously I want to see exactly what they're doing. Look, on the plus side, we're talking about our fellow New Yorkers and folks who contribute to this city and a part of the life of the city, and we've tried in so many ways to reach them and support them. Everything we doing, guaranteed health care, NYC Care, was built for many reasons, including getting health care to undocumented folks who are part of our community. Our food initiative during COVID went to everyone. Everything we do with education goes to everyone. ID NYC went to everyone, and we've been very intentional about embracing and supporting everyone. So, I understand if folks say, hey, I'm somewhere on the pathway to citizenship, I'd like to be more involved. I respect that. I do understand that impulse. But I also have feelings about the value of citizenship and wanting to encourage people to become citizens fully, and there's a lot of people do not pursue full citizenship, even though they can, and that to me is an issue. I want citizenship to be something that people pursue fully, quickly, every chance they get. I'm concerned about that. I'm also concerned about the legal question, which is unclear whether it's something that can be done on the local level. So, we'll look at the legislation, respect the Council, this is something that councils decided to do, it's a democracy. Certainly not something I would be intending to veto, but it's also something I'm not sure is the right way to go about this. Go ahead, Dana. 

Question: Thanks very much. On a different topic, as I'm sure you saw Malcolm X’s youngest daughter, Malikah, was found dead yesterday just a couple of days after two men were cleared in his assassination, exonerated, I guess. Is there any indication how she died and whether it was accidental? And do you have any words for his - for her family as they deal with their fourth tragic death? 

Mayor: It's so horrible, Dana. We have no indication so far – per the NYPD – no indication of any foul play or criminality so far, but we do not have all the answers yet. It is so painful. Look, I think what a lot of us have felt for a long time, and I think what history is showing more and more, is Malcolm X was one of the most important leaders of the 20th century and someone who, you could look at all the extremes of his life, all of the different realities, he evolved in a way that really showed just the extraordinary potential of humanity and some of what he said and did just liberated people's thinking and framed so much of what we do today. I mean, this is just a profoundly important human being. I was certainly deeply influenced by his work. I know so many others who were as well. And this family has been through hell over and over again, and there's some horrible injustice to someone who ultimately did so much good for the world, for what – the way he lost his life, the way justice still hasn't been served, because we still don't know who ordered that killing and everyone who was involved then, and they have not been brought to justice. And that was the pain to me of this – exoneration was meaningful, of course, but it didn't answer the question that for a lot of us we've been feeling for decades, who did it and why then up and brought to justice. And I think for the family to have to go through that all again, I'm sure it was very trying. So, to Malcolm's family, just say, there are millions and millions of people in New York City and all around the country who love you, who care about you, who embrace you, who embrace his legacy, and it's just – I'm so sorry for what they're going through right now, in any way we can support them, we all need to. 

Moderator: Our next question goes to Marla Diamond from WCBS 880. 

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I wanted to ask you about the contract with CORE Services Group. I'm hoping you can tell us about the decision to sever ties with them and the reassignment of clients, you know, how long will that take? And does the city plan to pursue legal action against CORE Services and its CEO, Jack Brown? 

Mayor: Marla, we're going to look at every conceivable step we can take. We gave CORE the opportunity to do the right thing. They had made a number of mistakes. They had personnel that we felt were doing the wrong thing. People who are getting exorbitant salaries, we said, these things need to change. They did not change them, and now we've told them they're out of business with us. We're not working with them anymore. We're closing their sites by the end of the year, in some cases transitioning some others over the first few months of the new year, but we will be out of all those sites. We have other providers we will work with. And yes, of course, if there's anything we can do to claw back money or any other type of follow-through, we're prepared to do it. It's very troubling to me, you know, here – we're talking about people in need, folks who are homeless, and this organization took advantage of those people, and they will no longer be doing business with the City of New York. Go ahead, Marla. 

Question: Thanks for that. Switching gears and talking a little bit about the schools, we're going into the Thanksgiving break, and, I'm just hearing anecdotally that many, many classrooms are either closed or partially closed because of active COVID cases. Can you give us a sense of what's going on with the number of cases, and testing, is there increased testing in the schools? I mean, have you gotten more, you know, authorization from parents, if you got more of those slips. Did you – more testing, especially in schools where you have a high number of COVID cases? 

Mayor: Yeah. Marla, these are all really good questions, but I want to just frame it for you. The facts actually say something very different. I want to lay it out to you. We are doing a huge amount of testing. We have a lot of testing consent in, we certainly have the numbers we need to do very consistent testing in schools, but the numbers overall, the COVID positivity levels are very low. I'll turn to doctor – in a second to Dr. Easterling or Dr. Katz, if they have that information available on the positivity level of schools right now, they'll tell you, otherwise we'll get it to you, but it's very, very low. And they remain – New York City's the safest place to be in the country in terms of COVID, the schools are the safest place to be in New York City, extremely low COVID levels. In terms of closures, Marla I'm happy to tell you, we have no school closures at this moment out of 1,600 schools. And in terms of a full classroom closures, the number I have as of late yesterday, 227 classroom closures, that's against 48,000 classrooms and 65,000 spaces, many of which are being used as classrooms because of distancing. So, whichever you want to say, 48,000 or 65,000, either way you slice it, only 227 classrooms closed out of that. That's an incredibly low number and we intend to keep it that way, and the key is vaccination. Getting the youngest New Yorkers vaccinated is the best way to keep our schools safe. 

Moderator: Our next question goes to Erin Durkin from Politico. 

Question: I want to follow up on the question about the non-citizen voting bill. So you said you did not intend to veto it, if I heard that correctly? So you are still kind of opposed to it. Why are you not going to veto it? I don't think you vetoed anything, if I remember correctly during your tenure, so, you know, why are you taking that approach and would you sign it, or would you just sort of leave it alone and let it become law automatically?  

Mayor: Erin, I still need to see the language. As you know, this is something that we did not hear the Council was going to do until very recently. I want to see the exact language. I’m telling you honestly what I feel right now. I have mixed feelings. I've had mixed feelings on this issue for a long time. We'll look at the language. I don't see a scenario where I'll veto. To me, this is something that, again, I'm not sure is legally what a city can do. I think it's something the State government needs to do, but let's see what they bring forward, and then we can judge accordingly from there. Go ahead, Erin.

Question: Okay. Thanks. And then, with regards to, you know, you’re calling on the Governor to Institute a vaccine mandate. Have you spoken to her about a vaccine mandate or this MTA issue? Do you have any sense of why, you know, that has not taken place?

Mayor: Look, I've talked to the Governor over time about everything we're doing with the mandates. Our teams have been talking specifically. We've talked about the MTA issue. They will speak for themselves, obviously. And again, I look at this from an atmosphere of goodwill. I think everyone's trying to balance things, but I think it was fair for someone to say, well, okay, let's see what happens in New York City first, let's see what happens with our public employees. And what I'm saying is, now we have absolute proof that this effort worked and it had a tremendously helpful impact on fighting back COVID. So, I think it's a great time for the State to act, for the MTA to act, and I think will help us get out of the COVID era.

Moderator: Our next question goes to Chris Sommerfeldt from the Daily News.

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

Mayor: Good, Chris. How are you doing?

Question: I'm well. I wanted to just get your take on the Thomas Jefferson statue being removed from the Council chamber yesterday, as you probably saw. Some national and local Republicans are claiming that this sets a dangerous precedent for how to view American figures from American history. I guess, I'm just wondering what your response is to that and what you think of the statute finally being removed?

Mayor: I think we need to just put it in perspective. I don't think it sets a dangerous precedent at all. There was a full debate and, you know, the Council made this request. It's their chambers. I want to respect that. Thomas Jefferson is a profoundly important figure in American history who was also profoundly contradictory. And anyone who owned slaves, there’s a fair critique to say the least. But he also made immense contributions to this country and to some of the best values that permeate the world today. So, I just think we should look at these situations and then move on, because the issue was not to me the past or the statutes, it's where we're going. And I think we can have a much better conversation about where we're going. That's where my focus is. Go ahead, Chris.

Question: Thank you. And switching gears a bit, in addition to the Gowanus is rezoning, the Blood Center rezoning is obviously up for a vote today in the Council as well. I know you owe $435,000 to the lobbyist firm that represents the Blood Center in this matter. I guess, I'm wondering, first off, why you haven't paid off that debt, considering it's been accruing for six years by now? And, second, isn't it a conflict of interest for you to have that much outstanding debt to a key player in this whole issue?

Mayor: No, it just isn't. I had no knowledge of their involvement until some of you brought it up, haven't had any conversation with them. And I'm going to pay that debt off. I've been really clear about that.

Moderator: Our next question goes to Elizabeth Kim from Gothamist.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I wanted to know if you could clarify the hundred-dollar vaccine incentive expansion, is that only for SOMOS clinics? Or will that be for all community clinics that receive federal funding?

Mayor: Elizabeth, I'll turn to Dr. Easterling about where we stand, because we have been working more and more with federally supported clinics as well. The SOMOS network has obviously been crucial partners in our whole vaccination and testing effort. So, organizationally, it was quite clear that we could provide the incentive through their doctors. And the farther we can go with the incentive, the better. We want people to have it. It's hard to do if there isn't a truly organized context to work in. But wherever we can effectively extend the incentive, we want to do it, because we want people to get the incentives, and we want people to get vaccinated. It's really straightforward. Dr. Easterling, could you speak about the federally supported clinics and how we're approaching them with the incentive? Where we are now, where we might be going with that?

First Deputy Commissioner Torian Easterling, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Yes. Mr. Mayor. A really great question. Thank you so much for the question. This is really important. And as you've heard us talk about a time and time again, equity is really important in our response and really making sure that we are really getting our resources out in the neighborhoods that have been hardest hit. And so, as you've already heard, our federally qualified health centers have been really crucial in our response, first in getting testing out, and now getting our vaccines both to our adults and to our children. And so, the partnership with SOMOS is not unique. We are working with several federally qualified health centers, because many of these FQAC’s – or, federally qualified health centers – have networks throughout the city. And so, really to be working with our health centers and Brooklyn and Queens, also in Manhattan and Staten Island to make sure that we really get our vaccines out. It’s not just limited to adults, as I've mentioned. We already know that we are offering these incentives to children and adolescents as well.

Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead, Elizabeth.

Question: And also, this morning, my colleague George Joseph wrote about something that you've been talking about a lot, which is how court delays have been one of the driving factors behind the Rikers crisis. But what he's hearing from the Office of Court Administration is that your administration has really given them no realistic offers of additional space to hold trials and grand jury proceedings. I was wondering if you could respond to that.

Mayor: Elizabeth, that is laughable. It's just – look, thank you for asking. You're one of the few people who has followed up on this issue and I really am stunned it's not front-page news. The schools are fully running. All the kids are in schools. The public workforce overwhelmingly vaccinated. All of these examples of our society fully functioning – you know, our sports arenas are full. You name it. Where's the missing link? The court system. And how they are getting away with this, I have not a clue, because we said to them we'll do whatever the hell you need in terms of free vaccination for anyone, employees, jurors, anything. We'll give you whatever space you need. Tell us, we'll make it happen. I've said it publicly. I've said it to the Chief Judge. Our teams have talked. If they needed anything, all they had to do was call. We've offered a lot. If they needed something more, all they had to do is call. They're not interested in fixing the problem, because I've raised it now for most of the year and they haven't fixed it. They are so far behind it is laughable. And it just doesn't make sense that are getting off scot-free. It's just – how on earth are they not back full strength? If you say, some people are not ready to be jurors, then call more jurors. It's like, this is about a functioning criminal justice system to protect the people of New York City. And the frustration of the NYPD on this matter is extraordinary, because they can't achieve the consequences and the follow-through that gets us to public safety without a functioning court system. So, if they need anything, they just need to call me. They have my number. Whatever they need, we will provide it to help them. But they never make that call, Elizabeth.

Moderator: We have time for two more questions today. Our next question goes to Julia Marsh from the Post.

Question: Hey. Good morning, Mr. Mayor. Back to the banning horse carriages – you set on Errol’s program last night that you'd also take a state-wide approach to banning the horse carriages. In that case, do you think horse racing should be banned well? And what role would you play in banning them statewide if not as a gubernatorial candidate?

Mayor: My view is – I mean, I know using a word like moral is a big word, but I truly believe that. I just think when it comes to horse carriages, and the way that industry has developed, and the conditions that horses are in, I don't think it's right, I don't think it's fair. I feel the same way as so many people have about circuses and we've seen a lot of changes for the better in circuses. I don't have a position on every element of the picture here, Julia. I haven't really given a lot of thought horse racing, honestly. But I do think horse carriages, you've seen them banned in cities around the world. They're a part of the past. They should be left in the past. Go ahead, Julia.

Question: And what do you say to critics who claim that, you know, this 11th hour attempt to ban the horse carriages is nothing more than a political move for you to get donors for your future in public service?

Mayor: I’d say it's very straightforward. It's a conversation we've been having with the City Council, where there's also a lot of people who think horse carriages don't make sense anymore. It's the end of the term for all of us. Sometimes it's possible to get some things done. I mean, obviously, I'm a little surprised to see the non-citizen and voting bill coming up so suddenly, but it is the kind of thing you see at an end of the term, including on the Council side. So, folks have been talking about, is there a way to get something done before we all leave? And if there is, we should. And if there isn't, there isn't. But my view on this matter is pretty damn clear and consistent. There's a lot of people in the Council who feel the same way.

Moderator: Our last question for today goes to Yehudit from Borough Park 24.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you?

Mayor: I am great, Yehudit. How are you?

Question: Thank you. I'm really great also. So, Attorney General James is blaming Governor Hochul for the recent COVID surge in New York. So, as your mandates and incentives have been quite successful in vaccinating 88 percent of the city and promoting – also promoting boosters, I was wondering, besides the MTA mandate, what other kinds of things do you think the Governor can do to increase vaccinations and booster rates? And also, I was wondering, what do you think of how Governor Hochul is doing to manage COVID in New York?

Mayor: Look, I'm going to keep it simple and positive. I respect the Governor. I just call upon her to use mandates in a way that will save lives and help us get out of the COVID era. And the obvious first place to do that is the MTA. If you’re talking about – it's a big workforce, it's 70,000 people, and they come in close contact with all New Yorkers. That's a great place to start. I would say, if there's any other elements of the workforce that the Governor can reach, the mandates make sense. And I say it to private sector leaders as well. I think every company should move to it. Look at United Airlines. We’ve seen some great examples in the private sector that have had a huge, positive impact. So, it's time for more mandates. Go ahead, Yehudit.

Question: And then, also, given the joblessness has now returned to pre-pandemic levels, I’m wondering why, at this point, nonpayment of rent could result in what you seem to be calling illegal evictions. Also, last week, Steven Banks, the Commissioner of Social Services, it seemed like he kind of mocked the idea of landlords who are providing spaces to live and other services to tenants – and the landlords who depend on their rent for their income. He kind of seems to mock that they would get legal representation. So, I was wondering also, do you think landlords who lost billions of dollars in their income over the pandemic, whether they also deserve representation and payment?

Mayor: Landlords – the vast majority of landlords do the right thing. Let's start with that. I've always said it. And then, there are some who do the wrong thing. The ones who do the wrong thing, the ones who try to illegally evict people or not provide heat and services to drive people out of the building so they can raise the rent, those folks need to be dealt with very aggressively. But the vast majority of landlords are just trying to provide housing to people. And, of course, a tenant should pay the rent. It's as simple as that. I've said this throughout the pandemic, if you can afford to pay the rent, pay the rent, because the buildings need to keep going. The heat needs to stay on. The repairs need to be made. But there are a lot of people just couldn't. You're right, that finally the economy is coming back, but that's really recent, Yehudit. There were a lot of people that just couldn't pay the rent. We're finally seeing some of the aid reaching them. It's now a time where a lot more people should catch up on the rent, and pay what they can, and get the landlords up to [inaudible]. In terms of representation, historically, landlords did have representation, tenants did not, and that was the imbalance that had to be addressed. And representation on both sides helps everyone, because it creates a dialogue towards a solution. Generally, obviously, private enterprise, private sector, it's their responsibility for their own representation. Low-Income folks, the City made a choice to do that, which I think is good for everyone.

And so, I'll just finish on this, saying the Right to Counsel legislation was historic. I'm very proud of it. It's been emulated around the country. It's helping to keep people in their homes who have a legal right to be there. But also, representation does help to resolve cases for everyone. And that's something that's really in the City's interest.

Everyone, as we conclude today, a lot of good things happening today. Obviously, we're thrilled to see this rezoning today. It’s going to create so much affordable housing jobs, so much good for people in Brooklyn and beyond. But also, the fact today that we are celebrating consistent success on vaccination and building the effort out more. This is what's going to give us safety in this holiday season. This is what's going to move this city forward and out of the COVID era once and for all. Thank you, everybody.



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