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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability

November 6, 2015

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good afternoon, everyone. Let me say a couple of things up front.

As you know, I just returned from Puerto Rico where I stood in the solidarity with 3.5 million of our fellow Americans who live in Puerto Rico. And I have to emphasize this is an issue that should be of concern to all of us across this country, in particular to those of us in New York City, given our deep, deep relationship with Puerto Rico. Almost 700,000 people live in this city come from Puerto Rico, in terms of their heritage, and have a deep connection to the island who are tremendously concerned about what’s happening there and where it’s going.

And it is not wrong to say there is a potential humanitarian crisis in the making. Right now the Puerto Rican health care system is declining rapidly. 3.5 million people have fewer and fewer doctors and less and less access to health care. And it’s because of unfair federal policies. Let’s be very blunt about it. Puerto Rico is treated differently than the rest of the United State when it comes to Medicaid. The formula is much less fair.

So here is an example of a group of Americans who are not being given the same rights and the same access to care as the rest of us. And that’s unfair – it’s un-American. And, on top of that, it fuels part of the financial crisis that Puerto Rico is experiencing, which we all know is not good for any of us to see part of our country in financial distress and to see it go unaddressed by the Congress is unacceptable.
The president has put forward a very comprehensive and effective plan to deal with the financial crisis, the Medicaid problem, the need for Puerto Ricans to have more access to the Earned Income Tax Credit. The President’s plan is a good plan. It’s time for Congress to act.

And I want to be clear: Some of what’s underlying this, unfortunately, it comes from some very bad motivations. This crisis is in part being created by hedge fund managers who are trying to take advantage of the plight of the Puerto Rican people. As Senator Warren has called them, “vulture hedge funds”, that are literally trying to make profit off of the financial danger facing Puerto Rico. We can’t let that happen. Congress was very quick to act when our banks were in danger back in 2008. Congress should be equally quick to act when 3.5 million Americans are in danger. So, I’m going to keep working on these issues, of course working particularly closely with Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and with our congressional delegation.

I had a great meeting yesterday with the governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia Padilla and we went into real depth about the extent of the crisis, what he sees as a way forward and the important role that leaders here in the 50 states have to play in making these changes on behalf of the Puerto Rican people. I told him I would particularly focus on rallying my fellow mayors to the cause of Puerto Rico. I also had the opportunity to spend time with a number of leaders from New York City, particularly, obviously, from the Latino community. We talked about our shared commitment to defending Puerto Rico and we talked about a lot of the other work we’re doing here to serve the Latino community of this city. Obviously, it’s one of our key initiatives, Pre-K for All, affordable housing, municipal ID. A number of the initiatives have been the focus of this administration are having a very positive impact on the Latino community and we’re going to be working with those elected officials and community leaders to deepen that impact. Just a few words in Spanish on this and I want to talk about one other topic.

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

Second topic I want to talk about is related to our Vision Zero, the vision and the work we’re doing on it. It is been a tough week, a very, very tough week. Eight New Yorkers lost in crashes, and it’s a reminder of why Vision Zero is here to begin with because the people we’re losing are our grandparents, our parents, our children. The stories have been so painful but we know there are real changes that have been made, that are making a difference and changes that will be continued to be made that will reduce the number of crashes and save more and more lives. We know it is critical to keep deepening Vision Zero because it works. It’s never been more necessary than now.

Every death will be investigated and those responsible will be identified and prosecuted accordingly but there are so many things we can do proactively to protect lives. We’re changing people’s behavior slowly but surely by constantly reminding our fellow New Yorkers of their responsibility behind the wheel. And I can tell you we see real evidence that people are changing their habits because this message has been sent very clearly for two years.

We’re helping people understand that the word – the phrase Vision Zero comes from the notion, again, borrowed from other countries that pioneered this strategy, that we should assume crashes are avoidable, that they’re not inevitable, they’re avoidable. We see the public education making an impact. We see the lower speed limit making an impact, the enforcement of the lower speed limit. NYPD has issued 100,000 speeding tickets this year so far – 100,000 which is nearly twice as much as before Vision Zero was put into effect.

In terms of failure to yield, this is an area that got so little attention in the past. Failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, those tickets are up three times. Over 30,000 have been issued. So we know the speed limit is making a difference – the 25 mile an hour speed limit, we know the enforcement is making a difference. We have 75 streets and intersections that have been redesigned already this year – the most ever in one year and that will continue for years to come.

We have 140 speed cameras up and running. In those areas, we see a 2/3 drop in speeding as a result of those cameras being there. This is where numbers do matter. I know a lot of times there’s a legitimate question asked when we talk about numbers, when we talk about statistics, does it capture the human reality. Every single human being is not a part of those statistics – it’s another person among us, it’s a family member who wasn’t lost.

This year, a 16% drop in traffic deaths compared to last year, 188 so far this year compared to 223 last year. Mind you, we had a record year for progress last year. Vision Zero really has only just began in terms of implementation, it’s a little over a year old and you’re going to see a lot more impact. We’re going to deepen these policies and deepen the enforcement that goes with them and we’re going to continue to drive down this problem and reduce the number of deaths.

The families who have suffered from traffic fatalities have been extraordinary in their efforts to change things. They’ve been such powerful moral voices. They’ve made a huge impact on the discussion both here and in Albany. I’ll be joining family members on November 15th for a day of remembrance. It’s not just the day to think of the people we’ve lost and to honor them, it’s a day to commit ourselves to further action in their name. I just want to quickly talk about it in Spanish.

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

I want to take questions on these first two topics and then we’ll open up to other topics. I want to see if there’s any questions on either Puerto Rico or Vision Zero. Yes?

Question: Excuse me. When you assert that hedge funds are partly responsible for causing the financial crisis in Puerto Rico, what specifically are you talking about?

Mayor: I’m talking about the fact that the Congress hasn’t acted and I think there’s a clear question, very different situations, natural disasters, the financial crisis, 2008. There was an assumption for many, many years that when a part of our country was in danger, our national government would step in. There was an assumption that when there was a bigger threat like the Great Recession and the financial crisis, the national government would step in.

We saw after Sandy, again, all these situations are different but we saw after Sandy there was a hesitation and there was a real fight and finally the federal government did do the right thing and stepped in. We have three-and-a-half million Americans in danger and there isn’t a willingness to step in. Some of that, you can say is dysfunction in Washington or ideological differences but I think it’s important to look at the fact that there is some very powerful people who are betting on the failure of the Puerto Rican fiscal situation and that’s a sad reality and they’re powerful and they have a lot of influence in Washington. We’ve all heard the phrase follow the money. I think it’s important to consider the fact that there is a very powerful group of people in the private sector who actually are hoping that Puerto Rico fails. That maybe part of what’s holding up action. We can’t allow it to hold up action.

Question: On Vision Zero, there’s been, as you said the subject of tickets. When do you anticipate that leveling law for people responding to the public pressure of adjusting their behavior? Do you anticipate these tickets rising or do you anticipate at some point leveling off the people, adjusting their behavior in a way that’s observable.

Mayor: That’s a great question. We have some very smart people working on Vision Zero and they may have a sense of projection I haven’t heard yet. I think it’s fair to say it’s a little early to be able to tell you when we think of the information is saturated and people have fundamentally changed behavior. Let’s remember that for many, many years in this country the car has been a little too sacred and we’re losing people to traffic fatalities without changes in policy and I think the conscious really changed.

I was very struck when we announced Vision Zero how quickly people embraced it. A lot of folks had said to me they thought there would be hesitation on things like a lower speed limit. We found the opposite. We found a lot of appreciation for and belief in it because too many people have died, that’s what it came down to, too many people have died. I think what’s happening is the public information efforts, the new speed limit, the enforcement is changing behavior. I don’t think we’re done.
I think we’re certainly we have this year I think well into next year before we’ll be able to pass some judgments because we also know that there’s a lot still being put in place in terms of enforcement and certainly in terms of redesigning the intersections and streets. I think we can say there’s progress but I don’t have a particular vision for a level off point. I think it’s a question we’ll be able to say a lot more next year.

Question: On the ticket numbers that you gave, do you happen to have a direct comparison to last year handy or --

Mayor: On tickets?

Question: Yeah.

Mayor: What I’m saying is 100,000 this year on speeding tickets as nearly twice the number before Vision Zero. Now what we can get for you, that means the year before we came in or what it means because obviously Vision Zero wasn’t initiated until a certain point last year so we’ll clarify that. Again, three times as many on failure to yield, 30,000 now. As I said, failure to yield was an area that was not enforced very consistently in the past.

Question: On Vision Zero, does future enforcement also include cracking down on so many drivers that are driving without licenses. It seems to be the people that this next space that involves that is going to be out there again without license. Do you think it’s stepped up not enforcing prosecution?

Mayor: Very vigorous enforcement across the board. I think we have a set of different problems. People without licenses is a real problem. Clearly, folks driving under the influence is a real problem and I’ve talked to Commissioner Bratton and Chief Chan about this and they’re very focused on setting up checkpoints in places where there’s been a particular problem and particular days or nights where there’s a particular problem.

But I think a lot of it is people who have a license and are not under the influence but are driving too fast. I still think that’s our number one problem and not being mindful and not respecting pedestrians. That’s why I said failure to yield has been a huge issue because let’s face it, it’s a very crowded city, people jockeying for position but in the end of you’re driving a car, you have to yield, you have to recognize the danger of using that car wrongly. More and more enforcement, you can assume and we can certainly tell you if there’s anything specific being focused on folks without licenses.

Question: This day of remembrance that you’re talking about, is that with the eight families from this week or it’s with just -- in general people who have lost --

Mayor: We’ll get you the details. As you remember in the last two years the family members, we’ve stood with them a number of times, who are organized now and unfortunately there are a lot of them because so many people been lost. They’ve been very active pushing for these changes, they pushed for the laws passed by the City Council, they push for the changes in Albany. We’ll be standing with a number of them and that’s again, a well- organized group that’s had a real big impact.

Question: Another question on Vision Zero, slightly essential, related to bike lanes. We’ve been trying for several weeks to get some more information about why bike lane enforcement is different in different neighborhoods and I was wondering if you know anything about that and if not you can help us get that information.

Mayor: We’ll certainly make sure you get the information. A couple of things to say about that. First of all, we were very clear about Vision Zero. Our job, one, was to address vehicles because that’s the core of the problem. That is not to say, that there shouldn’t be bike enforcement. We’ve had some very focused bike enforcement, we’ll continue to ramp that up where needed. By the way, it’s not to say we shouldn’t address the fact that pedestrians often need to be more mindful and you see some examples of that kind of enforcement too but let’s be clear, the central problem is vehicles being used wrongly and endangering others.

Now, the other point is every precinct, this is the very nature of neighborhood policing., it’s the very nature of CompStat. Every precinct will have a different approach depending on their conditions. We don’t have a one size fits all approach so I think that’s why you see those variations but we had a focused situation for example in Central Park around bikes where there was very intensive enforcement that had a big impact and people said very clearly that made a real change. That kind of thing will happen wherever it’s necessary but we’ll get you further information about how different precincts have handled it. Anything on these two issues before we open up to others? Last call Puerto Rico or Vision Zero. Yes, please.

Question: I just want to get back to this idea that investors have somehow been against Puerto Rico because aren’t there investors who were bondholders and they want to bail out?

Mayor: Clearly. I said I want to be clear. You’re saying investors, I say hedge funds. I’m not saying every hedge fund. There’s a group of them and it’s well reported and I’ve read many, many articles including from your fine periodical on the way down to San Juan and it’s very clear, there’s a group of hedge funds that are betting on failure here and that’s how they intend to profit.

There’s plenty investors who want this situation right. I’m not saying they don’t matter in the process too but when you try to figure out why would there be in action when 3.5 million people are in danger and this is a salvageable situation and the President of the United States has offered a plan. Again, you can say some of that is government dysfunctions, some of that is ideological difference, but that didn’t stop resolution in 2008 with the banks and in a different way, Detroit is a much different situation obviously but a resolution was found.

There has to be a commitment resolution. I think a different here that needs to be very carefully examined and this is where I think we can do everyone a service is to figure out what is the role of those hedge funds that actually want to see failure for profit. What is going on with that. I think Senator Warren has raised that point very powerfully. Last call on these topics. I’m sorry.

Question: One of the people who perpetrated the traffic death was an MTA bus driver this week and I know there’s been calls for legislation to exempt them from some of the Vision Zero laws, have you taken a position on that and are you concerned about the number of fatalities that have been carried out by bus drivers?

Mayor: I’m very concerned about the number of fatalities overall and then specifically why we’ve seen a serious number involving MTA buses. As you know I’ve reached out to the MTA and asked for action on the question of whether the design of the buses is causing part of the problem. I don’t pretend to be an expert on this but there seems to be substantial evidence that the bus design is a problem and that there is an actual fix for it that’s not prohibitively expensive.

We want to focus the MTA on this and I think we need an action plan on this very quickly. I don’t think that’s the whole story when it comes to buses, but it well may be part of it. But no, the law is quite clear. It doesn’t matter if you’re a public employee or a private citizen, the decisions may be based on the evidence. The police officers on the scene will make a determination on whether an arrest is appropriate or not. Let me emphasize in one of these instances in last week, the driver left the scene of the crime.
That is unconscionable, it’s unacceptable and it’s obviously a very serious criminal charge unto itself and that will definitely be prosecuted. There’s nothing that we’ve talked about that changes that fundamental reality that the law applies to everyone and no one is allowed to leave this scene of the crime that they were a part of. Okay. Other topics. Yes, Anna –

Question: How would you respond to growing criticism that the city is inadequately preparing for an influx of traffic that will come with the redevelopment of the North Shore, in particular the New York Wheel and the Empire outlets. A lot of people are calling for DOT to come up with long term plan and that hasn’t happened yet even though it was promised.

Mayor: We’ll continue to do that work. There’s no question we need a plan. Look, we don’t know what the ultimate will be. We obviously understand a lot of things can be projected but until you get there, you don’t see the full reality, but we do need to have a plan unquestionably and I will certainly push DOT to get that done quickly. The work, the development is still ways away meaning in terms of when people actually show up and the wheel is operational, etc. I think folks in Staten Island have every right to want to see a plan and we’ll produce one. Yes –

Question: Affordable housing has been a central tenant since you’ve taken office but here are about 1,500 people living in NYCHA right now, they’re making six-figure incomes and top earners making nearly half a million dollars. Should NYCHA create a pathway out so that they can free up some of these spots that are on the wait list for only about 3,000 apartments that are available?
Mayor: To say the least a complicated question because in some cases that is – a family for example has been there for decades and is part of the fabric of the place. It’s a fairly rare reality as you know and the numbers indicate but it’s not for me, it’s not an open and shut situation. We’ve been talking to HUD about this and trying to determine what the right standards are. I think there are some situations where, yes, a family should, if they get to a strong financial place, move along. I think there’s others where it’s more debatable, if it’s a family that has a very long time presence in the development and a stake in it. I think that gets a little more complicated, so we haven’t finalized our policy on that. Mike –

Question: Mr. Mayor, we reviewed your public schedules and found that since the end of August, you’ve consistently held one open off topic question and answer session orders per week. That’s a reduction in frequency from previously in your own administration. It’s also a reduction from your predecessors. I want to ask you if you could share with us the philosophy behind that shift and that you are comfortable with it.

Mayor: Absolutely comfortable. The philosophy is straightforward. We in the first year-and-a-half focused on putting a number of big initiatives into play. Vision Zero, affordable housing, Pre-K, municipal ID, a number of others, obviously the change in police community relations, our equity and excellence plan for schools -- a host of big templates that are going to govern what we do for a long time to come.

Now, we’re going to put a lot more emphasis on going out to communities and talking to communities about the work we’re doing but also hearing from people what they need. That will include everything from meetings with clergy and community leaders and elected officials, to speaking in houses of worship, to town hall meetings in the traditional sense or smaller group meetings and just being out in communities talking to everyday people, spontaneously. That’s going to be where a lot of time and energy goes.

The second thing we’ve been doing more and more of is, opportunities to talk to the people through the media, for example, radio call in shows, you’ll be seeing more of that. The idea that makes sense to us is we’re going to have press availabilities that focus sometimes on big topics and where we want to really go in depth and give you lots of opportunity to ask questions about that. We’re going to have availabilities  that talk about anything and everything like this one.We’re going to be doing a lot of 1-on-1 interviews. We’re going to be doing a lot of radio shows including call-ins. You’re certainly going to see a lot of my deputy mayors and commissioners meeting with you and talking to you either 1-on-1 or in group settings. Again, all of the grassroots pieces, the town hall meetings, etc. You’ll be seeing us create a certain amount of information that we provide directly to the people. That mix to me makes sense as the best way to communicate what we’re doing and also to hear back from the people.

Question: Is this the traditional setting that’s been in City Hall for many years of the press corps being able to ask you a set of questions at any subject of the day. Do you feel comfortable in that setting?

Mayor: I’ve been doing it a long time. I’ve been doing it a long time before this office. I’m comfortable if the question is what’s the best way to approach today’s reality, it’s a different reality today. We don’t approach government the way others approached it. That’s a blunt truth. There are a lot of assumptions that some of my predecessors have, I just don’t have about how we do this work, what our obligations are to people or what we can achieve. I don’t want to treat it as a perfect parallel but I think it makes the point.

My predecessors, none of them thought we should have or could have full day pre-k for every child in this city. I thought we could. I think there’s many other areas, Vision Zero is another example, where that assumption about what government could and should do wasn’t there. We’ve changed the paradigm. We’re going to change this paradigm too because we think there are better ways to communicate and better ways to be connected to the people.

There’s going to be a lot of information flowing. And I also emphasize, any time, any one of you has a question, and wants to know my position, you will get that answer. Sometimes it will be me standing here or standing at an event in a community. Sometimes it will be me on a radio call in show or some other type of format, or an online type of format but I think it’s fair to say you can also always address any concern to our press office and you’ll get any answer on where we stand promptly. Russ –

Question: Can you ever see your relationship with Governor Andrew Cuomo improving? Do you think it’s improving right now or where do things stand?

Mayor: I want to just push back the notion that it’s about “relationship.” I think it’s about work. I think we really did some good work on the MTA and got to a good result but it was a lot of give and take. I was essentially concerned about the need for reform. I was not going to be partied to any plan that allowed Albany to keep taking money out of the MTA and use it for other purposes.

We got to a good place on that. It was a lot of give and take, a lot of pushing back and forth but that’s how negotiations are. We got to a good plan and a plan that’s good for the future of the people of New York City. I think on the Legionnaire’s crisis, we got to a good common vision between the city and the state about how to implement a series of changes related to the cooling towers and that was ultimately a very cooperative effort.

That’s going to be the template whenever we can find something to do where we can get something that we want to do. When there are differences, we’ll talk about those differences too but I think there’s plenty of good work we can do together.

Question: There was a story this week in the New York Times about some of the consultants that advised you which builds upon some early reporting but it brings up the questions that some of us were asking earlier this year but about outside consultants who were regular advisers to you who also represent private clients. I’m wondering if you think that people who meet with you, speak to you on a regular basis, there’s a select group of them who also represent private clients, if they should have to disclose those private clients to the public. If you don’t think that they should, could you please explain why? There are questions about potential conflict.

Mayor: They are in the private sector. I’m in the public sector so I do the disclosing of who I meet with whenever there’s lobbying. We’ve been very consistent from day one. By the way no other administration has done that before, when I meet with a lobbyist, a city registered lobbyist and they talk about a topic on behalf of a client, we put it online, proactively, you don’t even have to ask, we just do it. We disclosed. obviously, through all disclosure rules,  we now have just restarted our campaign account. We’re going to disclose everyone who gives to it, etc. I think the story in the Times, if you look carefully at it, was telling.

The controversial matters that were raised were regarding some scheduling issues and as this story indicated, some of which we thought was a good thing to go on the schedule, others said no to. I think this is a story that’s not being presented in its fullness. People have advisors who are important to them and it’s part of how you do the work. I think every administration has had that. I just think it’s part of being effective, is to have a group of people who you believe can give you good advice to help you get the work done. But everything I’m supposed to disclose we are very scrupulous about disclosing. Go ahead –

Question: Just a follow up, Bill. If you meet with a lobbyist, the public also knows who the lobbyist represents [inaudible] before the city and the case of consultants, like at a consulting firm like BerlinRosen that doesn’t lobby. They’re not registered lobbyist. The public doesn’t know [inaudible] –

Mayor: But they don’t lobby. That’s the point. They [inaudible] – they haven’t raised that type of issue to me. It’s just as simple as that. Part of why we’re very comfortable with the disclosure process is it’s really straightforward. I mean, I have this conversation with any lobbyist I come across. I say, I need you to understand, if you’re a city registered lobbyist and you’re about to open your mouth and speak on behalf of a client, that’s going online, you know, this month. And the individuals in that article just don’t lobby me on behalf of clients. They don’t raise those kind of issues. That’s the bottom line.

Question: [Inaudible] those big firms, and other, sort of, business in front of City Hall be able to give to outside political organizations directly tied to you while they are lobbying with the city and doing business with the city?

Mayor: I think it’s really important to look at the laws that govern us. I would like to see a very, very different world, but we’re not in that world yet. I’d like to see a world where – and I agree with Secretary Clinton on this – I believe there should be a constitutional amendment to reverse the impact of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court. I think there’s a whole lot of other things that should happen to reduce the flow of money into public life in general.

But let’s face it. The Supreme Court, not only in Citizens United but in, I think it was Buckley v. Valeo and other cases, has consistently said that private sector individuals and firms can spend freely. The Koch Brothers, you know, very famously announced they were putting a billion dollars into this electoral cycle nationally. I respect that the media is supposed to hold us all accountable and ask us all tough questions, but I would ask for context.

There are lots and lots of powerful inter spending vast amounts of money without any examination, without any disclosure. Anything associated with me is going to be fully disclosed. Anything even that’s not directed by me but is supportive of me is going to be fully disclosed. And in a dynamic where millions and millions of dollars multiple times have been spent to attack things that I’m trying to do, it makes sense that there’s going to be other people who try and push back and say this agenda is important. I think that’s legal and understandable in the environment we’re in.

Question: Do you think they’re giving money because they agree with your agenda, or because they want special favor and attention from City Hall?

Mayor: First of all, you should ask them. Second, what I say to people and what others have said is, this is what we’re trying to do, and this is what we’re asking support for. I don’t think people tend to give money for something I disagree with. Right over here –

Question: Back on affordable housing, regarding the plans in East Harlem and elsewhere, to the residents who keep voicing their concerns that the affordable housing – the percentage of units that will be affordable are just not affordable enough, and they will be driven out of their neighborhoods, whether it’s in East Harlem or Washington Heights or East New York. And there were some folks in East Harlem today that held a little demonstration about this. So, what do you say to those people? And are you going to consider their proposal to make it more affordable for them?

Mayor: A couple of things. It’s a very valid concern. Look, we’ve all seen the impact of gentrification over the last 10, 20 years in this city – and I addressed this in the State of the City remarks. It’s a problem. There’s some good things that come with gentrification, but there’s some real problems that come with it too. People have every right to fear displacement. They’ve seen too many of their family members and neighbors displaced. So what are we doing?

One, let’s look at where affordable housing is. First and biggest supply is our Housing Authority – over 400,000 people. We’ve stabilized the finances of the Housing Authority. We’re going to protect the Housing Authority for the long term. By the way, East Harlem has the highest concentration of public housing of any place in this city. And it’s going to be protected. Two, we have absolutely unprecedented investment and legal services to fight illegal evictions and harassment against tenants, and that’s being applied especially in places like East Harlem where there are land use actions.

Three, think about how the rezonings and all are going to go. They’re going to add affordable housing to the mix. So one thing we can say for sure – and you’ve seen the kind of percentages and numbers – there will be more affordable housing than there was before. Four, we’re trying to preserve in place a lot of the affordable housing in the community. When I gave the State of the City, the woman who introduced me, Sheryl Morse, had – that was part of a low-income co-op in Fort Green. Hundreds of people live there. We were able to preserve something that was on the verge of being privatized, but keep it affordable housing for the long term. We are going be doing that in East Harlem and a lot of other places.

It’s a very fair question – how much farther down the income scale can we reach? And I think there’s two crucial answers to that.

One, we believe in a mix of incomes. There are lot of struggling working people and folks in the middle class who can’t find affordable housing in the city. We need to preserve affordable housing for folks who are working, for folks who are poor, for folks who are middle class, and that’s what the plan says. Two, in any given rezoning or in any given land use decision, we’re looking to maximize the number of units that we can get to folks with the lowest incomes – particularly in a community like East Harlem, that has had a lot of folks at that income level who need the help.

So what I think people will see is additional efforts to reach the lowest income folks as we go through this process. But you have to look, in my view, at that whole package to see the many ways that it affects people. I’m going to finish up this side and come over to that side. Go ahead –

Question: Just to follow up on that point. There was a recent meeting in East New York where some residents and even some elected officials raised the very specific concern about white people moving into an area that has been long populated by minorities. And they had raised this as a concern to oppose your plan. When are you going to address that very specific element about the diversity that some people are concerned about when it comes to [inaudible]?

Mayor: I don’t think it’s about race – I think it’s about economics. I think it’s about protecting economic diversity. You now, we in this city have an extraordinary tradition of diversity and people living together. There’s also been a lot of concern raised lately about, you know, our communities still are not as connected as they could be. Our schools are not as representative in some places as it could be.

This is the nature of New York City. These are big challenging questions that we keep working on. But economic diversity should be something that crosses all those boundaries in effect, ensuring that working folks, middle class folks and lower income folks can all continue to live here. I think the biggest danger has nothing to do with any narrow concerns. I think it has to do with the possibility of this city becoming exclusive and no longer available to working people.

And so, the rezoning in East New York is meant to preserve a lot of the affordable housing there now, protect people against harassment – which would happen, by the way, if there were not a rezoning. The market forces alone would unfortunately be encouraging some unscrupulous actors to be – to act in a harassing or illegal way towards tenants. And obviously to build a lot more affordable housing because East New York is one of the places where there is land to build a lot more affordable housing.

So, this to me is about protecting the economic diversity of all our communities. I think the vast majority of New Yorkers are very comfortable living with people that don’t look like them, are much more concerned with the problem of are they going to be able to live in their community and be economically viable.

Question: You called the MTA capital planning a good result, but there’s a lot of elected officials who are upset about the Second Avenue Subway, delayed in funding –

Mayor: That’s a nice ringtone, Marcia. Go ahead.

Question: I wanted to ask you – the MTA chairman had been threatening all year that they were going to pull funding from the Second Avenue Subway if the city didn’t put up more funding. The city put up, I believe, a historic amount of $5 million dollars, and then they still cut it anyway and it doesn’t seem like City Hall is too upset about that. A lot of people [inaudible] –

Mayor: Look, we got – I think – no. It’s not. The final result became clear. I don’t think the communication was as good as it should have been, but the final result became clear. And Mr. Prendergast made clear that there is a legitimate timing issue about how and when they can use the money effectively, but that, as soon as those issues got resolved, that there was an ability to go faster.  They would come back and make adjustments. So I’m comfortable with that.

No one misses the fact of how long Phase 1 has been taking. That is a legitimate problem. Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway proved to be much more complicated, and a huge amount of resources was put into it, but it proved to be complicated. So that part about trying to figure out what’s the legitimate timing and how legitimately you can use the money, that’s fair. But the amendment he made, which I think he should have said in the very beginning, was as soon as they resolved those issues and they’re able to go faster, they’ll come back and make those adjustments.

Question: When has MTA ever been ahead of schedule on construction?

Mayor: That’s not the question. The question is that – it’s a question of what is the vision. The plan we agreed to, with the reforms we wanted, we’re very comfortable with. Now, on this point, if so long as there’s a guarantee that as quickly as it can be moved, it will be moved, I’m comfortable we’re on the right track.

Question: Mr. Mayor, I’m wondering what you made of the opinion of the Obama Administration that clearing homeless encampments is the wrong way to go, if not unconstitutional, [inaudible] given the situation downtown and in [inaudible]?

Mayor: I couldn’t disagree more on the constitutionality. And our team has been working very closely on this, and obviously I – I always refer to our Corporation Counsel and former U.S. Attorney, Zach Carter. I think he is tremendously capable, and helps us to figure out what’s the right way to go on these issues. No, I think the fact – I think what you should look into is why were these encampments tolerated year after year, decade after decade in this city?

They are not humane. They’re not fair to the people in them and they’re not fair not the surrounding communities. [Inaudible] we’re absolutely on firm legal footing. The difference is, and where I think the Obama administration has a fair point is, if you don’t accompany the removal of the encampment with intensive services to the clients, then you end up creating a fiction, where the encampment is gone but people are wandering the streets without help. That’s not fair to them and that’s also not fair to the surrounding community.

So, we went into those areas with a very vigorous outreach plan. You’ve seen some of the numbers. A very substantial number of people accepted services. They went into safe havens and are getting things like drug treatment and mental health services. And we’ll continue to do that.

But it’s 2015 in New York City. We’re not going to tolerate, you know, a permanent encampment. We had 21 of them. They have all been dismantled. They will continue to be not operational – we won’t allow them to reassert. But we’re going to constantly reach those individuals – very aggressive outreach in whatever language they speak to get them to the services they need.

Question: Just to quickly follow up. What do you make of some of the criticism of the homeless folks – that during the encampment roundups, their stuff was taken, it was destroyed, sort of like the Occupy Wall Street [inaudible]?

Mayor: There was numerous – and it’s totally a different situation. There were numerous, numerous announcements made of when the cleanup would happen – again, multiple languages. I was up in the Bronx at one of the sites. Is Jen here? Yes. You saw it with your own eyes. You met the outreach workers. They went and talked to people. They told them they were going to take the stuff out – if you want to save it, come down and get it. But again, people living in – and I’ll use that as an illustration – a former, you know, railroad tunnel on mattresses in the open air, and then lots of other people coming in [inaudible] to do drugs together – that’s not tolerable. That’s not acceptable.

Some of you have characterized it one way or another, but I believe in addressing quality of life offenses. I believe in the Broken Windows strategy. What I find interesting is, how did these encampments survive for all these years? That one in the Bronx – it had been there, I think, 10 years. Many have been there much longer. And we’re not going to tolerate them.

Okay, last one on this side and then we’re going to the other side. Go ahead.

Question: [Inaudible] quite a bit about desegregating some of the city schools and changing some of the zoning. What is standing in the way of that? You know, there’s talk that you and Department of Ed officials are in favor of doing some of the rezoning for these elementary schools, but that there’s pushback from community members. What do you see is standing in the way [inaudible]?

Mayor: I think I can safely say, my – a lot of my public life has been devoted to trying to create a more fair society and more inclusion, but I also can say, as a public school parent until June, that you have to also respect families who have made a decision to live in a certain area, often times because of the specific school, and have put a lot of their life into that – have been deeply involved in the school, have made massive life decisions and investments because of which school their kid would go to. These are real issues.

So, we care deeply about creating as much inclusion, as much opportunity for people to learn together, work together, live together, but it’s not an easy thing to solve. This is the history of America. You know, this is something much deeper than some kind of push your – you know – push-a-button solution.

So, the chancellor and I talk about this and talk about ways to approach the problem that are appropriate.  But in terms of school zones, I think you have to start with the assumption those zones are constructed, you know, on a real geographical basis that makes sense in many cases, and you wouldn’t disrupt them without a real careful, thoughtful process. And then in other cases that really does make sense – not just because of larger, you know, social goals but, much more importantly, because you may have a school that just physically can’t handle the population anymore – you’ve got to come up with some kind of accommodation. That’s what typically we look at in those situations. Marcia.

Question: Mayor, you cited statistics that life is improving in the city. What people tell us, and what polls tell us, is that the opposite is true about crime and homelessness. I want to know what you say to constituents, such as [inaudible] and others, who have written to this about – about the disparity.

Mayor: Well, you know, there’s 8.5 million people in this city, and I think each one of them has a different opinion. And I’m not going to ever say, because a few people say one thing, that’s – that is the final word. And I don’t think polls are ever the final word, because we’ve all been at this a long time. We’ve seen polls wrong many, many times. And that’s something I would just remind you all of. We’ve gone into elections and many other situations like literally the night before – and the polls saying one thing and the outcome is another thing. So let’s get to the brass tacks. What’s really going on?

What’s really going on is the NYPD provides crime statistics, and they literally indicate what’s happening to the lives of our people. If crimes are going down, that means fewer and fewer people are victims of crime. We know what’s going on with homelessness, and I’ve talked about the fact that it is now a much more economically-driven form of homelessness. It’s a real problem. And it’s going to be with us for quite a while, and we have to come up with constantly additional strategies to deal with it. But that being said, you cannot miss the fact that if there’s, I think it’s about 170,000 new jobs since 22 months ago, if we see entirely new opportunities for our children, like full day pre-k, if we see more and more affordable housing being created, if we see companies coming here from all over the world who want to be here – tech sector is a great example. If we see the film and TV industry booming – these all affect quality of life.

If people can get a job, that speaks intensely to quality of life. If there’s a lifestyle here that’s safer than it’s ever been – I’d be very happy to take a poll of New Yorkers on the basic question – is life in New York City safer or not? We know by the numbers it’s safer. That doesn’t mean it’s safe enough in every community. There are some communities where we have a lot more work to do. It doesn’t mean there aren’t quality issues – quality of life issues around homelessness where we don’t need to do better. We do. But the overall reality is clear, and people are voting with their feet. They want to be here. They used to be leaving. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, people left in droves. In 2015, people are coming in in droves. We’re going to be at 9 million people before you know it. That says something.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Please.

Question: The reason I’m asking this question is because I know our social media pages and our Facebook pages, we are really inundated with people asking these questions. So, do you think that there’s a disparity between the New York that you see and the New York that some other people see, and that’s what they may [inaudible]?

Mayor: No. I do not think that. I have been living here since 1979. I saw the bad old days, and I would urge you all to be very straightforward in the way you interpret this to people. If you were here in those times; if you saw what Time Square looked like; if you saw what the subways looked like, with the graffiti and no air conditioning and everything else; if you saw and knew the people who were leaving the city, who were never to come back; companies leaving – it is night and day.

Now, I give my predecessors credit for having created a lot of that progress, but there’s a lot more to do.  And we’re continuing to build upon it and add whole new elements to it, particularly in terms of fixing our schools and fixing the relationship between police and community. And I remind people that we said we would fix the relationship between police and community while driving down crime, and that’s exactly what’s happening.

So, I am going to keep making these changes, and I will keep explaining them to people. And that’s part of what I said earlier – I’m going to go out to communities directly and talk to people about it. But I – I talk to a lot of people, and I’ve been watching life carefully in this city for decades. It is a fact that the quality of life is better. It’s also a fact that we have an income inequality crisis that must be addressed – that, again, we have a new kind of economic reality around homelessness that must be addressed. We have neighborhoods where crime is still too high, and gang and crew issues that must be addressed. But they are being addressed more and more, and that’s what makes me proud of what we’re doing.

Question: As you were talking about going out to the people, getting your message out to the town halls – so do you think that then talking to the news media that informs the people is mutually exclusive?

Mayor: No. As I said, we are – we have multiple times in a week where we are talking about a host of issues. Look, there are some issues where they are big, important issues, and you guys will have many, many questions about those issues. There’s other times like this, where, you know, let’s talk about a whole host of things. We’re going to keep doing all that –

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Because of everything else we have to do.

Question:  [inaudible] general topics.

Mayor: Because of everything else – again, I’m being very clear about what I think will make sense and what will work. There’s going to be lots of opportunities to ask me about lots of things. There’s going to be lots of opportunities to ask deputy mayors and commissioners. I’m going to be at town hall meetings where you’ll be present – and you saw the first one in Washington Heights, where there was dozens of questions on a host of issues. There will be more and more of those. There will be call-in shows on the radio. There will be lots of opportunities. But – I know you know this – I have a job to do. Much more important than giving the answers to the questions is actually doing the work.

The way we got to full day pre-k, the way we got to the largest affordable housing program in the history of the city, or municipal ID, or a lot of the job growth strategies, or improving the relationship between police and community – this took lots and lots of work. That’s what I’m paid for. I’m paid to get the job done. And that’s where I’m going to put my time and energy.

Unknown: [Inaudible]

Mayor: Hold on a second.

Question: Mr. Mayor, so …

Mayor: Way off to the right there. I’m not used to someone that far to the right. Go ahead.

Question: In reference to the new communication paradigm that you envisioned, should we expect fewer news conferences because all of these other activities you speak of, or do you think they’ll be a similar number?

Mayor: It’ll depend on the situation. There’s going to be times where there’s a lot going on and there will be a lot of news availabilities. There’ll be others where there will be fewer but the point is it’s going to add up to a lot. If I’m on a radio call-in show where the host is asking a bunch of questions then people will ask questions or I’m at a town hall meeting for an hour or two where a bunch of people ask questions, that’s a lot of time and energy as it should be but it also gives you a lot of the answers you’re looking for, so it’s going to be a mix, each and every week of different approaches. There’s going to be a lot of information flowing but it’s very important to me that a lot of that will be directly to the people. Yeah, please.

Question: Just a follow up. You continued to try to limit the topics or questions.

Mayor: Rich, I think there’s going to be times where we just believe that makes more sense. If you’re going to have 15 or 20 questions on a very valid big policy area, we think that’s what we should be focused on and other times there’s going to be things like this where it’s going to talk about a whole lot of things.

Question: Mayor, are you concerned about your relationship with the rank and file police, in light of the arbitrator’s draft ruling, which gives them one percent, and their angry response and their demonstration?

Mayor: Well, the union – the union mounted a response. I never think we should confuse union leaders with rank and file. I just think that’s –

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: And there’s, you know, 35,000 total people on the force – obviously, not all of them in that union. But the point is –

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: I think it’s important to say, one – I believe you would agree with me this is a pure factual statement – don’t confuse union leaders for the rank and file. Rank and file often has much more complicated, nuanced, multifaceted views. But the bottom line is this – we said from the beginning that we thought it was fair to have a civilian pattern and a uniform pattern. One by one, uniformed unions that do the work of policing this city every single day came forward and agreed that it was a fair plan – captains, lieutenants, detectives, sergeants. As I said, vast majority of uniform unions across all our departments agreed to our vision. So I think it’s clear that it was fair, or you wouldn’t have found that consensus. Arbitration process was initiated by the PBA, not us. We were happy to keep talking and try to resolve our differences, but within the pattern. The arbitrator made a decision. That’s how arbitration works. And I think we should all respect – you know, city’s been on the wrong side of some of those decisions and on the right side other times. But we don’t protest the arbitrator, we respect the arbitrator had a job to do. So I think in the end, that people will look at this, they’ll see there was a consistency – because I think what – what working people look for is consistency. And there has been a consistency. We’ve said, here’s our approach. We’re treating everyone the same who is in a uniformed service. And that opportunity to finish a deal and get it done for the members of PBA exists, and we’d love to get it done.

Question: [inaudible] concerned about your relationship with [inaudible]?

Mayor: Again, I think everyone thinks differently who does this work. We offered a fair deal. I think the members of the PBA also look at other factors. I think a lot of them are very, very appreciative that Bill Bratton is our police commissioner. I think they appreciate that we invested in – invested in vests to make sure our officers are safe. I think they appreciate the new technology that they have – they appreciate ShotSpotter, they appreciate the iPhones and tablets. A lot of people think that the training is helping, a lot of people like the new neighborhood policing model. So, I think there’s a lot of things that go through the minds of our officers, as it should be. And I feel that when they look at all the factors, they are going to see there’s a real commitment here at City Hall to supporting them.

Question: You stated that you have a job to do. As a member of the press in New York City, we have a job to do as well. A lot of your events that you’ve attended are closed to press photographers and pooled and the pictures are sent out by your office. What is the reasoning behind that?

Mayor: I think it all depends on the individual event and I’m not involved in the mechanics of that so you can talk to our press office but I think there’s some situations where for -- at an organization that does not choose to have press come into their event and we’re their guest. We have to respect their standards as well. It’s different to have our own reporter there than a member of the press.

Question: What about the Halloween Party at Gracie Mansion last week?

Mayor: Again, I don’t do the nuances of this. I appreciate the question but I just don’t get into the nuances of which photographer comes to which situation. Go ahead.

Question: Good afternoon. You briefly touched on this a few minutes ago about the overall perspective of homelessness. We want to go a bit more macro with regards to children. We’d examine some stats that in the last five years we’ve seen a traumatic surge, some neighborhoods seen triple digit pocket growth in terms of homeless children in our city schools. What’s your viewpoint of that?

Mayor: I think it’s a huge problem. By the way, it was already emerging as a huge problem when I was the chairman of the general welfare committee back in say 2008, 2009. This is something we should be deeply concerned about. Now it has gotten worse because it’s more of an economic problem now. Again, homelessness for a long time in this city was first and foremost -- very largely about people with substance abuse problems or mental health problems -- all those folks were deinstitutionalized by the state and had nowhere to go and there was no real effort to follow up but now, it’s more and more economical which means more families, it means more children obviously, it means people who are working or have worked recently and are ready to work. It’s a horrible reality that we have to face. Now, very proud that we’ve gotten 38,000 people out of shelter and into homes and I’m proud that the efforts to keep people in their homes to begin with, are starting to work more and more, that’s the anti eviction efforts, that’s the subsidies to stop someone from losing their apartment but this is going to be a big complicated effort because it’s about economics. That’s the reality. It comes back the tale of two cities we’ve been talking about so long. The city is more expensive than ever and a lot of the jobs that exist in the city are minimum wage and low benefit. Those two realities don’t match and people are left out in alert.

We’re trying to find ways to fill the gap in the meantime. The bigger solutions are to go at income inequality, higher wages, higher minimum wage, guaranteed benefits, investments -- this is part of why I know you have many questions all of you guys, about the national work. I’m going to patiently and continue explain to you that you want the investment we need in mass transit, affordable housing, education, infrastructure, that’s only going to come from the federal government and that’s only going to happen if we change the political discourse in this country. But to really put people to work and to really create an inclusive economy so that people do not end up homeless, it’s going to take an immense amount of work to change the level of opportunity available to people.

Question: [inaudible] Mr. Mayor. With regards to what you mentioned earlier about commissioners within your office and other officials that work with you in other agencies, are you turning a new leaf in terms of making them available to the media. I simply ask because for weeks, we have been trying to find a way to try to get an interview with members of your administration with regards to the subject of homelessness and the transparency that you’ve been promoting like we’ve just met with walls --

Mayor: Again, I don’t understand that. I mean, that very honestly because I’ve seen some of the key people in this issue and many other issues out talking to you guys in different settings and they certainly want that to be the case so we will follow up on your particular request and get it done. The point is, and I will say the obvious. You guys talk a lot to Commissioner Bratton, you talk a lot to Chancellor Farina. We’re going to do more and more of getting our deputy mayors out, I know Tony Shorris has been on a lot of number of shows. All of the above. You’ll see a lot of me but you’ll see a lot of them too. We got a lot to say and we’re happy to answer questions and you know whether it’s directly to me here or it’s through the press office or it’s through a deputy mayor.

You will get your questions answered but we also have a job to do here. First and foremost, it takes a lot of work to get these changes made and then second, we have a job to be out to the people with the message. In many cases unfiltered and to hear back from the people. I’m going to be doing a lot of that as well. I’m going to wave off to Karen Hinton for a few minutes here. Yes, it’s happening, Karen.

Question: Mayor, back on the topic on homeless families. There are thousands of them that sleep in city shelters every single night. There are still challenged with the task of getting their kids to school. What is your response to the plight of those families as mayor and as a father and what appears to be vast inefficiencies in the system when often they are assigned to shelters across the city? They still have to get to school sometimes 20 miles away.

Mayor: Thank God that is a rarity. The fact is that there is a priority to have families in shelters near the community they come from. That is a fact. It doesn’t work the way it should all the time. I couldn’t agree with you more but I want to just be clear. The policy and in fact the policy is being reinforced is to get people to shelter near where they come from. It’s a very painful reality. I am a parent, first and foremost and I think of a child becoming homeless. I want to dwell on this, before you even start talking about the school and the amount of distance to school, that’s not the first problem.
The first problem is they went from a home to homelessness. Do you know what that does to a child? That’s disruptive of their lives and so our job is to try and stop that from happening. Again, we are in a private sector economy in which the cost of housing has gone through the roof. We are victims of our own success in many ways and that, like everything else, is a double-edged sword. All of the success we’re talking about a moment ago in terms of job growth and all of the things that make life in New York City very good.

Also, unfortunately, I’ve come together with the increase in housing cost. Gentrification which has in many ways strengthened a number of communities has also come with displacement. These are complicate realities. Our job is to throw in the kitchen sink, get every tool we have and use it. We’ve doubled the amount of capital spending on affordable housing, you know, 38,000 people out of shelter -- you would think if I had 38,000 people out of shelter into housing, we would be done here. No, the supply keeps coming in.

We do see some hope in the anti-eviction legal services. We’ve seen really good results there with some of the subsidies to keep people in their apartments. We’ve seen very good results there but the goals is to get to the root of the matter and we can do a lot with our resources but the big difference makers would be a $15 minimum wage -- big difference makers would be changes in federal policy that actually invest in New York City, obviously, getting more and more employment to people who historically haven’t had as much opportunity which we’re pressing every industry to do including some of the big growth industries like tech. We need to fire on all those cylinders. When it comes to a young person, who’s in a shelter, it’s our mission to try and reduce the amount of disruption and absolutely to tighten up the systems so they are near their school.

Question: To follow up, researchers that we’ve spoken with say that there is a need to focus more spending on afterschool programs because a child who is moved from shelter to shelter is setback six months with every move. Is there a need to focus more spending on after-school programs and other services for the children so it doesn’t become a generational issue?

Mayor: I think – there’s a couple of answers. First of all, every middle school child in this city has free afterschool now available to them. Now, again, little give-and-take with you guys, it’s a huge change in this city. I have seen next-to-no coverage of it. I would ask you to take a look at it. Every middle school child in this city now has free afterschool available to them – it’s about, I think, 105,000 kids are taking advantage of it now – almost double the number of that were just a few years ago. And this is an area where not so many years back, after-school programs were being cut. We’ve now made it universal at the middle-school level, and that’s one of the most sensitive times in a child’s life. It’s less needed at the high-school level just because kids are more independent and less likely to use it. I think there’s a good question of are there specific things we should do with the elementary school level? But I think the point is yes, there are some cases where we need to get additional supports to kids who are homeless and we’re doing some of that. I’m sure there’s more we can do, but I actually don’t want the kids to become homeless to begin with. And I don’t say that as a, you know, a vague philosophical statement. I think our first energies are trying to stop them from becoming homeless to begin with.

Question: Mr. Mayor, just going back to Henry’s question a little bit – do you have any concern about the morale of rank-and-file police officers? And how do you keep yourself apprised of it?

Mayor: Well, Bill Bratton is the finest police commissioner in this country – the most accomplished police leader, I think, probably in American history. Jimmy O’Neill’s been on the force over 30 years, and there’s a lot of other key leaders of the NYPD who come up from the ranks who I talk to all the time. Now you could say, well, if someone’s in leadership, have they lost touch with the rank-and-file? I don’t think so. I think they are folks who really understand the rank-and-file because they lived the life for their entire career. And I think the rank-and-file of the PD, like any other group of citizens – they’re affected by the public discourse and the news coverage and one thing and another, but I also think they feel the material reality – I can’t emphasize this enough. We have a little bit of difference, I think, in some of these discussions over material reality versus perception. And people keep coming back to polling, or individuals you – you meet who have a concern. I just don’t see the world through the prisms of polls. I get that perception matters. I think reality matters more. And again, maybe it’s because I’ve been in so many situations where the polls were proven wrong, that I just don’t overweight that kind of thing. I believe that the union leadership has often set a very negative tone. That’s not exactly a secret. I think sometimes people pick up on that. But I do think the rank-and-file police who are there because they believe in the work overwhelmingly [inaudible] – maybe a few people think it’s a way to make a living; I think the vast majority of them think of it as a calling. And they have a great leader, and they know it. I can’t tell you how many officers have told me how much they appreciate that Bill Bratton’s their leader. They have more training than ever. They have more equipment than ever, and technology. They have – they’re being treated as professionals in ways that they weren’t before. By the way, there’s a lot of concern about unfair punishment for just day-to-day matters under the previous administration – a lot of officers have said they are appreciative that they’re treated more respectfully. I think that adds up for a lot. CCRB is another great example. There was tremendous concern when I came in – I heard this from the union leadership, I heard this from rank-and-file – that CCRB took a very long time to handle cases, and it was unfair to the officers; it was certainly unfair to the community members who brought the cases. The average time now is down to nine months, and we’re going to continue to drive that down. And meanwhile, complaints to the CCRB about police are going down, which means fewer and fewer police are even having to go through that. So, that’s what they are experiencing and that’s what – maybe it doesn’t cause a change in a belief or attitude overnight, but over time, those real material differences make all the world of difference to [inaudible].

Question: Given how much you’ve emphasized reaching out to the grassroots and talking to people where they are, you know, is there a need to have more of that dialogue with the rank-and-file, as opposed to hearing it from leadership?

Mayor: I think it’s always better to do more, and I do it in lots of different ways. But, again, everything I’m seeing suggests that that combination of changes in their lives is registering with a lot of folks. And by the way, it should register. I mean, put yourself in their shoes. If all that investment was being made in you, that would say something. And it would say there’s a real commitment to your success. And on top of it, they’re succeeding, which – I – I’ve said at many NYPD gatherings, they’re part of a winning team that continues to drive down crime. Look at the 7-percent increase in gun arrests. Look at what we saw the other day with the 74 weapons – and I think you all, like me, were very struck by that line of weapons NYPD succeeded in getting off the street. You’re going to see a lot more of that. I think people like to be part of a winning team, and they are part of a winning team.

Question: Mr. Mayor, if I could follow up on the PBA. Part of what the union is arguing is that police officers are not the same as detectives, or sergeants, or lieutenants, who have taken the pattern that you have offered them. Can you respond to that criticism? And are you saying that police officers are comparable to sanitation workers or –

Mayor: I think – I think everyone has different variations in their work, but we can certainly say, there are plenty of, I think, sergeants, detectives, lieutenants, and captains who would tell you about being out on the front line, and their lives being on a line. There’s plenty of firefighters that would tell you about being out on the front line. All of this work comes with real dangers. And that’s why we set the pattern differently than for civilians. And again, I think if all those other uniformed services believed it was fair, that speaks volumes.

Question: Mayor, yesterday on Rikers Island, a correction officer was badly slashed by two inmates. Happening at the same time, the Department of Correction is about to roll out a new use-of-force policy that’s part of the union’s federal settlement. The correction unions are pretty outraged and they’re saying they weren’t consulted in the drafting of this new policy and the department says otherwise. They’re threatening to challenge it in court – you know, look at their legal options. I guess, what are your thoughts on this – on the –  you know, it seems like the violence hasn’t really been stemmed at Rikers in recent months?And going forward, you know, what do you hope to see?

Mayor: I think the incident was horrible, and I – I’ve reached out to Officer Calderon and look forward to speaking to him later today. I think the individuals who did it are going to have a lot more time in prison, but that’s a different question than whether the reforms we’re making make sense. The reforms are necessary. We got – sometimes we talked about there’s two sides of the spectrum we have to address simultaneously. We’ve got a violence problem and then we’ve got another problem about the kind of punishments that were meted out that were counterproductive by any measure. Punitive segregation wasn’t working, it wasn’t humane – that was the Justice Department concern – but it also wasn’t working. It was making people more violent, not less violent. So we’re absolutely certain that those reforms are needed. I believe there was a very exhaustive process leading up those decisions where a lot of stakeholders were involved. Obviously, we had to come to a final understanding with the Justice Department. So we’re going to continue to make those reforms. The violence problem is very real. I’ve spoken to you guys about it many times. I was shocked by the extent of it. When we fully looked into it, I had no idea how this was allowed to grow over so many years, but that’s what happened. It’s not acceptable. The changes Commissioner Ponte has made – he has shown real success in the areas where he’s piloted these changes, the facilities where he’s put them in. We see a huge reduction in violence, and that’s going to keep building out across the whole complex. We have a whole new generation of officers coming in who are being trained very differently. We’re going to institute a very different visitation policy because, bluntly, a lot of contraband and weapons were coming in through visitation. Obviously DOI has been very aggressive at going after bad actors and changing the screening of employees. But guys, think about for a minute. Everything I just outlined, and we’re still – we still have a lot of work to do. That’s how rotten this situation had become. But we’re going to just every day chip away at it and chip away at it. And I disagree with the union on this.

Question: Can I just follow up?

Mayor: Please.

Question: They’re saying that part of the problem is these inmates in this particular incident are under 21. In the future, they wouldn’t be able to put these inmates in punitive segregation, and so the union leaders are saying that that’s why they feel that they –

Mayor: Just disagree. Again, I respect Commissioner Ponte who has been a successful reformer all over the country, but many other voices agree on this in the correctional world. This has been the trend more and more – to get away from punitive segregation because it backfires and it’s not humane. And we’re not changing on that one.

Question: Would you please comment on Quentin Tarantino’s remarks in the protest?

Mayor: Yeah, I did yesterday. It was just – they were insensitive, inappropriate, horrible timing, wrong way to talk about police, and just wrong all around. Jen, did you have something back there? You are going to be the last call, Jen.

Question: I just wanted to make sure – you’ve resisted calls for Ponte to step down?

Mayor: I continue to resist those calls.

Question: Also, what you think about cops comparing – we had a front-page story that police were comparing – upset with their contracts, saying that fast food workers got $15 dollars an hour, and they were sort of saying that it’s unfair. They –

Mayor: Look, our police, who we – we value our police intensely in this city. We constantly invest, and I’ve talked about, you know, we’ve put in hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars since I got here – Commissioner Bratton has spoken about this recently – vest technology, training, improving the physical plan of our precincts. We are going to keep doing that. So we’re investing a huge amount in our officers and their safety, and I fundamentally believe the work we’re doing to improve police-community relations is going to add to their safety as well, as well as the safety of communities. We’re going to do all of that. We came up with a pattern that the other uniformed services found fair. I think that’s the way to look at it. We, if you look at national perspective – very, very substantial compensation for our officers in terms of salary, in terms of benefits, pensions, etcetera. We think it’s fair, but on top of that, it’s very important to remember, that’s just where you begin – the salary, the health insurance, the pension, everything you provide the officer. All the other support for our officers, which we must do for them, to keep them safe, to give them the best technology, the best training, and the best facilities, we’re going to keep making those investments. So, we devote a huge amount to their safety and wellbeing, and we’ll keep doing that.

Question: [inaudible] the fact that they were upset that fast food workers were $15 dollars and that –

Mayor: I think it’s apples and oranges.

Mara, you can be – do you like Mara or Mara?

Mara Gay: Mara.

Mayor: Mara. Mara, you can be the last question.

Mara Gay: Thank you for asking. Just to follow up on Brigid’s question, I mean, even though you may not have regular interaction with rank-and-file in – certainly, I mean, you are actually followed around by a detail, and you do have regular interaction with them here at City Hall. Have you ever asked one of them for their thoughts on police morale?

Mayor: I’ve asked a lot police what they think. I’m not going to go into detail as to who I ask what. I – remember, I spent eight years as a councilman, and the 6-6, 7-2, 7-6, and 7-8 precincts, I got to know very, very well and worked very closely with a lot of folks in those precincts, including rank-and-file. I’ve spent time talking to officers ever since. I’m – look, if I talk to 1,000 officers, it’s still not going to give me perfect perspective, but I believe I have a good core understanding of the challenges they face, and the things they need, and the things they value. One of the things that comes through all the time – they want really good leadership on every level. They want to be treated as professionals. They want us to invest in the things they need. I hear that in lots of different ways, and clearly, you know, they want to know that their work matters to everyone who makes decisions about the budget and policies, and it does to us, deeply. And we’re showing it by really, you know, putting the resources in play to help them and to protect them.

Thanks, everyone.

Question:  Mr. Mayor, [inaudible] –

Karen Hinton: One more question and then I promise you –

Mayor: You know, Karen, you’re sending mixed messages today.

Karen Hinton: I know. Sorry.

Question: You looked at the – 

Mayor: You’re supposed to say no more questions right now, Karen. [laughs] Go ahead.

Question: [inaudible] out of 741, 38% delayed 60 days or more. As a public advocate, you would have given yourself a “D” on those measures. Why is your office taking so long to respond to this?

Mayor: Look, I’ve said to people I want us to address the FOILs as quickly as can be. They are – a lot of them are very complicated, and I know you guys, when you put them in, you want a lot of information in many cases and you want it to be accurate, and we are very careful about making sure we fulfill the request fully and accurately, but that takes a lot of staff time. And, bluntly, the volume is very high and has continued to grow. So we will constantly look to be faster, but when we give you something we’re also going to be very, very certain it’s accurate.

Question: You also recognize that not all of those FOILs are from the media. Some of those –

Mayor: Sure, of course, of course, but it’s the same point – that many of them are very elaborate requests. They take a lot of time and we have to do them right. Thanks, everyone.

Question: What happened to your wrist, Mr. Mayor?

Mayor: This is – you would know – you’re an umpire. This is from softball, early in the season.

Question: How did you hurt yourself?

Mayor: There was a – this was one of our practice scrimmages – double play, the runner went off first [inaudible] line drive, threw it back to me, [inaudible] the double play, and then the runner hit me and [inaudible].

Question: Who was that runner [inaudible]?

Mayor: [inaudible] runner.


Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: Let’s just say you won’t be talking to that runner. You won’t be able to interview him.


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