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Transcript: Mayor Adams Hosts Older Adult Town Hall

October 26, 2023

Commissioner Lorraine Cortes‑Vásquez, Department for the Aging: So, we'll have a lot of time for pictures.

What I want to also say to you is we're passing out right now something that the mayor thought was very, very important for us to have for older adults. And there's these magnets, and they are magnets that you can put on your door that have important information: your number, your medication, your doctor's number.

So should God forbid there's ever an accident and EMS comes in or anybody else comes into the house, you have access to that information right easily on your door, your refrigerator — as we all have those magnets on our refrigerator — and you have it right there. So, you don't have to go scrambling or people don't have to go scrambling. So, I want you to thank the mayor for that clever idea… And we'll continue. The other thing that you will be getting is that...everybody move. They want to take pictures.

All right. We'll tell you what else we have for you later. I'm going to turn it over to the man of the hour, our mayor, Eric Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. One, two. Okay. So, you know, it is just a blessing to have some real partners in Albany, and so I just want to have them say a few words to their team up here right from the upper house. Senator Cleare is just amazing, amazing hard worker.

She was with legendary Bill Perkins for many years. You know, she knows the city and she governs not through tweets, but walking the streets. You know, and so come on, senator, say a few words.

State Senator Cordell Cleare: Thank you. Thank you, Mayor Adams. I'm going to take that. Tweets...streets, not tweets. I thank you for holding this very important forum here today. Our seniors are so important to us. We are judged by how we take care of our children and our seniors. So, we need to take care of them, and I just want to thank you.

I want to take this opportunity, because I don't know if I'm going to get another one today, but I want to thank you, your team, David Johnson, for the work that they just did with me right across the street in Esplanade Gardens, who were without hot water and heat, and they just jumped right on it.

David, thank you for taking my calls at one o'clock in the morning, two o'clock in the morning. And Tiffany Brown, thank you.

Mayor Adams: And number two, the best socks I've seen today. You know, I should have brought my fashion socks. You know, that? You sell them? I got to get got to give me...I'm going to buy a couple of pairs. Yeah. You know… Of the… Our amazing Assemblyman Al Taylor. Assemblyman Taylor.

State Assemblymember Al Taylor: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Good afternoon, everyone. Oh, make some noise if you from uptown.

Man, I am happy, glad to see this team here today. What's this? The GST? No. GSD, Get Stuff Done team. And I just want to echo what Senator Cordell Cleare said, I want to thank Tiffany Brown, I want to thank DJ and I want to thank all these commissioners that I'm talking to.

And I'm going to say something. I've been a legislator for seven years. I worked for Denny Farrow for over 28 years. I've never — understand this — I've never had this much access to the mayor. No, it's important because when I'm speaking, I'm speaking to his people. They getting tired of talking to me, I'm sure. But let me just get back and say, it's good to see you all. I won't preach today. God bless you.

Mayor Adams: So, we want to open the floor to get your questions, but I want to, you're going to be first when I come to you. I want to, number one, the good friend Commissioner Cortes‑Vázquez.

Those cards are so significant that if during emergencies you are discombobulated, you don't know where your items are, it allows first responders to go to your refrigerator and just see the information, they're able to retrieve it. We have in Spanish and English to fill out.

But I want to take you… I want to just spend a moment and take you into this 22 months, 22 months' journey I have been on, 22 month journey I have been on as the mayor of the City of New York. And remember what I inherited. Let me tell you something, the city was a mess. A mess. You know, we came in office, remember, we were dealing with Covid. We were unsure if our schools were going to be open, we were unsure businesses were declining, no one wanted to be on the subway system. Our ridership was so low.

You know, we were in a severe economic challenge. Crime was surging, gun violence, homicides, robberies, you name them, they were all going up. Tourism did not want to come in the city. Our restaurants weren't open. This city, they said it was going to take five years before we were able to recover.

So, let me give a progress report right now. We have just reached almost a million new jobs, the more jobs in the entire history of the City of New York. More jobs in the entire history of the City of New York.

Decrease in shootings, decrease in homicides, 12,000 illegal guns off our streets. Put out children in summer youth employment, a hundred thousand, never before. A hundred thousand summer youth employment for our children, that was never been done before.

110,000 in our Summer Rising program, full school for children who are in need all year round, never has been done before. What we have done, bond raters that look at cities and say, if cities are moving in the right direction, they give you a grade. We had an AA- when I became mayor, now we have an AA. They said, this guy is governing the city in the right way, in the real way.

Leaning into our older adults. What we have done with our senior cabinet is unbelievable, our older adult cabinets hearing directly from you. And what we have done has never been done before. Where is she or he? I know this here. Every precinct now has a senior liaison, so you don't have to go all around. Who's up here? Who's here?

Right here? Who? Come on up. Come on up.

This is your senior liaison. So, you are not navigating the precincts, you're not navigating. If something is going on, you need to know who he is. You call him and you get, what is that treatment? That's real good when you go in?

Mayor Adams: Carte blanche. VIP treatment. You know, no waiting anymore. So, make sure that you meet him, you know who he is. Take his number, and if you're having some issues, you want to call him and make it happen. So, give him a hand. Thank you.

Officer Jonathan Navarez, Police Department: I'm Officer Navarez. Thank you, Mayor. I'm Officer Navarez. I'm the crime prevention officer of the 32 precinct, which is in the confines of the 32 right here. So, this is home. I've been here a cop for 16 years, and I can, you know, and [inaudible] as well. Thank you.

Mayor Adams: Every precinct has one. Every precinct has an older adult liaison, every precinct. Then, where are we now? And I want to answer, we're good. We're good, Officer. Yeah. I want to answer the four misconceptions about the number one issue that's facing this city: te migrant and asylum seeker crisis. Okay?

And we need to answer the four lies and get them right. Number one, they stated that the mayor is bringing people into the city. The mayor's doing it. No, the federal government, and it started with Governor Abbott in Texas. He started sending people to New York, the asylum and migrant seekers, and now everyone is saying New York City. That's why I went to South America, that's why I went to Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico to see what was going on.

This hemisphere has never had this level of migration before. This was in Europe, Europe experienced it. But there is a destabilization taking place in Venezuela, 7.5 million people are fleeing Venezuela. Ecuador is dealing with a crime issue, they're fleeing there. Destination, USA, destination, New York City. And they have been coming at an alarming rate trying to be here in the city. That's number one.

Number two, well, they want everything from the City of New York. No. They've made it clear, we don't want anything free from you, we want to work. We want to have a job. We want to do anything from cleaning streets, to removing graffiti, to being lifeguards, to do whatever you all you need, we are willing to do. They said, all we want you to do is work.

And we have hundreds of thousands of jobs, but the federal government is saying, no, you can't work. You can't work. You have to wait anywhere from a year and a half to two years. Think about that for a moment.

Number three. Number three. Well, the city can just pick up the tab and pay for it. It is going to cost us this year, $5 billion; in three years, $12 billion. We have $106 billion budget, but $76 billion of that is already accounted for. It's like if you have a house and you budget yourself for the year, you know where your food, your clothing, your electricity, your gas and all of those things.

And all of a sudden, your roof caves in. You say, wait a minute. So, I got insurance, let them come fix it. Our insurance was the federal government, and they're saying to our insurance contract, we're not giving you anything. So, now we have to — you, me, taxpayers — have to find $12 billion out of a $30 billion budget. It has to come from somewhere. It has to come from somewhere.

And they're leaving us stranded, stranded. And the worst part about it, we could easily get another 200,000 to 300,000 more migrant asylum seekers in the next few months. We're getting anywhere from 2,500 to 4,000 a week, a week.

And the next, they say, well, Eric, why don't you just stop letting them in? It's against the law. Federal law does not allow me to do that. Well, why don't you just deport? It's against the law. Federal law doesn't allow me to do that. This has created a crisis that's wrong for New York taxpayers, wrong for the migrants and wrong for our city and wrong for our country. No one should have to be living in these conditions.

And the last thing, well, you are giving them more than what you're giving everyday New Yorkers. Go to the tents. Thank you. Go to the tents, migrants and asylum seekers are sleeping on cots. They're getting basic items. They have outside showers that's outside of their living arrangement. They have outside toilet spaces. They are getting the bare minimum. They can't go into the affordable housing program that you're in that we did with FHEPS vouchers. They are not getting anything more than everyday New Yorkers.

And what we don't want to do is turn against people who want to come here for the American dream, and the national government is not doing their job. You should not have to pick up the course of this, and migrants and asylum seekers should not be living in the conditions that we're in.

Go look at what's happening in other cities. In Chicago, they're sleeping in the police precincts. In other places, they're sleeping on the streets. Our goal is for children and families not to sleep on the streets. But we're at the breaking point. There is no more room, over 160‑something thousand; and as I stated, we're getting anywhere from 2,500 to 4,000 a week.

Think about that. This is so devastating for our city. Our city recovered unbelievable in a short period of time, in just 22 months. Unbelievable period of time we have recovered, and now we're saddled with this and I have to solve it. Bill Clinton told me the other day when I went to meet with him, and I shared with him the problems, he looked at me and he says, Eric, well, you know, people elected you not to tell them the problem, they elected you to fix it. I said, why the hell I come see you?

I've got to fix it. I'm going to do all, but it's going to hurt. I'm not even going to lie to you. It's going to hurt. There are programs we had in place that are going to be impacted. The programs we have are cleaning our streets, the program we have in putting into our senior centers, the program we have in our youth programs. It's going to hurt. And when people start saying, well, Eric is trying to be mean‑spirited, no, I'm not. I'm like any person that has to balance their books or balance what it costs to pay your rent.

I sat in my mommy's house many days when the lights were not on. People used to say, listen, you guys have the best household, you have barbecue every day. We didn't have any gas. You know? We used to pray for snow so we could melt it and wash up in the morning. You know? But Mommy said, I'm going to keep this house, and I know the things we're going to do have to do to keep this house.

And when our phone was turned off and people would get, This phone is temporarily disconnected, it was embarrassing. But we're going to have some phones turned off. We're going to have to melt some snow. We're going to have to barbecue outside.

This is what we are up against. And all of these agencies that's here, all these agencies and our team, they're going into their agencies, and it breaks my heart, they're going into their agencies and all these programs and initiatives that they've trying, they have to now go back and do what we call PEGs. They got to go in and find what programs they're going to cut. And it's killing them. It's killing them.

And so we need help. We need help. And I just wanted to really...because I know you're hearing a lot on the street, you go to the nail salon and what have you, and they all say, That damn Eric, he's letting everybody in. What is he doing? What about us? Calling me all sorts of names, you know, all sorts of names.

But I want those of you from Harlem to go back, go back almost 30 years. There was a brother that inherited a city that was a mess. He came from the village of Harlem. He started to turn around the city.

As soon as he started to turn around the city, some character came along named Giuliani. And Giuliani took credit for what David Dinkins did when he went to Albany and got those thousand new police officers, Safe City, Safe Street. Go and look at the records. The economy was returning. Safety was coming back. He took the city out of despair from the [inaudible] and he was turning the city around.

So, what did we allow us to happen? Because somewhere in the crevices of this city, in somebody's basement, somewhere in the sand, let me let Eric finish to fix the city, and they're going to be the modern day Giuliani, no they're not. We're going to finish this through. We're going to finish this through. This city is manageable, is governable, and it could be equitable.

But you have to have someone that is a working‑class, blue‑collar mayor. We've never had a working‑class, blue‑collar mayor. I shop at Target. I clip out coupons. You know? Listen, I know what it is to see Mommy on her knees hoping she can hit her number. You know what I'm saying?

That's who your mayor is. There's nothing special about me. Your mayor is you and your children and your grandchildren. This is what we prayed for, to finally get someone that has gone through a lot that can help people who are going through a lot.

And you know what happened. I'm going to conclude and open up to you. You know what happens. Come on, come on. You know what happens. People look, you finally got a man of color. Every day, you know, sisters stop me and say, You know why I'll never vote for you again? The streets are still dirty, you know, garbage everywhere, there's crime. I said, ma'am, this is January 2nd. It's my second day in office.

As hard it is to believe, I have only been mayor for 22 months. And in those 22 months, we have done more than any other administration in those 22 months.

And we have so much more we're going to do. This is going to be an amazing city because of the team that we've assembled together. And when you look at my leadership team, they look like you. They look like you.

First Filipino to become a deputy mayor. First East Indian to be a deputy mayor. First Puerto Rican to be a police commissioner. First Latino to be the commissioner of Department of Correction. First African American woman to be the first deputy mayor. First Trinidadian to be a deputy mayor. You know, I could just go down the list. First Korean to being a commissioner. I could go down the list. All this diversity.

That is why people are so pissed off. They fought for me not to get elected, then when I got elected, they told me who I was supposed to appoint. Are you kidding me? You understand that?

You're going to pray for me to lose, and then you're going to come in and send me your friend's resume. Like hell you will. So, let's open it up to some questions from our folks, from our amazing commissioner. We're going around, we got the tables. Hold on brother. Come on. Let's follow the flow. Go ahead, brother.

Commissioner Cortés-Vázquez: First question for Table 1. Go ahead. How do we follow that? 

Question: How are you doing? Oh. How are you doing?

Mayor Adams: Yes, sir, how are you?

Question: Good. One of the questions that my table wanted to address is what can you do about the buses parking in front of the senior centers, making it harder for the seniors to get their Access‑A‑Rides?

Mayor Adams: The buses as in the city buses? 

Question: Yeah, city buses.

Mayor Adams: Okay. First of all, Inaccessible‑Ride, we need to think differently about it. We had another town hall. We need to move into using the Uber, Lyfts. I think we need to rethink the whole Access‑A‑Ride program. You shouldn't have to sit around all day waiting for somebody to come pick you up. So, we want to rethink that whole program. So, we want to do that. But can we talk about the buses?

Manhattan Borough Commissioner Ed Pincar, Department of Transportation: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Ed Pincar, DOT's Manhattan borough commissioner. I've been talking to our wonderful assembly member about this very issue for the last week and a half.

We had previously placed no standing in front of the entrance to the center. It's only about 20 feet. We're looking to extend it more and potentially shift the buses either further west or to the north side of the block. So, we're working on that now, and we'll follow up quickly with a good answer. 

Commissioner Cortés-Vázquez: And for the right of privilege here, and that initiative came out of your cabinet, sir. Second question, second table.

Mayor Adams: Yes, ma'am.

Question: Hello. My question is about public safety. What is being done about young people congregating in front of the popup cannabis stores and police not moving them? No police between 116th Street up to 145th and Lenox. We fear for our safety.

Mayor Adams: And you shouldn't. Do we have… 

Commissioner Cortés-Vázquez: The lieutenant is here, she can also. 

Mayor Adams: Okay, okay. You shouldn't, and we don't want that. And I just love when we're at these town hall meetings and folks raise those questions. Because when I start talking about public safety, people want to act like I want to lock everyone up. No, I think people should live safe in their community.

I don't want to walk out my door and you're injecting yourself with heroin on my porch. I don't want to do that. I don't want you riding up your bike up and down, on a moped up and down my sidewalk. There's a level of decorum that we've lost in this city, and we need to return it back. So, I'm with you.

Here's… And I'm going to let the lieutenant talk about this, but the cannabis, illegal cannabis business is undermining the legal business. And I can close down all these illegal shops in three months. I need the power from the state.

There's an Office of State Enforcement and Management where they don't have the manpower to do it. Now, I've been closing down some, but it's taking too long because I'm restricted. My [inaudible] in the Police Department have been going in and closing them down, removing hundreds of thousand pounds of illegal. If I'm given the authority, I guarantee you within three months all the illegal stores will be closed down.

Lieutenant Kenya Bolden, NYPD Community Affairs: Good afternoon. I'm Lieutenant Bolden, NYPD community affairs older adult liaison. I'll have the crime prevention officer meet with you to get that location.

Currently right now in community affairs, we have a youth strategies program. As we speak right now, they're actually doing a resource fair to try to give the youth more opportunities and more different programs that give them that information.

I'll have my team actually go over there, too, to see if we could probably recruit those youths to some of those programs. But I'll get the liaison from your particular precinct, who is in the front, I'll get him to get your information so we can get over there for you.

Mayor Adams: We want to deter them. Because we don't want them hanging out, like you said. We want to deter them. We want to get them into some programs. We want to put them in the pathway.

So, let's definitely get a list. And those lists that you're talking about, we've been closing down a number of them. But I'll tell you, in three months, I guarantee I'll close them all down.

Question: [Inaudible] because I know you'll close down the one on Lenox Avenue by the bus stop and 125th Street. 

Mayor Adams: Yes, we've been closing down some. But if I'm given the power, local enforcement, my team is already ready to go and close them down. Okay. Next table.

Question: Hi. Thank you, Mayor Adams, for allowing us to ask you and have this town hall and bringing all your dignitaries with you as well. As a city worker, affordable housing is hard to find. I see a lot of city workers are finding it hard to find an apartment that they can afford. Remember city workers.

The AMI in our community is high and unrealistic. Affordability should be for low‑income people, those that are making minimum wages and what used to be considered middle class. The question is what will be done with the lack of affordable housing for those class of people? Thank you.

Mayor Adams: First of all, thank you. Thank you. I believe you need low income and middle income. Because many of you who have children and grandchildren that went off to college, we don't want to price them out of their community. My son came back home, and I want him to be able to stay in the community. 

And so low income and middle income. You know, what's interesting, these guys were successful in raising the minimum wage. If you are a fast food worker at McDonald's and you're working full time and your spouse is working full time, you many cases you don't qualify for some of the affordability because it's so low. So, you can't lose working‑class, middle‑income people.

Now, here's our challenge that we're having. We have to build more. Anytime supply and demand...our population has increased, but we have not kept up with that population. We want to build 500,000 more units of housing.

We've been doing some great stuff in the city, projects out at Willets Point, Brooklyn project, Innovation QNS. But we need to build more because landlords feel now that, hey, we have so much...there's so little stock that we can now charge higher prices.

So, we need to build more. One way we want to build more, and we're going to really need our partners up in Albany who really believe in this affordable housing issue, we need to look at coming up with a real plan to incentivize building more. We need to convert some of our offices spaces. We have about 138 million square feet of office spaces that we could turn into apartments.

We need to build near transportation hubs, build near good schools, good hospitals. Build near access to good food. Our zoning rules have been built to segregate our city. So, we're going to do something on a city level with a citywide tax amendment, but we need help with our partners in Albany to build more. You wanted to touch on something?

Adrienne Lever, Executive Director, Public Engagement Unit: Thank you, mayor. I just want to say, in addition to building more, we also have resources right now that are being left on the table. So, my team in the public engagement unit went out and did a canvass last week. We knocked on 1,700 doors and found 100 people, older New Yorkers, who were eligible for the rent freeze program to freeze their rent who haven't applied.

These are people who have money available to them right now to help them freeze their rent and stay in their homes, and they're not applying because they don't know about it, number one, or number two, they also are just in the midst of trying to put food on the table and so don't have the time to figure out how to navigate the resource.

And that's why we're here to make sure that we are holding your hand, making sure that we can get you through the process. Because we know that the bureaucracy can be difficult and that it shouldn't be on you to figure out how to apply for a resource that you need.

Mayor Adams: Come on, brother, you can't do that. You can't do that, brother. We can't have that. Now, imagine if everyone did that. Imagine if everyone did that.

Commissioner Cortés-Vázquez: We'll talk more about SCRIE. I give you… We give you our word. We're going to talk more about SCRIE. And there's a table here to help you with SCRIE. All right? Cool. Next table.

Mayor Adams: We're going to get to you, brother. We're going to get to you. But don't do that drama. Listen. No, this is important. Public Engagement Unit is an amazing unit. You heard what she said, they knocked on, what, 17,000? 700? 1,700. I mean 1,700. But they're knocking on doors.

It blew my mind when I got into office how much resources we're leaving on the table, from WIC to SCRIE to DRIE to tax incentives. And so what we want to do is one of the programs we're going to build out, and we're close to getting it done, is a MyCity card.

We believe you should not have to search for resources that you are. We're currently working on a system that, once you get your basic information, we're going to analyze and say here's what you are eligible for. And I'll go and to sign you up for it already.

So, all of these services, the city, if we have your information, you should not have to figure out what you're eligible for. We should be coming to you and pinging you and saying do you know you're eligible for X, Y and Z? That's the next level of what we're doing. While we're doing that, the amazing public engagement unit is seeking you out and bringing it to your attention.

Next table. And, brother, we're not going to forget you. I'm going to get your question. 

Question: Good afternoon.

Mayor Adams: Yes, ma'am.

Question: And to the staff. We are concerned about low‑income housing, supportive housing and elder housing in our community. Because we have all of these condominiums being that's built that we can't afford and our children going away to school, and when they come back into Harlem, they're unable to afford the apartments. So, that's our concern.

Mayor Adams: And the goal is… Who is my housing person? And we're with you. And we're with you. And we have to...we have something called...I had something called Building By Faith when I was borough president. I think our faith‑based institutions should get all of these vacant lots.

We need to think differently about building. And that is our goal. Supportive senior housing is a real focus. But you want to talk about some of the stuff we're doing? Introduce yourself.

Associate Commissioner Michael Sandler, Department of Housing Preservation and Development: Hi. My name is Michael Sandler, associate commissioner from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. I think we're right there with you. I think the mayor said it well. We got to get him a job at HPD because he said all our talking points.

But we need to hit every opportunity to build new housing in this city. That's on privately owned sites, on city owned sites, to build new supportive housing, new senior housing, new housing for all types of New Yorkers. Last year we financed 26,000 new apartments and preserved apartments. That's more than we've ever done in this city. But there's more to do, and we've got tough waters ahead. We need the state of Albany to act to help us with these efforts. 

Mayor Adams: So, you already said, 26,000?

Associate Commissioner Sandler: That's right.

Mayor Adams: 26,000, more than any time in this city. You have the numbers, I don't know if you have the numbers, on the FHEPS vouchers? I think we did...okay, don't worry about it. We gave more FHEPS vouchers than the history of the program.

Our supportive housing. I think we are number two in the history of placing people in affordable housing. So, our numbers have been unbelievable, but we don't have enough inventory. We have to build more. That's the focus that we really want to get across. Next table.

Question: Thank you, Mayor Adams.

Mayor Adams: Good to see you. 

Question: We have one question. We're throwing it up against the wall and seeing what sticks. One question with a lot of commas.

Mayor Adams, we just think, you know, you the best. How do you fix homelessness, rats and street garbage, lighting, brighter lighting for the seniors, and uneven sidewalks? You pick.

Mayor Adams: Well, I'm not sure, many of you don't know it, but I hate rats. So, we have an all‑war on rats. And the rats complaints in rat mitigation zones and citywide, they have substantial...I think in the rat mitigation zone, I think we're down 30 percent of complaints, and the numbers in citywide, they also decrease.

Here is the problem with our rats. We feed them. We feed them. And you will never get rid of rats until you get rid of plastic bags and garbage. So, here's what we did. Here's what we did.

Commissioner Tisch, who is just a beast, I met with her in probably March of last year and said, Listen, all other civilized countries don't have plastic bags. That's a relic from the sixties during the garbage strikes where we said, okay, you could use plastic bags. That's an all‑night buffet for the rats.

And so we're doing it in phases. First phase was all eateries that serve food businesses must containerize their garbage. Garbage must go in containers and get away from the rats.

Second, we rolled out all businesses, chains and others, have to containerize their garbage. The third phase is coming next year where we're going to get a below‑market garbage pail and our residents are going to have to place their garbage in containers.

People told me it's going to take four years. Within two and a half years, New York City is no longer going to allow plastic bags to be on our streets. All garbage is going to be in containers. It's going to shut down the all‑you‑can‑eat buffet. We're going to give them a one‑way ticket to Jersey so they could go and live there. We're not going to have them in our city. We're with you.

The second thing is if there's an area where there's lighting problem, let us know so that we can you look at those.

Question: This block.

Mayor Adams: This block. Okay, so give us a location. I was up in Harlem on 125th Street and Lexington. 125th Street. 125 Street, that place is so disgusting.

So, we sent DOT, NYPD, Department of Buildings, we took a whole crew over there. And I don't know if you saw the temporary fix, we put new lights there, but we're going to do a paint job there. We're going to clean the street. We're telling Con Ed that you have all those barriers there.

You're going to see a noticeable difference in the next few weeks in that whole area. You've got to go there at night. There's no lights there. It is terrible. Even got the police clapping. So, we're going to fix that corridor because lighting is important. It makes you feel safe.

Question: Sidewalks.

Mayor Adams: I love this. And I could take it because it's under $50 so I won't be breaking any...I won't be breaking any rules.

Thank you. Yes. Next table.

Commissioner Cortés-Vázquez: Next table.

Question: Mayor Adams and your crew, my question is about mental illness. I have a niece that is bipolar, and she's schizophrenia, and she was in Wards Island since May. And June 3rd, she's missing. They called me not June 3rd when she got missing, they called me on the 7th and told me she was missing. So, now I cannot get no answers. I can't get nothing. So, I don't know where she's at. 

Mayor Adams: D.J., let's connect. Do we have anyone here from… Yes, you could tell he's from Mental Health and Hygiene because he has a mask on.

Assistant Commissioner Padmore John, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you. My name is Padmore John. I am the assistant commissioner for the Harlem bureau of Neighborhood Health, trying to, as much as possible, to help and support the Harlem community.

Obviously we know that the mental health challenge is a very strong and difficult one, and one of the key ways of course is to try and provide as much services as possible. So, we do have individuals that are going out in certain neighborhoods, including the Harlem neighborhood, being able to ensure that there's a way to get folks connected and get them connected to services that they need.

Very specifically in your case, I'm not sure exactly where this might have occurred, but I'm happy to have a conversation with you offline to be able to get some more information and see how we might be able to be supportive.

Commissioner Cortés-Vázquez: So, the other thing is that I want to say that there are 88 mental health service programs in our older adult clubs. When this administration started, we had 44. And in the 22 months we had doubled that number to 88. So, they are mental health services available for older adults as well as for some of the family issues. At every older adult center there is a connection. 

Mayor Adams: And when mommy… Mommy's last few months… Mommy was vibrant throughout her entire life. The last few months she started getting signs of dementia. I bought one of those AirTags and put it around her neck. And it's unbelievable how you could find folks.

So, if you know someone, those little AirTags by Google, but there's others, you don't have to use Apple AirTag, you could use any, a little device, put it on a little bracelet, I had a little chain I put around her neck.

Question: Are they free?

Mayor Adams: Huh? No, ain't free, but it's worth the investment. I think it was only something like 30 bucks. When I was a cop, you would always get those calls that a loved one is wandering around. But you would be able to pinpoint to the exact letter exactly where they are, and it's worth the $30 investment.

But we're going to look and try to find your loved one. Okay? We're going to look and try to find your loved one.

Commissioner Cortés-Vázquez: And for those of you in this older adult club, we have a mental health program in this particular club. So, thank you for that. Yes, ma'am.

Question: Good afternoon, Mr. Mayor. 

Mayor Adams: Look at that, all that bling. 

Question: First and foremost, I'd like to thank you and your entire crew for coming up to see about the OGs. We are grateful, we are grateful, we are grateful.

And the second thing, I'd like to say thank you, because I was listening, you said that you guys were investing in NYCHA. There was a lot of money around. Well, I happen to live in NYCHA, and my concern with NYCHA is when you put in a ticket, I put in a ticket in 19… I'm sorry.

I put in a ticket in '17, 2017, to get a door replaced. The carpenter told me that it would be about eight years. I'm still waiting for that door to be replaced.

I've also put in other tickets. And one thing that I've found out about NYCHA, when the maintenance people come, if you keep a clean house and there are no roaches flying around and there's nothing on the floor, they will come to your home, and they will do what they have do.

And that's unfair because there are many people that live in NYCHA that don't have the help and they can't keep their house up to par because they're older people. And it's unfair that they have to wait eight or nine years to get something replaced.

So, that's my concern, that repairs of NYCHA… And I know they've got millions of dollars to do the repairs. I believe there's 447 NYCHA buildings in the five boroughs. And it shouldn't take eight or nine years to get a door replaced. So, that's a concern that I have for the people that live in NYCHA.

And not only NYCHA, but the houses that are ran by NYCHA, they have taken a lot of the apartment buildings NYCHA has bought out, and they're having the same problem that we are having. Repairs is the number one on the list. And as far as I'm concerned, I'm going to say it, NYCHA is the biggest slumlord in New York City. They are a largest slumlord.

Mayor Adams: No, thank you for that. I couldn't notice that you have a tattoo. Is that your boo? Oh, oh, a butterfly. Okay. Okay. Okay. Now, listen, don't be… Don't be… Don't be...  You know what I'm saying? Start showing me all the tattoos.

So, and you're right. Here's the problem and that we have to fix. Federal government has abandoned NYCHA. NYCHA was getting dollars from the federal government. It's not there anymore. I keep telling people all the time, the bugles you hear, that's not the calvary, it Taps. NYCHA is dying. And we need to do something about it.

We were the first administration that included NYCHA into our housing plan. We went to Albany, thanks to this team up here, we were able to get a NYCHA land trust's allowing us to fund the repairs that NYCHA needs. Billions of dollars in capital.

Everyone kept saying that, you know, the federal government is coming, it's coming, it's coming. That was all BS. Then we're doing a project down at Chelsea, houses, that I think is the answer for NYCHA. It is. It is. In Chelsea, the NYCHA board and the… 

Question: Chelsea…

Mayor Adams: Right. Right. Look at you. So, what they're doing, their board came together, they all agreed, this is all on them, they are building on their infill, moving out, people out, zero displacement.

After they build the unit, they're moving people into the new unit, tearing down the old unit. Building a new unit, and then moving people in. So, no is displaced. Everyone is going to get brand‑new apartments and not just this Band‑Aid we're putting on these roofs and these walls and this lead.

I think it's the way to go for the future between the land trust that our senator and assembly person was able to get. And that project, if that project there turned out to be successful, it's a game changer. NYCHA is going to finally get the relief that it deserves. 

Question: Five years.

Mayor Adams: Yes, we got to expedite that. We want to expedite it. Yes. Next table. But we also need to automate the ticketing system. We need to automate the ticketing system. You should be able to look at your ticket on your app and see exactly where it is and how it's moving.

Question: We have that system, but how do you close a ticket when they're never in there to fix it?

Mayor Adams: And that's what we got to correct, then. That's the order that we need. Go ahead. Where am I? Yes.

Question: Thank you. Hello, Mr. Mayor. Good afternoon to everyone. Our question is the vacant lot right here on Lenox Avenue, we'd like to know eventually what type of building will be built on that vacant lot.

Number two, right now it's being used. It's being used for everything. Food panty right now, the migrants or whatever, different people are in there, waiting to get into a small office with no name, number, nothing. There's a lady in there giving out small ID cards. We'd like to know what it represents.

Mayor Adams: This is the one with… The one… 

Question: Right next to Sweet Mama's, the restaurant right here. And we'd like also to know are our elected officials involved, and will they let the community know what's going on, just in that vacant lot?

Mayor Adams: Are you familiar with it?

State Assemblymember Taylor: Thank you much. That's a great question. I was here last week, and I actually explained that.

Question: Slow down.

State Assemblymember Taylor: Okay. I was here last week. I made a stop in that small office. I spent 25 minutes waiting to get in. I spoke with someone, they told me it was Africana Services, and their primary concern was sharing resources with those from that continent; however, others and all were welcome.

I shared with her that it would be great going forward to let the community board know, as well as the local elected officials, what services you're providing so we can all be supportive so it's not a mystery.

But that was because, when I was visiting here previously, someone said, Al, you got to go over there because we don't know what's going on. And we did not know. But I did go over. And I also contacted the mayor's office because I wanted to make sure that it was not one of their programs.

And D.J. said, it's not ours. We know who they are. They work well. And it wasn't the best idea that they didn't tell anybody they were coming, but they're serving the needs of so many. And I support them to the degree that people need to be supported, but going forward it would be good for them to kind of put their arms around us and vice versa. Thank you very much. Great question.

Mayor Adams: What's interesting that a lot of people are not aware of, we have a large West African migrant population. Large. And what has been really impressive, they have absorbed into the community. A lot of the mosque, a lot of the imams, they have reached out, and they have really helped.

But we have a large West African migrant population that's in the city. And the imams and the mosques have been basically doing an amazing job of providing that transition into the city. Yes. Yes, ma'am.

Question: Good bless you, mayor. Thank you for coming, and thank you for the whole team this year. Before I read the question, I just want to show you all my T‑shirt that says make America God fearing again and try to make this city God fearing again. You also mentioned about the faith based for the housing and stuff. So, just try to get more churches and stuff involved with it.

Mayor Adams: Love it.

Question: Okay. The question is what can be done to improve the safety of the area, well, even though we touched on it, particularly in regards to the homeless population, many of whom are affected by mental illness or addiction. I know you all touched on it a little bit, but just doing more.

Mayor Adams: I'm going to turn it over to Dr. Vasan, who is a real superstar around mental health issues. Giving people care and support and community is crucial. And so we don't have a revolving door system.

And we've taken a very forward‑thinking approach under Dr. Vasan, who's the commissioner of Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where we're out in the streets speaking one on one, in the subway system. I spent many nights talking with people who are living on our streets, in our subway system.

Our administration refuse to have embraced the philosophy of act like we don't see people and walk past them. We have been very aggressive and have been outreach workers talking with people, getting them into care and services and wraparound services. We need to really strengthen our...what's the name of that law they have, the one in Albany for mental… The law escapes me…

Kendra's Law. That law allows people to… For involuntary removal to care. If you don't know you need care, how can we say leave it up to the person to decide they need care? As you were saying, if you're bipolar, schizophrenic, dealing with real mental health challenges, there comes a time when you reach a point that you're a danger to yourself or others, we need to give the person the care that they need. And that's what we have been doing under this administration.

It's a Herculean task because there's some school of thoughts that you should leave people in that condition. I don't believe that. I think you have to give people the care. Anything you wanted to add to that?

Assistant Commissioner John: Thank you for that. Obviously we know how much of a big challenge the mental health issue is here, and to some extent the substance use as well.

So, it is a matter of, one, making sure that folks remain connected. Part of this also is for those that are here, one of the things that we are doing is the Mental Health First Aid training so that you have a better idea of how to spot and see what are some of the challenges that your neighbors, your friends, individuals that are in your building that may be going through, and then how to make sure that they're being connected to the services that are being provided.

So, I think it's very important that we all do as we always say, it takes a village, right, for each and every single one of us to look out for each other. But there are a variety of programs, as the mayor mentioned, going out in the streets, having this communication with individuals.

This is being done not just by the Department of Health but in conjunction with NYPD and other agencies as well and just making sure that those individuals have a place where they can go to, where they can get the services that they need. And that's something that's going to be continued.

Mayor Adams: Thank you, thank you. How are you? 

Question: Hi. Good afternoon, Mayor Adams, and everyone in the room. So, our table came up with the question in regards to senior housing. So, I've been blessed that I don't need this particular situation, I don't have this situation. However, there are many in my community that do not have this blessing.

So, I would really like to know what are we really going to do about senior housing? I see many, quite often, advertisements for people to live in senior housing Upstate, in Long Island. But this is New York City.

We have built… Like you said, and you have said, and I totally agree with you, we have empty buildings all throughout Manhattan and all throughout the other boroughs where people who are in my age group and above me as well need to be in their communities and not thinking that they have to go down south or back to their home country. Because this is now their home country.

So, what are we going to do about the fact that we are in this community, we make up this community, and we don't want to leave, and we want to be in this community, we want to be in housing that we can afford?

Mayor Adams: Thank you. Thank you for that. And...

Question: [Inaudible.]

Mayor Adams: Okay, let me answer her question. Let me answer her question. Brother, why are you standing up in the wings here? It's all good.

Question: [Inaudible.]

Mayor Adams: Yes, no, no. So, listen, you're 100 percent right. Senior housing is crucial. And we have to build more. I can't say that enough. We have to build more.

We're coming out with a citywide tax amendment. The commissioner of Planning, Dan Garodnick, who was a former Council person, he did an extensive… Somehow we need to get that out so folks can see it. We are going to need your help, because in order to get this plan of building more, we need the city council members to sign on to it.

Because the number one thing that we get often, we need more housing, but not on my block. Can't have it both ways. And so this citywide tax amendment that we are doing is going to show how we can build more housing throughout our city. Hundreds of thousands more units. We need help with that.

But the second, and we need to pass a real Albany plan on everything from… It's called 421‑a. That's to incentivize building. Repurpose the office spaces into housing. There's no reason these office spaces are sitting empty. We don't believe that you're going to have this large surge of people going back into the office. People are remotely working. So, we need to be using those spaces.

The goal is to build more housing. We don't have enough housing. Yes. Affordable, senior, middle income. Let me… I'm going to finish the tables, and I'm going to come back to try to get a few of you that have been trying to ask their questions. Yes.

Question: Yes, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor Adams: How are you?

Question: I'm all right. So, there is a mental health crisis, and there needs to be more policing. There's a concern in this community.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. You want to touch on that? Our belief is the mental health crisis can't be just police. You know, those of us who are old enough to remember Eleanor Bumpurs, you know, and I could go down the line.

So, we have a different approach to mental health illness. We want to use those professionals that could come in and give assistance. You know, if you come in sometimes, the police can aggravate the situation. And we want to make sure that we could have the balanced approach, and that's what we have been doing.

And as you noticed, we have not had any real major issues because we like to use health professionals to go in and take the time that's needed so that you don't have those tragedies. I can remember a couple of them during my days of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care where you had people with mental health illness were victims of crime.

So, the balance is not just police, the balance is a combination, and that's what we want to continue to do. Thank you.

Assistant Commissioner John: I will also just say that there is the opportunity to use other resources other than NYPD, as the mayor suggested. For example, the new number that came out, 988, that is a mental health emergency, right.

So, you're not going to go directly to NYPD. It goes to someone who will be able to get a better understanding of what the need is, and then they'll be able to send out someone to address that particular need for that individual. So, I think that's really important for us to remember, 988. 

Mayor Adams: Thank you, thank you. 988, first Mental Health First Aid, that was the other one you said. These are all different skills and tools. Yes.

Question: Good afternoon. My name is Jackie. And you know you're my on the down low. But anyway, the homeless, the mental ill people, they say they don't want to go in the shelters because they scared they'll be raped, they're being robbed, they're being beaten up.

What about the shelters? They have to do something with the shelters to make you want to go into a shelter, you know? Security, you know, they probably look at you, walk away, according if they don't like you. You know, they need more… It needs to be structured better. 

Mayor Adams: Yes. And when you look at the number of incidents we have in our shelters are not high number of incidents. And we put people in supportive housing also. Because not everyone can fit into a dormitory‑style shelter. So, we put people into supportive housing where they can give wraparound services based on their conditions.

A lot of people we took off the subway system didn't go into a dormitory setting. They went into… I think the term is safe haven. What did we use? What is the term? Safe haven? Safe haven beds. So we’re with you. Not everyone can fit into a dormitory‑style shelter. And that's our goal.

Question: And then another thing, I see it on TV… One more…

Mayor Adams: Karen Cherry has been with us for many years. That's my sister. She's with our older adults. Yes, ma'am.

Question: Yes, thank you, mayor. Thank you, Department of Aging. Thank you, our politicians. Thank you, Richard. And thank you, [inaudible]. This is great. We want to thank you guys.

So, can we put in our facilitator, can we put the garbage cans back on our blocks? They were removed, and we have a tripping hazard with the garbage all over our streets and in our park.

Harlem River specifically, they need to put the barrier back between the water and the walkway because we had two young guys pass away this summer because of that, and it's not fixed yet. So, we need everything to be safe for us, for the community, for the seniors and for our family. Thank you.

Mayor Adams: Okay, we're going to get the street, where that street is with the garbage pails, and we'll get DSNY over there. Okay? I need to finish up because I got to bounce. I got to get down.

Question: Good afternoon, mayor. 

Mayor Adams: I got to get to another event. Yes. How are you doing?

Question: How are you doing?

Mayor Adams: Look at you.

Question: Yes, yes. This is a public safety question. Some of our seniors left, so I have to ask you. They were concerned what are we doing to protect the children. We understand that the mental illness has gone up and the substance abuse, but what are we doing to protect the children around the schools? 2:45, three p.m., they're getting out of school. 

Mayor Adams: No, so important. I don't know if many of you realize that you're seeing all these tragedies around schools, we have not had one shooting on school ground in this city. Not one. Not one.

We have been… Because of proactive response by school safety agents, we have removed an impressive number of guns off children who are carrying them in school. We have been zeroing in and focused on that.

When we did our town halls with our youth town halls, the number one thing they talked about, sister, to show you how correct you were, number one thing they talked about was mental health, that they want to really do something around mental health.

Dr. Vasan and his team, they have a new app, because our children are on apps all the time, that they can get service, clinical...they could speak with a psychiatrist or a person that could assist them if they're going through a level of a mental health issue.

Or if they want, they need to speak with someone I think...did we roll that out yet? Do you know if they rolled it out yet? I know it's going to be rolled out pretty soon. But you're right. We zero in on mental health with our young people because they have been inundated with so many crises. Covid is still they're going through what they're seeing on Facebook and on social media, I should say, is really impacting them in a real way.

Question: Good afternoon.

Mayor Adams: How are you?

Question: Good afternoon, mayor and cabinet. My name is Claire Hill, and I'm a member of A. Philip Randolph, and our question at this table is how are you making sure that the older adults who built this community and who have worked hard for this city are not forgotten?

Mayor Adams: That's every day. That's what the older adult cabinet was all about that Commissioner Cortes‑Vazquez put in place, and it goes back to what the young lady asked here, it's about making sure it's affordable, make sure it's safe, make sure it's accessible, and make sure that you get what your tax dollars paid for.

We must make sure you get the services that are available to you. We think that the city has dropped the ball in doing that. We want to make sure those things that are left on the table don't continue to be left on the table. That is part of the goal. Because the city must be affordable and sustainable.

What do you want, brother? I'm going to get your last question, man. Come on, man. I promised you I would get your last question. I got one more. After this, one more. Go ahead, ma'am. 

Question: Hi. My name is [inaudible]. I'm a retired New York City Public School teacher. I want to know what can we do to help the immigrants? I want them to work so they can contribute to the Social Security system. They keep saying there aren't enough bodies to fund Social Security in the future. It makes sense from an economic standpoint to have them work. Next I want to know is...

Mayor Adams: Listen, we need you to raise your voices. We need you to write your federal lawmakers, write Congress. Congressman Jeffries has been amazing assisting Senator Schumer. But we need all of us to raise our voices and state this cannot happen to New York City.

Question: First of all, I worked at Ossining Correctional Facility in Sing Sing. Also, I worked with HRA [inaudible] when the city first started experiencing people being homeless. That ain't my question. I want you to know Al Taylor helped me out a long time. I'm going to give him his props. He helped me here.

However, I've been trying to get Section 8 for eight years along with SCRIE. You know what they got for me? My rent went up. That's what they did for me. Not them, but those managers in Esplanade. I've been in there 50 years. They sent me a resident in Brooklyn. I don't know nobody in Brooklyn now. I'm 75. Most of the people died that grew up with me. So, I'm saying I want to be able to die in Esplanade. 

Mayor Adams: Let's look into it, all right? Going to look into it. Listen.

Question: We have one person who's 92 years old that just wants to say something to you, Mr. Mayor. 

Mayor Adams: All right.

Question: Mr. Mayor?

Mayor Adams: Yes, ma'am. 

Question: Oh, I love you. I had a picture made with you the last time you was here. But this is something I want you to know. After we left here, the last time, I walked, I go down 145th Street, every evening, trying to get to my house. And you know at that time the rats was rolling all up and down. I was scared to death. And now you got it so the [inaudible] people putting the garbage out at the right time, I can walk down the street in peace.

Mayor Adams: Oh, lovely. Thank you. Thank you. Listen, I got to go to an opening. Go ahead, brother. If you give it to me quick. Man, go ahead. Give him the mic, that brother over here. Give it to me quick because I got to bounce. Got to give me a quick version, okay?

Question: All right. Good evening. Or good afternoon, mayor. News outlets have made it appear that New York City is being unfairly targeted with an influx of these migrants.

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Question: My question to you is in regards to the equitable distribution of migrants between New York City and the other major cities within the United States. Do you feel that New York City has been unfairly targeted? And secondly, is the administration prepared to create a breakdown of New York City in comparison to the other cities so that we can see if we are truly being unfairly targeted?

Mayor Adams: Yes. Yes, we are. And we were calling for the federal government to do what's called a decompression strategy when people come across the border. We have 108,000 cities, states and villages. We should spread them out across the entire country and not just New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston, and now even Massachusetts is saying the same thing.

So, yes. And we have a rough estimate of where the numbers are across the entire country. And it's only hitting certain cities.

Commissioner Cortés-Vázquez: I want to thank you, thank everybody.

Mayor Adams: Thank you.

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