February 21, 2017
Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio, Health and Human Services: Good morning, I’m Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio. We are here today to welcome back a strong leader to the City of New York government. David Hansell is the ideal person to guide ACS as we continue to reform it. This is a man who has been a fighter – a fighter for children and families his entire career.
And I want to pause a moment to recognize where we sit. We sit at the Nicholas Capeta Children Center, named for a man who served as Deputy Mayor for Criminal Justice, who served as Fire Commissioner, and for this event most notably, served as the first ACS Commissioner in New York City; a man whose dedication to service was informed by him having been a foster child himself.
As we shift back to David; David and I have had many conversations leading up to today’s announcement. We talked about his background, his values, his experience, and his vision for the agency. David has a unique blend of expertise and passion for helping others and this will strengthen ACS in our mission to protect our most defenseless children. He is a skilled data driven manager and someone who knows how to transform organizations. He is someone who will think and work across the many systems that we must weave together to provide the strongest safety net for our children and to strengthen our families. He’s also a compassionate advocate for vulnerable New Yorkers. As a physician who spent much of my career caring for patients with HIV and AIDS, I understand the deep long lasting impact that this experience can have on a person. David has spent many years on the front line as an advocate during the heyday of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, fighting for people’s rights; fighting for people who were often marginalized, discriminated against, unseen, rendered invisible. David was there protecting people. That work led him to take on tough issues on behalf of the people who need help the most. This was true when he was acting secretary at the Administration for Children and Families in Washington; it was true when he was commissioner of the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance and the Associate Commissioner of HIV services right here in New York City. Now, David will bring his experience, compassionate leadership to ACS. I’m thrilled that he is taking on this role. New York City’s families and children, we are lucky to have him.
And now, I would like to introduce the man who has been focused on child welfare for most of his illustrious career, our mayor, Bill de Blasio.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you very much, Dr. Palacio.
Let me start by thanking our Deputy Mayor for the very comprehensive search that she led, looking all over the country for the very best talent; and for the work she did to get to today. And I could not be happier with the choice that she put forward to me and I ratified.
The fact that we are here in the Capeta Center – I want to just dwell on that for a brief moment because Dr. Palacio made the point. This was a great New Yorker. We lost him last year, but I think he would’ve said – if he were today – that he valued everything he did in his public life. He valued the time he was a deputy mayor and he was fire commissioner. I think his labor of love was when he was ACS commissioner. And Nicholas Capeta, because of everything he went through in his youth, but because of his extraordinary compassion believed that something could be done better and something could be done differently to protect and to uplift our children. He’d also say this is work that never ends and the efforts to figure out how to do it better are something we work on every day of every year. And no one is better suited to that mission then David Hansell.
I want to talk about David, but first I want to acknowledge and thank for joining us, our Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, our acting ACS Commissioner Eric Brettschneider, and the Chief of Detectives at the NYPD Bob Boyce. Thank you all for being with us.
Now, I want to affirm, as I met with David and reflected back on the very positive experiences that he and I had years ago when I was chairman of the General Welfare Committee in the City Council. I thought about the mission ahead. In the eight years that I spent as chairman of that committee there were times that I got deeply involved in issues related to ACS and to me they were the most important issues we dealt with on that committee. They were the ones that moved me the most humanly, in large measure because I was a parent. And it was clear to me that there was much more that had to be done back then and there is more that has to be done now. It takes someone with extraordinary compassion and extraordinary drive to keep working through these issues because bluntly this means looking into some of the worse challenges of humanity. That is just a fact. What ACS does is go into family settings that are so often troubled or even broken. And our ACS workers have to go in there and find a way to protect children and make things as right as possible. It’s very tough work.
The problems that plague our society often concentrate themselves in individual families whether it is substance abuse, whether it is a history of violence within the household or just plain poverty and lack of opportunity. Our ACS workers have to serve at the frontline and do their best to address these challenges. And it is never ever easy. It takes courage. It takes tremendous strength and resourcefulness. Our job is to help them get better all the time. Our job is to support them in that work, train them better than ever. Our job is to make sure all other City agencies have their back and are working with them.
And again, I want to give particular thanks to Chief Boyce. I know this is a passion of his as well. And his presence here is an example of the growing partnership between ACS and the NYPD.
Now, David enters into a situation where the sheer magnitude is daunting. Up to 60,000 cases a year have to be investigated. And these are, again, often complex and painful situations. They don’t present themselves cleanly and obviously in many cases. It takes a lot of careful work to figure out what is really going on and what’s the right solution. But David understands that our mission is simple and yet extraordinary at the same time. The goal is to save every single child. We understand how daunting that is. We understand that there are times when we don’t even have an indication that there is an issue in a family or an indication that a child is in danger in any way. But our job, our mission is to find a way to save every child. There is no other agency in this city government that I think has such a rigorous demand placed on it; such a clear and extraordinary goal that it tries to meet every single day. But David Hansell understands that from a lifetime of experience and a lifetime of extraordinary work on behalf of others. He understands how challenging a mission it is, but he also understands that leadership and resources and support and training can make all the difference in the world. And I am convinced he is the person who will take us to the next level that we have to get to.
As you heard from Herminia, his career has all been about protecting vulnerable people, vulnerable families. And I haven’t seen in my own experiences with David – and I heard it from others as well – he does not back down from a challenge. He has a personal strength to understand that no matter how daunting the social problem he deals with it is his job to make a difference and he knows he can. As you know, he served in our national government in the Obama Administration. And he was known from that experience as a highly-effective manager. He was known as someone who got the job done. He helped run of the biggest job efforts in federal history; helped to create jobs for 250,000 low-income Americans in 42 states. An extraordinary managerial and logistical challenge and David met the challenge.
He also understood that his job was to right wrongs of the past and we all know there was too many times where families struggled because child support was not being provided the way it was supposed to. And his work in New York State, he ensured that caregivers and children received historically high levels of child support payments – literally the all-time record for those payments, $1.6 billion occurred on his watch. And you heard from Herminia that David was at the front line of the HIV/AIDS crisis at its very beginning – a time of tremendous uncertainty where only the bravest went to the front to confront a challenge that literally was not even understood except for the fact that it was killing large numbers of people. David made it his business to be present and accounted for in that fight.
I want to emphasize that his abilities, his education could have led him in a very different direction. He’s a graduate of Yale Law School. Obviously, we all know he could’ve chosen very illustrious career in the private sector. He could have done very well for himself. We could safely say that did not occur to David. What occurred to him was to help others. He comes into an agency now that has over decades – going back to the time that Nicholas Capeta was first named as the first commissioner – an agency that has made steady progress, but still has much work to do. And I want to be clear that we will be unrelenting in addressing its challenges.
I also want to express my appreciation to all of those who have served in ACS who have achieved things that were not achieved previously. A very important example, the foster care population that we are serving is now down to 10,000 children compared to 13,000 just three years ago. That means more is being done to help children and their families and to avoid them having to go into foster care to begin with. The number of children being reached by preventative services – this is something I spent a lot of time working on when I was general welfare chairman; the need to have help in the home for families that are struggling, families that can turn their reality around need intervention, need support. Preventative services have been a difference maker for years, but there hasn’t been enough capacity. Now, 45,000 kids are being served by preventative services compared to 39,000 just five years ago – 6,000 more kids getting help and protection. And this includes things like mental health support, parenting support, helping families to get stronger and to address their challenges.
So, we know that we can make change and we can make improvement, but we also know we have a lot more work to do. And now we have a leader who I am convinced will move ACS forward and will usher in the next wave of reform and change on behalf of our children and families.
A few words in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, I with great pleasure introduce the new Commissioner for the Administration for Children’s Services, David Hansell.
Commissioner David Hansell, Administration for Children’s Services: Good morning everyone. I want to start by expressing my deep gratitude to Mayor de Blasio and Dr. Palacio. First of all for those overwhelming comments –
But, more importantly, for giving me the opportunity to serve this city in such an important role. I am truly humbled by the confidence that they’ve expressed in me. I have known the Mayor for 15 years, as he said, we worked together when he was chair of the General Welfare Committee for City Council and I was the chief of staff at HRA. And I know from that experience that I share his mission to protect every child and his deep appreciation for the difficult and challenging work that the women and men at ACS do every day. When the Mayor I were discussing the job of ACS commissioner, he asked me a simple question that I’ve asked myself many times. And that is: What motivates you to consider taking on this enormous challenge? And I answered him with a question of my own: Where is there a more important place to serve the most vulnerable individuals and families in our City? And that’s been the question that’s animated career decisions I’ve made over the course of my career for the last three decades.
As you’ve already heard, my worldview took shape in the time of crisis in the early 1980s when hundreds of New Yorkers were dying of a new disease that had not yet even been labeled as AIDS. They were men and women, gay and straight, predominantly people of color, predominantly young, and many of them were my friends. But universally, they were sick, they were scorned by many, and they were ignored by many more and they needed protection. And as a young lawyer that’s what I tried to do and that’s what I felt I needed to do. So working on the front lines at Gay Men’s Health Crisis in the late 1980s and the early 1990s that experience showed me what happens when government takes a callous attitude towards those who need its help the most. But it also showed me the good that government can do when it cares for the most defenseless among us. And, I have to say those lessons seem as urgent today as they did 30 years ago.
And since then I have tried to apply those lessons in running government agencies, energizing them, spurring them to innovation and working to improve their performance. And now as I take on a new responsibility at ACS – the agency that I am about to lead is beholden to every single New Yorker in its mission to protect our most vulnerable children. And there is no greater calling than that.
So, my job will be to build on what ACS is doing well, to fix what isn’t working and to move mountains to support the work of the agency’s 6,000 committed and courageous staff. And the Mayor has assured me that I will have whatever resources I need to make sure that ACS can achieve its mission. I in turn will apply the managerial skills and the rigor that have served me well elsewhere to move ACS forward.
So specifically, what does that mean? Well first, I will do a top to bottom review of ACS’ protective and preventive functions to strengthen what’s working and to change what isn’t. Second, I will use the full authority that’s been given to me by the Mayor to ensure that the agency leadership is fully aligned with our reform vision. Third, I will review the many recent reform proposals to see what needs to be implemented and where we can expedite critical reforms in the agency. And fourth, I will identify opportunities for closer collaboration with the NYPD on internal monitoring procedures and on protecting the safety of our children and our staff. And to say a few more words about that, in particular, from my experience running other major government organizations, I have become a strong believer in metric space management. I have seen the so-called STAT model based on the COMP-STAT model within the NYPD. I have seen it work at HRA when I was there – very effectively. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see the CHILD-STAT program at ACS, but I have some concerns about whether it is actually achieving its purpose of ensuring the kind of accountability and quality assurance that we need there. I have already had the opportunity to meet with Chief of Detectives Boyce to talk about how we can collaborate more closely with the NYPD to make sure that we are fully utilizing their expertise and expectations in improving the caliber of the CHILD-STAT program. And that’s one of the things I will be taking a very close look at as soon as I arrive at ACS.
Before I close, on a personal note I want to thank several family members here today: my partner Rob Cimino, my partner of 16 years who has supported me in doing this knowing that he may not see a lot of me for a while;
My sister Linda; my god son Sam Craig and his mother B.C. Craig. And in close again I want to thank Mayor de Blasio, Dr. Palacio for this opportunity. And I want to pledge to the people of New York that I will lead and support this agency and its staff to do everything in our power to protect all of our city’s children.
Thank you very much.
Mayor: Thank you. Congratulations again. And now let’s take questions on this announcement, on ACS, and then we will later on take questions on other topics as well.
Go ahead, Courtney.
Question: This question is for Mr. Hansell – have you looked at reports yet on Zymere Perkins, Jaden Jordan, and other deaths that we’ve seen? The reports from DOI – have you read them? What’s your immediate reaction to them and how would you characterize Gladys Carrion’s tenure? Do you think that she did a good job?
Commissioner Hansell: I have had a chance to look at all the reports. I will obviously be looking at them in much greater detail. I think there are some very valuable recommendations in all of them. I think there are recommendations that ACS could benefit from and when I arrive at ACS I will be looking at steps that have been taken to-date because I know that some of those recommendations have been implemented. And then see where there are additional ones that, as I said, we need to implement on a critical path basis.
I am a great admirer of Gladys’s. We worked together in Albany. I have tremendous respect for her vision and for her commitment, and caring for children and for the work that she’s done. I think that there are many things that – many reforms that she began that we will continue and expedite the implementation of. And there are things that we will do differently.
Question: Mr. Hansell, how do you plan to address the caseload of the workers that seems to have been increasing over time? Do you think they’re overwhelmed and not able to function well with the caseloads that they have?
Commissioner Hansell: Well, my understanding, and again I will review this in more detail once I get to ACS, my understanding is that it’s increased somewhat recently. And one of the things I know from my national experience with child welfare is that it is quite common in a situation, as we’ve had here in New York City after a couple of very high-profile incidents, for the number of reports coming in to spike. And that seems to have happened and that has led to an increase in caseload for the child protective workers recently. Caseload is a very important metric. It’s very important to enable the casework staff to do the work they need to do as effectively as they can to keep caseload within reasonable bounds. And so that’s something I will be taking a very, very close look at when I arrive at ACS.
Mayor: Let me note that we have 100 more caseworkers who will be onboard by April. And I think that clearly will have a huge, positive impact in addition to the point that David made that we see fluctuations in the number of reports and that really drives the casework level, is how many reports are coming in. We certainly would not be surprised if the number of reports starts to go back down again while we’re bringing on more staff. And that will get us back in a position that’s better than the federal and state standards.
That’s where we’ve been for most of the three years that we’ve been here. We’ve been in a position that was clearly better than the caseload standards that are held by the federal and state government. That does fluctuate sometimes.
We are very committed to getting to a place that is better than those standards on a regular basis.
Question: Mr. Hansell, you talked about your motivation in trying to care for the most vulnerable but right now you have a very nice job and a good life –
[Inaudible] why in the world would you do this when no matter how much you can fix this agency, there’s going to be kids who fall through cracks? [Inaudible] all of the publicity of, “Oh, did he fail,” when that happens? It’s almost like a no-win situation. Why do it?
Mayor: You have really – thank you for the cheery question, Dave –
Commissioner Hansell: I feel so much better about that. No, I – as I said in my remarks I can’t think of a more important public service opportunity. I can’t think of a more important way to contribute to life for the most vulnerable individuals and families in our city. I know it won’t be easy but I – when the Mayor offered me the position it wasn’t one I felt I could refuse. It was too important an opportunity to pass up. And as the Mayor said and I said, you know, our job is to protect every child in this city and we will do everything in our power to make that happen.
Mayor: Dave, I want to also note, you know, there’s the famous Teddy Roosevelt speech about the man in the arena and, you know, going into the fray no matter what the challenge is. I think, you know, that speech could be well said about David Hansell that he’s clearly made a choice over his life to go into very difficult situations, and situations that a lot of other people would not have the strength to go into. But we need people in our society who will take on the big challenges and we need people who are not afraid of things that seem daunting. That’s the only way we move forward. So, that’s exactly the kind of person I was looking for ACS commissioner. Lisa?
Question: Mr. Hansell, as you mentioned, many of these high-profile cases, tragedies with children’s lives being lost – those families have been on the ACS radar. Where will you draw the line between the danger of when a child’s life is in danger and they need to be immediately removed from the family? Will those policies remain the same?
Commissioner Hansell: Our first and foremost responsibility is to keep kids safe and the first decision we have to make is whether they can safely remain at home or whether they need to be removed. And that is something we will look at in every case. It’s a complicated assessment. We have very skilled staff that do it. We will review and as I said I think we will need to strengthen our monitoring tools to make sure that we are doing it as effectively as we can, consistently with our protocol across the board. But that is the first question we’ll ask in every case.
Mayor: I want to note, Lisa, as the Commissioner will certainly know from his experience and Chief Boyce knows, ACS seeks removal in certain instances of a child but requires court approval. And there have certainly been instances where ACS was absolutely convinced that a child should be removed and a court would not agree. So, this is another challenge that we have to continually meet. I think there are many instances where ACS has been very aggressive and a judge did not agree, and I’m not sure I always would have agreed with that judge in making that decision although I’m sure they were honest decisions.
But this is something that the Commissioner is going to certainly look at – how do we, when we are convinced a child should be removed from the home, how do we improve the opportunity to get that agreed upon by a judge? And sometimes in our system of checks and balances, we could do everything pristinely and the judge still gets to make personal decision that we may not agree with. And that’s one of the big challenges here. But I think if one looked at the actual facts, you would see ACS has been very aggressive about seeking removal in a lot of cases.
Question: Getting back to CHILD-STAT. The previous commissioner had shifted it from being more child safety to big policy issues like foster children [inaudible] caseworkers. Do you see – what kind of changes [inaudible] are those things that – those [inaudible] what else would you be looking at?
Commissioner Hansell: Well, as I said, I haven’t had the opportunity to observe CHILD-STAT yet. So, I can’t yet speak to specific changes. What I do know is that I have seen it work at HRA where we had a very aggressive – actually we had two programs at HRA. When I arrived, HRA already had a program called JOB-STAT that was focused on job placement, job retention, and making sure that the agency’s [inaudible] and basically moving people from welfare to work was as effective as it could be.
And while I was there we added a second program which we called VENDOR-STAT to focus on the performance of our contracted vendors. It was a very formal program. It was based on data – real-time data, analysis of that data, identification of areas of deficiency, and then the development of corrective action plans.
So, I know that model and conceptually that’s the model I think is successful. I can’t yet say what changes I’ll make at ACS. I also want to say that I’m hoping actually to observe Comp-Stat later this week. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that either and I think there are things we can learn and I look forward to talking forward with Chief Boyce about things we can learn from the NYPD that will also strengthen CHILD-STAT.
Question: Mr. Hansell, based on your national experience, are there any programs anywhere across the country in other cities that are working relatively speaking compared to New York City that you will look at and maybe bring parts of those programs to the city?
Commissioner Hansell: Absolutely. I’m not going to identify specific ones but what I will say is I think there is a growing body of what we called evidence-based interventions – interventions that have been proven to actually make a positive difference in outcomes for children and families. In understand ACS is already implementing those and that’s certainly something I want – we want to make sure that the things we’re doing, the things we’re doing directly through our staff, the things that we’re paying our contracted providers to do are things that have been proven elsewhere or proven in New York City to make a difference for kids and families and that’s what we’re going to look at.
Mayor: Melissa –
Question: Mr. Mayor, I know that family court gets involved obviously when ACS petitions for a removal. But it is widely believed during Commissioner Carrion’s tenure that you and she were sometimes not on the same page, that you wanted to be more aggressive about removals – playing it safe – and that she had this philosophy that was a lot more about leaving children at home whenever possible. The question that I have is are you comfortable now given some of what we’ve reported recently that there [inaudible] programs that had to close their doors because of staffing problems –
Mayor: Okay, get to the question, please –
Question: Are you comfortable with how many children are being left at home given that the preventative services have not kept up?
Mayor: I don’t agree with the premise of your question and I think it’s really important, and you’ve spent a lot of time on this issue, I know that for a fact and I appreciate how focused you’ve been on it but I think that’s an unfair assumption. Again, under Commissioner Carrion’s watch, many times ACS went for removal and did not get agreement from a court.
I think a fair question is – do judges have a philosophical belief that tends more towards keeping a family intact versus a removal? I think, to be fair, the vast majority of judges try to call them as they see them individual cases but I think this underlying philosophical question is out there in the child protective world. And I certainly think the important point is when in doubt, I think moving for removal is exactly right. I believe that was the same approach Commissioner Carrion used. I don’t believe that’s the same approach ACS used. I know that will continue.
That being said, and Dr. Palacio have talked about this a lot – these are some of the toughest decisions anyone in government ever makes because removing a child, let’s there is a gray situation and it’s just not clear what to do, removing a child has very big consequences. Anyone in this room who is a parent can understand that or anyone who has a child in their life, how traumatic that can be. It is a tough decision that has to be made right. So, I would really caution against trying to put it – I’ll certainly let you follow up – I would caution against trying to put it in a neat box because it never is in a neat box. There’s so much complexity.
What I am convinced is ACS over the last three years has and ACS will continue to be aggressive and when the evidence points to the need for safety, requiring a removal, I don’t think anyone will hesitate.
Question: So, to follow up – it’s just that given that foster care removals are down, there are fewer than 9,000 children in foster care. Are you comfortable right now with the wait list for prevention – that children who being left at home instead of being placed in foster care that those preventative services are meeting that need?
Mayor: No but for a different reason I think than you’re indicating. The reduction in foster care has been a success. There’s no question. We want fewer kids in foster care, more kids in their own biological family if we can make the situation work or with another family member if it’s not their nuclear – with another family member. That’s always optimal and there’s been a big focus on that successfully over the last few years.
We have seen, as you know fewer indicated cases of abuse and neglect over the last decade. It’s been going down and that’s a good sign too. What I don’t see is what you would be pointing to that the reduction in the number of kids in foster care has correlated to some increase in the amount of abuse and neglect in the home. I’m not seeing that and that’s good.
That being said, the reason I think it’s a very important question – I don’t think preventative service is where we want it to be. And Commissioner Hansell and I have talked about this. You heard the fact we’re serving 6,000 more kids than we served before this administration. That’s not enough. We need to figure out what the amount of preventative services we need are in terms of quantity. We also have to work on the quality.
So, one of the key points of our discussions was my mandate to Commissioner Hansell to go and look top to bottom at the preventative services system to figure what will strengthen it, what is that amount he needs to make things work optimally to protect our kids, and also how to make sure our preventative services organizations are working as best as they can. And some we may want to deepen our relationship with, some we may not want to continue with. That’s another thing he’ll be looking at.
But I want to say what he said. I told him that he will have my full support in getting the resources he needs to keep improving this agency.
Question: Do you think, given – both of you, Mr. Hansell and Mayor – given the fact that ACS is disproportionately involved in New York City with families that are made up of people of color. I know that you have said about the police for instance that some of their proportionate involvement with people of color and stops and certain things, that some of that might have to do with implicit bias. Do you think there’s any kind of bias at work in the way that ACS or the child welfare system deals with New York City’s families of color?
Mayor: I – in my, you know, eight years as the chairman and then four years as Advocate when I looked at these issues, and now Mayor – I don’t believe that’s the case. I think we are talking about extremely complex situations and frontline workers who are trained and were certainly trained a lot more in the last few years than in the past to go in and make assessments. We’re also talking about a workforce that looks like the people they serve by-and-large. So, no, I do not see that challenge. I think the challenge is, and again the Commissioner can speak to this or the Deputy Mayor, I think it’s extraordinarily tough decisions.
I think these are the equivalent of the split second decisions that a police officer has to make that can have life and death ramifications. For a caseworker to figure out whether a child should remain or not is a very, very complex decision and often with many, many moving parts.
I interview family court judges before I appoint them. And I ask them to talk about their thought process. And when you hear them outline all of the factors they have to ask about trying to get a sense of the case – all the family history, all the different members of the family, anyone from outside the family who may in the home, economic status – all sorts of things that go into these decisions. It’s a very, very complicated matrix that has to be run to make the decision right. I think that’s the challenge that has to be confronted. I don’t think it has to do with any other factors.
Question: Could you just, Mr. Hansell, can you just explain to me what evidence-based intervention is? [Inaudible] –
Commissioner Hansell: Evidence-based interventions are essentially programmatic approaches or in this case sort of child welfare or social services practice approaches that have tested, that have actually been evaluated against either other approaches or no intervention at all to see if they actually make a difference in improving outcomes for children and families. So, they actually are demonstrated proven approaches. So, basically, these are methodologies that either or staff at ACS would use or our contracted vendor staff would use in their interactions with families with children – the ways that they actually work with the families of the children.
Commissioner Hansell: There are quite a number of them. They relate to, sort of, how you strengthen parenting skills for example, how you help children deal with – one of the things that we’ve learned a lot about in recent years is about the kind of trauma that children carry with them even if they’re taken out home and returned to homes, even if they’re moved on to permanent family situations, we have learned that most children carry with them some degree of trauma from the experience that they’ve had as a result of the abuse or neglect that they’ve suffered.
And there are a number of approaches not that are helping to address that kind of trauma so that children are better able to move forward in school, in life, to be successful and healthy adults.
Mayor: Okay, other questions – yes?
Question: Mr. Hansell, you certainly have a [inaudible] experience in government and management but none in child protective services. So for you personally, what do you see as the biggest challenges for you going into this position?
Commissioner Hansell: Well, I actually do think I have experience in child protection and child welfare. I did oversee the program nationally for a couple of years. So, I have seen national models and I was actually involved in implementing some federal legislation that was passed in 2008 just before I moved into the Obama administration. And I also have, in my previous work at HRA, while I was not at ACS and I was not doing child welfare specifically, I worked very, very closely with ACS. So, I think I do have child welfare experience.
But I also know that we have many, many deep, deep experts in child welfare and social services at ACS. So, I’m going to draw on their expertise. And I while I hope I can also bring is the management skill that will enable them to use their skills as effectively as they possibly can.
Mayor: Okay, other questions on this – yes?
Question: Going back to the question that Melissa had asked initially – you’re calling for more preventative services potentially, right? It’s my understanding that a lot of those services are provided by the contracted providers outside of they’re not City employees, they’re contracted workers. They’re saying that the proposals this year to increase their salaries in the City budget don’t go far enough and that some of these covered providers haven’t gotten across the board contract increases in more than a decade and that is what is forcing –
Mayor: I’ll jump in for that. Alright, I’ll start if you want to add. Look, I think there are many pieces to any issue but in terms of nonprofits that do social service work for New York City – what we announced in the budget was the second raise since we got here. So, two raises in three years and that’s against a backdrop of a lot of other things we’re trying to do to strengthen that sector and we’ll keep doing that work. I don’t think that is the core of the challenge we’re addressing here.
I think the issue of how to make sure each preventive service organization does their job as best as possible is a broader qualitative question and to make sure we have enough of these services available when we need them for families in immediate need which is an issue that again, I remember in the time I was General Welfare Chair which was 2002 to 2009, this was a nonstop fight with the previous administration to increase the amount of preventative services because it was quite clear that there were times when families needed help immediately. And if ACS didn’t have that tool they didn’t necessarily have a lot of options if it was not a situation where removal made sense immediately. But they were not – the ACS workers were not comfortable with the status quo in that family they needed something that they could add to the equation and that would be preventative services.
So, we have to make sure the quantity and the quality is right. In the meantime we’re certainly looking for every opportunity to improve the dynamics for those workers and the compensation they get.
Question: Mayor, you talk about – and Mr. Hansell talked about involving the police department more in these services. Can you just give us a big picture idea of what that might be that they’re not already doing?
Mayor: I’ll start and then feel free to jump in, Deputy Mayor, Commissioner, Chief if you have anything to add, of course.
The – I will take you back in time to the year 2006 and again, one of the worst tragedies we’ve ever seen in this city which was Nixzmary Brown which was worst not just because she was an angelic girl and every New Yorker felt her loss very personally but also because there were so many opportunities to save her. I don’t know a case where there was more chances, more documented chances to save a child than that case. And one of the things that became clear after that was that there was not the right communication between the NYPD and ACS that the two cultures had not met and had not learned to speak a common language and to support each other.
A lot was done in the aftermath of that to address the situation. The Deputy Mayor can speak in a second to the presence of former NYPD officials in ACS today. That was on the things that particularly got momentum from the aftermath because no one disagreed that the two agencies were missing an opportunity to work on a common cause.
Since then I think there’s been real improvement but we constantly see the need for more. So, one of the things we announced a few weeks back was that Chief Boyce would co-chair the CHILD-STAT meetings to really deepen that connection. And again, because the Commissioner has a lot of experience with the metric model I think this is going to be a great opportunity to take another step into the full integration of the work of ACS and NYPD.
Deputy Mayor Palacio: Thank you, Mayor. Yes, I just wanted to sort of expand on the Commissioner’s opening remarks which is that he’s going to be looking at building on some strengths that ACS has already had. As the Mayor mentioned, there have – that relationship with ACS and NYPD has been strengthening over time. We have over 100 former NYPD officers who are part [inaudible] of the ACS workforce – full-time staff led by the former Chief of the Special Victims Unit, Detective Sue Morley.
So, we already have a very robust infrastructure. We’ve been, over time, strengthening the relationship between NYPD and the children’s advocacy centers so that there are forensic interviews that are done in a compassionate and holistic manner of a child who may have been the victim of physical abuse with NYPD right there in the room so that everybody is hearing the same information and that we benefit from the NYPD expertise on forensic interviewing.
In addition, I’ve had several conversations leading up to today with the Commissioner about ways that he might want to further and deepen that relationship. And as he’s says he’s met with Chief of Detectives Boyce. And I’ll let you expand on some of your ideas.
Commissioner Hansell: Yeah, thank you, Dr. Palacio. So, just to expand on that – yes, there are really three immediate areas where Chief Boyce and I have talked about strengthening the collaboration with NYPD. First is around the CHILD-STAT program which we’ve already talked about at some length.
Second, is making sure that NYPD is sufficiently involved in our investigations where there are allegations of criminal activity, and we need to supplement what our staff and our investigators can do with the involvement with the NYPD.
And the third is around the protection of our staff at ACS. Our child protective investigators and field workers have certainly some of the most difficult and sometimes some of the most dangerous jobs in New York City. And we have an obligation to make sure that they are protected as they do that work and we want to work closely with the NYPD and Chief Boyce in making sure that we have their support in doing that.
Question: Mr. Hansell, you said you’ve had a chance to look at New York’s ACS program. You’ve looked at what’s working, what’s not working, you’ve taken a look at some of the case files, you’ve also said that there are people in place already that have a great deal of expertise in working with child services. So what do you think is the problem then? What is the main problem? Is it a managerial issue? Is it a problem with programs not being available? Is it a manpower issue? What do you think is the problem?
Commissioner Hansell: Well, first of all, I did not say that I had already had the chance to take a look at the programs or the case files. I have not done that. I will do that as soon as I start in two weeks but I have not done that yet.
I do have some familiarity with the agency. I do know some of the senior staff there but I have not had the chance to do that kind of a deep dive which I will certainly be doing.
But I think, as the Mayor said, it’s a very – the work that ACS does is very, very complicated and it requires a set of resources, it requires training of the staff, [inaudible] skills. And so, there’s no single thing that makes a difference. It’s a matter of constantly looking at opportunities to improve in every aspect of the work that ACS does and that’s what we’ll try to do.
Mayor: I would just add to that. There’s three immediate areas where we want to go deeper. We want to continue to drive down the casework ratio, as I said, 100 more caseworkers will be at the agency by April. We want to continue to expand and improve the preventative services. We’ve already put $49 million into that. We will keep investing more as the Commissioner and the Deputy Mayor see fit.
And we need to improve the training. That’s been an area of tremendous focus in the last three years. This is an agency where the complexity of the work required a lot more training a long time ago. And under Commissioner Carrion there was a very intensive focus on training and a lot of additional resources added to training of the new workers.
We want to expand further upon that because it’s work that requires so many decisions and so many factors that have to be taken into account. We want to deepen that training regimen even further.
Question: Are you going to include conversations with pre-schools and schools in this discussion?
Mayor: I’ll start and then my colleagues can add. Again, this is a personal issue for me because at the time when I was chairman one of the things we learned with the tragedy of Nixzmary Brown was, again, DOE was not sufficiently linked to ACS. We have made a series of changes in the last year to further address that issue. Now, this is, to be clear, a problem of scale unquestionably – 1.1 million school children and 60,000 reports to ACS – trying to match up those two realities while respecting confidentiality is a very, very difficult undertaking.
But there has been progress in the relationship between ACS and DOE. There needs to be more. One of the things that is working better is DOE having the kind of communication with ACS to alert them when there is a pattern of absences. That was an area that was not strong enough in the past and that’s starting to change, I think, very intensely.
Deputy Mayor Palacio: I would just add that the question raises the importance of a leader who really can take – and will take a system’s approach to protecting the safety of New Yorkers. It is not – it is ACS’s unique responsibility but not ACS’s sole responsibility to protect our children. And so a leader who knows how to reach out, build relationships, strengthen relationships with other agencies across our system is critically important if we’re going to protect New Yorkers together.
Mayor: Yeah, I want to just add to that. Again, that’s a very powerful statement the Deputy Mayor’s making – unique, but the unique responsibility of ACS, but ACS if by far not the only actor in this. Our schools, our police, our other social service agencies, our hospitals – everyone has an opportunity here to help protect children. And ACS can do its work even better when it has the fullest information. So this gets back to the point of one, people who fear a child is being neglected or abused need to call it in. It’s absolutely crucial. And if they’re not certain where to turn, they can call 3-1-1 and be connected to the State Register. This again, to take you back to that very painful moment in 2006, many, many people acknowledged that they thought something was going on, and they thought Nixzmary Brown was in danger, but they didn’t feel comfortable making the call. They didn’t know if they should get involved. And a lot of them, I think, have spent the rest of their lives since then regretting it. So if you fear a child is in danger, pick up the phone, and let the professionals follow up. But also, to all of the folks who work in public service – you know, the army of one theory is operative here. Any one person can save a child by acting on any kind of evidence they have – any kind of signal they have that something may be wrong. And the more our public servants do that, the better ACS can do its job. Let’s see if there’s any other questions on this topic. Okay, over here and then we’ll come to you guys.
Question: “The kids are our kids,” slogan you have is a phenomenal slogan. Is there a process where you guys are going to set that up so that all of us now actually see that? Because a lot of times we’re just pointing fingers at ACS, and like you just said, ACS is not the only caregiver for the kids in our city [inaudible]. Are you going to set up a campaign where there will be a social media campaign [inaudible], so that we can as well take ownership of this? We can’t continue to say: oh, what’s happening at ACS? But all of us in here as adults, as parents, need to start saying: the kids, globally, are our kids as well – not only the ones that we have at home.
Mayor: Yeah. I think that’s a very powerful point. And that has been done in the past, and it’s something we need to keep coming back to. Okay, yes?
Question: How do you expect to work with the independent monitor or by the State, and under the [inaudible], the Department of Investigation, Comptroller’s Office, and the State?
Commissioner Hansell: Well, I refer to my remarks to the number of reviews that have been done. There have been quite a few recently. ACS has gotten a lot of attention. But I think all of them – the ones that have been done to date have given us recommendations that I think will be helpful, and that as I said, I will – as soon as I arrive at ACS, I will look at the status of implementation of those and how we can expedite that. Looking forward to working with the independent monitor. It’s a very highly regarded organization. I think they too will give us helpful feedback. And I’m looking forward to partnering with them, and also partnering with our counterparts at the State.
Question: Mr. Mayor, you keep mentioning Nixzmary Brown, but there was just the Zymere Perkins case where the City’s own report showed that there was opportunity after opportunity missed that would have potentially saved this child’s life. So just looking at that report, I mean, what needs to be done specifically in those case where there’s – you know, there’s not a judge issue, there’s – there was a clear opportunity there, a clear motive to remove this boy and try to save his life.
Deputy Mayor Palacio: Let me speak to that.
Mayor: Be careful. Be careful on that full assumption. Go ahead.
Deputy Mayor Palacio: Let me speak to that. So, as you know, we did a very thorough internal investigation, and we’ve published those findings. I think that there are improvements that can be made at many levels. The City took action. Where there were failures in accountability, the City took action. Where there are systemic reviews that need to be done, I think the Commissioner is well-poised and well-credentialed to come in and look at very significant organizational issues that might be made. But this isn’t an either, or. If there are individual accountability issues, individual accountability issues will be managed. Where there are systemic and organizational issues, those will be implemented. We have to move on every front to make sure that the organization is leading, that the organization is doing everything that we have in our power to protect children within our responsibility. And that we are working across the system to make sure that all of us are taking responsibility for our children.
Mayor: I want to contest the premise, respectfully. I’ve looked at both cases very, very carefully. The difference right off the jump is the first instance with Nixzmary Brown, it pointed out massive systemic problems – absolutely overwhelming systemic problems that then led to a series of huge reforms by that administration. In the case of the Perkins case, which is a tragedy equally, we did see some things that needed to be acted on systemically, but we first and foremost saw individual failure of people who were supposed to do their jobs and didn’t – some of whom are no longer a part of this agency, others of whom have been reprimanded in other ways. We’ve got to be able to see that difference. If someone doesn’t do their job, there will be consequences. And with every element of public service, there are some people who are not cut out for the work, and our job is to weed them out. There are some people who need to be re-trained. It’s a whole host of different points on the continuum. But every agency, whether it’s NYPD, or FDNY, or DOE, or ACS – if an employee doesn’t do their job, there will be consequences versus when we see systemic issues that have to be worked on that require a change in how we do the work overall.
Question: I’d just like to hear the Commissioner’s response to that. And then – but does an individual, repeated individual failures report to a systemic problem [inaudible] possible?
Mayor: I would just say possibly is the key word, and it depends on what the investigation tell us, but.
Commissioner Hansell: I don’t want to speak to the specifics of that case, but I think in general we have to look at both. We have to look at systemic issues, and we have to look at individual issues. Absolutely, in terms of bringing a management approach to ACS, my intent is to begin to look at the systemic issues – that is where are the policies, the procedures, the practices, the tools, the training, the technology at ACS not providing the kind of support for the quality of services that we need. And those are the things we’re going to start looking at. Where there are, as the Mayor just said, where there are situations where individuals are not complying with appropriate case practice or are not carrying out the function of the jobs as they should, we’ll take action as we need to.
Question: It’s hard to know whether it’s a systemic problem or an individual problem every single time one of the things these things happens. But I will point out to you – when Zymere Perkins died September 26th, this was – I don’t know – several months after DOI had already done a report. DOI report made five recommendations, by the time Zymere Perkins died, four of those recommendations had yet to be complete. After Zymere Perkins died, DOI did another report and found even more systemic problems that had to do with the Jaden Jordan case having to do with weekends into nights. So those, by the way, all of those things that I just described are systemic issues. So Mr. Mayor, do you have any regrets about just a piece of reform at ACS prior to Mr. Hansell’s arrival?
Mayor: Let me start, and then I think the Deputy Mayor will add. Again, I’m sorry, I don’t always agree with the premises of your question. And any oversight entity that puts forward a report, we look at, and we look for the things that we believe are accurate. And we also look at things that we think may not be capturing the full reality. It’s absolutely simplistic, with all due respect, to act like any other report by any other part of government is flawless. So we have to look at every piece of input, and that’s why we’re perfectly comfortable working with a monitor and any and all other entities, but in the end, the Commissioner and the Deputy Mayor have to decide as the members of the executive branch what will actually help protect our children. I think in a number of cases, we have seen individuals not do their jobs. And it’s our obligation to make sure there are consequences. I don’t doubt for a moment you can have individual failure combined with some systemic things that have to be worked on, and it’s our obligation then to make those changes. But I think there’s some temptation in the reporting to take something that is unusual and exceptional and try and suggest it is systemic when I’m not sure it is systemic. And again, I’ve been at this a long time. I can tell you some things that we’ve found over the years that were absolutely systemic, which is that the difference agencies like DOE and like NYPD did not have the right working relationship with ACS. There’s been real progress. We still have more we have to do. And there are some things that are systemic like lack of training was a real problem that had to be addressed. When I look at the last three years, I see an agency that we added $122 million to that needed more resources, that need more preventative services. That was one of our big thrusts, that needed a stronger training regimen. We put that in place. It’s still not good enough. So I don’t dwell in regret. I say we did some of the right things. We’ve got to do more.
Deputy Mayor Palacio: Thank you, Mayor. Yes, I agree and I think that they’re – some of those reports really start at the individual and make extrapolations that I think we need to be cautious about making extrapolations from an individual case to a broad system because in fact, one can do harm by making those extrapolations inappropriately and laying on reforms that in fact, may theoretically fix one thing, but break several others. So I think we need to be judicious and informed about the way we move forward towards improving an organization.
Mayor: Okay, last call? Yes, please.
Question: Mr. Mayor, I’d like to know what is new in the investigation about the case of Michael Guzman, and [inaudible]. And we’d like to know why haven’t you – any arrests [inaudible].
Mayor: I don’t know – sorry – if I have those details. Do you have?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: I don’t have those details, but we can –
Mayor: Come on up, Chief. Come on up.
Chief Boyce: Good morning, everyone. In the case of Michael Guzman, the 103 Precinct, that case is still open. It’s still being investigated. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has requested other details in the case to be developed, and that’s where they are right now. The rest of the children in that house have been removed and are with relatives, from what I understand. The mother and the father are off by themselves, so that’s where we stand right now. We’ll know in the more in the coming weeks where we are with the investigation. But right now, we’re not ready to proceed in any grand jury fashion, until all the facts are ready.
Mayor: Okay, last call? Yes, please.
Question: How does the job of the ACS Commissioner change with the monitor in place?
Mayor: I will start and then my colleagues can answer. I don’t think it does. You know – I, in my different work, had not had a lot of experience with monitors, and the person who really educated me about working with monitors was Bill Bratton who said that pretty much everywhere he had been in recent years, there was a monitor – LA most famously. And his point was, if a smart, effective monitor is in place, you work with them, and you work collegially and you get to a good place. That’s certainly what we’ve found with the NYPD, with Mr. Zimroth, working with the NYPD on the stop-and-frisk issue, which we’ve found with Corrections. That’s what we expect to find here. I think the Commissioner is going to do his job, but also consult with the monitor, and I think it will be a collegially situation.
Commissioner Hansell: Yeah, I completely agree. I – you know, I’ve always found that the more sources of information you have, the more kind of educated analysis you have of the work of an organization, the better off you are. And so, I look at the Monitor as a resource to help us understand what’s happening at ACS and how we can improve it.
Mayor: Let me see if there’s any more on this topic – ACS. Alright, going once, twice – we’ll go to other topics.
Question: Mr. Mayor, a couple of Donald Trump related questions. One is that you repeatedly said that you’re certain that approaching him from a position of strength is the right way. Can you explain what your evidence is for that? Many people believe that Trump responds very well for praise and listens to people who praise him and give him ideas that he can then make his own, but you seem assured that it’s coming at him from a more combative position.
Mayor: I’m not saying it’s always combative to be strong. I’ve watched him carefully. I had the opportunity to take his measure personally, but I’ve also talked to a lot of the people who have had dealings with him over the years. I absolutely believe that he responds to strength, and that if he senses weakness it’s certainly not a way to impress him. And I understand why people have the attitude that he’s thin skinned because he’s certainly done things that suggest it, but that’s a very different question that how you govern when dealing with someone else who has an important impact on our city. Absolutely convinced – and I think this is true of the political process in general – everybody in public life responds to what they see happening on the ground.
If there is deep concern, if more and more people speak out that affects behavior. I think a good example is his ever evolving line on the dreamers – on the DACA kids – which you’ve seen change week by week, and I think that is some of the outcry he’s hearing. I think that’s people in his own life saying to him – ‘This is a real problem. These kids didn’t choose to come here.’ I think that’s evidence of why a strong stance and a resolute stance is much more likely to get a positive outcome than trying to placate. This is not someone you’re going to win over by trying to placate.
Question: [Inaudible] you’ve often told us that you don’t deal with hypotheticals, but in selling your mansion tax you’re pushing it on the premise that Washington is going – is surely going to cut taxes for the wealthy. How do you square that?
Mayor: There are – generally I don’t deal in hypotheticals – absolutely. Is there a one percent chance there will not be a tax cut for the wealthy and corporations in this Congress and this president? Sure. I think anyone who watched the Congress since Newt Gingrich came in in 1994 would say they have been waiting for this moment. And this president because he’s the first president we’ve ever had who comes out of the free enterprise system first and foremost has been salivating for the opportunity to reduce corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy, and he’s named a cabinet of millionaires and billionaires. So I think it’s a really, really good betting assumption there will be tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporations. If not, and I would add this because it’s a perfectly fair question, I still think the mansion tax makes sense. Remember the typical home that would be affected is $4.5 million in value. The buyer pays the tax. Someone who’s buying a $4.5 million home can afford to spend a little bit more, so we can help our seniors have affordable housing.
Question: Mr. Mayor, I actually have two questions. First of all, the Republican candidate for Mayor, Paul Massey, is asking prosecutors to investigate how you plan to pay your legal bills. He’s raising the specter of pay to play. I wonder how you plan to guarantee that people who contribute to your legal bills don’t want something from you.
Mayor: You know, Marcia, we haven’t even gotten to the point of figuring out how to set up the appropriate entity. A legal defense fund is something that as an idea has been around for decades. Many people have used them, but we haven’t structured it yet. We’re certainly going to be sensitive to making sure it’s fair. But we’re just not there yet.
Question: What if they’re doing it because they want you to do something for them?
Mayor: Again, that’s part of how we have to address the structuring of such a thing. And of course that’s a fair question, and I’ll be sensitive to that question, but, you know, as I’ve said – I’m not a millionaire or a billionaire. I’m not in a position to do this and pay these bills myself. We’re not asking the tax payer to pay my bills, so when the time comes we’ll structure something, and we’ll make sure it’s fair.
Question: [Inaudible] he’s also charging that you’ve been so distracted by the corruption investigations [inaudible] and you agencies that you haven’t had as much time to spend on running the city, and that’s why you have problems like with ACS and the homeless and things like that. Would you address that?
Mayor: I don’t think he knows a lot about the City of New York, and I think if he did he would recognize crime is down three years running while stop and frisk is down simultaneously while we’re instituting absolutely groundbreaking approach to neighborhood policing; that our affordable housing plan is ahead of schedule; that the graduation rate is up; tests scores are up in our school; jobs are up; and a plan to add 100,000 more good paying jobs. Look, again, I’ve been around a while. I think if you just reel off those points and say is that an example of a government that’s getting something done, the obvious answer is yet. So I don’t know what metrics he’s pointing to, but I would point to those metrics.
Question: Related question. Comptroller Stringer says that you needed to get approval from the Conflict of Interest Board to do any such legal defense fund. Do you intend to do that?
Mayor: Again, we’re going to go through a process to create it. We haven’t gotten there yet, and when we do we’ll talk about how it was done. But we’re just not there yet.
Question: Follow up to the follow up to the follow up.
Mayor: I’m impressed by the continuity levels today.
Question: I understand you haven’t gotten there yet. Can you just assure us right now as we’re sitting here that you will not solicit funds from anyone who’s doing business with the city?
Mayor: We’re going to set up a clear standard that’s fair and avoids conflict. But I’m not going to go into detail because that’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of lawyers figuring out what’s the right way to do things. And I’m just not going to keep repeating over and over again – until we get there, I can’t answer any specifics.
Question: Can I ask you about BEDCO, the nonprofit that ran the shelter where the two girls were scalded to death? The city removed some contracts from them, but other contracts remain. Why not remove all contracts from that organization. Why allow them to keep any city [inaudible]?
Mayor: You’d have to ask Commissioner Banks about the specific decision. Commissioner Banks came to the conclusion that for the type of work – one type of work – they were doing with building management he was not comfortable continuing that, and as you know he has made that decision in the case of several other nonprofits. But I can’t get into the specific exceptions, you’ll have to ask him directly.
Question: Are you comfortable as Mayor – with this company’s history – with them maintaining contract?
Mayor: I’m very comfortable that Commissioner Banks holds very rigorous standards. He has cancelled contracts for other nonprofits previously. He has my full support. Whenever he decides that an organization is not providing the kind of work he wants he has my full support in cancelling the contract or modifying it. But again as to specifics you’ll have to ask him.
Question: A recent report named the Cross Bronx Expressway the most congested city, country roadway – city roadway in the country
Mayor: Country roadway in the city? No.
Question: [Inaudible] contributing to higher rates of asthmas in the Bronx and Washington Heights. Can you tell us a little about how your upcoming plans for transportation might affect that?
Mayor: I have long since identified the Cross Bronx as my own personal nemesis. When I drove myself for many glorious years it was like – for those of you who have read Moby Dick by Herman Melville – the Cross Bronx was the great white whale that was my nemesis, and no – it needs a lot of work. The state has certain responsibilities. The city has other responsibilities. And when we come up with a congestion plan we’re going to be talking about what we can do, and we’re going to talk about different parts of the city. I think, you know, the one where there’s been a lot of focus is Midtown Manhattan even before Trump Tower but even more so because of Trump Tower. But we’re going to talk about other parts of the city as well. That’s still several weeks away, but I will assure you the Cross Bronx will be addressed even if we have to explain the difference between what we can do and what’s a state obligation.
Question: Mr. Mayor the St. Patrick’s Day parade is less than a month away, and it would normally pass Trump Tower. Has there been any discussion that you know of about moving the route around or changing you know the manner of the parade – will people be able to stand in front of the place and watch the parade?
Mayor: It’s a good question. I have not heard any suggestion of a change, but you know in the scheme of things we haven’t gotten into the planning meetings – at least in terms of me being briefed by Commissioner O’Neill and others. So I would put that in the category of ‘damn good question.’ We can have an update to you shortly, but I certainly have not heard of any suggestion that we change the route.
Question: Hi, there. Hi, Mayor. My question is relating to affordable housing lotteries. Specifically, the Stuyvesant Town lotteries recently reopened, but odds are it’s going to open again in two years because from the way I understand it works, you know, if they don’t fill up all the apartments they have to go through the process again. Is there a chance that in the next time it opens that it would be – give any kind of preference to existing community residents?
Mayor: To the best of my knowledge – and again I’ll answer this a bit the way I did on the question related to Commissioner Banks – that certainly is a question to bring to Commissioner Torres Springer at HPD in terms of the specifics. To the best of my knowledge we use the same criteria in all lotteries. The mix of residents of the Community Board and folks from all over the city, but I don’t know in the plan that was developed for Stuy Town and Peter Cooper if there were any additional elements to that plan that might suggest otherwise. So I just don’t have something more specific for you.
Question: Yes, Mr. Mayor about 18 months ago you announced the City was going to put forward NYC-SAFE or SAFE-NYC to deal with seriously mentally ill, and I asked you about this in October and November, and you said details were forthcoming like imminently. Given that the number of people who are subject to Kendra’s Law has declined, and the number of – the percentage of people in Rikers with serious mental illness has gone up, and the number of EDP calls to 9-1-1 have gone up, can you tell us what are you planning to do – without talking about ThriveNYC – what is the city going doing to address serious –
Mayor: Yeah, I’m not sure I agree to any of your premises honestly. So let me –
Question: Those are the facts.
Mayor: The premises – because one I want to see them for myself before I agree to them. What I know is the population of Rikers has been going steadily down. Again that –
Mayor: – that may be your view, and that may be accurate. I just don’t know that for a fact, and I want to see that for my own eyes. But the vision of providing more access to mental healthcare – this is happening across the board, and I want to thank Deputy Mayor Palacio and Deputy Mayor Buery who have both been a part of this effort. The vision of reducing the population at Rikers has been continuing successfully. And NYC SAFE is functioning and having an impact every single day. And as I’ve been updated on it, I’ve been impressed by the impact. Now, I think it’s fair to say we have more public announcements we need to make. But in terms of the operations of NYC Safe, I’ve seen steady progress.
Deputy Mayor Palacio: So, NYC Safe is more robust. We are now managing NYC Safe as an operational center out of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. That allows for coordination across providers with protected health information. It allows us to really do assessments of people coming into NYC Safe with a particularly lens of making sure that anybody who has that nexus of violence over the past six months and mental health disorder can be assessed for whether or not they’re appropriate for an NYC Safe type – level of services. We continue to expand the number of people who are NYC Safe. We continue to expand the number of people who are on AOT, which is Kendra’s Law. And those services are being coordinated. We’re actually seeing very good results out of NYC Safe.
Question: What is NYC Safe as opposed to an AOT?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: NYC Safe actually allows us to do a much more flexible and robust array of services even than AOT. We’ve got special teams that are not dependent on the usual payer sources, such as Medicaid, who really can follow people, and meet people, and treat them where they live, where they hang out, where they work. So we’re not waiting for people to come into a doctor’s office. We’ve got multidisciplinary teams that can go out and find somebody on the street, that can deliver services, that can make sure that they are receiving their appointments, that can follow them into the hospital. So really a very dynamic team that can provide the services that people need that can help them get housing. Very robust – much more robust than even the AOT.
Unknown: Two more questions.
Question: I was just curious. At this press conference happening simultaneously with the mayoral candidate Paul Massey. He’s just been asked if he supports expanding stop-and-frisk nationwide, like Donald Trump has proposed, and has said – I haven’t established an answer to that question. And I wondered if you would respond?
Mayor: You know the issue really hasn’t been in the news the last few years, so who could blame him? Yeah, I would suggest you need to have an answer on that one. This was one of the dominant issues of the 2013 presidential campaign. I was sitting at Hofstra University when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton personally debated it on national television. We’ve made announcement after announcement first, with Commissioner Bratton, then Commissioner O’Neill, about the reduction of stop-and-frisk over the last three years – 93 percent reduction since we got here; constant reduction in crime simultaneously. Those are the facts someone who wants to be Mayor of New York City really should know. Yeah?
Question: Chief Boyce, any update on the First Precinct, the jewelry store [inaudible]?
Chief Boyce: Yes. The case is progressing quite well, but I’m not ready – it’s confidential at this point. I can’t put anything out to you right now.
Mayor: I’m going to shake off Eric for a moment. See if I’ve got a few more?
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. I was going to ask you about immigration. Have you seen the new – the new plan that is proposing the Department of Homeland Security on cracking down on illegal immigrants. They are basically announcing today that they have a new plan to crack down more.
Mayor: I’ve not seen the plan. And look, what we’ve found with the executive order was – the original one on immigration – that when we saw the actual wording, we recognized there were huge Constitutional challenges and problems, and we found it very susceptible to legal challenge. Let alone, it was quite clear that the way they might go about pursuing it would only hurt our public safety efforts here in New York City. So, I want to see the exact wording of what’s being proposed. The general thrust from the Trump administration has ignored the fact that the first people he should be talking to are the police leaders of America. And I said this to him, and I said it to the now Attorney General back in November. Don’t consult with politicians. Don’t consult with political-partisan folks. Go talk to the police chiefs of this country about what will keep us safe, and they will explain how important it is to protect the working relationship and dialogue between immigrant communities and our police. So I fear the new proposals again, could undermine that relationship between police and community. But I want to see the specifics before I comment.
One over here. Go.
Question: Your State of the City, Mr. Mayor – I’m wondering when you decided to focus so much on the affordability. You know, I’m sure you have a lot of discussion on the – how did you decide on the focus just on affordability? And the 100,000 jobs plans – where did that number come from? If this booklet isn’t ready yet, how did you, how did you get to that number?
Mayor: State of the City or state of anything, as you know, is a moment people work toward all year. And a lot of thinking goes into it, and a lot of different ideas are bandied about. I’m sure you’re familiar with the fact that literally up to the final days in any government – different parts of the government are trying to get their issues into the speech. It’s considered a very important moment. Really, over the few weeks leading up to this speech, I thought a lot about what I had heard from people all over the city and what I heard at town hall meetings. And I had an interesting after-the-fact confirmation of what I was thinking. I happened to be on the Brian Lehrer Show last week, and he acknowledged that if they took the calls from listeners according to the issue area that they were concerned about, he said 60 or 70 percent of our calls is about affordability, and the fear of displacement, the cost of housing, etcetera. So I had felt that for a long time. I felt that it would be smart to focus on it. As you’ve seen with some other leaders around the country, there’s been some experimentation lately with doing the annual speeches – the “state of” speeches on a major topic, a specific topic – as the leading element. And I felt – you know, look – we had, over the last few years, articulated pretty clearly our vision around policing, around neighborhood policing, reduction of stop-and-frisk, etcetera. We’d articulated the education vision with Equity and Excellence. I’ve come back many times to explain what was happening with that. When I thought about where we needed to add more to the public’s understanding of the direction we were taking, it seemed to me it was around affordability. And that combined for more aggressive efforts on the housing side – so the additional legal aid, and legal services, and the mansion tax – with the fact that we had to do more on the job side and the income side. The 100,000 plan emerged from looking at the strands that were already starting to move and asking how far we could take them, and what was a fair numerical stretch-goal to reach for. And that’s very consistent with how we did the affordable housing plan, how we did the pre-K plan – you name it. You know the question on the table is always what’s in motion, where can we take it, and then push it to its farthest extent. And I thought it was an important thing to focus on and really give people a sense of where we were going and what we could achieve.
Question: People looking at the job numbers over the last 10 years say it’s not really much of a push. It’s not really much of a stretch.
Mayor: Those people are not looking at the last 10 years. Do you see my point?
Mayor: Aha. Okay, what was 10 years ago in our history? Anyone, anyone?
Mayor: Thank you. So we had huge job loss, and then we had impressive rebounding. But the notion that 100,000 jobs at the kind of pay-level we’re talking about is extraordinary, especially because it immediately supports over a quarter-million people. We’ve gotten a little comfortable because we had such extraordinary success over the last couple of years. The first two years alone that I was in office was about 250,000 jobs. The difference now is the keep generating an intensive pace of job creation, but to focus more on the high-paying jobs. That’s going to take government simulative effect, if you will. That’s going to take us doing smart, strategic things to keep growth high. So no, I don’t know anywhere in the country. I don’t know any city, any state that if you said we’re going to do 100,000 jobs, and the goal is to have them be over $50,000 each in salary – I don’t know anywhere where people wouldn’t say that’s a huge change and a huge impact on people’s lives.
Unknown: Last question.
Question: Was the City involved at all in the incident that happened at JFK airport as far as the lack of screening? And are there are any updates you could give?
Mayor: I’m sorry, could you define the situation?
Question: Yeah, 11 travelers were able to enter without being screened through security. I think it was mostly a Port Authority Police issue, but I don’t know if NYPD has been involved in that at all, or if there’s any update as to whether there was a real security threat?
Mayor: I don’t know if Chief Boyce happens to know this. I have not heard of any NYPD [inaudible].
Chief Boyce: We – it’s the Port Authority Police, and if they ask for our help, we of course give it to them. So no, I don’t have an answer for that.
Mayor: Okay, thanks, everyone.