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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Appears Live On WNYC

March 31, 2017

Brian Lehrer: It’s the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC. Good morning, everyone. We begin as usual on Fridays with our weekly Ask the Mayor segment with Mayor Bill de Blasio. Among the developments we’ll talk about today are Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatening the city with $50 million dollars in loss federal aid to the NYPD – at least that’s the amount being estimated – if the sanctuary city policy isn’t ruled back; a new report the Mayor is receiving that recommends closing Rikers Island and replacing it with smaller jails around the city; the Mayor’s plan to help everyone completing a sentence in the City jails get a job; and the State budget endgame in Albany with the new fiscal year beginning at midnight tonight. Is the City about to get supported or whacked by the Governor and the legislature, and is there anything left the Mayor can do about it? Morning, Mr. Mayor, welcome back to WNYC.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, Brian.

Lehrer: And listeners, our lines are open for your Ask the Mayor questions – 2-1-2-4-3-3-W-N-Y-C, 4-3-3-9-6-9-2, or tweet a question with the hashtag Ask the Mayor. Can we start with the report by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman on Rikers? Politico New York is reporting that you’re ready to endorse closing Rikers and replacing it with smaller jails. Is that accurate?

Mayor: Well Brian, sorry to tell you I’m not going to be making any news on this broadcast. I look forward to seeing the report, I have not seen the report or graph or anything like that. We will be having press conference later today at 1:30 pm to say more about the situation. What I can say is that for the last few years we have been studying this issue carefully, and I want to say that Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Judge Lippman – we’ve been in constant communication with them and they’ve made very powerful arguments and that’s been part of our deliberation.

The important point I want to raise right now is over these last few years I said there’s been two things to know – it’s a noble idea and it comes with really big challenges and, you know, logistical and timing issues and all sorts of things that have to be looked at. So, at 1:30 pm we’ll talk about how we considered all those pieces and what we’re feeling now. But I think what the Speaker did and Judge Lippman did was very helpful, helping us think through very complicated, thorny issues.

And the last thing I want to say is what we talked about this week. You know, whatever is going to happen in the future of Rikers Island and our whole jails system beyond Rikers Island, we’ve got a lot we’ve have to fix right now. So we’re focusing right now on additional reforms to keep everyone in our jail systems safer – the inmates and the officers alike – and to prepare our inmates to come out of jail and not end up in trouble with the law again and actually get to a positive, productive life. That work is going to happen for years and years regardless of whatever happens with the long term disposition of Rikers Island.

Lehrer: And I do want to ask you, and give you a chance to talk about some of those reforms that need to take place no matter where prisons or jails are located. But on Rikers, Politico New York’s analysis said this is one of the few issues where you’ve lagged behind your colleagues on a progressive agenda item. Have you – considering what you just said – have you just seen this as more logistically difficult than it’s worth and maybe the idea of closing Rikers rather than reforming it has been more political than practical?

Mayor: Well, it’s a good question, but let me put it this way. I – first, I don’t agree with that analysis from Politico at all. I think it’s very easy for people to call for change without having to actually live with the consequences and all of the realities it causes everyone involved and the taxpayers and everyone else. We really want to be careful and deliberative about this, Brain, because it’s – I got to tell you this was a reality created over decades and decades and figuring out how to resolve it long-term – that wasn’t going to be a snap your fingers choice nor was it going to be something we could implement overnight. This really had to take careful deliberation and I’m very proud to be a progressive, but I’m not going to be a progressive who lies to people about what we can and can’t do. We needed to really look carefully.

One of the things we’ve looked at – and I’ll elaborate more later – but one of the things we looked at the most in this equation –  which has evolved over three years since I got here –  was how quickly was crime going down because that was one of the leading indicators of how quickly we could reduce jail population. Any discussion of getting off of Rikers is academic if there isn’t a constant reduction in crime to bring down the jail population overall. In addition to other important reforms that I’ve been very deeply involved in like alternatives to sentencing, bail reform, great work that’s been done in this city in our three years and before in many cases, to reduce the jail population.

Remember, Rikers and our jail population in general used to be over 20,000 inmates. Today we’re pushing down towards 9,000 so the thing to remember in this whole discussing was could we continue to drive down jail populations so that the discussion of getting off Rikers was even realistic. And we’ll say more at t 1:30 pm but I can tell you one thing, you know, I’ve been very moved by the fact that over three years crime continues to go down and that means that flow of people in to the jail system is being profoundly reduced. That’s opening the door to potential bigger changes.

Lehrer: And you did announce this week new reentry services for inmates being released including guaranteed short-term minimum wage jobs. Can you do that?

Mayor: Absolutely, and I’ll tell you it’s short-term. It’s up to eight weeks, but it’s powerful. We announced this initiative at the Fortune Society, an extraordinary organization that was founded by folks who had been incarcerated and wanted to turn not only their own lives around but everyone else who’s been incarnated lives around, and has spent decades figuring out how to do that. One of the things that has been most effective is providing folks who come out of incarnation with immediate short-term employment.

It – eight weeks doesn’t sound like a long time, but it makes a world of difference. Imagine you come out of a life altering experience where you might not have a lot of hope, you might not have a lot of immediate possibility and you are taken in positively by a place like the Fortune Society who says we’re going to get you back on your feet, here’s a job you can go into right away, then can immediately start helping you finding long term employment. Here’s an amazing statistic, for folks who go in to these transitional employment programs, coming out of jail, they have a 70 percent chance of getting long term employment and being on a stable path. For folks who don’t have these transitional opportunities, it’s only a 30 percent chance of getting long term employment. And the other point is recidivism – we need to drive down the jail population so we have the ability to do bold things in the future. We have to stop people from going back to jail. The ideal is – God forbid anyone go to begin with, but, if they go to jail, let’s make that the last time.

If they get immediate transitional employment coming out of jail that reduces recidivism. If they get opportunities in jail to get training –  job training, education throughout – and that’s the other thing Brian, we talked about every single inmate will have five hours every weekday throughout their time in jail that’s education like GED programs and other education programs, skills training, that also reduces recidivism greatly and that ultimately will reduce our jail population.

Lehrer: There’s been some pushback by people who don’t like the City guaranteeing jobs for criminals and no guarantee for the law abiding. What would you say to that?

Mayor: I think that’s some of our right-wing friends trying to make trouble and ignoring the facts. Here’s what I think New Yorkers want to see – they want to see that if God forbid anyone gets in trouble that’s the last time it ever happens. They want to see rehabilitation. New Yorkers are compassionate and they’re practical. If someone gets in trouble again and goes back to jail, that going to deepen, unfortunately, their chances of ending up in a criminal life. It’s going to cost the taxpayers a huge amount to have people in jail. It’s bad for everyone. If someone makes a mistake, and when I did the press conference a young man there, Leviticus, who had gone to jail, his life was going in the wrong direction, thank God got connected to the Fortune Society, turned his life around, never went back to jail, living a productive life. When that happens, we’ve got someone now who’s contributing to society and they’re not a drain, they’re not a negative, and they’re not costing the taxpayers, and they’re not going the agony for themselves and their family of going back into the criminal justice system over and over. So, a small investment early to break the cycle of incarceration, to reduce mass incarceration, and change people’s lives, I think it’s the most common sense thing in the world.

And you know, you won’t be surprised that I got this question once again from the New York Post and – at my press conference – and I said, any New Yorker who’s looking for a job, we have over 4.3 million jobs in the city. We have the most jobs we’ve ever had. And we have things like our Workforce1 Centers where any New Yorker can walk in the door and get connected to job opportunities. But someone who’s gone through a jail experience and is teetering on the brink on whether their life’s  going to turn around or not, we better damn well give them a helping hand for their good and for all of our good.

Lehrer: Alright, I’ll get to sanctuary cities with you and the Albany budget deadline coming up tonight as we go along here, but let us go to our first caller and it is Stefan in Manhattan, you’re on WNYC. Hello, Stefan.

Question: Hey, Brian. Hey, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: Hey, how you doing, Stefan?

Question: I’m actually at 150 Varick Street so, right down the street from you guys.

Lehrer: You could have walked over down the block

Mayor: You could have walked a block over and got on the show.

Question: I know, I know. So with Trump’s move this week to roll back Obama’s clean power plan, it’s even more clear that local governments need to stand up against the fossil industry but following states – cities like Seattle and divesting. I work for an organization called Grassroots Action New York and we’ve partnered up with the DeFund DAPL and several Native American organizations to lead these Divestment Day events where we help individuals move their money out of big banks like Chase, TD, Wells Fargo, etcetera, that are funding climate killing projects. So now we’re asking local politicians to “put their money where their mouth is” by divesting their own personal assets and moving to a socially responsible bank or credit union. I’ve already spoke to Scott Stringer’s office and they’re interested in participating. You’ve done plenty of speaking against Trump and expressed interest in divesting New York’s funds [inaudible] out of fossil fuel interests. So I’m wondering if you will join us on Saturday, May 13th at Union Square for our next Divestment Day and show they city that you’re really as progressive as you claim to be.

Mayor: Well Stefan, I’m going to take that question in a positive spirit. I am as progressive as I claim to be. I think I have proven it for years. This city, to begin with, to show both our values and my progressive nature, is committed to the goal of 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050. Very aggressive goal where all of our City vehicles – our city cars are going to be electric cars going forward. We’re making huge investments in retrofitting all of our city buildings, literally all of our city buildings and making sure the private sector does the same either voluntarily or by mandate. I can go on and on. So, we’re locked on that we have to fight climate change right here. We’re going to do it more and more aggressively. I do think divestment is an important tool. I have to see what we can do. I’m just going to be straight up with you, I have not come to a final plan. I don’t announce it spontaneously, but I got a lot of time between now and May 13th. I’m very sympathetic to the concept of divestment both for government and for individuals. So I will be in touch with your folks between now and May 13th.

Lehrer: Alright, since you raised Trump administration stuff, let me go on to sanctuary cities. As you know, Attorney General Sessions is ramping up pressure on New York and other cities. One way is releasing lists of individual inmates who sanctuary cities refuse to honor immigration detainers on. There were four such cases in February for New York. Our Beth Fertig has been reporting on this and says the feds list two people charged with intimidation and assault, plus one convicted of possession of obscene materials, and one of “dangerous drugs”. What about protecting a person who commits assault?

Mayor: You know, Brian what I have learned on this whole issue is that ICE is attempting a propaganda move at the behest of President Trump to attempt to mislead, in many cases, people as to what is really going on. Let me be clear, New York City has a city law. We’ve had it for three years, long before President Trump came along. It says there are 170 offenses – you can see them online – they are serious and violent offenses where we will cooperate with ICE, but that is not where most crime is. The vast majority – let’s be clear about the beginning of all this; President Trump is demonizing all immigrants and he is suggesting that immigrants are prone to crime. Those are both false statements. We’ve got half-a-million undocumented folks, another half-a-million permanent resident green card holders. Very few of them commit any crime whatsoever. To the extent they do, they are like most human beings they commit very low-level crimes and very few of them do it; quality-of-life crimes things that are misdemeanors. So, if anyone commits serious and violent crime and is convicted we cooperate with ICE. ICE loves to try and put forward some examples that sound gaudy and exceptional. So far, a lot of them have turned out to be different then what ICE characterized. I’m not going to comment on the four cases because I haven’t seen them. I am confident we have a strong regiment right now and a common sense one. And I have said publicly, we’re going to look at it to see if there is any updating we need to do. But no, I am quite clear this is as much propaganda as anything at this point.

Lehrer: Attorney General Sessions is threatening what would amount to economic sanctions against the City if you don’t cooperate. Here is a clip of Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis of Staten Island, who was on this program on Wednesday, saying $50 million for the NYPD are in your hands.

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis: So, I don’t know that they will comply with the law. They just want to play this political game where they get to blame, you know, the federal government and blame Jeff Sessions and blame President Trump for withholding funds. But they are deliberately not complying with the law and those funds that they do receive is so that our law enforcement – Corrections or NYPD – can comply with detainer request. So, I think, you know, if this is going to be up to the Mayor than it is on him if we lose the money.”

Lehrer: So, let me ask you the opposite question that I asked her on Wednesday which is, is the City safer by losing $50 million to the NYPD from the federal government, than by turning over these convicted and charged criminals to ICE?

Mayor: Brian, I don’t even think it comes to that. I’ll explain why – but first I’ll say Assembly member Malliotakis, who loves to spew right wing rhetoric, obviously has not spoken to Police Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill, who is the individual who gave the instruction to our police officers not to ask for documentations status; not to participate with ICE except under situations dictated by local law regarding those 170 offenses. Why did he do it? Because he believes the City is safer if we consistently tell our immigrant communities – that is one million New Yorkers and a half-a-million of whom are undocumented – that they are part of the City; they are valued, we want to work with them, we will not ask documentation status. They can come forward to police; they can participate fully in society. If they stop feeling that we will become inherently less safe; if people can’t come to the police if they have a problem, if they witness a crime, if they are a victim of domestic violence we become less safe. Don’t believe me, Brian, ask the Police Commissioner and he will tell you. So, so much for the Assembly member who is just playing a political game of her own and doesn’t understand policing making that kind of claim.

Second, on your question – no, we believe this is I said it the day the original executive order on immigration was announced, we believe it is very legally challengeable. We believe the Supreme Court decision in 2012 written by Justice Roberts immediately indicates that this executive order is out of line. And if there is an attempt to defund the NYPD we will go to court immediately to stop it and we believe we are on strong grounds. And anyone who doubts us should remember – and I am sorry to say this but President Obama attempted his own executive action on immigration and localities took him to court and localities beat him. I wish they hadn’t, but it proves that it can be done and we intend to do it here. So, I think President Trump and Attorney General Sessions have put themselves in a box. They claim to want to keep people safer; they are defying the police forces around the country and many major city police chiefs have said very clearly this is a counterproductive approach. And then if they try to move forward they are going to defund anti-terrorism activities and other things that keep us safe. They are going to find out this was a really bad idea.

Lehrer: Just one other thing on this, you had told the assemblywoman at a hearing in Albany that you would be open to adding certain serious crimes that she and others have cited that are not on the list of those that you do cooperate with ICE on.

Mayor: Yup.

Lehrer: That was back in January. It is going to be April tonight – tomorrow morning technically. Do you have any more to add?

Mayor: We’ve gone through a process to look at what might be added and what makes sense. It has been a very careful process working with our Law Department, NYPD. We will have more to say about that soon. Obviously it is something we would be doing in tandem with the City Council. So, we have to have those conversations. But no, I took that concern seriously and we will have more to say on that soon.

Lehrer: Let’s take another call. Kathy in Manhattan, you’re on WNYC. Hi, Kathy.

Question: Hi, Brian. Hi, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing today?

Mayor: Hey Kathy, how you doing?

Question: Good, good. I’m calling as a mom of twins and a small business owner and I grew up in a household, very conservative upstate New York, where women were told – I was told as a girl, girls should be seen and not heard. And I’m just wondering why have the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue just for one year? Why not keep her as a permanent installation downtown?

Lehrer: The statue on Wall Street, by the way we’re going to be doing a separate segment on the Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street later in the program, but Mr. Mayor go ahead.

Mayor: I appreciate the point and so look, originally it was planned as a very temporary installation. Once we saw – I was very moved by how many women and girls felt this was a powerful symbol. By the way, for a lot of – all of us including men and boys who were moved by it because it is – I think it’s not just a statement about women’s empowerment and standing up to this horrible atmosphere of denigration of women that has been created since the election, but it is also a statement about standing up to power. I think the fact that it is at Wall Street and the girl is standing up to the symbol of rampant Wall Street is a second message that is very, very powerful to a lot of people. So, our decision, which conforms to how we do public monuments and statues around the city, was to add a year up until the next International Women’s Day. We have to be careful about anything we do permanently because it will have ramifications for everything else we do in the City. But this gives us time to think about what makes sense for the long term and everyone can safely know that statue will definitely be there until next International Women’s Day to begin with.

Lehrer: And Kathy, what do you say to the sculptor of the original bull that standing there that fearless girl is now facing who says this changes – he doesn’t even like that it is going to be there for a year. He says this changes the meaning of the whole thing. It is supposed to represent the ferocity – I’m putting word in his mouth now, but something like the ferocity of Wall Street top go forth and make money for America. And now it just looks like this intimidating patriarchal thing that is being stared at.

Question: Well, I think that along with that comes change. And with – I know, I took my girls down there and it was such a powerful statement and I believe the City has an opportunity to share that message with the rest of the world. You know, in this country when women are paid the same rate as men; when we are paid for the same amount that men earn for the same job then let’s reconsider.


Mayor: Kathy, I think that is a good formula there.


Lehrer: Then it’s going to be there more than a year, Mr. Mayor.


Mayor: I am not that committed to anything. I think Kathy is arguing the point very powerfully.

Lehrer: And more coming up in the show on the Fearless Girl statue and its meaning.

Tony Danza is calling in, how about that.

Mayor: Wow.

Lehrer: Tony?

Question: Good morning, Brian. Good morning, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: How you doing, Tony?

Question: I’m very well, sir. Thank you very much.

Mayor: Tony, I want to just commend you. I tried some of your smoked mozzarella.


Can I do an on-air endorsement?

Question: That’s very nice.


Mayor: Tony Danza’s smoked mozzarella at his shop in Little Italy – go there right now, New York City. And I’m saying that – I’m a grandson of Neapolitan, so I know something about smoked mozzarella.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: [Inaudible]

Question: Listen, Mr. Mayor, that actually brings me to my question. I’d just like to know what your thoughts are about what I like to call the ‘neighborhood wasting disease.’ You know we have so many longtime establishments that have anchored neighborhoods in this city that are just being pushed out by exorbitant rents. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t know how you legislate that. But I’d just like to know what your thoughts are about going forward. Like, where I live on the West Side, on one block – and this is the truth, this is what’s really kind of startling, is that Starbucks had to leave because they couldn’t pay the rent.

Mayor: Wow.

Question: So, that seems like some crossing of a Rubicon or something –

Mayor: You know you have a problem when Starbucks can’t afford the rent.


Tony –

Question: That’s what I’m saying. So, I just would like to know what your thoughts are going forward.

Mayor: It’s a great question. And, Tony, first of all, thank you for all you do for the city and everything you’ve done as an actor. But before I answer the question, why don’t you remind people what your store is and where it is.

Question: It’s Alleva –

Lehrer: Say it again. The first part of that got clipped. Say it again.

Question: Alleva. It’s on the corner of Grand and Mulberry in Little Italy. It’s celebrating it 125th anniversary in October. It was in the Alleva family for all these years and a few years ago a friend – a couple of friends of mine and I bought into it. We’ve been trying to run it and keep it alive because we end up feeling more like curators than store owners because there’s, you know, because of this thing that’s going on in the city.

Lehrer: This is not –

Mayor: Well, Tony, I think first of all. Your place is amazing and thank you for helping to save it –

Lehrer: This isn’t your Kellyanne Conway moment – plugging a product, right?

Mayor: I’m not plugging a product. I am talking about our patrimony as New Yorkers. This is a store that’s been there 120 years – you said 120 years, Tony, correct?

Question: 125 – 1892.

Mayor: 1892. And it is part of our heritage. And I agree with Tony’s point. We’ve got to figure out every conceivable way to keep these particularly – these extraordinarily, meaningful stores that’s so much the fabric of our community.

Question: You know, Mr. Mayor, not to interrupt but all the stores are meaningful. The smaller mom-and-pop places that I go get my paper in. It’s not there anymore. Just everything. It’s just –

Mayor: Yeah, but Tony, wait a minute. I want to answer your question. But I do – I want to make a little differentiation because I think – I always used to talk about, there was a place called Manganaro’s [inaudible] on Ninth Avenue that was there for also over 100 years that unfortunately closed a couple years ago. My grandfather went there when he first arrived in this country in 1905. I mean some places are –

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: You know, really part of our persona as New Yorkers. I think they need special attention. The public sector has a tough challenge here because we are generally not in the position of subsidizing businesses and we don’t really have another great tool to do it. The first thing I want to say is, this is a case where some people could step up individually. You just did that. So, I want to commend you because there’s plenty of people in this town who have money. There’s plenty of people in this town who have celebrity who could step in and save some of these icons of New York City, and you did the right thing. I would urge more people to do it.

But this is a bigger point about how do we protect small business in general. What we did that we could do, Tony, first, reduce the fines that – and we still have more to do on that. When I was – back when I was public advocate we found that previous administration had a pattern of over-fining stores particularly immigrant stores, particularly outer borough stores are all sorts of examples. But those fines were really making it impossible for a lot of stores to keep going.

We’re steadily reducing the amount of fines. We want health and safety, of course. We want stores to play by the rules but we can achieve that a lot of times without financially burdening them. So, that’s point one.

Point two is we started legal assistance programs and small grant programs for older stores in particular to make sure that they’re not being kicked out because some landlord cheated them on their lease or they didn’t have a lawyer to protect their interests. And again sometimes a small grant can make a big difference for a store. So, we’re trying to innovate. I don’t have a big solution. Some people have talked about tax credits and things like that. The problem is when you compare that to all the other things we need to spend money on, it’s hard to put that over you know policing and schools and so many other challenges we have.

Lehrer: Tony, do you have a policy proposal to make regarding commercial rent?

Question: I wish I did. I’m at my wit’s end. I mean, I don’t know what to say. I mean, you know, I’m particularly, because, you know, as soon as I walk out the building I see the empty stores, places I used to hang out in like the –

Lehrer: Do you want some commercial – and Tony, I’m going to have to move onto another caller in a minute but do you want some kind of commercial rent control which the administration and City Council have not gone for or something?

Question: But at some point we many have to think about something like that. I don’t know how you’d do that in our society, you know? Tell landlords this is, you know, a cap. Or make some of a thing where the increases aren’t so large immediately. So, you know what happens, they come and throw you a big increase and then what do you do? You see what I’m saying? So, maybe if we could moderate that, maybe that could be –

Mayor: Tony said something very important, Brian. He said, “in our society.” Look, let’s be really cold here. It’s a free enterprise society that is not particularly warm and friendly to things like older stores, mom-and-pop stores. I would urge the landlords to be less greedy. If you’ve got a store that’s part of the fabric of a community, guess what, you could stop overcharging and let them survive, and you’re still going to be wealthy –

Lehrer: But urging them to be – like, you know as well as anybody that urging them to be less greedy isn’t going to change anything –

Mayor: I’m not saying I believe –

Lehrer: We have residential rent controls of various types in this city.

Mayor: Yeah, but you also know those were created in a different time. And the challenge on commercial rent control, it’s very legally dubious. Look, the entire – this not a news flash. The entire legal system is based on property rights and supporting a free enterprise system that needs in so many ways more regulation but our legal system isn’t built that way often.

So, I do think we should keep looking for a more stringent solution. I’d be very interested in one but I also want to – I want to lay this out exactly as what’s happening here. There’s a series of individual decisions and some stores are so sacred if you will, some are so important to this city, we should put pressure on those landlords to lay off and let them live. And by the way they add to the character of communities and if you want a capitalist argument, they add to the value therefore because they are part of what make communities special.

Question: You’re preaching to the choir, believe me.

Lehrer: Tony, thank you for adding your voice.

Question: Thank you very much, Brian. Have a great day. Take care, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: Thank you, Tony. Take care, brother.

Lehrer: Thank you very much. Here’s a question from a listener via Twitter. It says, “Why does it take months to get a street light fixed?”

Mayor: It shouldn’t. The answer – if that’s the case, I’d want to know where that is because, Brian, we – when you call 3-1-1 and tell them a street light’s out, that’s supposed to be a very high priority to fix. That should be a matter of days not months. So, if any listener has that kind of situation, let us know through WNYC, and we will make sure that those are knocked off immediately. That’s not hard to do.

Lehrer: Alright. I know we’re running out of time and we need to get to the budget deadline in Albany tonight. Can you give us an update? Is there an endgame issue or two that you’re focusing attention on? Sometimes they surprise us with things that suddenly become possible at the last minute or last minute surprises where the City gets whacked.

Mayor: Yeah, that’s a very caution. We’re watching a couple things in terms of the whacking category very carefully. We’re watching unfair subsidies to charter schools that would take money away from our traditional public schools. We’re watching any deal on 421-a that would cost the taxpayers more. I already think the current deal is costing us more than we wanted without giving us additional affordability but I think there are some in the real estate community and in the Republican State Senate in particular – and I don’t know exactly where the Governor stands on this – who are trying to add to the taxpayer’s bill and subsidize even more private housing. And we’ve been very clear from the beginning of 421-a, it should be about creating affordable housing. It should not be about subsidizing luxury condos.

So, we’re watching that carefully. You know, big areas we’ve been concerned about – funding for homeless that we haven’t seen, funding for affordable housing that we haven’t seen, funding for the Housing Authority we haven’t seen even when it was approved last year or the year before. We still haven’t seen any money. And the Assembly in particular – I want to that Speaker Heastie. They’ve been pushing very hard on the point – the Governor’s made a lot of promises on housing that resulted in almost nothing for the people of New York City. We’re watching carefully tonight to see if that continues or if finally some actual money starts to flow to help us with our affordability crisis.

Lehrer: Have you take a position on the Governor’s free CUNY and SUNY plan or the pushback that seems to be very serious in the legislature that it disadvantages low-income students who attend private college but would lose some of that funding?

Mayor: I don’t know about that last part. I do know that the Governor’s concept is a good one but we are seeing a lot of details that don’t seem to align to the original concept. So, if it’s free tuition for working class and middle class people at CUNY and SUNY – if that’s really what it is, it’s great. But the more we’re looking at the details, the more it looks like something else –

Lehrer: Like what?

Mayor: Just not really free tuition or not free tuition in the sense of being guaranteed by the State government. So, we need to know more about that. The concepts are the right direction. Everything I just talked about is show me the money. It’s really easy to talk in Albany. We have seen precious little actual money flowing our way. And the same on the CUNY and SUNY, great idea. Show us the money. Show us it’s real.

Lehrer: And last thing – and I wonder if this is a sleeper issue up there – the legislature is now just two State Senate votes away from establishing a New York State single-payer healthcare system. No more insurance companies. Jeff Klein and Diane Savino from the independent Democrats breakaway group even got on board this week. The Assembly passed it. The State Senate’s just two votes away. California is considering something similar. Do you have a position on single-payer at the state level?

Mayor: I support it 100 percent and I know Assemblyman Dick Gottfried has been leading the way. I commend him. Yeah, I think that’s what they should do. I think it would be a bold and important move for New York State to adopt a single-payer system. I think it would also be a powerful pushback to what’s going on in Washington right now and the Affordable Care Act. I think with this final point, cities and states need to counter Trump not just with rhetoric and protests and lawsuit but by creating positive progressive policies that start to pull the direction – the country in a new direction. If enough cities and states move, the country moves and we can blow right by Trump attempts to hold us back. So, single-payer in New York State would be a huge step forward.

Lehrer: So, you think this is the moment for that even while they’re figuring out whether to work with Democrats and whether Obamacare can be repaired in some other way?

Mayor: Obamacare is alive and well. That’s what we found out a few weeks ago. It was a huge victory. It’s alive and well, and it’s chances of surviving are greatly increased now. But even Obamacare wasn’t enough. A lot of us wanted to see single-payer all along. Obviously, Bernie Sanders spoke passionately on this. Single-payer is the way to go. It’s the cleanest, most comprehensive, most fair system. If we have an opening to do it in New York State it will actually have a very positive impact on the whole national debate.

When people try and push right, push left as an alternative. You know, reset the spectrum. So, let’s show – just like California has done, for example, on climate change and emissions. Let’s show that we can continue going in a positive, progressive direction and build more and more support that actually inhibits right-wing change.

Lehrer: Mr. Mayor, thanks as always. Talk to you next week.

Mayor: Thank you, Brian.


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