May 12, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Hello, everyone. So, we continue to see folks coming in, ready to get vaccinated and coming into sites all over the city. Yep, there's been some changes over time, no doubt. But what's amazing is everyday tens of thousands of people show up to be vaccinated. Our number keeps growing and that is making us safer and safer as you will see what today's indicators in a few minutes.
So, where are we at today? From the beginning of this extraordinary effort, biggest vaccination effort in history of New York City, 7,228,161 vaccinations given, and we're going to make it easier than ever and more convenient than ever more fun than ever. Incentives continue to be rolled out today. We're announcing gift cards. Everyone likes gift cards. So, if you love our New York City public markets, which had been such a huge hit in recent years you can get a gift card to the public markets when you get vaccinated. If you love the Chelsea Market, all the amazing stuff at the Chelsea Market, you can get a gift card to use at the Chelsea Market when you get vaccinated. I want to thank Google who helping us out and supporting that particular effort.
We're going to be rolling out more and more incentives, all different kinds for every kind of New Yorker, because we want everyone to become part of this. We want everyone vaccinated to make all of us safe. So, look for updates all the time on new incentives, choose the one you like best and go get vaccinated. And now we have the ability to reach hundreds of thousands more New Yorkers amongst our youngest New Yorkers. They are the future of the city. We want them to be safe. So, we're really happy that the FDA has authorized Pfizer for 12-year-olds, 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds, and the CDC is meeting today. We are thoroughly convinced that they will support this effort and approve the ability to go ahead with Pfizer vaccines for young people. So, the Zoomers are going to be eligible, and we are now zooming into action. We have a full plan to reach young New Yorkers and get them vaccinated, and at our Zoomer Vaccination Desk to my right, with an update, our Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi.
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. As a parent, there's nothing more important to me than protecting my child. I watch who she's with, what she's eating, and where she goes, and I know that same care and concern that all parents and guardians have carries over to the decision to vaccinate their child. Today, I want to share with you what we know about the science on the vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds and our next steps in the rollout.
On Monday, the Mayor mentioned, the FDA expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to children ages 12 to 15, and later this afternoon, we do expect a CDC advisory committee to recommend its use, but we want parents and guardians to start preparing now. Based on the FDA report, the safety profile of the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds is strong. It's the same vaccine that has already been administered safely to millions of adults. It will be at the same strength. That means at the same dose and no other safety signals have been detected in the younger age group. In the study of nearly 2,300 adolescents between 12 and 15, half received the two-shot vaccine regimen and half received a placebo. Researchers measured antibody levels triggered by the shots. They found more robust immune responses in the teens than in the young adults who have already been vaccinated in the original trial. There were 16 cases of COVID-19, but all of them were in adolescents who received the placebo indicating strong effectiveness of the vaccine. We'll learn more from today's discussions and starting tomorrow, if all goes according to plan, the City will offer the vaccine to New Yorkers ages 12 to 15 at multiple sites across New York City, another hopeful milestone in our battle against COVID-19. There are over 250 sites on the Vaccine Finder that administer the Pfizer vaccine. These include some of our most iconic locations like the American Museum of Natural History, Citi Field, and Empire Outlets along with other city hubs, Health + Hospitals facilities, mobile sites, community clinics, and dozens of pharmacies across the city.
While vaccine sites throughout the city do accept walk-ups. I encourage everyone to make an appointment by visiting nyc.gov/vaccinefinder or calling 8-7-7-VAX-4-NYC. They can also help you get help with free round-trip transportation to a vaccine site. We will be making appointments available as soon as possible after the CDC decision. Children ages 12 to 15 will need consent from a parent or a guardian, either in person, over the phone or via a written form. We're also actively working with community pediatricians and the Department of Education who will be critical to both administering the vaccine as well as communicating with parents and guardians about its safety. Our work with community pediatricians as part of a broader strategy to shift more and more vaccination to the places and spaces that patients already trust, particularly family doctors, and primary care clinics. I'm pleased to report that as of this week, the Health Department has allocated COVID 19 vaccines to all qualified community providers who have requested an order. So, speak to your doctor about getting your child vaccinated or yourself.
The vaccine allows us all to live our lives, to head to the beach, to go to summer camps or hang out with friends while staying safe. So, as a parent, and as the City's doctor, I urge you to make an appointment. The vaccine will protect your child, your family, and your community, and Mr. Mayor, it might help the Zoomers spend a little bit less time on Zoom.
Mayor: Wow. Dave, you surprised me there combining the two zoom concepts into one. I didn't see that coming. Yes, we would like – definitely like the Zoomers to spend more time away from any kind of screen, and you can do that when you're vaccinated. So, parents, I'm going to speak as a parent, and I experienced the joys of having Zoomers in my life. So, the well, I guess one Zoomer out of two, but look, the bottom line here – this is how you keep your kids safe. You keep your whole family safe and it's such an important thing to do. It is working. Look at what we're showing you every day about how this city is coming back, but it's not just about the city as a whole. It’s about your own life. Vaccination protects you, protects your family. Think about the elders in your life. The ability for everyone to see each other and everyone knowing everyone's safe and how it helps us all get back to normal. So, parents, your younger kids now are going to be ages 12 to 15. Your younger kids are going to be able to be vaccinated. Let's get going. Let's get them vaccinated for the good of everyone, and thank you, Dr. Chokshi for you and all your colleagues making it an easy experience for our children, for our families.
Now, I want to ask an important question of everyone. What week is it? Well, there's only one appropriate answer. It's Streets Week! Streets Week! Although I am looking at the graphic and my specific suggestion, there should be an additional exclamation point each day, has not been followed. I'm very let down, there'll be disciplinary action meted out against the team. It's Wednesday, so it should be “Streets Week!!!” On Monday we talked about safety and enforcement, on Monday, we talked about doubling down on Vision Zero so people can get around the city safely. On Tuesday, yesterday, we talked about busways. We talked about more bus lanes, bike lanes, bike boulevards. We talked about things that are going to greatly expand mass transit options and biking options and continue to make this a better city for everyone today. We're talking about re-imagining our streets further, and this is something we need to keep doing, because what we learned in COVID was there a lot of things we could do differently and successfully, and obviously Open Streets was such a crucial example of the kind of change we need. So, first of all, tomorrow we'll be signing legislation to make Open Streets permanent. This is really exciting because it's been a great experience for so many communities. It's, re-imagining how we use our streets. We're finding new possibilities all the time more communities are coming forward with ideas. We need this to be a permanent thing. That's step one. But now step two, let's go even further with Open Boulevards. Open Boulevards takes the concept of Open Streets and supercharges it – multiple blocks in a row, filled with restaurants, with performances, with community activities. Great for the neighborhood, great for tourists too. This is the kind of thing that people are going to love because all the life and vitality of New York City, all the diversity, all the energy will be on display in these Open Boulevards. So, this is going to be the summer of New York City and the Open Boulevards are going to be a great example of the reason people will flock here to experience what we have in a way no place else on earth has.
Now, we'll be opening 10 Open Boulevards to begin on a rolling basis in the next few weeks. There, you see on your screen the locations around the five boroughs. And it's going to come with a lot of things to identify it as a special place, special branding. It’ll be clear when you're walking into the Open Boulevard that you're coming into something special. There will be places for people to hang out, picnic tables, chairs, things that will make it a real space to just enjoy and gather with others in a safe, positive way. Department of Transportation, leading the way – thank you – partnering well with so many other partners, including NYC & Company. We want to thank them for the great work that they do all the time to encourage tourism. And it's starting, you can see it in a great way. This is a crucial piece of a recovery for all of us, doubling down on what's great for – about New York City, doubling down on the things that make us special, giving us hope and heart and energy as we recover, but also bringing so many visitors in. And everyone will benefit – neighborhoods will benefit, for sure. Restaurants will benefit, the people who work in restaurants who we care about deeply – the folks who started restaurants, built them through no matter what was thrown at them, kept building their restaurants – we want all of them to be strong in the year 2021. So, Open Boulevard is going to help us do that.
And I want you to hear from someone who has been really outstanding as an advocate for all the restaurants in New York City. He has helped us think through new and innovative approaches to bring communities and restaurant and nightlife communities together to resolve issues and move forward together. As Chair of the City's Office of Nightlife Advisory Board, strong voice for small businesses and for the people who, with their restaurants, make this city magical. My pleasure introduced the Executive Director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, Andrew Riggi.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Andrew. Andrew, appreciate your energy. You have been throughout this whole crisis just fighting with great energy. I liked your reference to Winston Churchill. You've been someone who kept fighting no matter what. But let me tell you, I thought about you the other day because I walked down the street and I went by restaurant after restaurant, filled – the outdoors seating, filled up – people happy, people back in their jobs. New Yorkers are loving Open Streets and Open Restaurants and it's something we have found that's going to be a great part of our future. So, you see the good news and you see the rebirth and thank you for being one of the people that helped make it happen.
Now, someone else who will help make it happen. And he started out in this crisis in the City Council, and he believed deeply that we could do new and better things with Open Streets and Open Restaurants. And now, he has ascended to a higher post and he will always make sure that we get the most opportunity for the borough of Queens. And I bet he's going to tell us that there are amazing restaurants in the borough Queens, and he would be right about that. And so, I welcomed for this good announcement, the Borough President of Queens, Donovan Richards.
Mayor: Nice try there, Borough President. I want to say, I like the way you promote multiple causes during your remarks. But the most important thing I could say to you is – I'm coming up on yet another wedding anniversary – is you better take Tamika to a really, really nice open restaurant for her birthday.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards: Absolutely.
Mayor: You have a plan? Are you ready?
Borough President Richards: I booked that a week ago, Mr. Mayor. I'm ahead of you.
A week ago, a week ago. That is extraordinary foresight. I'm impressed. Okay. Say happy birthday to Tamika for me and have a great time.
Borough President Richards: Thank you. Good to see you.
Mayor: Take care. Okay. Now, we believe in activating our public spaces and making them part of our recovery. We also believe fundamentally in equity and addressing the disparities in this city. And so, in the State of the City, I talked about how we need to create new spaces in the communities most effected by COVID – the 33 communities identified by our Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity as the places we need to double down, invest in, help bring back strongly from this crisis. So, we already have projects underway in 20 of the 33 neighborhoods to activate new open spaces for the community. That can mean new public plazas. It can mean expanded pedestrian space. It can mean public markets or new community programming, artistic events, performances. We're going to continue to roll out new examples of each and every kind of this approach for the next weeks ahead. We're going to reach all 33 neighborhoods. The crucial point is to ensure that neighborhoods hit hardest by COVID benefit from the changes we're making, that they really get their fair share that they deserve, and bringing these wonderful activities to the streets is a part of that. So, we're looking forward to that in the weeks ahead.
All right. I told you earlier, our indicators look good. I could give positive indicator reports all day long. So, it's been a very nice stretch these last weeks. Let's keep it going. Here we go. Number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today's report, 90 – 90 patients. So, we continue to have great results. Confirmed positivity, 25.56 percent. Hospitalization rate down to 1.25 per 100,000. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average – today's report, 743 cases. Look at that just continued downward slope. We’ve got more work to do, but that looks really wonderful. And number three, percentage of people testing city-wide positive for COVID-19 – today's report, on a seven-day rolling average, 1.90 percent. Also, constant downward slope, let's keep that going.
Okay. A few words in Spanish, going back to the topic of the Open Boulevards.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, let's turn to our colleagues in the media. And please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: We'll now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, we're joined this morning by Dr. Chokshi, by Dr. Mitchell Katz, and by Department of Transportation Chief Strategy Officer Jee Mee Kim. First question today, it goes to James Ford from PIX11.
Question: Well, right off the top. Good morning.
Mayor: You're a good lead-off hitter, James.
Question: Thanks so much. And a happy Streets Week! from a person who rides his bike to work every day, even though there is no dedicated, separated bike lane in Manhattan between Second Avenue and Eighth Avenue below 110th Street. Just saying, don't mean to sound like Gersh from Streetsblog here –
Mayor: You are a much more buoyant version of Gersh, but you have every right to raise concerns. Tell me again what you were – what you were saying?
Question: Yeah. There are dedicated bike lanes on Second Avenue, north-south, obviously, and Eighth Avenue north-south – none between those two avenues below 110th Street, so I'm riding on the street with the traffic, and so are plenty of other others of us – plenty.
Mayor: All right. You make a passionate case, and we continue to expand and do new things, so I'll be talking to the team. All right. You get your two questions now.
Question: Thanks for that. Okay, onto the questions. First, regarding the boulevards, what are the prospects for making it permanent? And, if so, how soon do you hope that happens? I know on my bike, actually, the Amsterdam Avenue stretch is usually closed off on weekends. How what are the prospects for making this permanent and how soon?
Mayor: So, let me put it in the context of everything we'd done. I'll start and I'm going to turn to Jee Mee Kim, who's the Chief Strategy Officer at Department of Transportation to add. James, look, what we're doing here is taking something that will be permanent, Open Streets, and something else that will be permanent, Open Restaurants, and we're taking a bigger approach with the Open Boulevards and creating these focal points where people can go on from multiple blocks and really experience the joy of this. I think it's just going to be a wonderful, festive atmosphere. So, the tools will be in place because both Open streets and Open restaurants as approaches will be permanent. I think, as with many things, we want to try it for a while and see how it goes and decide if we want to formalize it more. But we have the legal tools we need with those two actions as they are finalized to continue this approach. Jee Mee, do you want to speak to that?
Chief Strategy Officer Jee Mee Kim, Department of Transportation: Yes. And James, thank you for your comments on the protected bike lane gap in Manhattan. I will immediately raise that to the team after this call. But on Open Boulevards, you know, as the Mayor has said, you know, we are excited that we can, you know, start this program immediately. And it's really based on the success of the partners and the businesses and, you know, really the concerted efforts and enthusiasm of the residents and folks who live around there. So, really, I mean, I think the goal is, if this is a huge success – and I have a strong feeling that it will be this summer – you know, I don't see why we couldn't, you know, contemplate rolling it out on a permanent basis. I mean, so much of this sort of, you know, COVID-related experiments that we did last year, and huge credit to the Mayor for that, have really evolved and have gained traction and popularity. And so, I'm really excited to, you know, see how Open Boulevards, you know, how it rolls out this summer and potentially see where it goes from there.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead, James.
Question: And thank you, Ms. Kim, for the attention regarding the protected bike lanes as well. My second question is from my colleague Nicole Johnson, regarding an attack this morning on an MTA employee, and it's the latest in a series of subway attacks. Can you respond to that please, Mayor? And do you feel that we're seeing an increase generally? And what message is that sending to New Yorkers and to people who are coming in as tourists from out of town?
Mayor: James, look, any attack on an MTA worker is unacceptable. We have a lot of police in the subways. They have proven that if, God forbid, anyone commits an act of violence, they will be found, they will be prosecuted, they will suffer the consequences. We're going to keep a strong presence in the subways. We're going to do all the things we need to do to bring this city back. And I really think there's a direct interconnection now. The more people come back to the subways, the safer they will get. Remember, pre-pandemic, literally, there was about one index crime per million riders each day. We can get back to that, but we need to bring the city back. So, this is a case where public safety and economic recovery, all the pieces go together, and certainly from what we're seeing from the economy, we're seeing about jobs coming back, activity coming back, I am very hopeful that's going to help us turn the corner in every sense.
Moderator: The next is Marcia from WCBS.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing today?
Mayor: Good, Marcia. How are you doing?
Question: I'm okay. Thank you. So, my first question, it has to do with the homeless. Coming out of the pandemic, the safety of all citizens has become even more complicated. It's now dangerous for both the homeless and for other New Yorkers, dealing with the people on the street who are mentally ill. Yet your point person, Steve Banks, is completely unavailable to ask about the situation. I'm wondering why he's not at these news conferences or willing to do interviews with journalists to explore solutions. We've asked repeatedly and have gotten radio silence. Will you make him available to us?
Mayor: Yeah. Marcia, I'm sorry to hear that. We will make available a whole range of people who can speak to this issue, including certainly Steve. It's important that we show all the tools that are being used right now. Marcia, I remember you were with us the day we announced the Journey Home approach and those outreach workers, who go out in the subways, go out in the streets, who bring the homeless in, have done extraordinary work even in the midst of the pandemic. I really honor these young men and women who have been out there putting their heart and soul into getting homeless folks to come in, accept shelter, get mental health services, get substance misuse services, turn their lives around, never go back to the streets or the subways. So, you're going to see a lot of that as we move forward. And we want to tell that story because it's actually been quite exceptional what has been achieved. Go ahead, Marcia.
Question: So, my second question has to do with the increased use of bikes and your increased bike lanes, which is very popular with a lot of people. And I'm sure with all New Yorkers, as well as tourists who can rent Citi Bikes. But one of the things that CBS-2 crews have noticed in the last, you know, since the weather got better is the fact that there are a lot of people who maybe don't know the rules of the road, they’re riding up the wrong streets, the wrong way. They go through red lights. They put themselves in dangerous situations where they could be killed or injured because they don't know what they're doing. I wonder what your solution is. Would you consider, for example, putting license plates on bicycles so that police officers would have a better chance of giving people violations if they're not doing the right thing? Because a lot of this is really dangerous and it's an accident waiting to happen, so to speak.
Mayor: Yeah, Marcia, you've raised this before, and you and I, I think, have seen eye to eye on this one. I do think we need to do a lot of things to improve safety for everyone. It is great that more and more people are biking. It is great for our health. It is great for our environment. It is great for fighting climate change. It's great for reducing congestion on the roads. We are expanding bike lanes constantly, especially protected bike lanes. So, this is the foundation, you know, give people positive, safe spaces to bike. But we've got to do a better job at educating everyone to their responsibilities and having the right kind of enforcement when there's a problem. I think ideas like license plates certainly need to be considered because we're going into a new world. We're going into a new world where more and more people are biking and that's great. But in some ways, we have to catch up with that reality. So, I think that's the kind of idea that now needs to be explored.
Moderator: The next is Michael Gartland from the Daily News.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: There you go, Michael. Come on. We didn't hear you there. How are you doing?
Question: Sorry. Couple of questions. First one, on, you know, administering vaccines to the younger segment, the 12 to 15. Does the City have any plans, you know, to kind of – separate from what it's already doing to kind of calm people's fears about vaccines. I mean, you know, having kids vaccinated is a little bit of a different proposition for parents. You know, does the City have anything else in store to kind of calm parents who might be afraid that, you know, that there are things that they need to be afraid about? I mean, what – do you have anything, I guess, else kind of in the hopper for that?
Mayor: Well, let me turn to Dr. Katz in a moment – excuse me Dr. Chokshi in a moment and Dr. Katz, he can join in as well. But, Michael, I would say this as a parent, I think the vast, vast majority of parents, their number one thought throughout each day is the safety and wellbeing of their kids. And the fact is that parents have had to worry about this disease and its impact. And that means seeing the evidence of vaccination has radically reduced this disease will mean a lot to parents. They're seeing evidence before their very eyes of what an impact vaccination has made for all of us. And it's a way to keep their kids safe. I also think most people believe in vaccination. I think there's been people who haven't gotten vaccinated because it wasn't convenient to them or whatever else, but not any opposition to it. Most people believe in it. Some people have questions they need answered. That's why pediatricians are so crucial. But I think what we're going to see is that the clear majority of parents will want their kids vaccinated and we'll be there to help them when they're ready. Dr. Chokshi you want to add?
Commissioner Chokshi: Thanks, Mr. Mayor. I'll just add briefly to what you've already outlined. The starting point here is, of course, empathy. As parents, as doctors, understanding, of course, that you want to be absolutely sure when it comes to the safety of your own child. And so that's why our approach has to revolve, as it always has, on the science, the evidence-base for the vaccines, both in terms of safety, but also making sure that we communicate about how the benefits significantly outweigh the risks, which they do in this case. And so, that communication will occur along a number of different dimensions, but I'll just pull out two. One is, yes, we do plan to have, you know, dedicated efforts through our public service campaigns, you know, through working with media to reach both young people themselves as well as parents who, of course, have to be involved in this decision. And the second dimension is what the Mayor has mentioned which is enlisting pediatricians. The American Academy of Pediatrics, you know, community pediatricians, so many people have gotten behind the vaccination effort and we have to rely on that because we know that parents and kids trust pediatricians. So, it's about equipping them with the information that they need, as well as the vaccine to have those conversations and actually to get kids vaccinated.
Mayor: Thank you. Dr. Katz, do you want to add?
President and CEO Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: I would just add as a parent that the days that my 17 and 19-year-old got vaccinated, I was so happy. I felt such a sense of relief, and I felt bad for my friends whose kids were below the age of 16, that they had to wait to experience that joy of knowing that your child is projected. Health + Hospitals is ready, sir, to – with our pediatricians to vaccinate all of the kids who come to Health + Hospitals and give them that vaccination and the parents that sense of protection. Thank you, sir.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Michael.
Question: The second question I had has to do with what's going on now between Israel and the Palestinians. You know, Andrew Yang got into a little bit of hot water voicing, you know, kind of full-throated support for Israel in this conflict. And I was wondering, you know, if you can weigh in on what your thoughts are on it, and also, you know, how elected officials, politicians, people running for office, what they say can kind of get blown up in kind of such short – in such, kind of, a quick manner.
Mayor: Well, that's a huge question, Michael. Let me speak to the very painful situation we're seeing play out in the Middle East right now. But, you know, I think the bigger point you're raising, my simple, sort of, boil down is that anyone who's speaking about issues this complex and difficult should speak from the heart and ideally speak from some experience and not do it, you know, as a throwaway line or for expediency, but really think about the meaning here. I have been numerous times to Israel. And I, on one of my trips, went to the town of Sderot, which is very close to Gaza and has suffered rocket attacks. And I remember very vividly going to a childcare center and it was this big, beautiful space for kids to play in, except for one thing. It was made of highly reinforced concrete because parents had to worry that while their children were in the middle of playing, a rocket could rain down on them. And it was so painful as a parent to see that. So, what's a hundred percent clear is that the targeting of civilians is despicable and unacceptable. But we also have to get to the common humanity here. If you spend time talking to Israelis, talking to Palestinians there and here, you've got to recognize the humanity on both sides of this conflict. Children are dying on both sides of this conflict. It's absolutely unacceptable, it needs to end. There needs to be a ceasefire. There needs to be a different approach. I'm someone who believes in a two-state solution. I think the absence of that two-state solution is simply holding back the possibility of peace. But what's clear is people are suffering on both sides. This status quo is broken and the underlying conflict in the last few weeks, it just has to – there has to be either a compromise or a willingness to just stop before more tensions and pain occur. That's my feeling about it.
Moderator: Next is Juliet from 1010 WINS.
Question: Yeah. Hi, Mr. Mayor. I have a question about your Open Boulevards. I'm very familiar with Ditmars Boulevard there, the area between 33rd and 36th, and this is a highly commercial area with two-way traffic. So, if you're closing those streets, what happens to the traffic that will go along or the delivery trucks? Because the side streets there are primarily residential. So, would there be a plan to divert traffic in a certain way? Otherwise you're just going to have backup around that whole area.
Mayor: Yeah. Juliet, it's a really fair question. I'm going to turn to Jee Mee Kim, again who is the Chief Strategy Officer at DOT, in just a second. But this is a really great question because it points out that whatever you do, there's going to be impact on either side of the equation. But Juliet, here's what I'd say, we're in a really extraordinary moment, coming out of such pain, but moving aggressively to recovery. We've got to do things that fuel recovery. We got to do things that bring back the life and vitality in New York City. And we found in the crisis new opportunities with the Open Streets and the Open Restaurants and now combining them into sort of these Super Open Streets, these boulevards, really offers us an opportunity to bring back lots of jobs, to give people a lot of hope, to bring back tourism. I think there's a lot of pluses here, but your question's fair. How do you compensate then and make sure that things work? So, Jee Mee, you do strategy for living, help us understand how you strike that balance.
Chief Strategy Officer Kim: Yeah. Juliet, that's a great question. And, you know, the way we identified these Open Boulevards were at locations that were already operating, that already demonstrated success, that had the commitment of the commercial businesses, the restaurants, the partners who are operating the facility, I mean the street. And I think this is really sort of an underlying tension, the competition for the streets. But on Ditmars, in particular, we did – we do have a plan. Vehicles can use parallel routes. They can use 21st Avenue, they can use 23rd Avenue, all the cross streets will remain open. And, you know, all of the improvements or, you know, the reason why the Open Boulevards and all the Open Streets are temporary, is that we're trying them out. And I think that, you know, based on how, you know, everything, how it balances out and hopefully it will be a rearing success and folks will get used to driving around these streets, I think at the end, we're going to see a net benefit for the community and the businesses.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Jee Mee. Go ahead, Juliet.
Question: Okay, yeah. I mean, it is – I just see that as a quality of life issue for the people who live around there and, you know, what happens when their streets are jammed up –
Mayor: Yeah, Juliet –
Question: [Inaudible] direction –
Mayor: Juliet, I want to note before your second question, I want to note that this is why, to Jee Mee’s previous point, previous question, you know, we really think this is going to work and the extraordinary value add, but again, we try it. We try it, we see how it goes, and then we can build upon it, or we can make adjustments. So, that's the beauty of this approach, but go ahead, Juliet.
Question: Okay. Thank you. So, my second question regarding the transit system. I had spoken with Transit Chief Kathleen O'Reilly the other day about the problem with what she calls prolific repeat offenders in the subway. She told me of a case of a suspect who's been arrested 13 times in the past year for stealing phones. There was another person arrested 65 times. Most of those arrests in the subway for pickpocketing, and she and others are advocating banning repeat offenders from the system. So, I was wondering what your thoughts are on that, and how could that work?
Mayor: Yeah, first of all, I think Chief Kathy O'Reilly is doing a great job. She's been aggressive and creative in surging officers into the subways to address specific challenges, really strong example of precision policing and more to come. And I agree with her, if someone has committed repeat offenses in the subways, they don't belong in the subways. That's another form of consequence. You know what it's – if you do that to your fellow New Yorkers, there has to be a penalty. And I think that's a very fair approach.
Moderator: The next is Dave Evans from WABC.
Question: Hey, Mayor, I wanted to just back up for a second about the, I think, there've been four attacks this morning on the subway. There were two at 42nd and 7th, one on an MTA worker and then a person who was just sitting there got slashed in the face. I started taking the subway probably six weeks, maybe two months ago. And for many of us it is a scary, scary situation on the subways. And you said things will get better as more people get on the subway. Is it incumbent upon us to make the subways safer?
Mayor: Dave, this is the work of the NYPD every day. We have thousands of officers in the subways. We added another 600 some weeks ago. We're keeping them there. We'll make additional adjustments as we need to. We have a huge amount of outreach effort being done to get folks in who, God forbid, if they have a mental health challenge, we have crisis teams that can intervene quickly. But I really do believe that it's not about who is it incumbent upon. It's just about truth. It's just about reality. As the life of the city comes back, these issues do in many ways get addressed because we know it from what we saw for years and years and years. Crime went down and down and down in the subway. The subways again, before the pandemic, one index prime per million riders. We will get back there again. It's just as simple as that. We will bring back the life of the city, all the life of the city, and we will use the NYPD wisely. And that will turn this situation around. It won't happen overnight because we're coming out of a massive, massive disruption, but it will happen. Go ahead, Dave.
Question: My other question, completely different topic about what you talked about at the beginning, with the vaccines becoming available for 12 to 15-year-olds. Maybe this is just clarification, but I seem to remember seeing on the news yesterday that a lot of places around the country started doing this already. And then the CDC is supposed to vote this afternoon. I don't know if somebody jumped the gun and started doing it in other parts of the country or what? But can you clarify what's going on, and the CDC, what exactly they need to do before you all can start tomorrow?
Mayor: Yeah, I guess there's some surplus enthusiasm out there in some parts of the country. I mean, look, it really is a great thing. I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi, but it really is a great thing, Dave. Hundreds of thousands of young people can now be protected. And it is part of this miraculous effort with the vaccines. Really, we should stop and just recognize that, you know, a year ago at this time, everything we were going through and the question of would there ever be a vaccine. And the fact that the vaccine actually arrived before 2020 was over, it was a miracle. And now that we're being able to give it to young people is extraordinarily positive and helpful. So, in terms of the next immediate steps, Dr. Chokshi?
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And yes, it's a chance to offer the clarification. What happened on Monday, the FDA essentially paved the way by expanding the emergency use authorization. But as we've seen you know, throughout the last few months, that's only the first step. It then goes to the CDC, particularly the advisory committee on immunization practices, which issues a recommendation about whether or not to use the vaccine clinically. Which then goes to the CDC director for formal sign-off. That's the part of the process that we expect to happen later today. And it's an important one from the perspective of ensuring the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. It's an open discussion, you know, open to the public as well as to health care professionals, for people to ensure that we have full transparency with respect to the data and the science. But I think what you've seen is that there is a huge amount of enthusiasm, particularly among parents to get their kids vaccinated. And so, we'll be ready as a city, you know, starting tomorrow. And we do expect that many people will bring their kids to get vaccinated soon.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead.
Moderator: The next Yoav from The City.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. I wanted to ask you about the latest federal monitor's report on Rikers Island. It seems to leave very little room to argue that things aren't moving in the right – that things aren't moving in the right direction. Can you comment on the findings? What's your assessment of what's happening there?
Mayor: Yoav, I've seen a summary and I think as we have seen with this monitor throughout, the monitor is very clear and I'm going to push you back a little bit here, my friend. He's very clear about the improvements that have been made and the things that are being done to reform against the backdrop that was really, really broken. When we received the Department of Correction eight years ago, it was extraordinarily broken. We have proceeded to activate a plan to get off of Rikers once and for all. We're ending solitary confinement entirely. We've made a huge number of reforms and changes – cameras all over, much better accountability mechanisms. And the monitor says all that. And the monitor also says there's a lot of things that need to be improved and changes that have to be made. Which we see a lot of truth in, and we're making those changes. It's a very, very tough dynamic, especially because on top of everything else, we went through COVID. And that required even more challenges to be addressed in our Correction system. But I think this monitor has always struck a fair balance. And we take the recommendations to heart and we're acting on them. Go ahead, Yoav.
Question: The report did use the term disorder and chaos to describe a bit of what's going on. It said that the department had failed to properly manage how staffers are deployed, criticized their response to crisis situations. And as you said, it's been eight years. I understand why you would focus on the positive aspects, but why can't you equally speak transparently about what's going wrong? And what's, you know – I guess who's to blame for the failures that have continued over these eight years?
Mayor: Yoav, again, real respect, you're doing your job, but I just really see the world differently than the way you frame the question. It's a very difficult situation. Correction is difficult to begin with. A broken system we inherited, then a pandemic and yet profound changes and reforms have happened. Is it enough? No, we've got more to do. And that's why I said, you know, the monitor’s there. We're working with the monitor. The monitor has proposed specific changes that were put into place. We, for example, I've been critical about some of the approaches with staffing. We are bringing in additional officers to address that. But we also know the staffing challenges were created by COVID in large measure, where we have to spread officers out. We needed more facilities when we've been trying to actually reduce the number of facilities. Now that situation is finally changing. Court systems are back up and running. People are being sent out of our Correction system, to State prison. That's reducing population. We're being able to get to smaller spaces. We need less officers for that. A lot needs to be done, but I do appreciate the real changes that have been made. And I appreciate that we take these criticisms from the monitor and we're acting on it.
Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Gersh from Streetsblog.
Question: Well, how's everybody doing today?
Mayor: I am doing fine. Everyone's doing fine. But Gersh, how many exclamation points should be in Streets Week! today? What is your personal view?
Question: As an old tabloid reporter Mayor, I never do more than one. Two is ridiculous. Three is acceptable, but I always do one. I like your exclamation marks. And in fact, I wanted to talk to you about that because it is day three of Streets Week! with the exclamation mark. And I have been using it. And you just said something in response to a fair question from Marcia Kramer, that is so anathema to safe cycling that I have to follow up. And, you know it, cyclists are already subject to the same rules as drivers in terms of speed limits and red light tickets. Many cyclists get the exact same summonses as drivers, despite this incredibly lower safety risk of a cyclist. You know, you go through a red light on a bike, you're getting a $190 ticket too. So, as you know, requiring bike riders to register human powered devices will greatly reduce cycling and therefore reduce the well-documented safety in numbers effect. Which is an effect you benefited yourself yesterday on the Second Avenue bike lane. So, what pray, tell are you talking about when you say we should consider license plates for bikes?
Mayor: Dear friend, what pray tell, am I talking about? I'm talking about what I regard as common sense, that as more and more people use bikes, I think it's the kind of thing we should look at. Because I don't accept that simple orthodoxy of things that might help create more safety are anathema to people embracing biking and expanded bike use. I think there is a school of thought that says that. I just don't accept that school of thought. I don't think it's a proven or even provable. I think we need to combine more and more use of bikes, more and more use of mass transit, but also think about what are the factors that will increase safety in a very crowded city? So, I think it's worth looking at. Go ahead, Gersh.
Question: I was actually going to ask a totally different question. But I got to follow up because you're going with your common sense, you know, gut reaction, which is fine. But research shows – we've discussed this, but research shows there is a safety in numbers effect. On the Second Avenue bike lane for example, one of the problems there is actually too many – too little room for cyclists ,which as a result creates some of the dangers that Marcia’s fair question was raising. So, instead of putting license plates on bikes, which as, you know, cyclists are subject to the same tickets that drivers are subject to and receive them as you know. Why not create, as you are doing, create more safe routes for cyclists and then you would see as research shows a drop in the kind of behavior that Marcia was talking about?
Mayor: I don't think it's one thing or another. I mean, again Gersh, I really appreciate the energy of all your questions, but I also think they come in with a worldview and I'm going to challenge the worldview. I think you have to do all the above. I think we have to continue to expand bike lanes. We have to continue to educate cyclists. We have to continue to have the right kind of enforcement. And we need more and more emphasis on safety. And I don't think they are discordant. I think it's an evolutionary dynamic. I think one area where you and I would warmly agree is that cycling is being more and more a part of the future. But as it becomes more and more a part of the future, we have to think in, I think, a deeper way about safety. So, I think we need to examine the things we have not yet done and not dismiss them. I oppose orthodoxy. And there's been some orthodoxy around, Oh, we can't even talk about things like license plates. I think we should talk about them. I don't think there's any danger in examining them. But I also fundamentally believe more and better bike lanes is crucial to the future.
Moderator: Last question for today. It goes to Steve Burns from WCBS 880.
Question: Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you?
Mayor: Good, Steve. How you been?
Question: I am all right. I wanted to follow up on some of Yoav’s questions about Rikers and the report. I know you've detailed kind of your worldview on this, but I just wanted to bring another number to your attention here. That back in May 2016, there were 390 uses of force per month, December 2020, there were 648. So, just using that metric is a very basic fundamental look at how things are going on Rikers. Things have gotten markedly worse in the past five years. So, you know, how can we, you know, adequately say there have been improvements when you see that fundamental metric, their uses of force, getting so much worse over that time?
Mayor: Steve, again, we've got a lot of different moving parts when it comes to Correction. And it's an area that isn't for most of us, our expertise, but we do our best to come up with the right policies. It gets sort of sporadic coverage in the media. I don't know if we're having even the right conversation about everything it takes to make the Correction system work. I do know the basic reforms we put in place, get off Rikers Island once and for all, it’s an 80 or 90-year-old facility, its time has come and gone. It is – Rikers itself is inhibiting reform and change and humanity. Get off of Rikers, go to humane modern borough-based jails. We're doing that. End punitive segregation, solitary confinement, we're doing that. Continue to reform the way we staff, we're doing that. When we were in the midst of COVID, get in this case it was 1,600 inmates out to protect them and to protect everyone else. We did that. This is what I think proves you can make change in such a complex, challenging environment. But I hear you, when I hear a number like that, it's unacceptable. It means we've got a lot better to do. But I would also note that that last number you gave included the COVID year, when everything became harder to address. When everyone was dealing with intense challenges and emotions. And staffing was down because people were out sick. There were a lot of special challenges in 2020 that need to be regarded. I am convinced we can turn this situation around because we've made major reforms and they've been working. But we've definitely got a lot more to go. Go ahead, Steve.
Question: All right. Thank you. And on the subject of law enforcement in general, at the City Council hearing yesterday, the NYPD’s budget, it became kind of clear that your Police Commissioner just has different views on some fundamental law enforcement topics than you do. I mean, you've hailed the drop in the prison population in the city as a good thing. He sees it as possibly contributing to a rise in crime. He’s cited bail reform as something that's contributed to a rise in crime yet still there's been no proven correlation to that. And I know you likely feel differently. As well as the MTA issue. He repeated some of the MTA’s lines about people needing to feel safe. So, I don't need you to respond to each of those individually, but just in general it seems like this Police Commissioner has very different views on fundamental law enforcement topics from you. And given that he's your appointee how do you kind of square that?
Mayor: I appreciate the question. I think it's a very thoughtful question, the way you've laid it out, Steve. But I would put it in the context of eight years. I, you know, I've known the Commissioner since the very beginning as Mayor. He was deeply involved in the creation of neighborhood policing, which has been the central strategy that we've used. Obviously working with CompStat and precision policing. You know, that to me is where we’ve had extremely high levels of alignment. That we believe we've got to do a lot to keep binding police and community together. I'm not going to go point by point over everything you'd say. I would actually say in a number of areas, if you look at what I've said, and he said, you will find some real similarities. But yeah, sometimes there are some differences of opinion, but that's not shocking, obviously. What does matter going forward is we are doubling down on neighborhood policing. We're doubling down on bringing police and community back into alignment after the disruption last year. And we know it can be done, and we're seeing it happening. The Commissioner is very focused on young people. If you remember the State of the City right before the pandemic, we talked about his initiative to focus on young people and reorient the NYPD to constructive, positive relationships, helping young people, helping them avoid at-risk activity. That's where so much of his heart is. So, I think we've got a lot of the game plan we need. There's more to do, but we got a lot of the game plan we need.
And really, it's about turning things around and bringing the city back. And again, I said it before, and I'll conclude with this. We went through a global pandemic. We went through a disruption. There's literally no parallel in the history of New York City for the disruption we went through. There was no time previously in our history where so much of life, as we knew it, ground to a halt. And so much disruption occurred. And so much dysfunction occurred as a result. But now we see things coming back to life rapidly. And as the city comes back to life, it's going to play a crucial role in helping us address and reduce crime. And Steve, I'll tell you something. I know what works because I saw my own eyes for six straight years, same New York City, six straight years, heavy emphasis on neighborhood policing and precision policing. It made us the safest big city in America. Global pandemic disrupted that. We're now putting the pieces back together quickly, energetically. And that's the way forward. And it's absolutely crucial to our recovery to be safe, but our recovery will fuel our safety as well. The two will go hand in hand. And that's where I see us going in the months ahead. Thank you, everybody.