July 30, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everyone. It is a great pleasure to be here in the Bronx, as always. And we’re really pleased today to be talking about a major step forward for a vision of a more affordable city. My administration has made increasing affordable housing a very high priority – a goal of making New York City a place that people can actually afford, a place that every kind of person can live in. This is essential to our vision. And it is essential to the larger notion of creating a more fair and just city. We know people all over this city are faced with the challenges of a cost of living that is so high in general. Well, the biggest piece of that, of course, is housing. And if we’re going to create more opportunity and more fairness, we have to go right at the problem of affordable housing. In May, we announced the most ambitious affordable housing plan that any city in the country has ever undertaken – to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing, enough to house half a million people. We intend to do that over the course of the next decade. And since that announcement we’ve been hard at work achieving this goal.
I want to thank the members of the administration. I hope people realize the extraordinary work, the extraordinary effort they put in every day. I said to Alicia and Vicki and Gary that we were going to try and do something unprecedented, but something absolutely necessary for the present life of this city and, even more importantly, for the future of this city. It takes a certain bravery to take on roles that involve doing something that’s never been done before, but these three public servants have lived up to that expectation and I think in their own way they relish the challenge. So I want to thank our Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, our HPD Commissioner Vicki Been, and our President of the Housing Development Corporation Gary Rodney. And of course want to thank our partners in this work – and we are particularly appreciative to our hosts today – the Highbridge Community Development Corporation that’s done extraordinary work in affordable housing. You can see right around you what they have achieved. And our colleagues in elective office who play a crucial role in all of our efforts – Comptroller Scott Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz. You’ll be hearing from both of them in just a few minutes.
This initiative is so important because it leverages both public and private dollars. This is essential to the vision we have of maximizing investment of all kinds so we can achieve these extraordinary goals. Partnering with Comptroller Stringer and the Community Preservation Corporation and Citibank, we’ve been able to create a $350 million fund to finance thousands of affordable multi-family units. And this is a real collaboration. It takes real teamwork to do this and the city’s own Housing Development Corporation is playing a spark-plug role in this effort by putting up an initial investment of $20 million. So everyone’s playing a key role, everyone is helping each other to maximize their involvement. CPC – a critically important community development financial institution – is central to this effort. And the private investment of course is deeply necessary for what we’re doing here today and everything that we intend to do in our plan. I’m very very appreciative that we have the involvement of Citibank in this effort. And I want to express my personal appreciation to Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat for his personal involvement here today and for his commitment to New York City – or Citigroup’s commitment to New York City. It’s very very important – companies that are here invest in the future of this city and the people of this city. And Citigroup is doing that and I want to thank them.
Since 2006, Citibank has financed over $6 billion in affordable housing projects in New York alone. It’s the fourth year in a row they ranked as the nation’s top affordable housing lender. I want to commend them for that and I want to let them know they’re going to have a lot more business with this administration. And they’re serving as the lead lender and agent for this facility. They’re contributing $75 million to the fund that we are announcing today.
And I want to thank our other major funding partners – Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, and Bank of America – and all the other banks that are participating in this initiative. Crucial as well is the involvement of the New York City retirement systems, our pension funds, and the city’s Housing Development Corporation. So, many many players coming together in common cause here.
This new initiative will allow CPC to provide $350 million for for-profit and not-for-profit developers. So they’ll be working hand in hand with my administration to strategically acquire, rehabilitate, and preserve multifamily housing. And a lot of this housing will be neighborhoods that need it most, neighborhoods that have historically been underserved.
Now, if you want to get a sense of what this looks like in an average New York City neighborhood, we happen to have gotten a handy photo here. That is I think about a ten-unit building – classic New York City apartment building. These are the kind of buildings that you’re going to see renovated as part of this effort. This example here is funded by an older CPC revolver loan that reflects the kind of buildings that will benefit going forward. And for people who will get these units – and I really want to emphasize this, sometimes we talk in funding numbers, we talk in the abstraction of our overall goals, but let’s put this in human terms – for that one family that gets an affordable unit that was stressed and trying somehow to make it in this city and constantly struggling to get the money together for rent, that family that finally gets an affordable unit – nothing can be more life changing. It sets that family on an entirely different course. And every single one of the units we create will have that profound impact on the families of this city. That’s why this work is so crucial.
We depend on a partnership at the community level to make this work and the Highbridge Community Development Corporation is an example of a great partner for the city. I want to thank Monsignor Don Sakano, who is legendary in the history of affordable housing in this city.
You are – you’re legendary.
I told Monsignor, I have come back from the Vatican with instructions for him. I have a letter from Cardinal Perolin for you. He says, build more affordable housing.
And Highbridge has been the non-profit owner-manager of 2,400 units of housing in the South Bronx. So we all celebrate in incredible rebirth of the Bronx in recent decades. Highbridge Community Development Corporation has been a big part of that.
The initiative we are announcing today specifically aims at providing construction loans for renovating buildings between 20 and 100 units because those are the backbone of so many neighborhoods that working people live in in this city. It’s going to allow for the upgrading of apartments and very importantly it’s going to allow us to do energy retrofits in these buildings. You’re going to be hearing a lot more from this administration about the question of energy retrofits in the coming weeks.
As you know, in September there’s a UN summit on climate change and on all that we need to do to address climate change. We in the city of New York will have a series of plans that we put forward in the coming weeks and months, but here’s one example right away – taking the process of renovating housing so it’s affordable to people, available to people, but at the same time doing energy retrofits that make the housing more cost-efficient for everyone involved and are better for our environment. So a lot of good is being done simultaneously in this effort.
I think a lot of you in the press corps know that I have a particular devotion to the words and deeds of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as I try and think about the work that we do every day. Well he said 70 years ago that the nation needed to recognize in his own words “the right of every family to a decent home.” This initiative today very much lives in that spirit and the right of every family to a decent home. And this is an important part of our overall effort to achieve that for, ultimately, half a million more New Yorkers.
And now I’d like you to hear from some of our partners, with my profound thanks to each and every one of them for what they’re doing to make this happen today. I want to start with someone who’s been a partner in so much of what we’ve done in the budget process, in everything we’re doing together in terms of our pension funds and so much that is really crucial to the future of this city – and that’s our Comptroller Scott Stringer. And I would like to thank him for his crucial involvement in bringing the pension funds into this project. Comptroller Stringer.
Comptroller Scott Stringer: Thank you. Thank you, Mayor de Blasio. And I just want to thank Rafael Cestero and the Community Preservation Corporation – their continued leadership in affordable housing bringing this exciting new investment opportunity to the city funds. I really want to commend them, also Michael Corbat, the CEO of Citigroup, for this exciting public-private adventure that we’re on – I think that’s so crucial to the future of this city.
I think the mayor certainly said it best – expanding affordable housing is critical to the health of New York City. I do commend the mayor for his leadership and his commitment to create 200,000 affordable housing units. And I’m pleased to have worked with the trustees of the five pension boards to make a significant contribution to New York City’s affordable housing market. I also want to recognize one of our trustees on the NYCERS board and that’s Borough President Ruben Diaz, who has helped put our money where our mouth is and to lay the groundwork for doing even more with our pension fund. The investment is part of the pension system’s ongoing commitment to support low, moderate, and middle income New Yorkers through its economically targeted investment program. The investment will be part of a new $355 million CPC fund, which will provide construction loans for affordable housing throughout our city.
This type of creative public-private partnership is essential to mitigating the ongoing housing crisis. You know, a report I issued earlier this year clearly shows the rents are going through the roof while incomes are shrinking. Median apartment rent has increased 75 percent – 31 percent higher than the rest of the nation. At the same time, median income has fallen 4.8 percent. So that’s the affordability crunch. It’s hitting New York at all income levels, but make no mistake – the people at the bottom of the ladder economically truly suffer the most.
So we have to reverse this trend. We cannot have a city with enclaves for the very very rich and also enclaves for the very very poor. We have got to change this dynamic. So this fund will allow CPC to provide construction loans to all type of developers across the five boroughs. And we’re very excited to be part of this. It’s also going to serve as a conduit for investors like Citi and NYCERS to meet one of New York’s greatest needs. In just three years, this investment is expected to create at least 75 affordable housing units. From my vantage point, that’s not just the right thing to do, it’s fiscally responsible. And part of my role as comptroller is to make sure that this investment also works for the fund that I represent. The fund – because of this program, this has a lower financial risk, it offers us a better rate of return than previous construction funds – and I want to thank Brian Cook from my office for working with CPC and our trustees. That is part of our job – to get the best deal for our city as well. So I’m thrilled to be here today. Thank you, Mayor de Blasio, and I hope that we can continue to partnership and tackle one of the toughest issues facing struggling New Yorkers – that’s affordable housing. Thank you.
Mayor: There’s some people who can truly claim expertise in this field, Rafael Cestero is one of them. He served with great distinction as the city’s HPD commissioner and played a crucial role in the Bloomberg administration’s achievement of almost 165,000 units of affordable housing. He’s been someone that my administration and I have turned to for advice many times, he played a very helpful role as we developed our team and our approach in our transition. I’d like to thank him for that. In his role as President and CEO of the Community Preservation Corporation, he is a crucial partner in this plan and a lot of the other things we do. Rafael Cestero.
Rafael Cestero, President and CEO of the Community Preservation Corporation: Thank you Mayor de Blasio. It’s truly a pleasure to be here today on behalf of all 110 CPC employees. Today is a great day for CPC. And thank you Mr. Mayor for your unwavering leadership on the issue of affordable housing, not just in your time as mayor, but back in the City Council and as Public Advocate. Those of us that were in government during those days know that your leadership on affordable housing, your care about New York City’s neighborhoods, your care about the people that live in New York City’s neighborhoods runs deeps in you. It always has. You’ve always been a great partner, and the city’s lucky to have you driving forward this important effort. And I also want to thank your amazing team. You’ve been able to assemble – out of what is the deepest affordable housing professional community in the country – a team of true stars. Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Commissioner Vicki Been, and President of the HDC Gary Rodney are true leaders in the field. They’ve been there, they’ve done that. They understand the ins and outs, and with a team like that in place, I have no doubt that 200,000 units is within all of our grasp.
Thank you Comptroller Stringer, you have been – as well – one of those true – I feel like we’ve all been through like five lives together – but you’ve also been one of those true leaders on the issue of affordable housing. You’ve fought hard for the issue in all stops in your career, in particular as the Manhattan Borough President. And now as comptroller, you are directing a $160 billion pension fund in a way that can only be described as thoughtful and driven to results. Your team, Brian Cook, have been amazing, and great partners to help move forward that agenda. This investment is critical for the pension fund to come into. It wasn’t necessarily the traditional kind of thing that the pension fund has historically done. But you looked at it and said, ‘You know what, this is not only the right thing to do, it makes sense.’ And we really appreciate that, so thank you for that.
And thank you to Citi. Michael there is no doubt that we would not be standing here today without the leadership of Citi. At a time at which the recession was raging, Citi stepped up in any number of ways to help the affordable housing movement. Your team, Andy and Jeff, were incredible partners to CPC and helped us drive forward and get to this place where we have capital to do what we do best, which is to work with Monsignor Sakano and all of the developer and borrower partners of CPC to ensure that neighborhoods are strong and affordable into the future. And I share Mayor de Blasio’s thank you to all of the other lenders in our facility, particularly Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley, who stepped up in a big way with $50 million each. But also to Deutsche Bank and B of A and the Housing Developing Corporation who played a critical role in moving this forward. Monsignor Sakano, it’s amazing what has happened here in Highbridge. And you really have driven an agenda of change over thirty years. Our hope is that these dollars can help continue to do that and move things forward. And to my friend, the Borough President of the Bronx, you know, we’ve done a lot of these together over the years, and I keep saying to you that the Bronx is booming. And it’s truly remarkable what has happened in neighborhoods like this. Your leadership has continued to drive that. We met the other day and talked exactly about these kinds of buildings and how we could continue to do more of it in the Bronx.
And so I’m thrilled to be here. It’s a great day for affordable housing, it’s a great day for CPC. This $350 million is going to be that more people have homes they can afford. More people are not going to get pushed out of their apartments because they have rents that they can no longer pay. And neighborhoods are going to be stabilized. And that’s what I’ve done for 25 years, that’s what CPC has done for 40 years in this city, and we are just thrilled to be a part of this partnership and help drive forward the mayor’s agenda. So thank you to all of our partners.
Mayor: Well I am a big fan of people who put their money where their mouth is. And Citi has done that – you heard the statistics. This has been now for years a focus of Citi and done it in a very big way today, and this means a lot for New York City. And we have a real appreciation for this partnership and particularly for the investment they are making that’s going to have just a huge impact on the lives of so many New Yorkers. So I’d like to welcome Citigroup CEO Michael Corbat.
Michael Corbat, CEO of Citigroup: Thank you Mayor de Blasio. And I think we all know how important the creation and preservation of affordable housing is to your agenda, and we’re proud to support this critical initiative. I also want to thank Comptroller Stringer and Rafael Cestero, CEO of the Community Preservation Corporation. Your joint commitment to affordable housing is one of the things that helps make New York City such a dynamic place to work and live and do business. New York is the financial capital of the world, a status that reaps tremendous benefits to our community and its citizens. But it also places upward pressure on housing costs, straining the budgets of low and middle-income families. That’s why projects like this one are so vital. New York would not be the same city and it would not be the great city it is without opportunities for people of all backgrounds to work and live. For this city to continue and thrive, its communities need to be strong and affordable and housing is indispensable. Citi is the leading affordable housing lender in the United States because we know that affordable housing is critical to the future of our cities across our country. In particular, Citi’s been a proud partner of the Community Preservation Corporation for going on 30 years. With CPC’s leadership reinvigorated, there’s no better time than now to strengthen that partnership with the commitment of new capital. We believe in CPC’s mission and we’re confident in its leadership and we’re looking forward to seeing the benefits of this project and what it will create in communities throughout New York City in the years ahead. Financing the creation and perseveration of affordable housing is a focus for us. As the Mayor said since 2006, Citi’s financed more than $6 billion in affordable housing projects in New York alone. That includes the $900 million deal of which Citi was responsible for more than half of, with the housing authority to rehabilitate more than 20,000 units across 21 developments – the largest affordable housing financing ever completed. I want to make clear that this isn’t philanthropy. This is a business decision, as well as an investment in our hometown. New York is not just Citi’s global headquarters and the single largest base of our employees, but it’s where company was founded in 1812, right down the street from where the first stock was traded. Citi helped grow New York from a port, to a financial capital by supporting trans-Atlantic trade, financing the city’s infrastructure, employing its people, and serving its industries and residents. For instance, in 1833, Citi financed the then Manhattan Gas and Light Company – one of the first city’s – one of the first gas utilities – now known as Con Ed. Today, we are refinancing and rebuilding the World Trade Center. And of course we are proud to make the first new public transportation in a century a reality through Citibike. Finally our commitment to cities extends beyond New York. Citi is not just in our name, but it’s in our DNA. Through our Citi for Cities Initiative, we’re supporting innovative projects that improve people’s lives throughout the world’s urban centers. Thank you again Mayor de Blasio for making this possible and allowing us to do our part to strengthen our hometown. Thank you very much.
Mayor: I like that 1833 reference – I’m going to be ready for that when I go on Jeopardy.
Mayor: Now, Monsignor Don Sakano. Again, some people really have done it all, through the good times and the bad times. Monsignor has more than one hat he wears. He’s pastor of the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, he served for over a decade as the director for the Department of Neighborhood Preservation and Catholic Charities, now as president and chair of Highbridge Community Development Corporation. But I just want to express my admiration for his persistence and I think we’ve all learned that’s the only thing that gets you there a lot of times, just sticking with it. And you’re an example to us as we embark on this extraordinarily ambitious program. I think what you took on 20 and 30 years ago gives us inspiration that in fact it can be done. Monsignor Sakano.
Monsignor Don Sakano: Yes, thank you Mr. Mayor. And on behalf of all of the residents here in this building – which is dedicated to older people by the way – and with others like it, and for families that live in our 45 buildings that we have in this neighborhood, we thank you for coming here. And for those who have been here for the first time, I want you to come again and see the improvements that we will make in the future and the projects that we have on our drawing boards. The commitment to lower and moderate income people is expressed in my colleagues here and in the statements they made. And the future of the City of New York depends on people like this, people who live in this community. You know, we talk about infrastructure in terms of brick and mortar, but the real infrastructure in New York City is people. And as people we are talented and have resources in the City government, in the banks, and private places. But it’s the people of a neighborhood that make housing work and so we are very thankful for this collection of people today that make this neighborhood work. So thank you for coming and is there another speaker Mr. Mayor?
Mayor: There is one more.
Monsignor Sakano: There is one more. Okay and thank you for listening.
Mayor: We have had a tremendous partner, not just on affordable housing efforts but in so much of what this administration has been building – our pre-K and our afterschool programs, so many of the things we’ve done we’ve had a real ally, a forceful ally in the Borough President of the Bronx. I would like to welcome Rubén Díaz, Jr.
Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr: Good morning everyone. Welcome to God’s country, the borough of the Bronx. I know that Mr. Mayor, you were over there at the Vatican, but as I always say this is God’s country, and the reason being is because God’s work is happening here on a daily basis. I just want to say that ladies and gentlemen, this is another huge and big deal. A big announcement by Mayor de Blasio here in our borough as it pertains to housing and of course his vision for all of New York City.
Let me just put a face to this. You see this button that I’m wearing, it’s a button that we use to celebrate our centennial as a county and there’s a lot to celebrate this year. We have come back from the rubble of the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s. And individuals and organizations like Monsignor Sakano – you stayed the course, you helped us rebuild when many people abandoned us, when many people left. There was a strategy, there was a commitment, there was a lot of sacrifice. Through it all, we’ve also had assistance from organizations like the CPC. If you don’t know the CPC, since they’ve been established this year in the Bronx alone, they either build or help build and rehab and restore over 50,000 units of housing. That is the reason why the Bronx is where we are today. This is the reason why someone like myself, who played in that rubble, can stand before you as a Borough President, and be part of this announcement, be as a trustee of the pension system of the City of New York, working with our comptroller, Scott Stringer, to say that I’m proud to support this in that light. To continue to work with my good friend Rafael Cestero, and over the last two years alone we’ve been able to put in with projects working with the CPC about 4 million dollars in rehab and restoration and building in the Bronx. To work with Mayor de Blasio and his team, Alicia Glen and Vicki Been and others. To make sure that not only the Bronx is being rebuilt, but is being built in a way where folks can actually afford and stay here. That is important. That’s what I mean by God’s work.
That is the reason why it’s amazing to see as well the different financiers—I mean, Corbat, you and Citigroup and all of the investors, thank you! Thank you for having faith. Thank you for investing in our borough, not just with this announcement today, but all—since I’ve been the borough president there’s been over 700 million dollars’ worth of housing. Many of you in this room have either invested or helped develop that. We are back in a big way. Mr. Mayor, I am proud of the work that you’re doing. I am proud of your team. Monsignor Sakano, thank you for staying the course. Thank you for believing, especially in this enclave here in the Bronx, where so many people have forgotten about it in the past. To my good friend Scott Stringer, thank you for making sure that New Yorkers get a good rate of return on the investment on their pension system.
Mayor de Blasio: I want to thank the Borough President for his eloquence in both English and Spanish. I will now say a little bit of Spanish with a pronounced Italian accent.
So let’s do on-topic questions, and then we will go to off-topic questions. On-topic first. Where's Josh. Josh.
Question: Alright, Mayor. Mayor, can you tell us a little about, certainly, you have a lot of support of this affordable housing plan. There is some concern that it's not being matched with commensurate investments in infrastructure – how to get these folks to and from work, schools being crowded, and certainly – as you've remarked at length, do they expect those kinds of investments – at least now – coming from Washington DC. So I'm wondering if you can speak about the need for both housing and infrastructure.
Mayor: Sadly, I share your assumption about Washington, DC right now. I want to ask Deputy Mayor to come up for part of this answer. I'll start. I want to first say, on the Washington point – we aren't taking the Washington dynamics lying down. Do you know, I was at the United States Conference of Mayors meeting in Dallas, a few weeks back, and we were looking forward to having mayors from around the country join us at Gracie Mansion in just a few days, and the notion is, we all want to band together to put real pressure on Washington, on both parties, to achieve greater investment in our cities. Our cities are more central to our economic future than ever. It really is a national priority to strengthen the infrastructure of our cities, and so, right now, I think you're right in your assumption. I'd like to believe, in a few years’ time, we'll have a very different reality if we all do our job well enough, and start to see serious federal investment in our cities, and in our infrastructure. In the meantime, we take very seriously the notion that infrastructure has to move as further development occurs. I think there has been a problem at times in the past, of those two realities not being aligned. And so you've seen real substantial investments in our capital budget, particularly in terms of our Department of Transportation, making sure that some of the – what we need – in place before we build out, new housing will be there. Obviously the investments we're making at the Department of Education as well. So, we take very seriously the fact that the two have to align. We also know that in some development deals that we're able to include the infrastructure costs up front, and the infrastructure activity up front as part of the plan that's put together. That's something we intend to do with everything that will happen around Midtown east, for example. So, that's the broad outline. Alicia, would you like to add?
Deputy Mayor Glen: Josh, I would just add there are three things – particularly, one, one of the great things about this year's capital budget, and we talked a lot on the housing plan was, we actually had made specific investments in infrastructure to support particular areas where we want to see additional affordable housing growth, and I think that's a $375 million dollar commitment in the capital budget to finish out infrastructure in places like Queens west and Coney Island. I think the second thing we're doing, which is we're really beginning to align our capital budget planning process with our housing work as well, so that as we begin to look at neighborhoods where we think additional residential growth makes sense, we're actually integrating the process in a much more holistic way, where the budget director, myself and the planning director are meeting to really think long term about aligning those things. And then the third thing I would say, and I really turn to our friends in the banking community with respect to this, is that continuing to explore innovative P3 partnerships to tackle some of the broader infrastructure questions that are facing all municipalities, as the mayor mentions, with respect to the federal government playing less and less of a role. So, we're engaging in an ongoing dialogue with the private sector about ways in which they can support our long-term infrastructure growth.
Mayor: On topic. On topic. On topic, on topic. I'm going once, on topic, going twice. There's always one right at the – always get a question at going three –
Question: [inaudible] The city pension – the city retirement fund [inaudible] they've been guaranteed a rate of return, or is it a suggested rate of return?
Mayor: Well, let me just say something as I bring the comptroller up – that the, the notion that I have, and I used to be a member of the NYCERS board when I was public advocate, is our fiduciary responsibility – all of us, you know, that's on our minds at all times, that has to be first and foremost – but I believe today is a great example of an initiative that fits the obligation to think in terms of the health of our pension funds, and the future needs of our retirees, while simultaneously having a real big impact on our city today, and getting the kind of return on investment we need. That's the vision we have, we believe it's going to be attainable on a much bigger scale in terms of affordable housing investments, and I think today's a great sign. But let me turn to the comptroller to elaborate.
Comptroller Stringer: Thank you, that's a very good question. As you know, we're very fortunate to announce, a few days ago, that we, you know, hit the 17.4 percent mark in terms of this year's rate of return. We now have a record high $160 billion dollar pension fund within our five funds. And one of the reasons why we invest in affordable housing, and these kinds of deals, is because this continues our strategy of having invested in varied assets. And this particular rate of return, we project, will yield 2.75 percent, but that's part of an asset allocation that, as you can see, clearly is working. So, housing is a sound investment that's for the long term. It's part of our asset class. The pension fund has some $2.4 billion dollars in housing development and real estate portfolio, and it's hitting the benchmark. You know, it's not going to be the highest yield, and it's not supposed to, but it's supposed to be something that is part of our overall strategy.
Question: [inaudible] time frame?
Comptroller Stringer: Through the life – certainly for this, it will be ten years, but it's through the life of, you know, all of our investments that we're constantly looking at. This is very – this is a very good deal. As Rueben says, as one of the trustees, this is part of our overall investment strategy, so, while we're here today because this happens to help the people of New York, and this will strengthen communities like the Bronx, this is also a very good investment for a pension fund.
Mayor: Just one other point I'd like to make. We think there's a real unity here between the success that the comptroller has had, and all the members of the pension fund boards have had, and what we're trying to do with the city's budget process in terms of ensuring long-term fiscal health. We all believe in striking that balance. We have to be thinking at the long term. We have to be ready for the long term, thinking about unforeseen consequences. We obviously had good news in the last few days from the financial control board and other monitors in terms of their assessment of our fiscal health. But then we have to figure out how to invest at the same time. And it's a balancing act that anyone responsible in government has to try to achieve – maximum investment for our future, and for our strength economically, while being prudent. I think the comptroller's done a great job of achieving that balance already with the pension funds; we're trying to do that as well through the city budget process.
On topic. On topic. Going once. Going – see, you did that to your hair. I thought you were about to make a bid. $200,000! [Laughs] On topic. Last call. On topic, going – wait, wait. Where. Josh! I need like a telescope to see Josh.
Question: How far along are you with the 200,000 dollar –
Mayor: I am so glad you asked. 200,000 units! If only it cost $200,000 dollars! Alicia, Vicki, who wants to go?
Commissioner Been: So, we had a terrific June closing season. As you know, we often close a lot of deals in June, and then again in December. And in June, we closed more than 8,700 units, and we have a huge pipeline going into December, so we think we're well on-target. We knew that the first year we wouldn't be completely ramped up, but we're ramping up incredibly quickly and feel very positive about the progress that we're making.
Mayor: There's a real assembly line happening here with Alicia, Vicki and Gary, you know, constantly getting projects in motion, because these goals are unrelenting, and we set it up to be unrelenting. But I want to just commend them, because there's extraordinary teamwork between the different pieces of the equation, and they're moving the numbers very, very quickly.
On topic. Going once. Yes.
Question: I'm trying to kind of, just picture the building that will be renovated or created –
Mayor: Types of buildings?
Question: Yeah, the types of buildings, but I mean, I know here it mentions three multi-family buildings. Is that just in the Bronx, are there more in the Bronx?
Unknown: It's just here.
Question: It's just here.
Mayor: Who wants it? Rafael? Go ahead, Rafael.
Cestero: So, the kinds of buildings – the three buildings that are mentioned in the press release are examples of the kind of buildings that we do. These are three buildings that are right next door to each other, that are undergoing a substantial renovation as part of the process. The kinds of buildings that CPC invests in, as the mayor pointed out, are buildings like this one, but they're also anything from a five-unit building to 100-unit building, all across the borough. Our plan, with this money, is to invest $100 million dollars a year in neighborhoods, and in those kinds of buildings, and we'll both build new buildings, smaller infill new construction buildings, as well as renovate existing buildings.
Question: And this will not be done at the same time? This will be done –
Cestero: It will be done – projects – over the course, over the course of the next couple of years. It will be in many, many buildings over the course of the next couple of years. This past year alone, we closed in the neighborhood of 75 different – on financing of 75 different projects, and we expect that to go up over time.
Question: Got it. Okay. Do you have a list –
Mayor: Whoa, whoa – 7,500 [inaudible]
Cestero: That's right. The total is 7,500 units we'll finance.
Mayor: This – fund this and put together, and all the partners today, that will yield 7,500 units total.
Question: Got it. And do we have a list of the locations of what buildings we're going – are going to be renovated and….
Cestero: Not yet. We have some of it. We have buildings, that as the Commissioner pointed out, there's a pipeline of deals. We're a part of that pipeline. We have some of those that we know today, some of which we don't know yet today. Monsignor himself has several that we'll be looking at over the course of the next few months, and they will then become real projects. You know, these projects take time to develop.
Question: And last follow-up question – the ten-year plan starts when? Today? January?
Unknown: January 1.
Mayor: Someone come forward and say it formally.
Commissioner Been: So, the ten-year plan started on January 1, when the mayor came into office, and will go for 10 years, because things stay in the pipeline for a while. So, we started counting units on January 1, and as I said, we have more than 8,700 units starting – you know, beginning construction in the next few months, based upon what we've done so far, in the first six months of this year.
Mayor: I want to ask Alicia to just do a little additional clarification on that – just so everyone understands why we’re starting from January 1.
Deputy Mayor Glen: I think, yeah – counting is a complex issue, but just to clarify for everybody. So every unit that we count is a unit that starts – so that means closing the financing. So, for example, if Raphael’s closing a loan to rehabilitate 20 units, when that financing closes, it counts towards our 200,000 units. So everything that was closed from January 1, 2014 on will count towards the 200,000.
Mayor: Not including – and by definition, not those that were closed previously.
Deputy Mayor Glen: Correct. So we wouldn’t double count. So when people talk about the prior plan, that would be all starts prior to January 1, 2014.
Question: And when you say close, does that mean people moving out – ?
Deputy Mayor Glen: No, no, no. A closing is a financing term where you actually close the loan and then hopefully that day or the day after construction actually begins.
Monsignor Sakano: Just a little local color. We’re about to begin construction in a 61-unit building that’s much like this – dedicated to older people who are low income. So that’s going to add to the list. And we have yet another project – 70 units – in the neighborhood for families, low income. And I’ve got a nice piece of church property in the neighborhood that I’ve been lobbying the mayor and these great folks with financing capabilities in the neighborhood to produce housing. So the church too is a partner in this. So we’ve got the leading institutions from the private sector, and the city of New York, the state, federal government all really concentrated on this. But the church property will also play a major role in upgrading the quality of housing in this city.
Mayor: And Cardinal Dolan was very quick to amplify that message when I last spoke with him. So you’re very consistent with the cardinal on this point. I was want to just say, the borough president also noted – the advertisement for CPC here – the CPC renovated the building, known as the birthplace of hip-hop.
Borough President Diaz: 15-20 Sedgwick.
Mayor: 15-20 Sedgwick. So CPC is just hip in every way. In case you thought it was dull, I just wanted to associate you with hip-hop and give you some cache there. On-topic.
Cestero: The facility has an interest rate to all of the lenders of 2.75 percent. That’s the interest rate that we pay on the facility and then we lend the money out to developers.
Mayor: Impressive comeback on on-topic questions today.
Mayor: I bet Josh has one.
Mayor: Last call. On-topic. Going once, going twice. Off-topic. They’re always ready with off-topic.
Question: Mayor, your Vision Zero puts a priority on pedestrian safety. This morning the disability rights advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying that the condition of city sidewalks and curb cuts are unsafe, particularly in Lower Manhattan – that it violates their civil rights and it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. I’m wondering if you think the city has done enough to make the streets safe for people with disabilities?
Mayor: We have a lot we have to do. I have not seen the specific lawsuit, but I can tell you that I share the goal of doing a lot more to help folks who happen to be disabled. We have made a very big point in our Vision Zero approach to increase safety for all pedestrians, and that will certainly help disabled pedestrians. We focused, in terms of our taxi industry, on greatly increasing the number of accessible taxis. That was a major decision of this administration that will help disabled New Yorkers and won the praise of the – literally – the father of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Senator Tom Harkin, the person who brought that legislation to fruition. So, clearly, we know we have a lot to do and we’ve embarked on that. We’ll look at this lawsuit and we’ll certainly look at additional work we have to do. But we’re very very devoted to making this city not only accessible but safe for those who are disabled.
Question: Mr. Mayor, you – there’s an RFP out now that will turn the city’s payphones into WiFi hotspots. You talked about this in May. To what extent do you see that initiative helping bring internet access to poorer communities like East New York, South Bronx, Brownsville, those kinds of –
Mayor: I think it’s one of a number of things that we intend to do to increase internet access. I mean, the reality – if you’re talking about a fair and just society – everyone needs high-speed, low-cost internet. Whether that’s about their role as a citizen or their educational possibilities or their economic viability – well, you’re talking about the growth of New York City’s economy, with a now-thriving, growing tech sector. One of the things that anyone in that sector will say to you – that they need to know this city is on a path to truly universal internet access, particularly because it is an industry that is truly becoming a five-borough industry and want it to be a five-borough industry. So this is a major priority. The WiFi hotspots I think are going to be an important part of a much bigger plan, but we think it’s a great way to utilize sites that already exist and are being, at this moment, are somewhat arcane and turn them into something that really contributes.
Question: Specifically for those particular areas, some of the low income areas, do you see that being a way to expand – ?
Mayor: Absolutely. One piece of a much bigger plan, yes.
Question: [inaudible] Mr. Mayor, on the Moreland Commission [inaudible] that’s coming out now and –
Mayor: I’d say you put editorial content into your question.
Question: [inaudible] your reaction to the [inaudible]?
Mayor: I’m – pretty consistent I haven’t focused on the Moreland Commission. It’s not something I know a lot about. I can tell you something about Andrew Cuomo. I’ve known him for almost twenty years. I think he is a person of high integrity. When I started working with him for the first time at HUD. We were dealing with unfortunately an agency that was well known for being very inefficient and unfortunately it had many instances of corruption within. I think he did an extraordinary job of helping cleanup HUD. Even Republican members of the Congress believed that HUD had gone through real reform. And so I think he has a long and impressive history of being an agent of reform. I also have to say on a separate but related note, I was personally very offended by the comments of Mr. Astorino. When he described the governor as a “mafia boss”, I thought that was inappropriate in every way. I found it practically inappropriate as an Italian-American, I thought it was – you know a horrible invocation of a very horrible stereotype. And didn’t help at all to shed any light on the issues of New York State. Yes?
Question: I have two questions. First, I just wondered if you can give us a little bit of color on how the [inaudible] affect inaudible business in New York. I mean some of the [inaudible] were mentioned yesterday. In the statement actually had officers in New York with a lot of those people already left? So I just wondered if you can give a little bit of color on that. And then just as the second question, I wanted to ask – I mean a lot of people on Wall Street were pretty weary when you came into office and made this – those views quite clear. So I wondered obviously today’s announcement involves a lot of the big banks, kind of what you have been doing to kind of build relationships between the banks.
Mayor: On the first question, I welcome of anyone else wants to add – on the first question – I think the sanctions are necessary. I think it’s wonderful to see the United States and the European community in unity on this point. And – if there is any short term economic impact locally, I think that’s the price of trying to create a more just and peaceful world so I – I applaud the governments that agreed to those sanctions. On the second point, I think we’ve had a very productive relationship with the financial community. We have a lot of work to do together. My vision for the city is – the more fair city. And my vision for this administration is that we will fight inequality on many fronts. This announcement today is a part of that. And I welcome the involvement of leaders of the financial community and helping us to achieve this goal. So I think we have a lot of common ground. You know – if you go back to some of the discussions for example over education. Often – invoke the point that I’ve heard from many people – in the business community of this city, many people happen to of done well personally, that they believed investments in education were good for everyone, they believed it was good for the future of the city, the good for the future of the country. It was really a common interest – and I think this investment today is in the common interest of all so I think we had a very productive relationship with the financial community and we’ve look forward to doing a lot work together. Yes?
Question: Just yesterday – former City Councilman Dan Halloran was found guilty in a corruption and bribery case. Do you – I know you said hadn’t been following the Moreland Commission all that closely. But do you think that [inaudible] ferreting out corruption in the city or in the state or in the city need to be beefed up or cut [inaudible] the Moreland Commission obviously part of that story is that it was disbanded earlier than people expected.
Mayor: I don’t want to get in the weeds of the Moreland Commission because I’ve hadn’t followed it but I can speak to the larger point. I’m a big believer in multiple layers of oversight and I think New York City and New York State actually are – are very strong on this front. You know the comptrollers perform one type of oversight – the federal authorities provide another type. I think there’s many many mechanisms. I think the city has a particularly strong history and whether it is a conflict of interest board, campaign finance board, all sorts of different tools that we use. So in the scheme of things I would say – particularly from a city prospective, I think we made a lot of progress. [inaudible] Obviously very vigorous department of investigation which, as you’ve seen recently, has ferreted out a lot corruption of different kinds and different agencies. But I can’t comment on specifically durations of any particular piece, I’m just a fan of multiple layers of oversight. Sally?
Question: There was a report this week about uncollected city debt reaching about a billion and a half dollars, this is just environmental control board debt, and I was wondering – I know you focused a lot on reducing small business fines, and sort of ticky-tacky stuff, but I was wondering if you have any plans for, like, new ways to try and collect this money, that you know, historically is very hard to collect.
Mayor: Yeah, we're very aware of that problem, and we do intend to come up with some creative approaches. This is a way to get revenue that the city deserves, and is owed justly, which is the polar opposite, I think – I think you're exactly right the way you characterize it – we are devoted to getting rid of fines that are either punitive, or unduly disruptive of small businesses, or arbitrary, and I think we've made real progress on that front. But folks who are owed – who owe the city money in fines that they really need to pay, that they – that were given to them fairly, and they have chosen not to pay – we take that very seriously. We're going to go after that money. And I think we have some creative ideas we'll be putting together soon on that front.
Question: I’m just curious, why haven’t you followed up with the Moreland Commission? You’re a student of city government, of state government, are you not following it so you don’t have to comment on it?
Mayor: No, I’m not following it because I have a lot of other things to do. It’s a – I take a – I try to keep up a bit with the world, but when I look at the media I am focused on the things that affect the City of New York directly and that’s where my time and energy has to go. Thank you everyone.