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Transcript: Mayor Eric Adams Announces Significant Quality-of-Life, Infrastructure Improvements, New Affordable Homes in Downtown Far Rockaway

August 4, 2022

First Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo: Morning. My name is Lorraine Grillo and I am first deputy mayor and I am so thrilled to be here and to see this opening because I had the privilege of being here when we broke ground. To see it come to this beautiful end is just a thrill. As the mayor says, promises made, promises kept, and that's exactly what this project delivers on multiple levels. From hundreds of new affordable apartments, to weather resilient infrastructure, to a new plaza for the community. Downtown Far Rockaway will have a new quality of life that can't be measured. Thank you to all the community stakeholders, elected officials, and city agencies who work together on this project. You all got this project done and way ahead of schedule. For more on that, I'll pass this over to our mayor, Eric Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: I think that one of the best ways to do this is to feel the excitement and energy that's coming from one of the tenants. And Jasmine, I'm going to call you up and allow you to say a few words as I give you this symbolic key that you can hang on your wall of making it happen. And before we do that, I don't know who on the staff made the decision to put us in the shade, but thank you. Come on up, Jasmine. Congratulations to you.

Jasmine Jenkins, Resident: Thank you, First Deputy Mayor Grillo. My name is Jasmine, and I'm a proud resident of Far Rockaway. As a young adult, I was previously living at home with my parents. I was working two jobs and it was a challenge to find safe and affordable housing in our neighborhood. For so many people like me, finding an apartment at a young age is really a challenge. And when I heard about Beach 21st Street, I took a shot and I applied. When I received a call from the community builder saying they had an apartment that I could not only afford, I was really excited.

Jenkins: It was really incredible. It was really incredible because my parents were so happy. When we went to the Bronx to sign the paperwork, my mom was getting so emotional. She's really dramatic. Affordable housing is very important and it creates opportunity. For me it's financial independence. Because now that I live here, I don't really have to work two jobs anymore just to have some place to live and to go enjoy my life. I really respect everything that everybody does for the community. I'm excited to have the freedom to pay my rent, plan my career, and live my life here at Beach 21st Street and in the neighborhood that I grew up in. To everyone at the community builders, all of the city agencies, and especially to Mayor Adams, I thank you for my new home.

Mayor Adams: Powerful story. And two parts of that story I hope many of you didn't miss. Number one, the excitement of her mom, because I cannot tell you how excited I was when my son finally moved out and I had freedom. I celebrated, I said, "I'll pay your first two months' rent, just it's time for you to bounce." But also Jasmine stated she was working two jobs. Now she's able to do one. What does that do? That allows you to make the determination if you want to go to school at night. If you want to do something else with your time and not have to work all day and can't afford to live in your community, but it also points out as she stated that she's staying in the community that she grew up in. We've watched throughout the years that longtime residents watched themselves displaced and removed from their communities because it became too unaffordable.

Mayor Adams: And the partnership and teams that are here, particularly the electeds. Borough President Donovan Richards for having the vision and the continuation of the vision. Because we fail when we come into office and believe we have to hit the restart button instead of continuing what was already in place. And that is what Selvena Brooks-Powers is doing. She's continuing to focus on what Donovan put in place. Now we have a new council person with her vision, adding to a preexisting vision so we can continue these projects moving forward. And then when you add it with just this young, dynamic Assembly member, Assembly Member Anderson, and what he's bringing to this conversation. Up on top on the roof, a roof garden. He was just known for healthy eating and how we could allow tenants to grow their own food and participate in a healthy garden.

Mayor Adams: There's just a complete package here. The solar panel of something that Senator Sanders has talked about over and over again. You are seeing the complete package of people coming together today. We handed Jasmine that symbolic key to a future, not only a key to an apartment, but a key to a future. A house is more than just four walls. It's the precursor to sleep that allows you to experience the American dream. And when I heard that for the buildings here, 50,000 people put in for the lottery, that is how high the demand is and why this is so important. This is a great day for Rockaway. This is a great day for the future of our city as we continue to lift people up and give them housing.

Mayor Adams: Government must work. That is what we're saying today. And this is a city of, yes, we look for ways to say yes. 224 units of housing. 100% affordable, 100% affordable. And of my understanding 50% is coming from Rockaway residents. That's a powerful combination. 23 of the homes are reserved for those who were formerly homeless. So we are continually looking out for our brothers and sisters who are in hard times. Yes, sometimes it moves slow, but nothing is better than having transportation. There's a subway system right here that you could take the train into Manhattan, come home, go back and forth. Trust me, Selvena's going to push hard to get her ferry so that she could have a ferry out here. That's a conversation we're looking forward to have. And onsite laundry. I do my own laundry. Onsite laundry that's here. If you were on the rooftop, the streetscape, the improvement, sitting down. All of those amenities that you normally see in other communities, you are seeing it right here in Rockaway with this beautiful pool, rooftop, and what it has to offer.

Mayor Adams: So next year, we're also going to have a new public library in this community. So important to do. New curbs, new sidewalk, better drainage, including two miles of new storm sewers and rain gardens are so important. Councilwoman Brooks-Powers, she talks about it all the time. We know what the hurricanes do to this community and how it impacts us. Audrey fights hard to say how do we make sure we deal with the resiliency aspect in this community?

Mayor Adams: People talked about hey, you guys cut down 13 trees to get this project done. Yeah. You know what? But we also planted 84 more. Come on, stop focusing on the negative and look at the positive. We went from 13 trees to 84. So that's a win and we should be proud of. We know the impact of trees and how trees keep our community to deal with climate and resiliency and that's why we did this. So this is a perfect example of how do we move into place of a city saying yes? How do we turn our plans into realities?

Mayor Adams: The project was originally scheduled for completion in seven years. It was done in three. The neighborhood was transformed. But not only did we do it fast into the builders, normally when I see VDC and that entire team, job well done. But not only did we do it in a shorter period of time, but this project was supposed to cost $292 million. It was able to shave off $25 million. Bring it down, the total cost, to $267 million. Saving money, faster productivity and getting the job done.

Mayor Adams: So we believe this is a symbol of what we can do when we come together. Deal with resiliency, deal with homelessness, deal with housing, dealing with having our young people have a great start in their future. Beautiful apartments, beautiful environment and start to rebuild communities in a real way. I am excited about this project and I'm excited about this team.

Mayor Adams: That's one thing about this group of electeds out here in Rockaway. They work together because they know that for far too long, as I find in other places like Staten Island and the Bronx. Here in Rockaway, you have been forgotten for so many years. People have basically, they have written you off and that is why I'm spending so much time in these boroughs. We were in Staten Island yesterday. We were out in the Bronx several times last week and out here in Rockaway. We notice you. You are part of the city.

Mayor Adams: New York City is not Manhattan. New York City is not Manhattan. New York City has four other boroughs and all those boroughs are going to see a mayor that came from Queens. Understand how we can't continue to be denied. So congratulations to the entire team. Job well done. Thank you, deputy mayor.

First Deputy Mayor Grillo: Thank you. Thanks so much Mayor Adams. I'm also from Queens. Okay. All right. Right now I'd like to introduce someone who's been a partner with us and with the agencies that we deal with at every single step. Our own Queens borough president, Donovan Richards.


Mayor Adams: The borough of yes.
First Deputy Mayor Grillo: Absolutely, the borough of yes. Today, I had the honor of meeting someone I've heard so much about. She's so dynamic and you folks in Far Rockaway are so lucky to have her as your Council member, Council Member Brooks-Powers.


First Deputy Mayor Grillo: Thank you. Thank you, Council member, and I think now we're going to do a symbolic cutting of the ribbon. So if you can… Okay. The mayor will now take some on topic questions from the press. Thank you.

Question: Yes. Hi, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor Adams: How are you?

Question: Can you tell me, I mean, can you tell me a little bit about what the income band? You say it's a hundred percent affordable for what type of income are these people making that are in this building?

Mayor Adams: We want the income band... Where's somebody from the... You have the income ban?

Kim Darga, Deputy Commissioner of Development, Department of Housing Preservation and Development: Good morning.

Mayor Adams: How are you?

Darga: This is a project that was financed through HPD's mix and match program, and so the affordability is 60% of the units are affordable below 60% of area median income and another 40% up to 80% of the area median income, and affordability is from below 20% AMI all the way up to 60. So it's a very wide range of affordability for the community.

Mayor Adams: Okay. Thank you. Thank you.

Mayor Adams: Yes. And a matter of fact speaking, it is good to have Senator Sanders and our amazing Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, as well. Going to do some more off-topic? A few. It's hot.

Question: I'll try and keep it quick for you, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor Adams: Sounds like a plan.

Question: On schools.

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Question: I know there was the announcement yesterday about the additional $150 million being reallocated. The speaker, who I know you like to say is your law firm partner, she was not a fan of this. She called this a charade and said it's time to actually come up with some real solutions. Another council member, Shahana Hanif, called this a weak distraction. You're seeing so much vehement pushback from the Council on this. Why continue this fight?

Mayor Adams: Well, it's not a fight and even those who are law partners, they disagree from time to time. Leadership is about making tough decisions and as I deal with this ferry crisis, monkeypox, COVID, polio, crime, all of these issues, we're going to agree, sometimes we're going to disagree, but we shouldn't be disagreeable, because how we're going to get through the crises we're facing is by coming together. There's a court case, the judge [inaudible] rule, and whatever that ruling is, I'm going to follow, but when the court case is taking place, you should not be anyway trying to poison the waters. We're going to find out what the judge states and we're going to move forward. We're going to do everything that we must do to make sure our schools are open, and everyone knows my investments in education. If you don't educate, you'll incarcerate. I'm a mayor that's focused on giving our schools the resources they need, and I'm proud of that.

Question: Can I follow up real quick on that same topic? I heard from the UFT President Mulgrew, and some other Council members who were really questioning your intentions on this, wondering why this is such a vehement fight for you, wondering what your goals are with schools, especially with the connections with charter schools and privatization. Is that part of your conversation, part of your thought process here?

Mayor Adams: No one has invested in schools throughout their elected official career as much as I. As borough president, I put $140 million into schools. We have some tough choices. I've said it over and over again. We have decreased in population. The funding has changed and if we don't make smart decisions, those schools that are in higher need are going to be impacted such as the class size of their schools that are doing extremely well, and if we take resources from schools that are struggling for schools who are doing well for a mandated, unfunded mandate of class sizes, it's going to impact our ability to put funding in schools that are struggling.

Mayor Adams: And so I know a lot of people want to turn this into talking points. I need to make sure that my babies, when they graduate, they can put a sentence together and talk, and those are tough decisions that I have to make. Listen, no matter what people say about how we're funding before, here's one fact that no one likes to talk about. 38 billion — 65% of Black and brown children never reaching proficiency. That's math I'm not going to live with. I'm going to make the right decision for these children.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor, you reported today that you're requiring agencies to submit photos of job candidates. Can you talk about the reasoning behind that?

Mayor Adams: Yes. We have — first of all, it's to my executive staff, and nothing, I think, is more disrespectful than when people work for you on your executive team and you don't know who they are. I should know my employees. I should walk up to them and say, thank you. I should know what they look like, and so what I ask all of my commissioners to do is to create an org chart with the faces of my employees, so if I walk into the EDC, or if I walk into DDC and I have a commissioner, assistant commissioner, deputy commissioner, before I walk in, I look over the org chart. I look at their faces so I can walk in and say, "Hello." And I walk past them.

Mayor Adams: Or if I come to a site like this — and I'm a mayor, seventh months in — I don't know all of my employees. So I'm able to walk in and look at the faces before I get here and say, "Okay. I can treat them with the respect they deserve."

Mayor Adams: Now, for those who have other reasons that I decide that I want an org chart, that's up to them. A lot of people just start their day with saying, "Let me see what I could think hateful about." I start my day of saying, "Wow. I'm lucky to be the mayor of New York City." You know? So I'm excited. I'm happy. You know, I'm amazed at how much people are upset that I'm happy that I'm mayor. Why you laughing all the time? Why you enjoy being out all the time? Why you like being around people? Why are you do...?

Mayor Adams: I like being mayor. I wanted to be mayor. I'm mayor. I want the job that comes with it. And I want to be able to respect my employees by knowing who they are and communicating with them.


Mayor Adams: Hold on. Hold on, brother. We got to do the press and then we'll get to you. Hold on.

Mayor Adams: Yes.


Mayor Adams: Mike. Oh, there's Mike.

Question: You mentioned monkeypox before. I read in the New York Times that the federal government's projecting there's going to be a delay in the next shipment of vaccines. They're projecting October. So in that period of time, what's the plan here? Given that projection, what's a city's plan on how to deal with it?

Mayor Adams: Great, great question, Michael. The production of the vaccines, the delivery to our country, that's beyond my scope as a mayor and the other mayors of these cities across America. We have to continue to make sure whatever supply we get, because the federal government is not going to allow us to order more until we get those, the ones that we have, out the door. So we are immediately — we're expanding the sites where you can get them and we are getting the vaccines out the door.

Mayor Adams: But there's a real supply issue. And until then we have to educate. We have to make sure that we inform vulnerable populations how to make sure that they protect themselves, and how we protect each other.

Mayor Adams: We're not in charge of the supply. And this really goes to the other narrative of why we have to stop being dependent on other countries. We have to start producing a lot of this stuff on our own. And it's unfortunate that we have to wait for those supplies to come in. We're not in control of that. We're going to get them. And we are going to get needles in the arms of those who are in need. But it's a concern of ours that we need the supplies.

Mayor Adams: New York City, once again, we find ourselves ground zero for these issues. But we are going to, as we get the supplies from the federal government, we're going to get them out. We're going to make sure we get them to the people to take the vaccines.

Question: How many doses does the city have now? And how long do you project that will last?

Mayor Adams: We get that from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. But as soon as we get them, we get them out the door. But we'll get that exact number for you.

Question: Yep. Mr. Mayor, what's your response to the Texas governor's invite to the border. And can you explain specifically why and how you think migrants are coming here? If there have been any buses dropping people off, are they being directed here by border agents?

Mayor Adams: Yeah. The Texas governor invited us to the border. What the Texas governor should do is invite those who were trying to find housing in his state to give them housing, instead of sending them here.

Mayor Adams: We believe, based on our preliminary review, people were being interviewed at the border and say, "Which state would you like to go to?" Who's not going to say New York? That's a setup question. No matter where you are in the globe... If you're asking someone that's just came to America, "Where would you like to go?" They're not going to say, "Idaho." They're going to say the city that everyone knows. They're going to say, "New York." And so you basically set us up.

Mayor Adams: And this is a real crisis. And I don't know why people are trying to downplay this crisis of almost a hundred new arrivals a day. And when they come in, we do the preliminary interview. And we are discovering from our analysis that they are asylum seekers. And so we're asking the federal government, "Help us here."

Mayor Adams: We already have a housing crisis. Help us here, because not only it's housing, it's translation services. It's education. It is food. It is so much that goes into this. And we think that all of those border states that are not doing what we're doing, and ensuring that we are welcoming people and helping people, they need to do a better job.

Mayor Adams: But also the federal government has a responsibility. FEMA needs to kick in and give us the support that we need.

Question: You believe they're being bussed in, then? From those border states?

Mayor Adams: From what we are getting, people are taking the buses. But there are probably other ways. We don't know if they're placing people in vans. We don't know. They show up at our door here, and we are a right to shelter state. And we don't know the exact methods that everyone is using.

Mayor Adams: I went to the Bedford and Atlantic shelter last Friday. And while I was there, I must have communicated with 30 people. I would say 25 of that 30 said they came from El Salvador. And so it's clear that they're using various methods to get people here.

Mayor Adams: This gentleman had his hand up. Yeah.

Question: The Staten Island Ferry…

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Question: It's been since at least the start of the pandemic that this has been an issue with service. In seven months, your administration has not been able to solve this issue. And how long should commuters expect to deal with these issues? And what is your administration doing?

Mayor Adams: Which issues that we didn't resolve? Which ones? You're talking about…

Question: Hourly service instead of half hourly services required by law.

Mayor Adams: Hourly service just started yesterday.

Question: Correct.

Mayor Adams: Yeah.

Question: But there's been disruptions for at least two years. So what's being done to resolve these issues?

Mayor Adams: Okay. I'm not sure what the disruptions were, because this dropped in our lap yesterday with the Staten Island Ferry – that we had an issue around staffing, and our team immediately jumped into action. We're using New York City Ferry, which carries about 300 people per trip. We immediately used that as part of our alternative.

Mayor Adams: And then we went to hourly service because the ferry holds a little over 4,000 people. And when the terminals are filled, the ferry comes in. The terminals are emptied out.

Mayor Adams: And so I think it's commendable what the New York City Police Department, DOT, our ferry staff, New York City Ferry, how we responded. We pivot and shift. We had a crisis. We had a decrease in manpower. Instead of abandoning the Staten Island residents, they went from a half an hour to an hour to get home. We had — New York City Ferry was free. The Staten Island Ferry was free. We got residents home. I was there yesterday, and I went back late that night. And I saw that we were moving and getting people home during this time of inconvenience.

Mayor Adams: Now, there are issues around... Contracting issues that were in place for 10 years. I've been mayor for seven months. This is something I inherited. It was brought to my attention yesterday, and we are going to try to resolve the issues so that our Staten Islanders are not denied their services.

Mayor Adams: Thank you.

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