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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability

August 23, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Live from Staten Island here at Borough Hall, it's City Hall In Your Borough. This is going to be a great week in Staten Island, talking about issues important to the people of Staten Island. Making sure that City government is responding to the people of this borough. And there's no better way to do that than being out here for the whole week. It's going to be exciting. We've done it before. It is great. I'm looking forward to this week. And we are starting with big news today, the opening of the first ever NYC Ferry route to Staten Island. NYC Ferry has been an extraordinary success. Now in Staten Island. the St. George route will get you to Battery Park from Staten Island in 18 minutes, and then we'll go on to West 39th Street. Staten Islanders have always had the Staten Island Ferry, amazing important part of our city, but now another option for getting around the city and getting to the west side in particular. It's really exciting. It's a great day for Staten Island, just for that fact, but there's going to be so much more going on throughout Staten Island week. And who better to tell us why it is important that the City government focus on Staten Island? Who better than the Borough President of Staten Island? It's been my honor to work with him for eight good years. My pleasure to introduce Borough President Jimmy Oddo.  

Staten Island Borough President James S. Oddo: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And welcome back to Borough Hall. I think you brought the sunshine. I'm not sure any Staten Islander will give you credit for it, but you did. I felt like I was in this constant loop of the Two Cathedrals episode. I haven't seen that much rain since watching the season two finale of the West Wing. This week is a really important week for us. It is in some ways on some issues, my last best chance to lock in or advance or complete a bunch of our remaining agenda items. In the past, this has been a really productive week. And I think Staten Islanders can expect some really good news and some big wins on the transportation front, the education front, the health front, the environment front. And I'm really looking forward to it. I will warn you Mr. Mayor, those who follow my Twitter account have seen recently I'm toying with the idea of giving up caffeine for 30 days. I just want to let you know, that has not happened yet.   

Mayor: Not this week. Not this week, please.  

Borough President Oddo: I am hyper caffeinated, so we have a very robust agenda and I'm looking forward to getting to it. And getting these wins, sir, for Staten Island.  

Mayor: I want to tell you everyone, Jimmy Oddo in anticipation of his week, he didn't send me one thing he wanted to get done, or two things. He sent me a list, I think it was 12 items, 12 major items. All that we want to try and get done, a whole host of things we want to get done this week because it is about results. And I want to give the Borough President credit. He calls constantly. He always has another idea how to make life on Staten Island better. He fights for it. And we're going to show people some real progress this week.  

Borough President Oddo: I have to say, if I can, Mr. Mayor, on a serious note. This morning I had to be there to see it. So, I hopped in the truck and I went down to the dock in the new pier and there was the fast ferry for the first Staten Island to Manhattan trip, the 6:35 am trip. And there were some NYC Ferry folks there. And it was a beautiful thing to see. And I just want to say that, you know, I've always believed as a local elected official, my job was to get things done. And excuse my language Mr. Mayor, but long before our good friend Katheryn Garcia was using the mantra, I used to say, it's about, you know, it's about getting shit done. Don't look for the seven-second delay technology here, Mr. Mayor. I ripped it out seven-and-a-half years ago.  

Mayor: What happened? What happened to the delay?  

Borough President Oddo: But you know, you get things done when you represent Staten Island. Yes, sometimes by jumping up and down publicly, but more times than not by working with people behind closed doors. In this room, in fact, and you can attest to the fact Mr. Mayor, that privately, I don't pull my punches with you. I speak to you candidly. There's always respect and decorum because that's the way it should be. But working behind closed doors in this dynamic with you and Staten Island, with me and you, has been the more effective way. And while I appreciate the old historical note of Winston Churchill telling the folks to shoot the anti-aircraft guns, we're not hitting anything, but the people need to hear it. I get that. But our jobs in the end, is to deliver. And I see more and more people, Staten Islanders, constituents, voters, responding to folks who simply jump up and down. That's never going to be my way. It never was. And for the remaining five months, for the remainder of this week, we'll work together to get shit done. And I look forward to it.  

Mayor: I do too. I can neither confirm nor deny the language that Mr. Oddo used. I'll just say his intentions were pure. And thank you, we will. We're going to make things happen this week. Now, everyone, we went through quite a weekend in terms of everything thrown at us by Mother Nature. I don't know where they're coming up with these names? Henri sounds elegant. But not a friendly storm. Over eight inches of rainfall in some parts of Brooklyn. Huge rainfall in Manhattan, all over the city. Flash flooding, we've seen some, but it's been much less than we feared, thank God. Much less than was originally projected. We have a flood watch still in effect until 2:00 am. But the good news is we avoided the worst in a big way. And we really had some serious, serious concerns about Henri. Turned out much better than feared. And our City workers, I want to thank everyone. Our folks at Emergency Management, at Parks, DEP, Sanitation, you name it, so many agencies. Thank you. All the City workers who were part of the response to Henri, of course, our first responders, FD, PD, everyone. You did a great job and really helped keep things moving no matter what. We had scattered power outages. Last report over 65 downed trees. But nothing like we feared and we're moving out of it now.   

Unfortunately, Henri took quite a toll on our Central Park concert. And it was really sad to see such an amazing, amazing moment cut short. But I got to tell you, I mean, you know, this is a classic – literally, it was almost the exact halfway mark when the rain came. And this is the definition of glass half full, glass half empty. It was really sad to see that show have to end, profoundly sad, because it was getting better and better, stronger and stronger. But the first half alone, is one of the best shows I've ever seen. I mean, absolutely stunning talent, Earth, Wind and Fire, and from Earth, Wind and Fire to the New York Philharmonic, and Andrea Bocelli. I mean, it was a stunning combination. LL Cool J brought some of the greatest figures in hip-hop out on stage. I mean, it was unbelievable at that point. And everyone there really talked about how magical it was. And then even in the hours after, you know, amazing – the artists going live on CNN. Barry Manilow singing for Anderson Cooper, Gayle King live streaming The Killers from backstage. I mean, amazing, amazing stuff. The artists believe in New York City, they wanted to give back to New York City. Everyone felt New York City's come back. And it was projected to the whole world, and I want to thank CNN for that. For hours and hours, people saw how strong and great this city is and were reminded of it. So, that's beautiful. And it was another great example of the power of a vaccination requirement because everyone at that concert, all those people who came and loved it, were vaccinated. What a difference that makes.   

And now, speaking of vaccination requirements, I want to say, there are leaders in business, in government, nonprofits, you name it – there are leaders who step forward, there are organizations that step forward, and make a big difference, and show the path for everyone else. And I want to commend everyone out there who's making clear how important it is to get everyone vaccinated. Today, we're going to talk about the Barclays Center, which is walking distance from my home in Brooklyn, which has been an incredible success for Brooklyn and New York City. Home, of course, of the Nets and the Liberty, an early adopter of the Key to NYC approach in terms of making sure employees and customers are vaccinated. Now, a really powerful effort being put together by the parent company, BSE Global, the company that is behind the Barclays Center, and they're doing everything – and they're showing companies how to do it, in my opinion, doing everything to make sure all their employees get vaccinated, including amazing prizes and incentives being offered to their employees. This is a great model for so many other companies. And I want you to hear about it from the CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center. And I want to tell you what great work he and his team have done. Obviously, the team they gave us this year with the Brooklyn Nets – extraordinary, but for injuries would have been world champions, and the amazing work that happens all the time at the Barclays Center. My pleasure to introduced the CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center, John Abbamondi. 


Mayor: I really appreciate that. I appreciate the leadership you're showing, the Nets are showing, Barclays Center is showing. I predict – it's breaking news, I want you to hear it here – everyone's going to be healthy this year, that's my prediction. And when everyone is healthy, the Nets are going all the way, and this is going to be your championship year. There is my prediction. I feel in my heart and I'm looking forward to an amazing celebration of the Nets this year. The Nets are an amazing team. They did extraordinary stuff and they will be healthy and we will have a great parade, starting at the Barclays Center. That is my prediction for the Brooklyn Nets. Now, I also want to say, people in this city who step up, it's amazing. John Abbamondi, thank you for stepping up. And you mentioned Clive Davis, Doug Davis, what they did for this city with the concert – a labor of love, for sure. There are so many leaders in business and entertainment in so many parts of this city who want to do right by New York City and go the extra mile. And Clive and Doug did it this weekend with so many other great pieces – great people who were part of it. John, you're doing it today. Thank you so much. Thank you very much.  

Alright, everyone, now, we've talked about amazing efforts that are being made to get folks vaccinated, and lots of ways that we reward and appreciate folks who are vaccinated, and vaccinations making all the difference. You know, I was on CNN on Saturday afternoon before the concert, and when I said to Anderson Cooper 75 percent of all New York City adults have gotten at least one dose, he was blown away by that – 75 percent of all New York City adults have gotten at least one dose. That's what we should be proud of already and that's why New York City continues moving forward, but we've got to go farther. We've got to make sure that more and more people get vaccinated.  

We’ve got to make sure our schools are safe and healthy, in particular, for our kids. The next big thing happening in this town, September 13th, opening day of school. Schools, last year, despite everything thrown at us where the safest places in New York City. It was unbelievable, the great effort, everyone who worked together. We had extraordinarily low levels of COVID in our schools and we want to build on that success. We want our schools to be extraordinarily safe all year long. So, today a major announcement to ensure the safety of our schools, of our kids, of all the adults in our schools as well. Today, the New York City Department of Health will be issuing an order requiring all staff in the New York City public schools to be vaccinated. This will require that all staff of every kind, principals, teachers, custodians, food service, you name it, needs to have at least one dose by September 27th – the entire staff by September 27th, at least one dose. And we know this is going to help ensure that everyone is safe. Now, we're going to start immediately working with labor unions. I spoke to the leaders of the key unions over the last few days, and we're going to start bargaining with them immediately on the impact of this decision and how to ensure we can implement it properly and fairly. We're going to work together. They'll all speak to this decision and offer their own views, but what there is clearly a willingness to do by all parties is sit at the bargaining table and figure out what this means and what the ramifications are, and work together to see if we can resolve the outstanding issues. That's our goal. And what a perfect moment for this, given the big news today, and we're so thrilled. The FDA has announced today the full approval of the Pfizer vaccine. This is a game-changing moment. We've been waiting for this for a long time, to have the full approval of vaccine. We now have it. This helps us move forward and we're moving forward with our schools with this new vaccine mandate. I want you to hear about it from our Chancellor first and then our Health Commissioner. First, our Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter. 

Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. You know, today, I'm here to speak to you as a parent. And nothing means more to me than the health and safety of my 11th grade daughter. And I know parents across New York City feel the exact same way about their own children. This is why a vaccine mandate for all of DOE employees is so important to me. Our schools must be safe spaces for all children. And by mandating a first dose by September 27th, the first month of school, we are adding yet another layer of protection for our kids. No matter who it is in the school, your child's teacher, who they work closely with every day; your child's principal, who leads the whole school community; your child's school food workers, who keep everyone healthy and fed; your child's school safety agents who keep them and the entire building safe. Everyone in our buildings will have their first dose completed in September. 

Currently, at least 63 percent of DOE employees are vaccinated. By September 27th, 100 percent will be well on their way to be fully vaccinated. This vaccine mandate is on top of the multi-layered measures we already have in place, which have made our schools some of the safest places to be during COVID. Universal mask usage, physical distancing, health screenings, testing, and improved ventilation, increased hygiene and oversight by the Situation Room – they all work together to provide comprehensive protection for our children. Today's vaccine mandate will apply to all 148,000 of our employees, including those who work in our central offices and contractors who work in school-based settings. It aligns with the guidance from the CDC, which has recommended that school teachers and staff be vaccinated as soon as possible. This has because vaccination is the most critical strategy to help schools safely resume fully in the fall. 

Over the course of the summer, I've been visiting vaccination sites across the city, having productive dialogues and reminding our students, our student athletes, and members of the community that getting vaccinated is our passport out of the pandemic. A few weeks ago, I gave every student ages 12 and up a very important homework assignment to get vaccinated. And today, I have the same message to all DOE employees. We all do a lot to get ready for the first day of school, to welcome back 1 million children to our buildings. Well, now, there's one more thing to add to our list, and it's an important one that will go a long way and protecting our students. Get your first dose by September 27th and upload proof to the new DOE vaccination portal. 40,000 of our employees have already uploaded their proof of vaccination to our portal, and I know more will, and continue to do so every day. I want to thank you all so much for your commitment to our students and our families by taking this very important step. And with that, I'll turn it back to you, Mr. Mayor. 

Mayor: Thank you so much, Chancellor. And now, everyone, I want you to hear from our Health Commissioner, who is obviously a true, true believer in vaccination, and he's going to tell you why it's so important that we will have a vaccination mandate for all the adults who work in our public schools. He also happens to be a parent. I know he's always speaking from that perspective as well. Dr. Dave Chokshi – 

Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. If there's a cornerstone of our recovery, it is returning our children to learning in-person safely alongside their friends and among supportive educators. This matters not just for their education, but also for their social and emotional development and their physical and mental health, especially over the long-term. Last year, we saw that schools could be kept safe with a layered approach to COVID, as you just heard from the Chancellor. Masking, distancing, ventilation, hand-washing and other measures kept transmission in schools remarkably low. And this year, we have a powerful new layer of safety in vaccination. COVID-19 vaccination among teachers and other staff, as well as all eligible students, is a critical strategy to get us back to school. And today's announcement that the FDA has granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine adds to the crescendo of evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are both safe and effective.  

The vaccine is a defense, both a personal defense against disease and a community defense against spread. And the data shows, even with Delta, vaccinated people are significantly less likely to be infected, which makes them less likely to pass it on to family members, to colleagues, to unvaccinated children. And when it comes to our younger children, our defenses are their defenses, which is why I'll be issuing this Commissioner's Order that mandates all school staff be vaccinated. This is the right policy where it matters most in our schools. Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor.  

Mayor: Thank you very much, Commissioner. And, everyone, now, I want you to hear from some really important voices, doctors who have nationally important voices in the ongoing debate about the best ways to fight COVID. Their voices have stood out, helping us to understand the best strategies. First, Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and Director of ICAP at Columbia University and the Columbia World Projects. My pleasure to introduce Dr. Wafa El-Sadr. 


Mayor: Thank you so much, doctor. And I appreciate your strong voice on this issue and the importance of getting our kids back to school safely. Thank you. And now, I want you to hear from a leader both in the academic realm – the academic realm and frontline medicine. Associate Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Dara Kass. 


Mayor: Thank you. And doctor, listen, first of all, I give you credit as your fellow parent, parent to parent, what a wonderful child you've raised who goes up and says thank you to the security guard for being vaccinated. That's beautiful. But I love the story also because you're making a real important point – our kids have been through a year-and-a-half of unprecedented challenges, physically, emotionally, everything. And we’ve got to remember that they need to see adults doing the right thing for them. So, doctor, thank you for all you do, but your story is powerful, because it reminds us adults can bring some peace, some calm to our kids, some security to our kids by showing them that we're doing the right thing, getting vaccinated, so we are protecting them at the same time. So, really, really appreciate that, doctor.  

Alright, everyone, I want you to hear now from one of the leading voices throughout the pandemic here in the city. He has been a really powerful voice for the right strategies to address COVID and to address the disparities within it. And have always appreciated his partnership, ensuring the City of New York leads the way on these issues. He is the chair of the City Council Health Committee. My pleasure to introduce Council Member Mark Levine. 


Mayor: Thank you very, very much Council Member. And I want you to hear from another Council Member now, everyone, who is a parent and feels very strongly about this policy as a parent. He's a Council Member who has led the way on issues of justice for all communities and addressing disparities, and he's about to be the next Borough President of Brooklyn. My pleasure to introduce Council Member Antonio Reynoso. 


Mayor: I liked your Brooklyn attitude. A little bit tough love is part of the mix here. And you're right, we're going to use everything it takes. Thank you, Council Member. Thank you for your passionate, passionate statement, especially as a parent. But yeah, he's right, we're going to do whatever it takes to make sure that everyone is safe and that we push back Delta. It's really time to say goodbye to Delta and we have the power to do it. That's why today's announcement is so important.  

Let me go over the indicators for the day. And first, the number of doses administered to-date, it's really striking, people keep coming out now, we're seeing a real nice uptick. We're closing in on 10.5 million doses from day-one, an astounding figure. As of today, 10,486,041 doses – more every hour, which is good, good news. Number two, current hospital admissions – daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today's report, 131 patients. Confirmed positivity, 38.78 percent. And the hospitalization rate is 1.36 per 100,000. And then, finally, number three, new reported cases on a seven-day average – today's report, 1,688 cases.  

Going to say a few words quickly in Spanish about this vaccination mandate for the Department of Education.  

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish] 

With that, let's turn to our colleagues in the media. 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 today by Dr. Chokshi, by Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter, by DoITT Commissioner Jesse Tisch, by Citywide Events Executive Director Dan Gross, and by Emergency Management Commissioner John Scrivani. First question today goes to Paul Liotta from the Staten Island Advance. 

Question: Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everybody else on the call. How are you doing? 

Mayor: Good morning, Paul. You’ve got the coveted lead-off spot for Staten Island week, and it was good seeing you – good seeing you hanging out with the Wu Tang Clan last week. 

Question: Yes, it was a good Tuesday. I appreciate the hometown favoritism. So, just in that vein, you and Borough President Oddo are coming up on your final days in office, just hoping to get a little chance for both of you to reflect on your times in office and, you know, how you served Staten Island.  

Mayor: Well, the Borough President had to go on to another appointment. We'll make sure you get time with him later. But look, from my point of view – from the beginning, I sent a message that there were five boroughs, and I want to remind you without going into too much detail, I think you'll catch the point. I felt for a long time, particularly in the previous administration, there was an over-focus on Manhattan, and it was important to see this as a city of five boroughs and particularly important to recognize that the vast majority of us do not live in Manhattan. I love Manhattan. I care about Manhattan. We want to do right by Manhattan, but there are four other boroughs that need a lot of care and attention. And so, when we started as administration, we said, look, we're going to make sure that more and more of the benefits of what the city does reach the other four boroughs, and obviously that includes Staten Island in a big way. When we did Pre-K for All, actually Staten Island was one of the boroughs that benefited the most from Pre-K for All. It went from having the fewest full-day Pre-K seats to having the most. We really focused on equity, in so many ways trying to make sure that we could open up more opportunities. So, when you see the affordable housing that we've created is going to make a big impact for Staten Islanders going forward. When you think about what we've done to improve schools across the board, the highest graduation rate we've ever had – a lot of Staten Island schools benefited from the things we created, like Advanced Placement courses for all our kids, Computer Science for All – a real focus on getting schools that hadn't had all those advantages, the kind of investments they deserve. 

So, I think there's a lot of different examples of what we've been able to do. Obviously, if the Borough President was here, he would be saying by now “pave, baby pave.” Paul, you saw it. We made a massive commitment to paving roads in Staten Island that needed it, more than any administration in a long, long time. A whole lot of things that we invest in that I think have an impact. And today for the first time, Staten Island is going to be able to take a ferry to the west side of Manhattan, beautiful NYC Ferry, another step forward for this borough. So really, really proud of what we've done. And I'll finally note a very important offer still on the table to RUMC to work with our New York City Health + Hospitals. And we're ready to make a massive investment with that model in public health, in Staten Island. I certainly hope that we get that done while we're still here. Go ahead, Paul. 

Question: Thank you for that, covered a lot of ground. Regarding today's – the event later today, the ferry, obviously the program will be shifting to a new steward next year. I was just hoping to get a sense of what you hope for the future of NYC Ferry on Staten Island specifically. It's more Southern parts? 

Mayor: Yeah. It's time to take the next step is what I'd say. We had an initial vision of the routes that we knew would make a huge impact, would have a big ridership that proved to be true. We've been building out since then. We'll have a variety of additional actions that you're going to see this year that's going to make a big difference adding to the ferry system, but now it's time to look up the next steps. And the South Shore is definitely one of those steps we should be at right now evaluating. And I've instructed my team to do that, to see how and when we'll be ready to make that move. The NYC Ferry has worked. Let's be abundantly clear, it's worked, and it is the beginning of something much bigger. The ultimate goal here is to have a much bigger ferry system in this city and one interconnected with the work done by the MTA, with the subways and buses, in a variety of ways. So, I see a lot more future, and I certainly see the South Shore as part of that future.  

Moderator: The next is Jenn Peltz from the Associated Press. 

Mayor: Jenn, are you there? Jenn? All right. 

Moderator: We'll come back to Jenn. The next is Juan Manuel from NY1.  

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you?  

Mayor: Good, Juan Manuel, how are you doing? 

Question: Very good, thank you. You're talking about a mandate for all the New York City schools' staff, but also about negotiating with unions. Can you explain what this is? Is this like a mandate that you have to negotiate with the unions, how long that's going to take, and can you really assure parents that their kids are going to be safe if many people working in schools are not going to be vaccinated by September 13th? 

Mayor: Yes, I can certainly assure parents. Their kids are going to be safe because a variety of things. One, we have a huge drive going on right now to vaccinate a 12-year-old and up, kids over 300,000 kids between 12 and 17-years-old, already vaccinated higher than national average. You're going to see a lot more in the next few weeks. Two, we have a strong rate of vaccination in the school system right now among the adults. We're going to be pumping that up even before this mandate takes effect. So you're going to have kids coming into environment where there's a lot of vaccination that's already been done, but on top of that, a huge set of health and safety measures that worked in the past. And we're adding even more. But Juan Manuel to your original point, yes, this is a mandate and it will take effect on September 27. What we are doing starting this week is what's called impact bargaining. It means we're bargaining with the unions over the specific impacts of this policy and working with them to determine some of the elements of implementation. And we hope to come to agreement with them on that. Either way you slice it though, this policy is moving forward and this mandate will be in place. That's the bottom line. Go ahead, Juan Manuel. 

Question: And Mr. Mayor, knowing the impact of Delta right now, there are a lot of companies in New York City that are now delaying the return to the office. Not only by a month, many of those companies coming back in October, but also by a few months. Some companies saying that they won't be back in the office till January or even later. So what's the impact that this is going to have on New York City's economy and the recovery that you're pushing so hard for? 

Mayor: It's a great question. Juan Manuel. Look, first of all, every company has to make sense of its own reality, and I really do respect the choices each company makes, but I want to strongly urge folks in the private sector to follow the lead of the New York City government. We've had folks back in our offices safely and effectively. We believe fundamentally that strong actions on vaccination are the way forward. That's what we're doing today with a vaccine mandate for our public schools. That's what we did with the other mandates we put in place for employees with the approach we're taking – Key to NYC for food – dining I should say indoor entertainment, fitness, all of this is moving us in the right direction. So, I urge companies, follow the example of the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets come up with a schema to get your folks vaccinated. Let's get everyone back. Let's do the best work we can do, which is the work we do together in person by making everyone safe with really strong initiatives, to get everyone vaccinated. And we're going to have to overcome Delta and overcome the coronavirus. This is a good time to stand and fight, and this is a moment to just push right through and beat this thing once since we're all through vaccination. 

But the larger point, our recovery is happening. Juan Manuel, whether businesses have some people stay in the office or work remotely, either way they're working, the income's being is being generated. The revenue is being generated, the activity, and you can see it out in the streets of the city. The recovery is happening. It is strong. It will become stronger as we get even more people vaccinated. And remember, here's a city that can say now, 75 percent of all adults have received at least one dose. We're going to benefit from being one of the more vaccinated places in the country. That's going to allow us to recover more strongly and more quickly than a lot of other places.  

Moderator: The next is Emma Fitzsimmons from the New York Times. 

Question: Hi, good morning, Mayor. I was wondering if you have any concerns or if UFT or the other unions have concerns that the new vaccine mandate could lead to a significant number of teacher resignations? 

Mayor: I won't speak for the unions, but I feel confident, Emma, and I'll certainly have the Chancellor speak to that now as well. I feel confident that this is going to work. We're going to see a lot of our teachers and other school staff get vaccinated as result of this mandate. I think people who do this work, cherish the work, I really think and especially the opportunity in New York City public schools Emma, you've looked at education. I know and a lot of teachers and other professionals yearn to work in the New York City public school system for a lot of reasons, including the way we compensate folks. So, I feel confident that this will work, and we'll get a high level of compliance. And we've given ourselves time here to really work with people, to get this done the right way. Chancellor, do you want to add? 

Chancellor Porter: Absolutely. I agree with you, Mr. Mayor. You know, I do not expect a staffing shortage. I expect our staff members to get vaccinated. Our teachers have been our greatest heroes throughout this pandemic and showed up in so many amazing ways, and this is the next way to get our babies back in class and to keep them protected and safe.  

Mayor: Amen. Go ahead, Emma.  

Question: And then I saw this video of you at the Central Park concert where you came on stage and said, we're going to try to get the show running again. And of course, you know, there was this lightning strike and it ended up being this huge downpour at the park. So, do you regret coming on stage and what was your thinking? 

Mayor: Well, my thinking was I think the same as everyone involved with the show, Clive Davis, and Doug Davis, and the performers – everyone wanted the show to go on. And the initial information we got from our Emergency Management Department and from the weather analysts was that there was going to be an end to the thunderstorms. I mean, a summer thunderstorm is a pretty common thing. And a lot of times as brief, we understood they would pass and then we'd have a good long stretch where things would be clear. And we were hoping to be able to bring the show back in that instance. Unfortunately, you know [inaudible] we had one of the greatest concerts in New York City history. We also had the kind of weather that shut it down, but, you know, we – anyone who was a part of it is going to remember that for the rest of their lives. It was an amazing, amazing concert and really sent the message to the whole world that New York City is back.  

Moderator: As a programming note. We're also joined by Dr. Katz. We'll go back to Jenn Peltz from the AP.  

Mayor: Well, we thought we were. Jenn, are you out there? Jen, Jen, Jen, maybe not.  

Moderator: We'll go to Alex Zimmerman from Chalkbeat.  

Mayor: Who is that again? I'm sorry.  

Moderator: Alex Zimmerman from Chalkbeat.  

Mayor: Alex, are you there? 

Question: Yep. Hi, Mr. Mayor. Thanks so much for taking my question. I wanted to – can you hear me?  

Mayor: Yeah. How are you doing today?  

Question: I'm good. I'm good. How are you?  

Mayor: Good. Thank you. 

Question: So, I just wanted to ask whether given that you're now mandating vaccines for all Education Department employees, and also mandating vaccines for many student athletes, whether you're now considering mandating them for a wider group of students, you know, who are currently eligible for them? 

Mayor: No, right now that is not on the table, Alex. We very much are going to – we're going to move heaven and earth over these next weeks to get our students 12 years old and up vaccinated. We're seeing a great response from our young people and our parents. But we're going to make sure that we do that with every tool we've got, but not through a mandate. We're also really looking forward to as early, as you know, just a few months from now being able to have the authorization to vaccinate five to 11-year-olds. We see that coming soon and I guarantee you, there's going to be a huge demand for that. So, we think that's the best way forward. Go ahead, Alex. 

Question: Got it. I'm just wondering if you can say anything about why that's not on the table at the moment, and also whether you can elaborate at all on like what testing requirements will exist this coming school year. You know, we know some districts are requiring folks to be tested before they return. Is New York City considering anything like that? Can you elaborate on what the testing policies will be? 

Mayor: Testing is going to be something we do regularly. And especially when there's a particular need, I'll have a Dr. Chokshi talk to it. But look to your previous question. I think the bottom line is we want to make sure our schools are safe. That's why we have the ventilation, the masking requirement, the following the CDC rules on distancing the cleaning – but also now a vaccine mandate for all the adults in the building. But we also want to make sure that every child comes back to the classroom right away for the beginning of school, especially those kids who have been out for a year and a half and have missed a crucial time in their education, in their social development. So, we want no impediments. We want to make sure everyone comes back, but we're really, really going to strongly encourage. And I think effectively encourage vaccination in the process. Dr. Chokshi, do you want to speak to the – just broad strokes – the testing approach we'll be taking? 

Commissioner Chokshi: Certainly sir. As you said, you know, testing when it's needed is one of the important layers of protection and safety that we have to offer in the school setting. And so, it will be brought to bear in circumstances where it helps to interrupt the spread. And, of course, for diagnostic purposes as well, testing will be made available. We will have, in many instances, at-home testing kits available for parents and their families too, and all of this will be described in further detail by the Department of Education, and our colleagues, in coming days. Thank you, sir.  

Mayor: Yeah. And thank you for that last point. We are going to be putting out, Alex, in the course of this week, a very detailed kind of handbook for parents to understand a lot of how we're setting up for the school year and the different measures that will be in place and the kind of, you know, everyday information that parents are looking for about how things are going to be working. We'll be getting that out over the next few days.  

Moderator: The next is Elizabeth Kim from Gothamist.  

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. 

Mayor: Hey Elizabeth, how you been? 

Question: I'm good. My question is why not extend the mandate to all City workers at this point, given the fact that the FDA is going to approve the Pfizer vaccine today, full approval that is? 

Mayor: The full approval is crucial, Elizabeth. I agree with you. And, Elizabeth, you've heard me use the phrase, climbing the ladder, before. Every option is on the table, and we keep implementing additional steps at the point we believe it makes sense to do that. So, in terms of the rest of our employees, we're looking at that right now. We wanted to get this piece done. Knowing that our health care workers were covered by the previous State mandate, the most immediate sense of [inaudible] was to address the schools with schools coming up. And then in the days ahead, we'll be looking at the rest of the workforce. So, stay tuned on that. Go ahead, Elizabeth. 

Question: And you also said that the City was going to start bargaining immediately with the union leaders, but I'm wondering what were the conversations with them like prior to you making this decision, I assume, over the weekend? And why didn't Michael Mulgrew appear at the press conference with you today?  

Mayor: Well, you’ll have to – I know Michael's out of town, but you'll have to speak to him about what he feels and his other labor colleagues, because I'm not going to characterize their view, but I can say that we've been having these conversations over days in some cases, with some labor unions over weeks. I think everyone understands that we're in a crisis and vaccination is the answer, but I also understand that their job is to represent their members. And that's why bargaining is so important to make sure that this is done in a way that the unions believe is equitable. Again, I emphasize while bargaining is going on, or if bargaining does not succeed, this mandate will be in place for September 27th, but we look forward to bargaining. We look forward to finding the most common ground possible. And I think the bottom line is certainly – look, I've been working with labor unions for a long, long time. There's not an assumption we're going to agree on everything, but there is an assumption we're going to talk about everything and we're going to look for common ground where we can find it, and certainly an understanding that this is, you know, as exceptional a time as any of us has ever experienced. And we, the City government, we have to defend the interests of the people as a whole, particularly our kids in this case. And we have to create a safe work environment. And that's what this mandate will achieve.  

Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Bob Hennelly from the Chief Leader. 

Question: Mr. Mayor, thanks for taking the call. August 19th, Harry Nespoli, chair of the Municipal Labor Committee, spoke with my colleague Crystal Lewis. And he said that the MLC had sent three letters over a two-week period, and they'd been ignored. I'm just trying to understand and reconcile your comments about collaboration when it appears that if Mr. Nespoli is speaking truthfully there was, kind of, radio silence. Doesn't that kind of amp up the adversarial kind of atmosphere that could actually be counterproductive in terms of producing the results we all want? 

Mayor: Listen, Bob, I've been working with Harry very closely for eight years, tremendously strong working relationship. A lot of the times, in terms of talking about day-by-day issues and developments, our First Deputy Mayor, Dean Fuleihan, or our Labor Relations Commissioner, Renee Campion, speak with Harry. I don't know about those specific letters to be honest with you and I'll get you an update on that, but I do know we stay in dialogue with him and with a variety of union leaders constantly and very respectfully, very respectfully. Even when there's differences, I have tremendous respect for Harry Nespoli, and we talk as two people trying to find a way to solve problems on behalf of the people in New York City. But I understand, he has interests he has to defend for his members. So, I will follow up with you on the letters, but absolutely the spirit has been a positive one. Go ahead, Bob. 

Question: But I guess my – I guess I was speaking with Sarah Nelson who leads the CWAs, flight attendants, and she mentioned it has some 50,000 flight attendants with 17 carriers. Compliance ranges from 70 to 90 percent. And Ms. Nelson told us that the 90 percent higher level was among carriers that had worked out prior, in a non-adversarial setting, a conversation had been detailed with the union so that when the plan was announced, it was one that was done with the collaboration of unions. It appears to me just from reading the [inaudible] here, that's not where you're headed now because you did lose this two weeks if Mr. Nespoli is speaking truthfully. 

Mayor: Bob, I will just, without going into a lot of private conversations, I'll say every dynamic is different. I respect, greatly, what the flight attendants did. Every union's different. Every environment is different. This is New York City with a particular environment here. There has been a lot of dialogue and we've made the decisions based on the health and safety of our people and fighting COVID. Wherever there's a high level of agreement, that's ideal. But we also understand – and I have sympathy for union leaders that have big diverse memberships with lots of different viewpoints. We want to work with them. When we can get to an agreement upfront, that's always the ideal. Where that's not available, we're still going to work with them in a respectful fashion. And, certainly, the labor leaders I spoke to in the last few days appreciated that we were immediately going to impact bargaining, but Bob respectfully, and again, your focus, of course, is on the interests and needs of labor. My focus right now is the health and safety of 8.8 million New Yorkers and stopping the Delta variant and stopping the coronavirus. That's what I'm focused on, but we're going to do it in a way that's respectful to working people.  

Moderator: Now we have time for two more questions. The next is Michael Gartland from the Daily News. 

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing good? 

Mayor: Michael, how you doing today? 

Question: I'm all right. UFT put out a statement that, you know, on this mandate, if you know, the implementation details aren't sorted out to their liking, that this could be resolved – they push for it to be resolved by arbitration. You know, as far as your timeline for this order going into effect September 27, it would seem that that could create problems for doing it on time. Does that give you pause in any way? Have you talked to Mulgrew about that? What can you tell us about that? 

Mayor: Michael, we're very confident that we will implement on September 27th. Negotiations, we really do hope will yield a constructive, positive outcome quickly. If they don't, yeah, things like arbitration are an available avenue and those actions are taken in light of context. It's – one, we have a decision here. This is a decision that is a Commissioner's Order from the Health Department. This is not your garden variety situation and in the middle of a global pandemic. Arbitrators understand urgency too. So, I'd love it if we don't need to use arbitration. If we do, we're going to do it in a tight timeframe, but either way you slice it, this action will be implemented on September 27. Go ahead, Michael. 

Question: Thanks, Mr. Mayor. On the Central Park concert Saturday are you – is the City planning a part two, you know, given the rain out – the partial rain out? Any plans for that in the future?  

Mayor: Really important question. I appreciate it, Michael. Anyone who saw it, anyone who was there, is feeling a great sense of loss because we were watching something magical and an unbelievable statement about New York City and there's unfinished business there. We've got a look at options now. I had a good conversation yesterday with Clive Davis and Doug Davis. We are going to be meeting in the next few days to consider options. But all I can say is what they did in putting together that concert was one of the greatest acts of love and support for New York City I've ever seen. And there's still more out there and we'll have updates on that as we go along. 

Moderator: Last question for today, it goes to Julia Marsh from the New York Post. 

Question: Last but not least, right Mr. Mayor? 

Mayor: That's right, Julia. We would never suggest anything but. 

Question: Okay. I got a question for you a little off topic from what we've already been discussing. What did you make of Governor Cuomo holding storm briefings without incoming Governor Hochul at his side? 

Mayor:  Yeah, Julia, look, to me – first of all, I hope he coordinated with her. I don't know the details of this, but that's the number one thing to me. She's taking over literally in a matter of hours. She deserved that respect and that coordination. I don't mind him having his own briefing. It was his job to do. I'm glad he updated people. But the question I have in my mind is did he coordinate fully with her? And certainly, from this minute on, he owes her absolute deference because she is going to be in charge. Go ahead, Julia. 

Question: Okay. And then following up on a question that Juan asked about, you know, returning to the office full-time – your Corporation Counsel, Georgia Pestana, sent out an email to her 2,000-person workforce on Wednesday saying, “At this time, in the absence of any official announcement from City Hall, everyone should plan for the likelihood that employees will return to the office on a full-time basis, starting September 13.” When are you going to put out an official directive of when your workforce needs to be at their desk five days a week?  

Mayor: Look, bottom line is we want everyone doing what's best to serve the people of the city. And, overwhelmingly, that means being at their work site. There have obviously been some exceptional circumstances, we understand that, and some flexibility and decisions we've made around it. But we long since created a situation where our office workforce came back. In terms of moving out of any kind of flexible schedules, that's something we're looking at right now. We'll have an update on that soon, but the bottom line is we know we can keep our employees safe, and we want them where they can serve the people of this city best.  

And with that, everyone, look, two points where we're going to have little close-out music in a moment. I'll speak to that. But we, today, with this action, once again, New York City is sending a powerful we're going to do whatever it takes to fight the Delta variant, to fight COVID, to bring this city back a hundred percent. Today's announcement, a big piece, and it's a way to reassure our parents, keep our kids safe, keep our employees safe, move the city forward. More to come as we go forward. In the meantime, Borough President Oddo requested close-out music. So, let's hit it. And for all of you who don't know, this is from Dire Straits. I love Dire Straits, loved them ever since Sultans of Swing. Sultans of Swing [inaudible]. This one is Brothers in Arms. Come on, let’s get past the lead-in to the actual music. You guys, I need a better DJ. I've been to concerts all week with much better DJs. There you go. No, that's good. See, there's a hook we know if you're a Dire Straits fan, as I am. I think it's a great selection. I want to see when the song actually gathers some steam here, though. Mark Knopfler, wake up. There we go. 

Thank you, everyone.  


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