October 25, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. I love when we do City Hall in Your Borough. And this week, it is Manhattan Week. Look at this beautiful representation here of the Borough of Manhattan, in all its greatness – everything to enjoy everything, to experience everything to celebrate about Manhattan. Now, of course, City Hall itself is already in Manhattan, but we're going to be focusing on the neighborhoods of Manhattan, on the people of Manhattan, getting around different parts of the community, announcing some real good steps we’re taking to help people, listening to the concerns of the people Manhattan.
Today, great example of something special – we’ll be cutting a ribbon on a new shared street space. This is part of what we're doing, Open Streets and other open spaces to make this city more livable. This one's going to be a wonderful new example, will be the largest shared street in the city, in the Flatiron District, giving back more and more space to the people of this city so they can enjoy it, they can live the vibrant, incredible life of Manhattan, and the whole five boroughs. I want you to hear from the Borough President of Manhattan. She is the biggest booster Manhattan has and she has done great work over years and years to help lift the neighborhoods of this borough. My pleasure to introduce Borough President Gale Brewer.
Mayor: Hold on, technology. We can do this.
Moderator: She's on a phone call.
Mayor: That sounds like Gail. If you know Gail, she's multitasking. Let's see if we can get her. Otherwise, I'll keep moving on. All right. It looks like we should keep moving on. We're going to bring back – we'll bring her back soon as she's ready. Okay. It's Monday morning, that's all right. While waiting on the Borough President to join us, let me talk about our schools for a moment. This has been a great New York City success story, opening our schools beginning of this school year, opening them fully, all our kids back in school, a focus on health and safety. It's been amazing. The gold standard of health and safety standards that we put together has kept kids safe. We all know COVID levels, very, very low in the schools, thank God. But we are focused in every way on the safety of our kids. And we want to make sure in the tough moments we've gone through in the last year-and-a-half, that we are protecting our kids, protecting our schools. We know there's some schools where there's been some real issues lately, and we need to make sure we're adding extra protection to make sure there's never violence, never any incident where a child is harmed.
And so, we will be announcing this week – and details will be forthcoming in the next couple of days – increased unannounced screening at certain schools that need it. We want it to be clear – scanning – I should say, unannounced scanning at certain schools that need it. We want to be clear, the safety of our kids, the safety of the whole school community comes first. And unannounced scanning as a tool it's been very successful. We'll be doing that at some schools where it will be particularly helpful. We're also going to be dedicating some of our Neighborhood Coordination Officers and Youth Coordination Officers from the NYPD to be at arrival and dismissal at some of the schools where there's a particular need. That extra presence is going to help a lot. And we'll be creating safe corridors – 20 safe corridors, where we're going to have extra police presence to support our kids.
Look, that's the public safety element of it. But we also know, when we think about health and safety together, our kids have been through a lot. They've been through a lot in COVID. That's why we hired 500 more social workers for our schools. That's why we're doing social-emotional screening for all our kids. These pieces all interrelate, obviously. But the key is that we continue to make changes and refinements to address what's going on in schools. And the key is to always give kids and their parents, of course, the knowledge you're going to have a safe and positive environment.
Now, let me go to another topic, which is about our safety. And this is to always be vigilant about what mother nature has thrown at us, and weather. We, as I said –
Mayor: Hang on a second. Do we have the Borough President?
Mayor: No, okay. We said after the shock of Hurricane Ida, that we are going to be changing all the ways we alert the people of this city when weather is coming, including very intensive alerts and even taking steps as intense as mandatory evacuations and travel bans. It begins with acknowledging when weather's coming and giving people a sense of what it looks like. Now, we do have some rain coming. It does not look extreme at all at this point. What we're hearing from both National Weather Service and the other different sources that we're turning to now – what we're hearing is between two- and four-inches total rain expected, starting late tonight, going through the whole day Tuesday. That, per se, again, that's a small amount of rain spread out over two days. If that's what really happens, we should be okay. But we will have a flash flood watch in effect from eight o'clock tonight to five o'clock Tuesday.
Now, that said, we're going to constantly update if we see anything starts to change. Even though this does not seem like a major weather event, we're being hypervigilant now. So, I'm going to keep updating you if we see any major changes in that. I will remind people, even though this is not the kind of super intense rain we saw a few times lately – still, if you see an area that looks flooded, you're out walking or driving in an area that looks like it has become flooded, please exercise caution. We want people to be really careful about going into any of those areas. The best option is to turn back and find another route. Obviously, if you're not sure what you're driving or walking into. And with basement apartments, again, we do not expect this level of rain to have a major impact, but we're going to be watching very, very carefully and constantly updating New Yorkers. We also course have our teams out from City agencies, clearing catch basins, making sure the debris is moved away there – that will help address the water. So, hypervigilance is where we're going to be from now on, in the city's history. But we'll give this report now. And then any major changes, there'll be updates in the course of today and tomorrow.
Okay. Now, let's talk about the thing we focus on all the time, the thing that's bringing us back, which is vaccinations. New York City – I'm so proud of all New Yorkers. We have been leading the nation. The number of people gotten vaccinated, the approaches we put into effect, and the way people have embraced them – it's been absolutely outstanding. It's why you can see the life of the city coming back more and more all the time. Right now, almost 12 million doses administered, which is literally almost impossible to imagine. 12 million separate times a New Yorker put out their arm and one of the great members or a vaccination team was there to help them.
So, I’m going to keep reminding anyone who hasn't gotten that first dose – and that's fewer and fewer people now – we’re well over 6 million New Yorkers who have gotten the first dose, at least. But there's still people out there who need it. Obviously, we're looking really looking forward to the next month with our youngest kids getting vaccinated. But there’s still adults who need that vaccination. We're going to be there for you, making it easier, making it free, obviously, always convenient. But now, let's talk about boosters. Job-one is always get folks who have not even had a single dose – that's always going to be our first strategic imperative. But the boosters are really important. And, obviously, on Thursday night, we got what we we're waiting for – the formal approval from the CDC. And, starting Friday morning, the City was ready and already administering boosters in our City-run sites. So far, since the booster effort began with the previous announcements that we received from the CDC, there have been almost 227,000 booster doses given in New York City. So, people have embraced this. And what they found is it's very easy to get that booster. It's easy to schedule an appointment. There's always a lot of places you can walk in as well. If you want to find sites, go to vaccine finder.nyc.gov.
So, here's my message to all New Yorkers – get that booster. It's good for you. It keeps you safe, keeps your family safe. It's ready. It's here. It's now. Go get it. Now, let's hear from our doctor, who's going to tell us the latest – Dr. Dave Choksi.
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. Throughout the pandemic, we've been here to give New Yorkers the latest scientific developments regarding COVID-19 so that we can work together as a city to fight the coronavirus. Last week's vaccine news means that even more of the most at-risk New Yorkers can get an added layer of protection. But figuring out if you're eligible for a booster dose and which one to get, it can be a little confusing. So, let me try to break it down for New Yorkers.
First, the science continues to show that all three of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective at saving lives and preventing suffering. That's why getting more New Yorkers fully vaccinated remains our top priority. Second, booster doses are now available across all three vaccine types – Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. And mixing and matching of vaccines is permitted. Third, anyone who received the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago, like the Mayor and I did, should get a booster shot. It can be any of the three vaccine types. And while the science is not settled about which booster is best, some evidence suggests that a Moderna or Pfizer booster could produce higher antibody levels than a second dose of J&J. Fourth, you are also eligible for a booster if you received Moderna or Pfizer at least six months ago and are in one of these categories – if you're a senior that's 65 years and older; if you're an adult with underlying medical conditions, for example, diabetes; or, an adult at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure, like a health care worker, a first responder, or a nursing home resident. If you received two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the science that we have suggests getting the same vaccine for your booster. But you have the choice to switch to any of the other vaccine types.
Finally, if you're not sure which booster is right for you, you can consult with your doctor, clinical staff at one of the cities hundreds of vaccination sites, or visit us at nyc.gov/covidvaccine to learn more. And remember, while boosters are good news for individuals and for our city, first doses remain even more important than third doses. If you know someone who remains unvaccinated, please reach out to them, share your story, and encourage them to join the over 6 million New Yorkers who are moving our city forward. Thank you so much, sir.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Dr. Chokshi. Thank you to you and all your colleagues for getting us ready. And everyone, look, Dr. Chokshi is making it really clear to everyone. New Yorkers, if you’re eligible, go out and get that booster. And you can mix and match. So, I'm an example – like, Dave, I got Johnson & Johnson. And now, I will lead by example. It's time for a booster. And the advice I've received is, in this case, as a Johnson & Johnson recipient, the best alternative for the booster is Moderna. That's based on the latest research. I’m pulling the sleeve up as Dave has told me to – very, very high. I’m going to hold it up, Dave. Give me a boost, Dave.
Commissioner Chokshi: You know the drill. We have some practice with this.
Mayor: We have done this very successfully before. I’m putting my shoulder where my mouth is – wait a minute, that doesn't make sense. I'm always trying to come up with something unscripted here.
Commissioner Chokshi: Well, this does give me a chance to say that everyone can also get the vaccine in the comfort of their own home.
Mayor: That’s right.
Commissioner Chokshi: Nyc.gov/homevaccine.
Mayor: That is a damn good point – amazing, amazing service this city provides.
Commissioner Chokshi: Alright, sir – 3, 2, 1 –
[Commissioner Chokshi administers Moderna booster]
Mayor: At some point, Dave will administer the Moderna booster. I know it's live TV and, you know, these precious seconds are passing by. Dave, when are we going to do this?
Commissioner Chokshi: We are all done, sir.
Mayor: What? I'm shocked.
Commissioner Chokshi: I’ll just give you your band-aid.
Mayor: Well done. This guy really, really – very subtle shot-giver. Thank you, Dave. You are a man of many, many skills.
Commissioner Chokshi: You got it, sir.
Mayor: Well done. All right. Now, watch you to hear from a great expert – really one of the most powerful voices during this whole, almost, two years we've been through together. She's spoken about how we have to address COVID and also address it in a way that reaches everyone in this city, in this nation. Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at New York University's Grossman School of Medicine and a member of the Biden-Harris Transition Team with the COVID advisory board. She's been a leader on this issue throughout. My pleasure to introduce Dr. Celine Gounder.
Mayor: Thank you so much, doctor. And thank you for giving us a real reminder that if we do the right thing, there's something better ahead. And this year is going a lot better than last year. So, thank you for your leadership and thank you for reminding people how important it is to get that extra protection against COVID, very much appreciate it.
All right. It's time for our indicators. And our indicators, again, begin with a striking number – number of doses administered to-date. We're getting damn close to 12 million. Right now, 11,952,306 doses from the beginning. Again, by far, overwhelmingly, the largest vaccination effort in the history of New York City. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today's report, 86 patients. Confirmed positively level of 23.33 percent. Hospitalization rate, everyone knows this is what we watch particularly carefully. This is a good number now – 0.51 per 100,000. Finally, new reported case on a seven-day average – today's report is 743 cases. So, we're making real progress, but we never, ever take our eye off the ball when it comes to COVID. We’ve got to keep making progress.
A few words in Spanish about the booster shots –
[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 Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison, by Chancellor Meisha Porter –
Mayor: Department – what have you just done?
Moderator: Chief of Department [inaudible] –
Mayor: That’s his previous role –
Moderator: Monday morning. Chief of Department Rodney Harrison, Chancellor Meisha Porter, Dr. Mitchell Katz, and by Acting Commissioner of New York City Emergency Management Andy D'Amora. First question today, it goes to Jillian from NY1.
Question: Hi, Mayor. Happy Monday. I want to ask about the increased use of random metal detectors or scanning in schools. You know, there were three guns recovered from students last week. Some of those at buildings with full-time scanners, some with roving scanners. Is there a sense of why we've seen this uptick in weapons recovered? That seems like an unusual amount of weapons to be recovered in such a short period of time to me. Is there any theory as to why we're seeing this increase?
Mayor: It's a great question, Jillian. I mean, we've obviously talked now for months about the fact that since COVID began, we've seen a proliferation of weapons in the community in general. This is a huge problem. Now, NYPD has done an amazing job with the most gun arrests we've seen in decades, but we have a problem in the city. There's too many weapons out there. It's obvious. And look, school safety, NYPD they have done a great job of finding these weapons before they could do any harm, thank God. But there is a problem out there and that's why we have put these measures in place. I want to turn to Chief Harrison and the Chancellor and see if they want to add anything. Chief.
Chief of Department Rodney Harrison, NYPD: Yeah, good morning, Mr. Mayor. And I have to give compliments to the school safety agents for the recovery of these firearms. You know, scanning at some of the sites throughout the city, I think is going to help students traveling back and forth to school make that process a lot safer. You know, it's something that I wish was not happening, but it is. Unfortunately, we do see, too often, a lot of our youth carrying guns. But the last thing we need to see is somebody entering a school site with a firearm. And that's why it's so important that we have our school safety agents, our metal detectors in the appropriate places doing unannounced scanning like we saw at one of the sites in the Bronx last week where we were able to recover a .380-caliber firearm. So, it's something that we're going to have to manage. Working with the Department of Education, I think it's a thing that we'll have in place that's going to be in the benefit for the students in New York City.
Mayor: Thank you. Chancellor, would you like to add?
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter: I just – first of all, I want to thank the NYPD, Chief Harrison for their partnership. You know, our goal is to keep our students and community safe together and also really want to thank the school safety agents. I think what's important to note is that, you know, recognizing that we got those weapons off the street also recognizes that our systems are working. And I think that's what's really important about this moment.
Mayor: Amen. Go ahead, Jillian.
Question: Yeah. And just to follow up on that, I know that there was some concern about staffing levels for school safety agents due to the vaccine mandate. I was wondering if you had an update on the percentage of school safety agents who have since been vaccinated and whether or not you're concerned that there might be some staffing issues at play here, or, you know, what you – if you've got people working longer shifts. I know that sometimes scanning can slow down the entry to a building resulting in long lines. So, just kind of trying to get a sense of whether or not you have enough staff at school safety right now to accommodate this increase.
Mayor: Yeah. I do feel confident right now and I'll speak to it – and obviously if the Chief or Chancellor want to add. Right now, very important question you're asking Jillian, and the news is good – 92 percent of school safety agents have been vaccinated. So, that's a really outstanding number. That number puts us at a point where obviously we have the ability, if we need to move some folks around or do some overtime, we can compensate for any needs. But the other thing is adding the random scanning in certain places, adding the presence of NYPD at arrival and dismissal outside the building. All of this allows us to make a lot of impact. And again, I want to add the thanks to Chief Harrison. He's been very, very responsive to the DOE and really been thoughtful about these deployments of the officers outside to help support the efforts inside. I think it's having a big impact. So, the overall situation, I think we feel good about the people we have and where we're putting them. Chief or Chancellor, do you want to add?
Chief Harrison: Yeah, Mr. Mayor, you know, we have 3,200 agents at the 1,400 sites throughout the city. We've identified multiple locations where we do scanning. Once again, that's very fluid, but at the same time important in order for us to seize some of these weapons that are unfortunately, or potentially I should say, getting into some of our schools. So, I'm content where we stand with our school safety agents right now. Mr. Mayor, you stated this early in the press conference, we do have a backup of our YCOs, our youth coordination officers, and our neighborhood coordination officers backfilling some of the schools where we don't have the maximum amount of coverage of school safety agents. So, I'm optimistic that we're doing all we can do to protect the students traveling back and forth to school.
Mayor: Thank you. Chancellor, do you want to add anything?
Chancellor Porter: I really, briefly again, you know, I think one of the great things is that our school safety agents knew how important they were, and they are to our school communities. And so, I'm really proud of that 92 percent vax rate, and just want to continue to thank the NYPD for their continued partnership, to add those additional supports to our schools.
Mayor: Amen. Go ahead.
Moderator: The next is Steve Burns from WCBS880.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you?
Mayor: Good, Steve, how are you doing?
Question: Doing all right. I wanted to continue on the same topic here regarding schools. We've heard from a lot of advocates who are looking for less of a police presence in schools, and that metal detectors specifically somewhat play a role of antagonizing students, demeaning students. Are you at all worried that these – that more screenings could possibly exacerbate tensions between youth and the police at a really sensitive time like this?
Mayor: That's a fair question, Steve. I would say this, we know – and we've seen this unfortunately all over the country, we know that in the COVID era, there was a proliferation of guns. First job is to keep everyone safe. The random scanning means it happens sometimes. It happens just to remind everyone that there will be that accountability. I think that's a smart measure that doesn't cause some of the concerns that some of the advocates are raising the same way. But I also think it's about how we do it – and I'd like the Chief and the Chancellor to speak to this, either one – that you can do scanning in a way that is respectful and communicative. That's what we want to see. There's been a lot of work done with the coordination of the DOE and the NYPD to train school safety agents towards a particular approach that's very, very communicative with young people and tries to bring them closer. And I think you can achieve both goals, making sure there’s safety and accountability, but also having the right kind of dialogue. Chancellor, do you want to start on that? Chancellor? Can you hear me?
Chancellor Porter: Yes, absolutely. Yep. I can hear you. So, first of all, you know, I just want to, again, you know, acknowledge that I know Chief Harrison shares my commitment to ensuring that we're approaching this moment [inaudible] this temporary measure with empathy and care for our students. We talked about it just yesterday. And so, I know he's committed to doing that and to having his team members who will be joining and supporting their efforts. I also just want to acknowledge that this is one part of a series of commitments we have to supporting the safety and wellbeing of our students. I'm here today at the Urban Assembly School for Future Leaders led by Principal Gates, where we are looking at the social-emotional learning practices and talking to students about how they’re regulating emotions, how they're learning to make good decisions. That is a huge part of our efforts to keep our schools and our community safe. And so, there's temporary measures about this moment. The NYPD's commitment to approaching this with us with empathy and care for our students is another critical factor, but the longer-term work of investing in the mental health and social-emotional needs of our students is a priority. And I also want to thank the First Lady who led this effort and who was here with us today.
Mayor: Thank you very much. She's really excited about the social-emotional learning is – you're absolutely right. It's not only about kids’ ability to have positive productive lives, it's going to help them academically, it's going to help them in their family lives or human lives, but also it does have a huge ramification for safety. It reduces conflict and it helps to keep kids on a good path. Chief, do you want to add anything?
Chief Harrison: Yeah. Mr. Mayor, just real quickly. I see some positive training that goes into this whole process of scanning with the school safety agents, but it's also about relationship building. I think that's an important component that's being left off the table regarding the dialogue and discussion regarding having the school safety agents, making sure that the students are safe, but also making sure that there's a conversation to explain what we're doing and why we're doing it. So, there's professionalism there, there's a training mechanism, and I want to believe we're doing it correct.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead, Steve.
Question: Appreciate all of those answers. Wanted to switch topics here and discuss the safe streets, Open Streets. I know you're going to be speaking at the event in a couple of hours, but in general, there's always been this kind of tension between what the local community might want and what might be useful for the city at large. And we're still seeing a lot of those kinds of battles play out about safe streets. I know here in Sunset Park, there's a debate around 7th and 8th Avenues. The democratic nominee for City Council has said DOT hasn't been entirely responsive, hasn't been consciously diverse in its outreach, and recently tweeted that 7th and 8th Avenues don't need to bear the burden of changes to make our streets safer. So, I mean, I don't need you to speak specifically to that project, but more in general, how do you balance what might be better for the city at large in terms of safe streets versus, you know, a lot of that local on-the-ground type opposition that seems to crop up for a lot of these projects?
Mayor: Yeah, that's a great question, Steve, and it's very important. I have spoken to Commissioner Gutman on this issue, and he is going to go and have deeper engagement with the community because I do not think it's mutually exclusive to have safe streets and also address community concerns. I felt that's from the beginning. I believe foundationally in Vision Zero. I'm the person who brought Vision Zero to the city in force, and it's had a profoundly good impact and it will have a lot bigger impact in the future as we get out of COVID and people get out of their cars again, go back to mass transit. But I also don't think any approach should be seen dogmatically. So, for example, you could want to ensure safety. There's more than one way to do that. Sometimes that's a bike lane. Sometimes that's other safety measures. Sometimes it's a combination. And you do need to look at the other factors in the community. You do need to look at, for example – I've always felt this – you got to look at what's happening with jobs and small business and keeping neighborhood businesses alive. So, safety first always, and we are going to aggressively put safety measures in all over the city constantly. But if there are certain measures that work better and others that work less well for a community, we can be flexible about that or a location difference. It can all be adjusted when we listen to that community impact, excuse me, community input, we can find out if there's unintended consequences and make adjustments. Safety first, but listen to communities, make valid adjustments when there are valid concerns. That's the approach we'll take.
Moderator: The next is Katie Honan from The City.
Question: Hey, good morning, Mayor de Blasio. Before a question, I heard you were in church yesterday talking about how much you despise Zooms. Very ironic. Now, here we are still on a digital platform, wish we were in-person. Anyway, just wanted to, be not afraid of the word said let us back into your church. The question I have is about my colleague, Claudia, wrote a story about the soccer stadium in the Bronx. And I know there's been some back and forth, some issues with the EDC and NYCFC. So, my question to you is can you commit to pledging to get this deal done? I know there's some dispute over parking spaces. So, what is, I guess your message? Can you pledge to get this done before you leave office?
Mayor: I don't know if I can, Katie. It's a good question. This one has been on again, off again for a variety of reasons. I'd obviously love to see it come together, but it has to happen in an equitable manner. It has to happen in the manner the community is comfortable with and believes in. And the last I checked in on this issue a few months back, when we had our Bronx week, there was still tremendous community concern. And a sense that, you know, they do not yet hear are the kinds of things that would make them comfortable with moving forward. So, I'll check in on it again. But unless, there is some kind of deeper consensus. I don't know if this is going to happen in the next couple of months. Go ahead, Katie.
Question: Thanks. And I wanted to get your take. So, I read two profiles of Eric Adams this weekend and today. And you know, just profiling him as a candidate and what kind of mayor he'll be. And the kind of overwhelming reaction from people quoted is, wow, it's so nice that we finally have a mayor who's charming and fun and is interested in the job, and it seems like he really wants it. And I've kind of read that with the subtext that maybe you weren't those things as your two terms of mayor. So, I wanted to get your reaction on that? And how you kind of feel about that sort of implication?
Mayor: Oh Katie, you know, I am too experienced to even want to get into all that. I really, look, I think every single day, I'm talking about so many issues that matter to everyday New Yorkers. And whether it's this format or the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC, or being out in communities, I'm talking to people all the time about what they care about and what we're doing to address their needs. I think anyone who's watching objectively, sees how deeply I care about these issues and how much work we've done on them. We had a great summer. We had a lot of fun this summer as the city was coming back. I'm really at peace with the things I've done and who I am. I also am a huge fan of Eric Adams, and I think he's going to be a great mayor.
Moderator: The next is Elizabeth Kim from Gothamist.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I wanted to start off by asking about, there's some social media reports about garbage not being picked up in parts of Staten Island and Queens. And we were just wondering if that had anything to do with staffing shortages at the Department of Sanitation? Because they had particularly low vax rates and whether there's some kind of connection between the vax mandate and suddenly garbage not being picked up in certain parts of the city?
Mayor: Yeah, Elizabeth. I'll look at that. I don't have any hard data on that at this point in time, but I'll look at that. Overall, I think Sanitation has done a remarkable job throughout this crisis and really made things happen with the tools they had. So, I expect that to continue. Go ahead, Elizabeth.
Question: Thank you. And because there's a flood watch tonight and also there is, or was a climate change protest on the FDR, I wanted to ask on behalf of some of the families who live on the street in Hollis, they've been trying very hard to get a meeting with your office. And they've told me that, you know, they just haven't heard back. I wanted to see you know, what's the status on that? You know, they've had flooding for decades and they're really not feeling very great about what their options are at this point.
Mayor: I said, I believe publicly Elizabeth, I want senior members of the team to meet with them. So, if that has not happened, that's not good. And I will fix that today. We want to see what we can do to help. Obviously, you may have been out there, Elizabeth, you know, a huge amount of work has been underway to try and help that community. We put $2 billion into parts of Queens that were really flood prone. And a lot of them actually in this last horrible situation with Ida, did not feel the effects, thank God, because those investments really worked. There's a particular area, as you mentioned, that we still are seeing real, real problems. And I feel for those families. So, we got to figure out what we can do more to help. And I want them to have that meeting. And I want to see what we can do to help. So, we'll make sure that happens right away.
Moderator: The next is Marcia Kramer from WCBS.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. How you doing today?
Mayor: I'm doing well, Marcia. How are you?
Question: I’m okay. I'd like to talk to you about school safety, if you don't mind. One of the arguments that the school safety union makes, and some of the teachers in schools, is that there's not enough safety agents. And the numbers that they give are this, that before all of this, before the defund the police movement and the vaccine mandate, there were 5,560 officers. Now there's about 37. A combination of factor they say, including some who didn't get the vaccine and many who were, who left and were not replaced because you didn't have another class. Now the reason I'm asking this question about whether you need more safety officers, for example, last week at Mott Haven, where they found a gun, a fully loaded gun. They had eight agents when the gun was found. But before that, they had 17. At Susan Wagner High School, where they had that incredible brawl, where a safety agent was dragged along the floor, there were seven agents on duty, but before attrition and the vaccine mandate, there were 19. Do you think that you really need to have more safety agents in some schools? Because there seems to be an uptick in violence community wide?
Mayor: So, Marcia, I'll start and I'll turn to Chief Harrison and Chancellor Porter. First of all, again, the most – I'm a parent. I want to make sure kids are safe. I want to make sure the whole school community, the adults included, are safe, unquestionably. And I think school safety agents are a crucial piece of the equation. I really – I believe in the work of the school safety agents, I think they do very, very good and important work. I support them. And I also want to acknowledge, if 92 percent have gotten vaccinated – your question is absolutely fair, Marcia. But I want to be clear, vaccination – that's a very, very successful number. So, let's give credit to the school safety agents who went and got vaccinated. We do have more agents coming in. There is a new class coming. We got to figure out over time, what the exact right number is. But I want to affirm these incidents, we all take these incidents very seriously. And they draw our attention and make us want to do things better and make changes. But I also want to say, thank God, these incidents are rare. So, in terms of making whatever adjustments, we need to, talked about the random scanning and the way we use the officers outside the schools as well. But to your specific question about the numbers and how we're working with the numbers of agents, first, Chief Harrison, then Chancellor Porter. Chief, can you hear us?
Chief Harrison: Yes, I can. Can you hear me?
Chief Harrison: Hey, good morning, Marcia. So, regards to your number. I don’t want to say that's bad information, but the highest amount that we had was about 5,000 school safety agents. That's the first thing. The second thing is November 30th, we're looking to put a class in of 250 school safety agents. That's going to be a nice punch in the arm regarding having the appropriate amount of school safety agents throughout the city. And once again is this, I'll say this all the time. The NYPD, we're very resilient. We'll figure out different ways to make sure we have the appropriate amount of presence at some of the schools, especially some of the schools that we may see some issues at. I said it earlier, the Mayor stated it as well. If we have to tap into some of our local precincts that just have that exterior presence outside, we'll do that. But one thing I will reassure you Marcia, and the rest of the residents of New York City, student safety is NYPD’s number one priority. So, we'll do whatever we have to do to make these students safe.
Mayor: Excellent, Chancellor.
Chancellor Porter: Yeah, I'll just add, you know, we work every day with the NYPD to make sure that we have appropriate staffing and resources as needed. And, you know, as the Mayor said, we are watching incidents. We're watching issues in our schools and making adjustments as necessary. I just want to continue to remind us that safety is a community expectation and a community commitment. And we're working with our community, with our NYPD partners and our school safety agents are heroes in this moment and continue to be. But also with our principals and our school leaders and district support teams to make sure that we're wrapping our schools with the social emotional supports that are needed as well.
Mayor: Marcia, go ahead. Marcia?
Question: Can you hear me?
Mayor: Yeah, there you go.
Question: Can you hear me? So, Mr. Mayor, my next question has to do with the amount of schools that you say that have scanners. What I've been told is that only about a hundred schools in the city have permanent scanning? And there were a lot of people who think there should be many more schools that have scanners because of what's going on. And a lot of times when you say, unannounced screening, I have watched schools -- I've gone to schools where there've been knifings and stabbings and shootings. And it seems that the unannounced screenings go in the morning after you've had an incident, and then you take them out three hours later. So, everybody knows that, okay, that day they're not going to be able to get their weapons in, but the next day after that they can. So, the question is given the fact that we have these ongoing problems right now in our community, a lot of places with gangs, for example, at Mott Haven, when I was there on Friday, I watched the people getting out and there were a number of people wearing the red do-rags of the Bloods gang, a number of students. So, my question is, do you need to increase the number of schools that have scanners, even if it's for a short period of time so that it's not like, okay, we're bringing in the scanner in today, but we know that tomorrow it is going to be gone so it's safe to bring your weapon back to school?
Mayor: Marcia, I respect the question because it's a good thing to say, when we're doing something like this, are we doing it the right way? My experience with random scanning is not what you've heard. My experience is it goes in and is continued for the very purpose of creating accountability. I think random scanning is a very powerful tool if it is consistent enough. And it has to be, and I'll let the Chief and the Chancellor speak to that. There are some schools where more consistent scanning makes sense. There are other schools where it doesn't. We've said many times over the years, this has to be a decision between the Department of Education, the NYPD and the school community to figure out what makes sense for them. But I also want you to be careful on the overall. Thank God, that the work of our school safety agents, work of the NYPD, has kept our schools much safer than it used to be, much, much safer than they used to be. And I've looked at the current numbers and they are very consistent with pre pandemic reality. Although you're right, there's a particular issue in the community with guns out there that we have to be very, very focused on. But I want to emphasize some schools, yes, of course regular scanning makes sense. Some schools, random CKD makes sense. Some schools, it doesn't. Let the professionals, let the security experts make that decision with the school community. Chief Harrison? Chief, can you hear us?
Chief Harrison: I can hear you. Hey, Marcia, so regarding your concern about the random scanning. There's something that we have in place called field intelligence agents. And one of the things that they do is they get information about incidents that are happening around the city. And then we take a closer look or a deeper dive into what schools may be affected. And once we take a look at that, then we'll identify that site and then do a scanning at that location. So, there's a lot of work, be it through law enforcement working with the community that comes into place to make sure that we're identifying the right locations and doing the scanning to prevent any violence that could possibly happen within inside some of these schools.
Mayor: Thank you. Chancellor, you want to add on that topic.
Chancellor Porter: I'll just add that, you know, we are making adjustments and really looking at schools across the city in partnership with the NYPD. And so, this is not a response to what happened today, tomorrow, this is being proactive and thinking forward about keeping our schools and communities safe. I think it's also important to note, you know, out – who we have walking in our buildings every day, our children, our students, our babies, and we made a commitment to welcoming them back into warm and affirming and supportive school communities, and so they deserve to walk into buildings where they feel that, but also acknowledge that we need to keep them safe every single day.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.
Moderator: The next is Emma from the New York Times.
Question: Hi, good morning, Mayor. So, it's day six of this taxi driver hunger strike. They're saying that your debt relief plan is a banker bailout, and it still leaves drivers trapped. Are you considering doing more?
Mayor: Thank you for the question. Emma, look, this has been such a painful reality for everyone. I feel – really feel for the drivers who've been in a tough situation. The world changed intensely. It left them in a very, very tough dynamic, and I just feel for people. I've met a lot of the drivers. I know that they're struggling with the debts that they are carrying. But I disagree with that characterization profoundly, Emma. Right now, we got 144 medallion owners who've come forward. $19 million in debt has been erased. We think this can reach another thousand in the short term, another thousand individuals who are going through all this $500 million in debt relief is what can be achieved here. This is about the drivers. We did this for the drivers, and it is making an impact in their lives and people are voting with their feet. They're coming forward and they're taking up this plan. We're going to constantly look and see if there's anything else we can do that makes sense. But I want to emphasize this is having a real impact right now to relieve that pressure on the drivers. Go ahead, Emma.
Question: And then the city worker mandate is due by the end of this week. I'm curious, are you all preparing any arrangements for staffing shortages at NYPD, FDNY, or the Sanitation Department?
Mayor: Yeah. That's an important question, Emma, we've talked about this when we made the announcement. Definitely, the answer is always yes. That when you saw with our hospitals, with our schools, a lot of contingency work was done, the same with all of the rest of our city agencies. Every commissioner and their team has talked through different options. Obviously, use of overtime is an example, changing deployments, changing some priorities. We've got a of tools here that we can use. But I'll tell you, Emma, I talked to all the relevant commissioners in the lead up, especially the most crucial operational agencies. and every one of them said they were confident that it was the right thing to do, and obviously, you know, consistent majorities of their members of their departments have gotten vaccinated, but we've seen the mandates move a lot more people to get vaccinated. So, we know that, and we also know these agencies are ready and they're very good at dealing with different situations and having a plan B ready.
Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is James Ford from PIX-11.
Question: Thanks very much for taking my call. Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. Happy Monday,
Mayor: Happy Monday, James, how you feeling?
Question: Very well. Thank you. I appreciate your asking. I hope you're well also.
Mayor: Thank you.
Question: This is something of a follow-up to the previous question. Look I'm going to be covering yet another protest against the vaccine mandate for municipal workers. And this one is centered around FDNY employees, Many of whom are saying they intend to be at work on Monday, even if they're not vaccinated and force you to send them home. Can you respond to that specific form of protest and respond generally to push back against the mandate by municipal workers?
Mayor: Look, James, I appreciate always the people do the work. And as I've said, it's also been a very strange moment in history where there's so much misinformation out there and people have been told things that just aren't true about the vaccine, but thank God, the vast, vast majority of New Yorkers. I mean right now, amazing, as of today about 85 percent of all adults in New York City have gotten at least one dose and it's a super, super majority. So, the vast majority of people have decided this is the right thing to do. And the vast majority New Yorkers have supported these mandates. But there's still a lot of misinformation. Some people are being swayed by it. We’re going to be really clear and consistent, just like we did with health workers, just like we did with education employees, you have until Friday at five o'clock. If you choose not to get vaccinated, you go on leave without pay. We move forward from there. But I also remind you that very powerful example of Department of Education that, you know, it was couple of weeks ago we had that deadline, and then since then 3,500 DOE employees have gone and gotten vaccinated who missed that original deadline. I think you're going to see some of that. So, folks who don't get vaccinated, sorry to say, they won't get paid. They want to get paid, we need them to be vaccinated. Go ahead, James.
Question: Thank you. Also, on behalf of my colleague, Nicole Johnson, the Eric Garner judicial hearing is today. Can we get your thoughts on that? To my knowledge, you're not being required to testify in it. Nonetheless, can you talk about the fact that the family is still seeking justice in that case? after so long?
Mayor: I saw his mom, Gwen Carr just a few days ago at an event, and I feel for her every time I see her, she's just a really good, warm, decent human being who has been put through hell. It's horrible. It's one of those days in New York city history is just continues to paint us. I wish somehow it never had happened but look there's been a lot done to try to address what happened and to try to move us forward, to including the retraining of the entire police force in de-escalation, and a lot of other changes, that really have had an impact and really have made us better and made the way that we police our communities better. There's still a lot more to do, but I hope, you know, as, as we end this chapter that we realized we just got to keep at the work, so we never have another tragedy like that again.
Moderator: Last question for today. It goes to Julia from The Post.
Question: Mr. Mayor, how's your arm feeling?
Mayor: Feeling good. Thank you, Julia. I am feeling good. Dave is really good at giving shots. I've had my share over the years he's very, very good at, so I encourage a booster for everyone, Julia.
Question: Okay, great. Well maybe I'll see if he can give me one sometime.
Mayor: Dave Chokshi, that’s it. That's a challenge. There you go.
Question: I'm not as well-versed in scripture as Ms. Honan, but I would agree that given that you were telling a local congregation that you hate Zoom. We'd also – you know, a lot of us don't like Zoom either. I would rather be in-person with you onto my questions. When you said the city was going to remove basically any Trump organization concessions there've been a series of hiccups, the skate rink, the prices are now higher. The carousel was closed over the summer and now of course, with the golf course in the Bronx, the Trump organization is suing you for $30 million. Critics say that you're using taxpayer money to settle a political score, even Scott Stringer, Ruben Diaz, Jr, of course to fellow Democrats have criticized, your handling of the process. So, can you please address those issues?
Mayor: We're doing what's the right thing for the people of this city. Made very clear that we need to work with businesses that make sense for us. I am absolutely certain each of those sites will be well run by the new concessionaires we had to move forward, and it was within our rights to move forward. So, I have confidence that everything will ultimately be good for the people that city. I mean, that's why I made the decision and I'm comfortable with it. Go ahead, Julia.
Question: Thank you. There's new data that reveals a 24 Department of Correction officers, largely women, have been sexually assaulted by inmates so far this year. There's that then of course, there's the suicides, There are the conditions in the holding cell, there's violence between inmates, between guards and inmates. I'm wondering when you say enough is enough, why hasn't there been any shakeup in terms of people who are in charge of the department?
Mayor: Well, Julia, you raise important issues, in particularly this this new information about sexual harassment. I mean the good news on that is the Bronx DA Office has been very aggressive. Department of Corrections has been aggressive. There's already been nine arrests in those cases of harassment, more are coming. That sexual harassment is absolutely unacceptable and where it's found, there will be consequences, period. So, we're showing that. The cells when people come in originally an intake, that situation has been very greatly changed. So, reporting about what was before does not reflect what it is now. The whole setup has been changed. More space had been created, more personnel, obviously, the efforts to address very aggressively the harmful actions by some employees harming their fellow employees by staying out when they weren't really sick. That's been very aggressive. A number of people have been suspended. A number of people have come back to work. We have a commissioner, he's still a pretty new commissioner, and I give him credit. He's taken on this situation with a lot of energy to find solutions, and we've also had a partner in the State we didn't have before who, you know, I give great credit to everyone the state has been working with us because this is what we needed was the cooperation to reduce the population and get some of the help in we needed.
So, look, there's a lot more to do, and the ultimate action is to get off Rikers once and for all. And I'm proud we achieved with the City Council, has to be implemented over the next few years, but we're moving in that sense very much in the right direction. And we'll keep working every day to make the situation better, but the ultimate solution is get off Rikers period. And with that, everyone, just to say, going back to where we started today, we are moving forward as a city on so many fronts and New Yorkers should be proud of it, but the thing we need to all do to make sure we move forward is get vaccinated. Anyone who's not, it's time. Anyone who eligible for that booster, do like I did, go out and get it. Get that extra protection, move us forward, keep us safe. Holidays are coming. We want families to be safe. Let's do this.