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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability

October 27, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. We talk all the time about a Recovery For All of Us. It means reaching every part of the city, reaching New Yorkers who got the respect they deserved before and also New Yorkers who often didn't get the investment and the support they needed sufficiently before. And we're going to write those wrongs as we move forward. The recovery is an opportunity to do a lot of things right. So, let's talk about public housing, all the good people who live in NYCHA buildings, 400,000 of our fellow New Yorkers. A lot of folks who do really tough, important jobs for the city, help keep the city going. Well, they deserve the best quality of life possible. We've been putting a huge amount of investment in to start to fix what's broken and has been broken for decades in NYCHA. We need a lot of federal support. That's going to be a big piece of the equation going forward. Important discussions right now in Washington that could have a profound effect on the future of public housing in this city. And I want to thank our congressional delegation, a particular thanks to Senator Schumer who's fighting very hard to get real, intense resources to help public housing here in New York City.  

But in the meantime, we're going to fix the things we can fix. And one of them is a persistent issue. It has bothered me from the beginning of my time as mayor. And I think it bothers residents of NYCHA a lot. When you have those big sidewalk sheds, those scaffolds around that just seem to sit there for a long time and affect the quality of life. They affect the whole feeling of life in a development. They have a purpose when that purpose is needed, but sometimes they linger after that purpose or things drag on that should be done quickly. It affects the lives of the residents. We need to address this issue. So, today we're making a major announcement for the people of this city who live in public housing. We're investing $111 million to repair the facades of buildings – that's usually the reason why those scaffolds, those sheds are up – we’re going to be repairing 45 buildings in 15 developments – and this is important to note – where sheds have been up for up to five years, five years, waiting for the repairs to be made because there weren't sufficient resources. We're putting the resources in, the repairs get made, the sheds come down, the development is safer. It looks better. It's better for everyone. $16 million specifically is going to repair facades at NYCHA developments in Manhattan. And, of course, it’s City Hall in Your Borough Week for Manhattan. So, we're focusing on some of the really important investments we're making in the neighborhoods of Manhattan. I want you to hear from someone who really understands what residents of public housing live with and what they need and deserve. She has been a champion for public housing residents. She grew up on the Lower East Side herself. One of the developments in her district, Meltzer Tower, is going to benefit here, it is my pleasure to introduce Council Member, Carlina Rivera. 

Well, okay, they're having a little technical difficulty this morning. So, that’s what we get for starting earlier. Okay. Council Member Rivera will be joining us momentarily. We'll come back to that issue. But I mentioned City Hall in Your Borough for Manhattan. We're going to stay on that theme while we come back to the Council member in a moment. So, yesterday I had an amazing experience at some place – I want to urge all New Yorkers, go check this out, the Drama Book Shop in Manhattan. It is something very special. I joined Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is just one of the great New Yorkers. He's one of the people that has told the story of New York City to the whole world. He's someone who has created extraordinary works and continues to create more. And the Drama Book Shop is so important because this is the place where he really started his work as a writer. This is the place where he created the original play In The Heights, long before it became a great movie. Now, this is the new location because the shop was going to close. It's been around for over a hundred years. It was going to close. Lin-Manuel and other good people decided to save it. This is a great example of our resiliency as New Yorkers, our ability to come back, our ability to make sure that we keep the things we love. This is an amazing place. If you love the theater, film, if you love writing, this is a place to spend time. A lot of people just go there, spend a lot of time reading. It's really amazing. So, we have so many special places in New York City, particularly small businesses, mom-and-pop businesses, places that were started as a labor of love, continued to be kept as a labor of love. The Drama Book Shop’s a great example of that.  

Now, I said yesterday, if you believe in our neighborhood stores, if you believe in the places that make New York City great, you got to go and spend your money there. So, we're going to be talking about this a lot between now and the end of the holidays. Shop Your City. This was a big initiative we did last year that really helped. Last year was so tough for small businesses, neighborhood businesses. We kept telling people, you know, we understand people are going to have lots of choices, how you spend your money, particularly around the holidays, but please as much as possible shop local, put that money into small businesses, help them survive. It makes a huge difference. So, yesterday we saw, live in action, the beauty of a small business, what it means for our community. And Lin-Manuel said something very powerful about the way New Yorkers are fighting back against COVID. And he has been someone who has kept boosting the city throughout, saying that Broadway could and will come back. He's been one of the people that told people, believe we can make it happen. I want you to just hear a brief message of what he said yesterday that really moved me. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda: Everyone knows the price we have to pay, and that's a vaccine card and your mask. And that's a small price to pay to sit in the dark and hear people tell world-class stories at the highest level. And I'm so grateful it's back. So, please get vaccinated so you can appreciate live theaters, so you can come into this store and enjoy the drama bookshop. I'm incredibly grateful for this proclamation. 

Mayor: We gave him a proclamation, you heard at the end there, to say – we named the day yesterday after the Drama Book Shop in a part of New York City, a part of what makes New York City great for over a hundred years and keeping arts and culture alive in our city. But as Lin-Manuel said, it's all working, everything's coming back because people are getting vaccinated. So, his appeal – and he was with us when we opened the vaccination center in Times Square for the theater community. He has been such a great booster, no pun intended, of vaccination, and we're so deeply appreciative. So, that was a beautiful moment yesterday. I also had a great gathering last night with elected officials from Manhattan in Washington Heights at Havana Heights, an incredible restaurant up in Washington Heights. Cuban food in Washington Heights. Doesn't get better than that. I strongly recommend it. And talking to the elected officials in Manhattan about what we need to do, going for what we need to do right now, and how we bring this city back. A very, very energizing gathering. And speaking of elected officials, I am now told, back on the topic of public housing and how we make the investments to make public housing better, I'm told Council Member Carlina Rivera is on the line. Let's see if it’s true. Council Member. 


Thank you. Council Member, you are acting on our recovery yourself. Going out there and making the recovery happen by going to Broadway. Thank you for that. And thank you, look, you really have been an extraordinary advocate for public housing residents, and we did walk through your district and see a lot of the things that needed to be addressed. Thank you for your support of this. Yes, this work has to keep going. These long-time sheds have to come down and just reminding everyone, this will be 45 buildings in 15 developments, $16 million of which – of our $111 million – will be going to Manhattan, specifically to Meltzer Tower on the Lower East Side, Dyckman Houses in Inwood, 131 St. Nicholas in Harlem, and Douglass Houses on the Upper West Side. These are really crucial investments that change the lives of residents for the better, and they are the thing that really will help us move forward. So, we're going to keep making those investments.  

Now, speaking of investments, yesterday we had a really beautiful moment, a really beautiful moment. The Studio Museum in Harlem is an extraordinary New York City institution, a precious New York City institution, a place devoted to preserving and protecting African American culture, African culture, all of that which was, in so many ways, denied, ignored, in so many ways discounted instead of respected. And the Studio Museum, back in 1968, some artists got together in Harlem and said, we have to do something to protect a culture that has so often been not just misunderstood but ignored and shunted aside and, in some ways, destroyed. They created something that now has built and built and built. And so many New Yorkers have come together to help that process. I want to thank everyone who's been part of supporting and donating to the growth of the Studio Museum. Yesterday, Chirlane and I were part of the cornerstone-laying ceremony. It was a really moving moment because this is a museum that is doing a sacred mission of preserving ancestry and history and culture that has so often been under attack. And it's doing it in a way that is being felt all over the world. So, the Studio Museum in Harlem, a jewel in the crown of New York City, the City of New York has now invested $62 million over several years now to make sure this museum continues to grow. And people are coming to it, and when it's fully expanded and created in its new vision, it's going to be one of the must-see places in New York City – just really powerful. So, thank you to everyone at the Studio Museum, you have done something great, and amazing things ahead.  

Okay, now, another investment, and I think anyone who listens to what I care about will know that the investments in our children move me particularly. And I feel when we invest in young people, we do something much greater than sometimes we even realize. We invest in the whole family when we invest in a young person. We invest in that young person, and we give them hope for their future because we show we value them. We care about them. We show they’re precious. We definitely help to create a better society, a more educated society, and a safer society. Young people shown a positive path will follow that path, but they need to be shown it and they need to be supported in it. This is very much a part of how we achieve a Recovery For All of Us. And it's also – for everyone who cares about public safety and a lot of our leading public safety voices in this nation have said for years, if you care about public safety, invest in young people. And if we care about public safety, we need our recovery to keep moving forward. Our recovery equals safety, safety equals recovery. So, these investments are crucial. And I want to talk about the amazing NYPD Kids First initiative, connecting young people with NYPD officers at the community level. The officers, mentoring kids, helping them to build their skills, helping them to get jobs and internships. It's amazing. And one of the other great elements of the Kids First vision is to invest in communities, particularly sports and recreation, the kinds of things that will draw kids to positive, positive experiences.  

We've invested, now, over $7 million to transform spaces and communities that needed to be made beautiful, needed to be made better for kids who really were not getting what they deserved, and communities that deserve more. And I want to announced today that the Kids First initiative, working with a lot of great partners, has now completed and restored and made beautiful 15 basketball courts in public housing developments across the city, including four in Manhattan. The final park right now is being addressed, four basketball courts and a soccer pitch at Colonel Charles Young Park in Harlem. This is very, very exciting. By this coming summer you're going to see an entirely new thing. A park that really wasn't in great shape. It's going to be made beautiful and modern. It's going to be great for kids in the whole community. I want you to hear from the guy who's really been the heart and soul of this effort. He believes in it, and he's helped move mountains to make it happen. He's the Deputy Commissioner for Community Partnerships at the NYPD, my pleasure to introduce Chauncey Parker. 

Deputy Commissioner for Community Partnerships Chauncey Parker, NYPD: Thank you very, very much, Mr. Mayor. And thank you so much for your tremendous leadership and your support for the NYPD Kids First initiative from the very beginning. This really started on day-one for Commissioner Shea almost two years ago, when he set as a North Star for the NYPD to do everything we possibly can to support kids, to provide opportunities for kids across New York City. And I'll just highlight two of these initiatives that are part of NYPD Kids First. One, when the Police Commissioner looked at the space for kids to play in public housing, particularly basketball courts, and seeing that in many areas, there's so many challenges with – that NYCHA has, so many obligations with funding and repairs. And that really a lot of these courts are broken down, the ground cracked, rims broken. And the Commissioner challenged us to find a way that we could help support this at the urging of residents of these different developments. 

And so, the Police Commissioner got together with his federal law enforcement partners and said, what if we took asset forfeiture that we seize from major drug trafficking organizations that cause so much damage in our communities, what if we took as much as we can of that asset forfeiture that normally goes back into law enforcement, but what if we instead put a bunch of that money into fixing up these public spaces? And with that partnership and the great work of NYCHA, we were able to transform 15 basketball courts across New York City in all five boroughs. And most recently last week, the 15th court opened at Richmond Terrace Houses on Staten Island. And it's just been a fantastic project. All with a theme that we all know, if you build it, they will come. And those courts are beautiful, they're restored, in mint condition, and they're going to be fantastic for the community. 

The second project that we were working on really began many years ago starting with a tremendous leadership of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. But it was looking at the Colonel Charles Young Field, 143rd to 145th on Lenox Avenue in Harlem. And this enormous field, that's a huge dirt field, 133,000 square feet, in not great condition, and then on either side of it are four basketball courts, five basketball courts also not in the greatest condition. So, in partnership again, NYPD investing asset forfeiture, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer the CC Sabathia PitCCh In Foundation, Major League Baseball, Cal Ripken, so many partners put together their resources to start to transform that space. And so, four basketball courts are now restored to mint condition at the Colonel Charles Young Field. And there's a brand-new soccer pitch. Thanks to the Mayor's Fund and all their great soccer partners, there's a brand-new soccer pitch in that space. And then by next summer, they will be a field of dreams, so to speak, a Harlem field of dreams. That dirt field, that 133,000-square-foot dirt field will now be a magnificent synthetic turf field. If anybody's ever seen Asphalt Green, it'll be as beautiful as Asphalt Green, two miles south of that field. And it will be something that we build, and the kids will be coming for generation after generation, enjoying that field and playing on that field and on those courts and that soccer pitch. So, thank you so much, Mr. Mayor, because you made this obstacle with your support, your leadership, and it is the Police Commissioner’s North Star to do this across the city for our kids. 

Mayor: Thank you, Chauncey. And Chauncey, I know you really, really have – seriously, I want to commend you. You put your heart and soul into this. I've seen the excitement in your face, in your voice when you've talked about getting this done, and a lot of great partners came together. So, thank you for your great efforts. And I want to talk about the great partners. The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City has been actively involved in this effort to raise the funds, to really make these beautiful spaces for kids and families. CC Sabathia has been a part of this effort. Really a great, great philanthropic force in baseball. The PitCCh In Foundation, Major League Baseball itself has been involved. Cal Ripken Foundation. There's been great partnership – and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. And I think she is with us now. Gale, I want to thank you for your commitment to making these spaces beautiful for communities. And I know you've put your money where your mouth is and fought hard to get this done. So, let's see if she's out there. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. 

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer: Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor. And yes, Colonel Young is something that we can be very proud of. It took every single bit of [inaudible] and you, and certainly the friends of Community Board 10, all of the folks who put this together. And I think what will happen is people will find that this is a way to curtail some of the challenges of a neighborhood in terms of gun violence, and having athletics, and having participation, of course, in the armory – as we know, is the wonderful tennis program that Mayor Dinkins supported when he was so active in that sport. And, of course, there is an amazing wave in doing gymnastics with folks who actually get to the Olympics, in some cases. So, it's going to be an amazing sports facility inside. And of course, outside is the work that we've all done in the [inaudible] is nearby. So, it's a wonderful place to have support for and we look forward to getting it done – public private partnership. It took quite a long time. [Inaudible] took them like – you know, [inaudible] five years to put it all together, but we're very excited. And I just wish we could do that with even more fields.

One thing I want to add to the Field of Dreams that I hope happens, is that there are many school fields in our city. And those fields, if they are run by the Trust for Public Land and the Department of Education then – or Parks Department and the Department of Education, then they're open weekends and summer and evening. But if it's just DOE, then their fence is closed. So, we have to find a way. I know we are paying for, thanks to you and the City Council, fields that are run by the Trust for Public Land and DOE, but we need to have all of these playgrounds open so that the people from the neighborhood in addition to the students can have that opportunity. So, it's a different kind of Field of Dreams, but I hope that it happens. And thank you very much, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: Thank you very much, Borough President. You make a great point. And I know you've advocated for a long time. And you're right, we’ve just got to keep working to get these spaces available more and more of the time. It can be done, and I think you raise a great point about one of the ways to get it done. So, I'm thrilled with these investments, they’re going to reach a lot of people. But you're right, let's make sure they reach the most people most of the time. And we will work on that together. Thank you, Borough President.

And now, we're going to go to our indicators. And number-one, doses administered to-date. We're getting damn close to 12 million. We're at 11,985,203. So, that's pretty amazing. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today's report, 114 patients. 14.53 percent confirmed positivity level. And, of course, the all-important hospitalization rate, 0.47 per 100,000 – that's great news. Number three, new reported cases on a seven-day average, 704 cases. So, vaccination is working. We’ve got more to do but moving in the right direction.

I want to do a few words of Spanish on the Field of Dreams, on these amazing investments in communities for our kids and families.

[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: Good morning. We'll now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, we're joined today by Dr. Mitch Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO; by Dr. Andrew Wallach, NYC Health + Hospitals Ambulatory Care Chief; Andrew Kaplan, NYCHA Acting Chief of Staff; and Andy D’Amora, Acting Commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management. Our first question today goes to David from WABC.

Question: Hey, Mayor. Can you hear me?

Mayor: Yeah, David? How are you doing?

Question: I'm doing fine. I just wanted to ask you, I don't know if you had a chance to watch our debate last night or not, but I specifically wanted to see your reaction to the grades that they gave you. Not surprised, Curtis gave you an F and Eric gave you a higher than I thought he might – he gave you a B-plus. Your thoughts?

Mayor: Well, I appreciate that, because I've been working real hard for the last eight years, trying to serve the people of city, particularly during the greatest crisis we've ever been through, this pandemic. But no, Dave, I did not watch the debate. I know who I'm voting for. I'm voting for Eric Adams. I think he's going to be a great, great mayor for this city and I'm looking forward to Tuesday, casting my vote and moving the city forward. And look, I think – and I've said it – I think Eric Adams is going to build upon so much of what we've tried to do here. And I'm very, very proud of some of the things we've done to make this a city that's more fair and inclusive for everyone. I think Eric's going to be able to take it to the next level and I'm excited about that. Go ahead, Dave.

Question: We didn't ask about this – maybe we should have – but, you know, yesterday on the Breakfast Club, Eric had mentioned that that he's met with gang members. I don't know – but I just wanted to get your take on that if you've ever done anything like that. And if you think that's a good idea. Is it dangerous?

Mayor: Look, he spent over 20 years of his life patrolling the streets of this city as an NYPD officer. I think he knows a lot, obviously, about what’s smart to do and how we keep people safe. And I have a lot of faith in Eric's ability to chart a good course in terms of public safety. And I respect his judgment. He's worked at the grassroots. He knows how to talk to people and to move forward things at the neighborhood level. And I respect whatever he thinks is necessary to do to make that happen.

Moderator: Our next question goes to Elizabeth with WNYC.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I wanted to ask about –

Mayor: Hey, how are you doing?

Question: I'm good. I wanted to ask you about the vaccination mandate and what your agencies are seeing in terms of an uptick in the number of City employees getting vaccinated?

Mayor: Yeah. We're seeing – Elizabeth, we're seeing movement, but I think it's too early to tell, honestly, because the numbers we have now are only through yesterday. What I expect is a surge of activity, particularly on Friday. And then, what we saw before – look, we had this pattern with the health care workers. We had this pattern with everyone who works for Department of Education, which is, by far, our biggest agency – a surge of vaccination right up on the deadline. And then, some people who didn't get vaccinated by the deadline, but recognize that they're about to be put on unpaid leave, who would then go out and get vaccinated immediately, and then even others who get vaccinated in the days after. So, I don't think we're at that point yet. I think we're going to see a lot more in the next few days. Go ahead, Elizabeth.

Question: And I know you've been asked this question before about the City's contingency plans, but, I'm just wondering, is it more challenging to find substitutes for first responders?

Mayor: Well, I don't think it's so much, Elizabeth, about substitutes. I mean, obviously, when we we’re talking about teachers, we have a history of substitute teachers. It's a different reality. It is about – over time, it is about shifting assignments to where there's particular need. Our – remember, our first responder agencies, our uniformed agencies went through so much last year where they had huge numbers of members out because of COVID and they had to keep making constant adjustments to provide the services we need to keep people safe – and they did it and they did it very well. So, these are very agile organizations used to dealing with crisis, used to dealing with natural disasters. They'd know plenty about how to make the right moves to keep everything going.

Moderator: Our next question goes to Mike with the Daily News.

Question: Hey. Good morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you doing?

Mayor: I'm doing good, Michael. How are you?

Question: I'm doing good. So, just following up on the last question, could you give us some more specifics on how the City is going to handle potential NYPD staffing shortages? I mean, for instance, what are projected overtime costs associated with officers who be out for not complying? And I mean, has the City gamed out projections on what those costs might be? Could there be savings?

Mayor: Yeah. Look, it's a fair question, Michael. I want to just note – first of all, we're not looking at this from the budgetary perspective, we're looking at this in terms of how we keep people safe, how we end the COVID era, how we turn a corner on the biggest crisis in our history. That's our focus. Now, obviously – look, I'd like everyone who's not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated by the end of Friday. If they don't, they're going off payroll. I don't want that savings, but that does create a savings. And if we have to give more overtime and make other adjustments, there obviously will be resources to account for that. But again, these are agencies that have been preparing for months. Every one of the commissioners has been absolutely confident that they can make the adjustments and every one of the commissioners has adamantly wanted us to move forward with a vaccine mandate. So, I feel ready. Go ahead, Michael.

Question: The other question I had was about there's a story today about nine therapists for developmentally disabled kids who apparently built a $3.3 million, some of it from the Health Department, some of it from outside the city. So, you know, we're dealing with rising health care costs, as you know. I mean, how did we get to the point where they were able to take this much money? So, you know, someone from the city, I think it was $2 million from the city, but don't – yeah, I think it was $2 million from the Health Department. I mean, how did it get to the point where that wasn't cut sooner? I mean, these guys were billing for, you know, close to 24-hours a day over years.

Mayor: Yeah. I'll have the Health Department follow up with you on that. Look, what they did was disgusting and immoral in the middle of a pandemic, to commit fraud and take away resources from people who need it. That's ridiculous. It's horrible. And they're going to pay a price for that. The bottom line is, they got caught. But, certainly, I'll have the Health Department talk to you about ways that they are putting in safeguards to make sure it doesn't happen again. But these folks did the wrong thing. They got caught. They're going to pay the price.

Moderator: Our next question goes to Steve with WCBS.

Question: Hey, Mr. Mayor. How are you?

Mayor: Good, Steve. How have you been?

Question: Doing all right. I want to ask about the NYCHA announcement first. I think the obvious question that comes to mind is if these sheds have been up for five years at this point, that is entirely within your tenure. So, what has taken so long to bring attention to these sheds, to get them down? And, going forward, are any regulations are going to change within DOB where we don't see such stringent rules that require sheds to go up in the first place?

Mayor: Steve, it's a really good question – both parts, but I want to start at the backend of your question. This is law. This is not DOB regulations, this is law ,because you know – and so many of you and your colleagues have reported on tragedies when there was a problem with a facade and something fell and someone was hurt or even killed. So, the notion that we have to make the facade safe there's a real reason for that. Now, I have been very frustrated, to be honest with you, for years. I started this effort 2014. We actually have taken down a huge amount of sheds in public housing. I'm going to turn in a second to Andrew Kaplan from NYCHA, who may – I hope has that figure handy, because, starting in 2014 – and we worked with NYCHA and we worked with NYPD, because NYPD wanted to see the sheds down as well for safety reasons, for a variety of reasons.We started taking them down everywhere we could and where we could do it safely, and then we realized in some other places we had to address the facade issues to be able to take down the sheds. So, we've put more and more money into that. It is a big undertaking. It's like everything in NYCHA. Remember the total cost of bringing all of nature up to the level it should be in terms of the quality of the housing and the physical plant, that's $40 billion. We just don't have it. We've gotten next to nothing from the State. We've gotten very little new resources from the federal government. Things may be about to change now in Washington, I'm hoping and praying, but that's what we need. We need a major infusion of funds to be able to do the facade work to take the sheds down. That being said, Steve, over the last eight years, I have worked to get a lot of them down, let's see of Andrew Kaplan at NYCHA has any facts on how much has come down so far? 

Acting Chief of Staff Andrew Kaplan, NYCHA: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. So, unfortunately I don't have that data off the top of my head, but I will work with colleagues to follow up on that. And I do want to just echo again how grateful we are for this funding and all of the work that we've been able to do over the past few years on this, and we'll continue to work on this tirelessly but I'll follow up on that specific detail. 

Mayor: All right, you will get Steve those facts, but I know it's many miles of sheds have come down within public housing, so we'll get you that. Go ahead, Steve. 

Question: Appreciate that. Wanted to switch topics, talk a little bit about the mayoral election. I know you've been asking the past your thoughts on moving New York City off of the off year schedule that it's on. I wanted to ask a different question along the same lines about partisan elections. New York City is an outlier among big cities that does have partisan local elections. Obviously some other big cities, Boston comes to mind, have nonpartisan local elections. Do you see that as a potential way forward for New York City so we're not in this position of having a Democrat versus a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic city at this point? 

Mayor: You know, Steve, I think the current system is a good system, and no, I do not think we should change it. I believe the problem with the nonpartisan model around the country is it's very susceptible to the impact of big money. I think our structure has been much more friendly to the voices of working people and everyday New Yorkers and people who don't have a lot of means, but still make an impact both our election system, the way it's structured now with the primaries, and our campaign finance system which we did a lot to improve so that now someone could run for mayor and get most of their money from matching funds off of small donations from everyday New Yorkers. So, I actually think we're in a really good place. Our democracy is very healthy in this city. I would keep the current primary structure in place. 

Moderator: Our next question goes to Ari with NY1. 

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

Mayor: Good, Ari. How have you been? 

Question: I'm doing okay. I wanted to ask about catchment basins in light of this storm. I saw a tweet, I think yesterday or the day before from New York City Water account asking people to clean their local catchment basins to prevent flooding issues. A few years ago for a few years, the city had a requirement that DEP would clean every catchment basin every year, as opposed to once every three years, and then that stopped because they said it wasn't necessarily effective, but now I think trash is up in general and around the city. A lot of people would say that anecdotally. And obviously the city feels that the situation is dire enough to ask citizens to do it themselves. So, does the city need to resurrect a more stringent catchment basin cleaning requirement for DEP, and how responsible does the city think that litter covered catchment basins are for flooding in certain areas? 

Mayor: So, good question, Ari, real quick, what we saw in Hurricane Ida went way, way beyond the catch basins, and we've been honest about that. It was such a massive never before seen amount of rainfall that [inaudible] you could have perfectly clean catch basins, the sewers just could not accommodate that much water, Commissioner Sapienza has been very blunt about that. That shows us a kind of change that we're going to have to do over many years and would cost a $100 billion or more to really reach the levels of what we saw during Ida. But if you’re talking about more typical rain events, like what we just saw, I'll see if Andy D'Amora from Emergency Management wants to add in a second about what was done. But look, one DEP was out in force cleaning, catch basins in all the most sensitive areas of the city. Two, yes, it's good to appeal to the public, help in any way they can at the local level. Three, when we did the report after Ida, I believe and we can check this, I’ll have the team up follow up that we did talk about bringing those regular cleanings back to the annual level, and I believe that's in the new capital plan we put out. So, we'll get you the updates on that. Andy, you want to mention anything about the effort to clean out the back catch basins? 

Acting Commissioner Andrew D'Amora, Emergency Management: Yes, sir. You know, especially now with all the leaves on the trees that were falling during the rain was imperative that, you know, we did a full court press, so we have a multi-agency approach, and we did ask homeowners and we had our CERT teams out there as well, and they do that as a course of business. We ask our CERT teams all the time to help us out. So, it's always good to have, as the Mayor had stated, the general public to help in this effort.   

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Ari.  

Question: Thanks. We reported this morning that there are issues with Sanitation trucks not picking up all the trash that residents are putting out, especially in Southern Brooklyn and Staten Island. Like I mentioned, there's already trash issues citywide. And, you know, this vaccine mandate is going into effect soon. Less than two-thirds of the Sanitation agency is vaccinated. And Commissioner Grayson, in speaking to our reporter, said that he believes that this has to – that these trash slowdowns have to do with the vaccine mandate because last week they had a normal pickup this week. They did not. How is the City planning on handling any Sanitation staffing shortages that are sure to come up in the next week?  

Mayor: Yeah. Thank you for the question, Ari. And Commissioner Grayson has spoken to this. There are some issues. We're going to address those issues. There are some places where we're seeing that the totals just don't add up in terms of the trash being picked up. We're going to the union today to say this has to be addressed. This is something that we are not going to let continue. New Yorkers need to know that their city is going to be clean, and they have a right to that. And they have a right to expect that their public employees will do their job for their fellow New Yorkers. We're paying them to do a job, they have to do the job. So, we'll be talking to the union about this today to address these issues. Now, I know we have a few more questions, but at the end, I think we'll take the remaining questions and then do a special – I'm giving you an alert everyone – we're going to do a special presentation after the next few questions because we have a very special guest who is joining us. But let's just finish up the next few media questions first.  

Moderator: Our next question goes to Katie with The City.  

Question: Hey, good morning, Mayor de Blasio. I'll keep it quick. My first question is about the holiday of Diwali. I know that there's been an effort to give students the day off, make it a school holiday. I know you said that that would mean the City schools would not meet the required minimum of instruction days, but I guess my question is how do you think schools should celebrate or mark this holiday in spite of not having the day off?  

Mayor: Well, Katie, it is a great question. And, obviously, the school holiday has gotten very, very – excuse me, the school calendar has gotten very, very full, and meritoriously so. Some really important additions were needed such as the Eid holidays and the Asian Lunar New Year holiday. But we also have a legal requirement at the State level we have to meet in terms of number of school days. We found the way to do both, but we're right at a key point in terms of trying to balance everything with the calendar. Diwali is a very important holiday. We want it celebrated in schools. We want there to be a recognition. With all of the approaches we're taking to the curriculum – and I know Chancellor Porter's really been focused on this – to acknowledge and help people understand and respect all the cultures in New York City, talking about Diwali is very important. And that's something I believe is happening, but we'll double down to make sure it is. Go ahead, Katie.  

Question: Thanks. And my second question is about the sidewalk sheds. Beyond NYCHA, you know, buildings all around the city have sidewalk sheds. My building has had it for a year, and they just started work last week. So, I know that there's a – Council Member Ben Kallos has been trying to push to kind of cap facade repair work to limit this, but it seems like you're announcing it's not so much a NYCHA issue, but it's a Department of Buildings issue. So, can you go into a little bit of detail about efforts being made on the Department of Buildings side? If it is done, then they could tell me I'm wrong. You know, I don't know what the deal is about things the City can do to ensure that buildings don't put up scaffolding, keep them up for a year or longer, before they get any work done.  

Mayor: It's a great question. And I've actually had many conversations with our Buildings Commissioner, Melanie La Rocca, and I'll make sure that her team gets to you today as well. Bottom line is the law, which is a good law, to protect people from anything that might fall from a facade, that's the core of this. But you're making a good point. You've got building owners who have put up facades before the work, and then aren't doing the work. That's a problem. What we need is, yeah, if a facade has to go up to protect people, get it up, but then get doing the work immediately to fix the underlying problem. Sometimes you have a facade that lingers after the work is done – excuse me, a scaffold or a shed that lingers after the work is done on the facade. That's a problem. So, we now are working with both the DOB enforcement and even taking legal action when a building owner is leaving a scaffold in place or a shed in place with no purpose. It's not acceptable. We're using a number of tools to try and address it. This is a tough problem. It's not an easy one to solve because of the very stringent requirements of law, which are valid. But the Department of Buildings is doing more to enforce, and I'll have them let you know about that.  

Moderator: We have two more questions for today. Our next question goes to Jessie with Streetsblog.  

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.   

Mayor: Hey, how you doing Jessie?  

Question: I'm good, thanks. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about an investigation we published last week on the NYPD’s handling of 3-1-1 complaints about illegal parking, chronically reckless driving, and abandoned vehicles with license plates. One of our findings was that the NYPD routinely states that these problems are not in police jurisdiction when closing out 3-1-1 reports on them. Officers have done that more than 6,000 times so far this year, City data shows. Former City officials told us that that response from police is simply false as these complaints are squarely in police jurisdiction. So, what I wanted to ask you first was, do you see it as a problem that officers are using this justification to dismiss 3-1-1 complaints? And if so, why does the City allow them to do so?

Mayor: Yeah, Jessie, although I don't know all the facts, I want to speak of what I feel, what I believe. These are real issues and they sure as hell seem like NYPD issues to me. And I don't think they should be dismissed. I think they should be acted on. If it's other agencies involved as well, then NYPD should help ensure that there is follow up, not somehow ignore them. So, again, not knowing all the details, I am concerned about this. And will certainly be directing the NYPD to ensure that every one of these complaints is followed up on. Go ahead, Jessie.

Question: We also spoke to multiple people who said that they received harassing phone calls or voicemails from blocked phone numbers after filing 3-1-1 complaints about illegal parking into the NYPD. Two people said that after they'd filed illegal parking complaints, they received voicemails in the middle of the night from unidentified callers who breathed heavily into the phone or said their name repeatedly before hanging up or other things like that. These people believe it was police officers seeking to intimidate them into no longer filing 3-1-1 complaints. Council Member Ben Kallos called on the City to investigate these incidents. Do you agree that the City should investigate?

Mayor: Of course. I mean, I don't want to presume what it is, but it's not good, whatever it is. And whether it is coming from a City employee or someplace else, it's not good. So, what we need to know is what happened in those cases. We'll have our team follow up with you today and any of the folks who experienced that, who can give us details, we'll immediately investigate. That's not acceptable behavior wherever it's coming from.

Question: Our last question for today, it goes to Nolan with the Post.

Mayor: And before Nolan, just a reminder that we have a special guest that we'll be hearing from live here from City Hall in just one second, but let's get Nolan, go first. Nolan. Are you there? Let's try again. Nolan, can you hear me? You don't have Nolan. Do you have another?

Moderator: We can go to Yehudit with Borough Park 24 News.

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

Mayor: Good, Yehudit. How you doing?

Question: I’m great. So, that's great news you announced yesterday about the [updated] parks and a hundred over the next 10 years. I was wondering if you could please describe the process by which the Community Parks Initiative selects parks to redo? And how can you advocate for particular parks to be modernized?

Mayor: It's a great question, Yehudit. And look, it's a big, big initiative, $425 million to fix up parks. But again, not the famous big name parks that thank God, also have other forms of support, real neighborhood parks that often go neglected and need a lot more help. So, the process is the Department of Parks is listening. We're listening to local elected officials, community boards, community members. We want to hear those nominations. This is going to be a big effort over years. So, we welcome community members helping the Department of Parks to know where there are the greatest needs so we can spend that money wisely. Go ahead, Yehudit.

Question: And then, thank you. And then last night Adams said that shelters, homeless shelters are very expensive to run and asked why not put the money into subsidies and permanent low-cost housing to help homelessness in the city, which in the New York Times reported has gone up 60 percent since you came into office? I was wondering [inaudible] is that a statistic true? Why do you think that happened? And do you think subsidies would be better spent than on shelters?

Mayor: Okay. I don't know when that citation from the Times was but let me tell you the update and then I'll have our team get it for you today. The number of people in shelter has now gone down substantially compared to when I took office. And the last I heard you heard Yehudit, it was, and it's look, let's be clear, many more people than we'd want it to be, but I believe it's around 45,000 people in shelter right now. That is less, substantially, less than when I took office. The number of people who are street homeless, and again there but before the grace of God, go any of us, we need to get them off the street, get them to the help they need. That number has also gone down markedly. So, we've got real work to do, but those are the facts. Those are what, you know, the, all of the research, all the facts show us, we'll get that to you. But to the larger point, we got to do both. We need transitional shelter because it plays a different role than when someone needs permanent affordable housing. But I want us to use less and less transitional shelter as we get more and more people to affordable housing. We've gotten now, we'll get the exact number to you. But I believe it's about 170,000 New Yorkers in the last eight years, who went into shelter, we were able to get to permanent affordable housing. And we've been building at a record rate, permanent affordable housing, preserving apartments, and keeping them affordable on top of that. We have the biggest affordable housing plan in the history of New York City. And it's been working. And those investments are constant, but at the same time, we need a place that if someone, God forbid, their situation is such that they don't have a place to live, we need a place to have them so we can help them on the way to the permanent affordable housing. And last thing I'll say before our special guest is again, I feel for what's happening to the people for example, in cities on the west coast of this country, where there are not just thousands, but tens of thousands of people living on the streets. It's absolutely painful. It's unacceptable. We have a right to shelter here. We don't want anyone living on the streets. And we want to get people as quickly as possible to permanent affordable housing. We've got to both in New York City.

Now, everything we do involves investment. And I want to go back to the really good news today about the Field of Dreams initiative and the Kids First initiative and the investments in our community. I mentioned earlier that we've had so many partners helping us to fix up parks, fix up basketball courts, make them beautiful for the kids of the community and encourage kids in the right direction. Our special guest today is someone – I just honor him. I've had the pleasure of meeting him before. We've marched together against gun violence. And he has been someone who has really remembered where he came from, given back to the community from his heart. I always say when someone is blessed by fame and achievement, some people forget where they came from. But the ones I honor are the ones who remember. So, he grew up in Ingersoll Houses in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. He is now playing an amazing role on the stronger every day, New York Knicks, power forward and center, helped lead the Knicks to victory over Philly last night. Congratulations and welcome Taj Gibson.

Taj Gibson: How are you doing, Mr. Mayor?

Mayor: I'm feeling great. It's great to have you here.


Thank you, Taj. I really appreciate it. I've seen you out in the community. And again, I'm sure there's lots of places you could be. Tell us why you keep coming back to the community?

Gibson: I just love my community. My community basically made me the person I am today. I try not to go too far because there's so many kids that are trying to, if not be like me or be better than me. And I'm just trying to give them the tools possible to be better than me and move forward for the next generation.

Mayor: I love that. And when you talk to young people, because I think this is the whole core of the matter is what they need to stay on a positive path. It's a tough world.

Gibson: Yeah.

Mayor: What do you think young people need to see? What do they need to feel? What do they need to hear to help them on a positive path?

Gibson: Well, a number of things, but we can first start with just having strong role models, having people in the community, having strong activities. There aren’t that many activities. And I feel nowadays with the climate and COVID we need to really get to our youth. Not many guys have been able to go to school of late, different restrictions. So, we really need to get back to the community that was having strong role models and that being father figures, mother figures. And so on.

Mayor: Amen. I want to say two more things. One or two more questions for you. You have a foundation.

Gibson: Yes, sir.

Mayor: You're doing good work with that. Tell us a little bit about what you are focused on?

Gibson: Well, my foundation first off is Taj Gibson Foundation. We're based out of Fort Greene, Brooklyn. We do a number of things from rebuilding, refurbished basketball courts, community work, toy drives, Thanksgiving drives, coat drives, New Year drives, COVID drives, you do it all. We just try to give back to the community as much as we can. At times it is a little bit uphill battle, but we are just smiling every day because we meet so many different people in our daily, daily, daily. So, it's all about giving back to me.

Mayor: I love it, Taj. I want to – got one more thing I'm going to ask because the fans will want to hear this. But I want to thank you. You know, you said the point about being a role model. We all need role models, you know? And I want to thank you for the way you go about your business. You, first of all, I love what you do on the court. I really do. I've watched you. I've watched the focus, the intensity, love the way you play the game, and you're a true team player. But also, you carry yourself with a strength and a care for others that sends a message to everyone, including our young people. This is the way to live. And I want to thank you for that. It makes a huge difference.

Gibson: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: That makes a huge difference. Now here's the question on behalf of all the Knicks fans out there, long suffering, Taj, long suffering. Something special is happening and we saw amazing things last season. Good start this season. Give us the good word. What are you seeing?

Gibson: Well, we are just a young group. We're still building day to day, but the thing about it though, we're very humble. We understand we have a big task ahead of us. We're not satisfied, but the city deserves this. We're just playing as hard as we can for the city, but we're just taking it one step at a time and growing day by day.

Mayor: And it must be fun.

Gibson: Every day is fun. I'm around a great group of guys, young guys. But at the same time, we have a real belief system and growing and playing for something. And then when you go into the Garden every day, you're playing for the fans. You're playing for New York. You look down across your chest. It says New York. It's a wonderful feeling.

Mayor: I love that. I love that. Hometown hero, Taj Gibson. Thank you so much. And everyone, as we conclude today, this is what inspires me every day about the city. The people, the buildings are beautiful, the famous sites and attractions, but it is the people in New York City that make us great. Taj is an example of that, growing up right here in our city, right here in Brooklyn, giving back every single day. And a reminder to everyone we're all in this together. So, every day when I say, please go out and get vaccinated. That's a great way to help your fellow New Yorker. Help a young person, participate in these amazing efforts to support and uplift our young people. We are the greatest city in the world, but we're going to be even greater every time a New Yorker contributes to us moving forward. It makes a huge, huge difference. Thank you, everyone.



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