Secondary Navigation

Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability

November 1, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. Listen, we've said it so clearly – vaccination is the key to our recovery. Bringing back New York City, a recovery for all of us depends vaccination. From the very beginning, I've said it's up to you, New York. It's up to New Yorkers to get it right and New Yorkers have answered the call time and time again. New Yorkers have done the right thing. And now, our City employees are doing the right thing. We said we would climb the ladder of vaccination mandates to help us move forward, to keep our employees safe, to keep all the people they serve safe, to keep their families safe, our neighborhoods safe, our city safe. Time and time again, we put the mandates in place and they've worked with Health + Hospitals – largest public health system in America, 95 percent-plus vaccination level. Now, with Department of Education – largest public school system in America – 96 percent-plus, now, continuing to grow. But we needed to go farther, to go where a very few cities or states have done in this country. Very few have gone to this place of a full vaccination mandate for all employees, but it's time. I'm going to say upfront to every mayor in America, every Governor in America, to every CEO of a company in America, go to a full vaccination mandate because it will allow us to end the COVID era once and for all. We’ve got to end it. This is how we do it.

So, now, we know we have real results from this mandate. And, as of today, 91 percent of our City workforce is vaccinated – 91 percent and growing. And that's important – and growing. We want everyone to do the right thing, get vaccinated. Anyone who hasn't so far, there's still a chance to fix it. Come in, get vaccinated. Come back to work, because we need everyone to do their job and we need everyone to be safe.

Since we announced the mandate just days ago, 22,472 new vaccinations among our City employees. Just over the weekend, after the 5:00 PM, Friday deadline – what we know of so far, 3,564 new vaccinations and continuing. We know more people will get vaccinated. Let me give you the update now on some of our agencies. NYPD, now at 84 percent vaccinated workforce, up from 70 percent at the time we announced the mandate, October 20. Department of Sanitation at 83 percent of workers vaccinated now, up from 62 percent when we announced the mandate just 10 days ago. And then, the Fire Department – on the fire-fighting side of the Fire Department, as of this moment, that’s 77 percent vaccinated up from 58 percent at the time of the announcement of the mandate. And then, this is very striking – emergency management side of the Fire Department at 88 percent vaccinated at this moment, up from 61 percent at the time the mandate was announced just 10 days ago. That's almost 30 percent more in 10 days. And again, that continues growing. City workers are doing the right thing.

I want to thank everyone who got vaccinated. I know people had a lot of questions and concerns. Thank you for getting vaccinated. Thank you for doing the right thing. Thank you for moving us forward. More will, I know it. We saw it before with Department of Education. We saw it before with Health + Hospitals – more will. We need you to come back, get vaccinated, move forward. In the meantime, clear contingency plans have been in place. But, as you can see from the numbers vaccinated, different reality than some feared. We have very strong numbers among our work force. Contingency plans are there, but the good news is all the folks who have shown up for work today, doing their job. And we know things keep moving forward. We're not seeing disruptions to any City services. We've got now approximately 9,000 City employees on leave without pay today. So, let's do it again – 9,000 City employees in leave-without-pay status at this moment out of a workforce of almost 400,000. So, that's less than six percent of the entire workforce. Now, again, every one of those 9,000 is welcome to come back, get vaccinated. We've got about 12,000 who have applied for a religious or medical exemption, that will be worked on over the coming days, and they'll get their answer if they get the exemption or they don't. And then, they should act accordingly. If they don't get the exemption, come back to work. If they do, then they do.

But let's be clear, our agencies – and I want to thank Commissioner Nigro, Commissioner Shea, Commissioner Grayson, and all the agency heads of all the agencies that were part of this mandate. They've done a great job, continuing to move things forward, working with their teams – really smart, excellent planning and execution. We know right now firehouses are open, no firehouse closed. Response times, normal with Fire, EMS, NYPD. Department of Sanitation did a great job. They don't normally pick up trash on Sundays, but they did this Sunday, and they did a great job catching up. A big effort yesterday, crews out in full force. This has made a big, big impact.

Listen, this mandate was the right thing to do and the proof is in the pudding. We now see it worked. I want you to hear from someone who can talk about the impact this kind of mandate has on this entire country, because we're all connected and we have to get out of the COVID era together and these mandates are the way forward. I want you to hear from someone who's played a crucial role, advising the Biden White House on COVID response. He was the former administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services. He's been a leading voice on how to get health care to people in need in this country. My pleasure to introduce Andy Slavitt.


Mayor: Thank you so much, Andy. That was truly eloquent. I mean it. You're defining freedom exactly right – the freedom of people to live their lives without fear, knowing they're safe. And it does take all of us. We're all in this together. And I agree with you, you know, the vast, vast majority of spoken, Andy, you'll appreciate this. Right now, New York City, 5.72 million adults have received at least one dose. Now, about 86 percent of all adults. That's astounding super majority that have said, yes, this is the right thing to do. And the mandates have helped to get us there. So, thank you for the way you defined the freedom we need, which is the freedom to go on with our lives. And thank you for all you're doing to help move us out of this crisis. Very much appreciated.

Alright. Now, everyone, I want you to hear from someone who from the beginning believed in these mandates. And he knows a lot about the work that our City workers do, because he's Chair of the City Council Sanitation Committee. He was out talking to Sanitation workers in recent days about how important it was to get vaccinated. Really appreciate his leadership and his voice. He's a Council Member today, he's about to be formally elected the Borough President of Brooklyn. My pleasure to introduce Council Member Antonio Reynoso.


Mayor: Amen. Well, I’ve got to tell you, you caught the – you caught the vibe from Andy Slavitt and you did your own thing there, Antonio. That was beautiful. A beautiful statement, passionate statement about the city and what we need to do for each other. And you also said something very touching. We remember those sirens in the night. We remember what that pain was. We can never go back to that. And this is why these mandates matter, because we've got to never let down our guard. We’ve got to finish the mission of ending the COVID era. So, thank you. Thank you for your leadership.

Council Member Antonio Reynoso: Thank you, Bill. I can't tell you how grateful I am [inaudible] to be doing this. Thank you so much.

Mayor: All right, brother. So, I want you to hear from one more City leader who has also been a believer that this is the approach that works. He stood by it every step of the way. He's fought for it, been a leading voice in the City Council. But now, about to be formally elected as the next Comptroller of the City of New York. My pleasure to introduce from my own council district, Council Member Brad Lander.


Mayor: Amen. Amen. Thank you so much, Council Member. And, look, you're going to be one of the people that's going to make a big impact on making sure that we do have a city that not just builds back better in those broad sense, but becomes a more fair and just city. I know that's a passion for you and me both. We can do it. We can do it. We can really have a recovery for all of us. And I know you're going to be one of the people that makes it happen. So, thank you for that. Thank you, brother.

So, everyone, we've talked about how important it is to bring the city back and the crucial role of vaccination. And again, profound, thanks to all our City employees who did the right thing and to everyone who will do the right thing, going forward.

Now, tomorrow – we talked about a couple of folks there who are about to be up for office tomorrow. We know tomorrow's a big day, Election Day. It will decide so much of the future of our city. It's one of my favorite days of the year, because there's just a lot of energy out there at the polling sites. I love early voting, but I also love the beauty of Election Day at the polls site. I'll be out there voting at my poll site in Brooklyn. And I want to tell you that a very powerful thing has happened in recent years, but it's been against the backdrop of so many other important events that it's kind of been missed, which is there's been something good happening to our democracy here in New York City. And I want to talk about the initiative we started a few years ago, DemocracyNYC. The idea was to increase registration and participation. It started out in 2018, and it's been growing. I want to give a special thank you to Laura Wood, our Chief Democracy Officer and the whole team at DemocracyNYC. They have been passionate, creative, energetic in helping to reach people and get them engaged. They reached 2.5 million New Yorkers over the last few years. 

And they fought, and I've fought, for key reforms and we've won a lot of those reforms, including in Albany – early voting, online voter registration, some in Albany, some here in the city with the City Council. Online voter registration, automatic voter registration, a restoration of voting rights, pre-registration for 16-year-olds. These are big deals. These are things that get people to renew our democracy and be engaged. And we're tearing down barriers that existed for a long time. And we actually have an opportunity tomorrow with the ballot measures to tear down more barriers and make voting even easier. And we need to do that. I got to say, even in the middle of COVID our Democracy NYC team was out there encouraging people to vote, making sure it was safe, doing it the right way. And we saw it in 2020 and 2021, voter turnout up, turnout in the 2020 presidential election higher than 2016. Even in the middle of the pandemic this city represented, this city showed an extraordinary spirit to participate. Turnout in the recent mayoral primary, highest in the last 30 years. Amazing. So, if you voted already, early voting, thank you.  

If you haven't, tomorrow's the day. Polls are open from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM. You can go to to get information on where to vote. And everything's on the ballot – mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough presidents, city council, DA's, judges – great candidates on the ballot. I'm really excited about the future. I am very excited, and I've made it clear – the people will speak tomorrow, but I have a very strong view that they will choose Eric Adams. And I look forward to working with him on a strong transition, but I also don't want folks to forget the ballot measures that are on the ballot. Five important ballot measures that speak to some of the most important things that we face – the fight against the climate crisis, a powerful ballot measure to address the need to focus even more on stopping the climate crisis, ballot measures that will strengthen our democracy, make it easier for people to participate. I'm urging a yes vote on all five ballot measures tomorrow. I think they will make a big difference for all New Yorkers. And if you want to learn more about them, go to 

Okay, let's go to indicators as we do every day and with the good news, number one doses administered to date, we hit the 12 million mark and we kept going – 12,740,742 doses administered to date, more to come. And as early as the end of this week, we'll start to reach the five- to 11-year-olds which is really exciting. That's going to be so good for the families of this city. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, today's report, 91 patients – confirmed positivity, 17.17 percent. Hospitalization rate – this is striking – hospitalization rate per 100,000 people, 0.57. That is amazing. And, again, we needed to keep going down that we need more vaccination. This is how we keep protecting ourselves. And, finally, new reported cases on a seven-day average, today’s report, 698 cases. A few words in Spanish about the vaccine mandate and our public employees stepping up and getting vaccinated. 

[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 will now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder today, we're joined by Dr. Dave Chokshi, Health Commissioner; Dr. Mitch Katz, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals; Laura Wood, Chief Democracy Officer; Dermot Shea, NYPD Commissioner; Dan Nigro, FDNY Commissioner; and Ed Grayson, DSNY Commissioner. And with that, we'll go to our first question from James from PIX11.  

Question: And good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. Happy new month.  

Mayor: Happy new month is that, is that – we have a new phrase. Happy new month. Happy November, James. Congratulations, to the coveted lead-off spot. 

Question: Okay, I'll take it. Thanks very much. The firefighters’ unions are saying that a big part of a problem for them and their members is that they were only given nine days to comply with the vaccination mandate as opposed to the 30 or more days that, for instance, DOE and Department of Correction employees have been given. Can you, and maybe Commissioner Nigro as well, please respond to this complaint and how these members are also saying for them, this could be a life changing decision because they may decide whether or not to retire based on this decision, and they only had nine days in which to do it. 

Mayor: Well, James, I appreciate the question. I'll start and I'll turn to Commissioner Nigro after. I mean, right now, again, among firefighters, 77 percent have gotten vaccinated, among EMS, 88 percent. I think that is extremely clear evidence that there was enough time to make a decision and people made the right decision, overwhelmingly, and others will come in now and get vaccinated. Remember, first we asked our public health workers to go get vaccinated under a mandate. Then we asked everyone who worked at the Department of Education, our biggest agency. And we kept saying, we're climbing the ladder, there's more to come. There was lots of time for people to think about this. We had the phase of vaccinate-or-test. There was lots of time. There were lots of incentives, but it's been quite clear this was the direction we're going in and it's the right thing to do. So, I would argue, in fact, people had plenty of evidence to make a decision on and we welcome them now to make the right decision, if they're not yet vaccinated, protect their careers doing incredible work in the most amazing agencies in the world, really. And it's time for people to come in and get vaccinated. Commissioner Nigro. Maybe on mute. Dan Nigro.  

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro: Okay –  

Mayor: There you go.  

Commissioner Nigro: Thank you. Here I am. You know, as far as the time goes, back in December of last year, we [inaudible] very hard to get to the front of the line, as we should be, and offer the vaccine. We opened our own sites to vaccinate people. So, for more than 10 months, every member of this department has had every opportunity to be vaccinated as they should have been. So, the nine – this nine-day issue is somewhat incorrect. Members have had 10 months to be vaccinated, I think that's plenty of time and they can still be vaccinated now and come off – those who are on leave without pay would then come off leave without pay. So, we implore them to take advantage. Come here, get vaccinated, and move on. 

Mayor: Amen. Amen. Go ahead, James. 

Question: Thank you both for that. Also, on behalf of my colleague, Nicole Johnson, this is for you, Mr. Mayor and for Commissioner Shea. Can you talk about the shooting death in Harlem of Alberto Alpo Martinez, a known Harlem drug kingpin, who was shot yesterday right across the street, actually, from a precinct in Harlem on Frederick Douglass Boulevard? Are there any leads in the case and any idea who might be behind this murder and any other information you might be able to share regarding this case, please? 

Mayor: James, I'm going to turn to Commissioner Shea, but with a very basic preface – I don't know if people have sort of taken this in over the last few years, but I've had the honor of spending a lot of time listening to the Commissioner and his colleagues over eight years talk about the way they do their work. And nowadays more than ever before in history, the NYPD, using a lot of different tools including video, have been able to identify perpetrators better than ever before and find them, arrest them, and prosecute them better than ever before. So, we're dealt a lot of challenges, but there has been a powerful story underneath that of the fact that it sometimes takes a little time, but it's almost inevitable that a perpetrator is found. So, that's just a broad preface. On the specifics of the case, I will turn to Commissioner Shea. 

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea: Yeah. Good morning, so this is referring to the shooting that took place over the weekend. It was a shooting of an individual who was driving his truck. He struck multiple times. He continues to drive the truck approximately four blocks, where he ultimately crashes and, unfortunately, passes away. It is a very preliminary investigation. We're looking into all aspects, what the motive may be, including his past. And we have, as the Mayor said, every confidence that as the investigation proceeds, we'll find justice and find those responsible. 

Mayor: Thank you. 

Moderator: Next, we have Courtney from NY1. 

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor, how are you?  

Mayor: Good, Courtney, how you been? 

Question: I’m good, thank you. I wanted to follow up on the vaccine mandates specifically on the issue of sick leave at the FDNY. We, obviously, heard over the weekend that 2,000 firefighters, or more than 2,000 firefighters, have been calling out sick and it's, I guess, related to the mandate. Can you weigh in on that? And can you also let us know if we're seeing any other trends like this at any of the other agencies? 

Mayor: I'll start, and I'll turn to Commissioner Nigro. Courtney, to your last point, no, we're not seeing that trend elsewhere to the best of my knowledge. Second, I want to say it is imperative that everyone come to work and do their job. The people of this city, the taxpayers of this city rely upon all our public servants, particularly our first responders. And we have a lot of respect and a lot of love for our first responders. But I'll tell you, the people are troubled. I've heard this plenty of times over the years. People get really troubled really quick, when people don't show up to do their job, if they're not really sick. And we have every reason to believe there's a lot of people out there claiming to be sick, who are not. It's not acceptable. So, the thing to do is to do the right thing, come to work, protect people as you took an oath to do. And look, this is something that we don't tolerate. In the end when people do this kind of thing, there are consequences. I think the smart thing for everyone to do is to recognize this decision was made for the health and welfare of all New Yorkers. It was affirmed in the courts many, many times. The democratic process worked here. There were appeals, there were opportunities for reconsideration, and the court spoke. It's time to recognize that this is the law. Get back to work protecting the people of this city. Commissioner Nigro. Commissioner Nigro, you may be on mute – 

Commissioner Nigro: Here I am. Yes, thank you very much. Since the mandate was issued, our medical leave spiked up and we know that's related to protests against the mandate. It's obvious. Generally, 200 people come into our medical office every day. In this past week, it's been 700 a day. Most – the majority of them are unvaccinated. This is completely unacceptable. Thanks to those who are stepping up to fill those spots, the department is functioning quite well. And I would say to our officers’ union, our fire officers’ union is not participating in this medical leave and issued a statement as such. And our EMS unions are not either. But our firefighters most definitely are. I asked them to rethink this, to remember their oath of office. It's not only affecting the people they serve. It's affecting their brothers and sisters in the department who are forced to fill their spots day-in and day-out. And thank goodness for them. 

Mayor: Thank goodness for them, indeed. Go ahead, Courtney. 

Question: I guess continuing on this line of questioning, I'm curious if there's some fear, if you have 2,000 – more than 2,000 firefighters not coming into work, how this will affect companies and how will it affect response times as well? The same goes for PD. I realize that, you know, that vaccination rate ticked up a lot, which is great, but you still have 16 percent unvaccinated. So, what's that going to do for NYPD response times as well? 

Mayor: I'll start, and I'll turn to Commissioner Shea. Courtney, I want to commend Commissioner Dan Nigro and his whole team. I want to commend the union leaders who are doing the right thing. A very powerful statement by one of the EMS union leaders about the need for people to get vaccinated. As Commissioner Nigro said, the fire officers sending a powerful statement, it's time for people to come to work, do what's right for the people of this city, do what's right for each other. We are seeing in the Fire Department continued strong, good normal response times. And firehouses open across the city. So, in fact, the people who have shown up, the vast majority of the people got vaccinated, the vast majority are doing the work, and they're shouldering the burden for the others who are not participating. It's not fair, but they're doing the job. And I commend everyone who's doing the job and protecting their fellow New Yorkers. And that is what's going to see us through this. We're quite confident. In terms of the status of NYPD, Commissioner Shea?

Commissioner Shea: Hey Courtney. So, I mean the most recent numbers, I know we said 84, it's up to 85 now. So, it's gone up another percent. I think you know, with that remaining 15 percent it's very important to remember that there is a process where people can request reasonable accommodations for religious or medical reasons. And that's the vast majority of that 15 percent. So, those will be looked at, determinations will be made. We think we're in really, really strong shape here. I mean, members of the Police Department you know, responded to this, they came to work as they always do. And there was literally no effect on service at this point.

Mayor: Amen. Go ahead.

Moderator: Next, we have Andrew from NBC.

Question: I want to try to clarify here about whether there's no impact on City services today or a manageable impact? You had indicated last week that the observations that there's some kind of Sanitation slowdown, delay in trash pickup is an impact. And with folks who are on the Fire Department covering other shifts, you're not saying there's absolutely no impact, are you?

Mayor: Well, let me say it this way. I'll turn in a second, I'll turn to Commissioner Grayson for the Sanitation situation. But I've been monitoring literally hour by hour, Andrew. NYPD functioning fully, normally. Fire Department in terms of fighting fires and emergency services functioning normally. Response times normal. People are picking up the slack. Remember in the worst of COVID last year, you had 20 percent of the workforce out with COVID. This is a situation that people have dealt with before and they made it work and they're making it work even better now, thank God because we're in a much better situation overall. Sanitation, we did have several days with a real problem, but Commissioner Grayson and his team did incredible work to push hard to get people to catch up, including requiring Sunday service yesterday, which isn't normal. A lot of catch-up occurred. He'll go into the details. I also want to say this Sanitation workers union has stepped up and sent a message that people need to get vaccinated, need to get back to work. So, what we're seeing with the exception, unfortunately, of just a few elements of labor. We're seeing a lot of labor leaders come forward and say, okay, it's time, we've got to protect people. We've got to do the right thing. We've got to serve the people in the city. It's having a big impact in addition to the strength of the mandate and the vast numbers of people who are choosing to get vaccinated is encouraging everyone else to get vaccinated. It's just human reality. So, I feel very good about where we stand. There's some catch-up going on with Sanitation, but I feel good about the track we're on for sure. Commissioner Grayson, give us an update?

Commissioner Edward Grayson, Department of Sanitation: Good morning, sir. Yes. So, our vax numbers have continued to go up as you mentioned. And yes, we did experience a delay in service, you know, that a gap that we were making up throughout the week. Ours is a very visible service to all New Yorkers, as we well know. So, with 12,000 tons coming out every single day in the residential areas, once you get a little bit behind, it's going to take a little while to right the ship. We have full staffing in place throughout the weekend. We did work the extra service day on Sunday to do the best we can to catch up. And as we push forward into this week, we've had a huge increase from the time the mandate was issued into now. Up to, you know, a little over 20 percent, where we are from when the mandate was issued. And that number grows by the day. So, the mandates have put us back into a very healthy position, as far as available manpower. We're continuing to make up the backlog service. We believe we will be day on day, meaning Monday material only, at some point today. And we're going to continue that throughout. We have people in place to be working into tomorrow. Tomorrow is Election Day. We will have crews out working, to address situations and continue the trend and then continue to service litter baskets and do good things for the people in New York. And I too would like to commend my workforce who worked through the weekend, took on the extra tours, away from their family to help us get back into position. And I do want to humbly say to all those who experienced the delay up until now, my sincerest, thank you for your compassion. Definitely a polarizing time. I'm happy where my workforce is, where they are going towards vaccination. And we're looking forward to the rest of the week.

Mayor: Amen. Thanks for your great work, Commissioner. And all the commissioners here, I just want to say to Commissioner Grayson, to Commissioner Shea, Commissioner Nigro and their whole teams. Everyone's been working very hard for days and days to get this right. And you can see it in what's happening today in this city. Things are moving forward. Great examples of leadership out there. Go ahead, Andrew.

Question: Mayor, if on balance City services are continuing relatively uninterrupted, are you not saying to New Yorkers that maybe we don't need 11,000 firefighters or the number of police officers we have right now? If you're missing six percent of the workforce and City services are relatively uninterrupted, isn't that an indication that you have too many?

Mayor: Look, Andrew, I want to, first of all, express my respect for our City workers, who have done extraordinary things over the last two years, especially, but even well before that, obviously I had a lot of respect for our City workforce. And I'm someone who has supported having a strong City workforce, having an ample City workforce because it makes such a difference. They've been there for us time and time again. Look, future leaders are going to determine what makes sense, how we handle things in the future, what our means are and what we can afford. But I do think when City workers do the right thing, the public believes in them even more and wants to support them and wants to keep their agency strong. And when City workers such as those who are choosing not to show up to work, even though they're not sick, when they do that, they start to lose public support. They start to get the public, in fact, angry that people are paying taxes, but not getting the service they deserve. So, if anybody out there is faking being sick, you're doing the wrong thing for yourself. You're doing the wrong thing for your department. And you're sending a message to people of this city, and they're receiving that message and they don't like it. So, everyone needs to get back to work.

Moderator: Next we have Juliet from 1010 WINS.

Question: Yes. Hi, good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. We are hearing about reports of vandalism at least 30, on 30 Sanitation trucks. The cooling hoses were cut and there were tires slashed in other garages. I was wondering if Commissioner Grayson can fill us in on that, if that is in fact, the case? And if there is an investigation?

Mayor: Juliet, before turning to the Commissioner, I'll just say this. And I appreciate the question, anything that's going on, we're going to respond to immediately. And tell the public what's going on. In the last 48 hours, there's been a lot of misinformation out there. A lot of reports of firehouses closed when they weren't closed. A lot of hearsay, honestly. The official answer, the factual answer is going to come from each of the departments and of course from City Hall. We're going to keep people posted. If there's any issue as we talked about with Sanitation a few days ago, we acknowledge there was an issue and we talked about how we're going to fix it. And Commissioner Grayson and his team are fixing it as we speak. But there's a lot of rumor mill. And in fact, it's being done particularly by certain unions to try and make people worried. We're going to be really clear about what the facts are. With that Commissioner Grayson, how do you answer that question?

Commissioner Grayson: Good morning, sir. Yes. We had one isolated incident where we had a lot of – place with a large number of trucks. Some of them parked outside where we had some vandalism to the vehicles. We filled out a police report. It was over a week ago. We do not have any recent acts of vandalism that are impeding our fleet operations. And we treat the matter very seriously. The matter is under investigation and should anybody – we find out who it is, we're certainly going to be working with authorities to do all we can. But again, it was over a week ago. Some of those vehicles were parked out on the street. And we took every necessary step to make sure that we had enough fleet availability and we've been in very good shape and our fleet throughout the entire week.

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Juliet.

Question: So, what exactly happened? How many trucks were affected and were they inoperable? What was the vandalism specifically?

Mayor: Go ahead, Commissioner.

Commissioner Grayson: Actually Juliet, you had great intel. It was cooling lines. And the trucks were able to be repaired. And we were able to complete service in that community board. It was in Queens. And we completed service in that community board on time.

Mayor: Thank you.

Moderator: Next we have Nolan from the New York Post.

Mayor: Nolan? Nolan? You got him or not? Are you muted? Nolan, you may be muted. All right. If he's not there. We can come back to him if you can't hear him.

Moderator: We'll come back to Nolan. Next, we have Steve from WCBS 880.

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

Mayor: Good, Steve. How you been?

Question: I’m all right. I wanted to first ask a somewhat direct question. I know there's been some folks maybe playing around with semantics here on fire companies versus firehouses. I know you said no firehouses are closed. But I wanted to ask if they're, at what the kind of impact number is on fire companies, if any fire companies are closed or short-staffed this morning?

Mayor: Yeah. I'll turn to Commissioner Nigro, but first say this, Steve. And I'm speaking as a Brooklynite, who knows exactly where the nearest firehouse is. It's nearby. We care about it. We really appreciate the men and women who serve us. The people of this city want to know the firehouses are open. There's different staffing levels at different times in firehouses. The important thing is the ability to make a quick response. Response time is strong and consistent. So yeah, there's some people out for sure. And that has affected some companies. But remember, it's a huge department with very ample resources. In fact, there's redundancy built in. And that's the bottom line. That's what we want to emphasize to people. The service is there. The firefighters are there and nearby. That situation is being handled really well by the FD. In terms of specific numbers, Commissioner Nigro, if you have an update now, or we can get them to Steve as you get more.

Commissioner Nigro: Sure. As we sit here now, there are 18 units out of service. There are no firehouses closed. The Fire Department has 350 units. So, let's take that in perspective. And if we went back a month on any given day, we might find 18 units out of service for training, for maintenance, for repair of apparatus and such. But in our contingency plans, we ended all of that, so that we would have more availability. There are understaffed units and that under-staffing could end immediately if members stopped going sick when they weren't sick. And we hope that ends very soon. And we will go back to staffing our units as they should be.

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Steve.

Question: I do appreciate that. I wanted to ask second, about the exemptions here. What kind of criteria is going to be looked at for these exemption requests? And why offer them in the first place? We know that health care workers on the State mandate don't have a religious exemption. The CDC has offered very, very limited medical reasons why someone shouldn't get the vaccine. So, why offer exemptions and what will be looked at on these requests?

Mayor: Steve, I think it was the right thing to do. I really do. We did this you know, the State started the process with the health care workers. The City with everyone who works at the Department of Education. We took the position that there was a valid type of medical exemption, but it was narrow. It was rare. And there was a valid type of religious exemption, but also narrow and rare. And we laid out those criteria. And anyone, any worker has a right to put in a request and say, Hey, I fit those criteria. And then they'll get a judgment. And then as is true in our democracy, if the judgment goes against them, they have a right to appeal and offer more information. But then there's an ultimate decision and they have to live by that decision. I think that's fair. I think that says to people that we really are listening, we're really going to take into account whatever information they put forward, but then there's going to be a final decision. 

For the vast majority of people, of course the decision is, no, they do not get an exemption. They have to get vaccinated, get to work. But we'll play that process out over the coming days. In the meantime, those folks do continue to work. But I just think that proves – that's further proof, Steve, that this was a fair process. We didn't seek to fire people arbitrarily. We didn't seek to withhold the opportunity for appropriate exemptions. We've tried to create a fair process. That's why 91 percent of the workforce said, yes, it was a fair process. They knew it was a fair process. They did the right thing, and we welcome back anyone who's not yet vaccinated. There's still time to make it right. 

Moderator: Going back to Nolan from the New York Post. 

Question: Hey, everybody, can hear me this time?   

Mayor: Yeah. Nolan, how are you doing? 

Question: I'm well, Mr. Mayor, really wish we could do these in person, so they weren't constantly beset by technical glitches. First of all, I have a question for Commissioner Nigro. Exactly how many units are understaffed in addition to the 18 units that aren't currently in service because of staffing issues? 

Mayor: I’ll turn to Commissioner Nigro, and again, with whatever details he has now and any that they're still being collected, we'll get to you certainly in the course of the coming hours, Nolan. But, go ahead, Commissioner Nigro. 

Commissioner Nigro: Sure. I think the number of units understaffed changes by the minute, I would just go with many units are understaffed and I'll go back to the reason for that, the fact that just this morning alone, hundreds of people called in sick added to that number, which should be [inaudible] thousand [inaudible] 2,300. So, once the members come to their senses and stop using medical leave improperly, they can help out not only the citizens of the city, but their brothers and sisters who were staffing these units.  

Mayor: Stating the obvious that people who are inappropriately using sick leave in the fire department or any other department are facing very serious consequences. We don't – look, we have sick leave for a reason. We have sick leave for people who are actually sick, but when a city employee fakes it and puts other people's lives in danger, that's a serious thing, and there's going to be consequences that. Go ahead, Nolan. 

Question: Thanks, Mr. Mayor. I guess I have a follow-up question to that and a request for clarification as to the statistics, if you'll indulge me. First of all, how many members of the police department and of the fire department are currently out on unpaid leave, separate from the requests for exemptions. And secondly, are you alleging that the fire department – that the union representing fire fighters is engaging in a Taylor Act violation? 

Mayor: Very good question. Nolan. Let me tell you, we'll get you the exact details. The number of total city workers at this moment, total for a workforce of almost 400,000, who are on leave without pay is approximately 9,000. So, I really want – I'm saying the facts really clearly for everyone out there to hear, and I would urge everyone to get this and express this accurately, 9,000 at this hour have chosen leave without pay. They are not vaccinated. They did not validly apply for one of the exemptions. 9,000. Now, remember at any hour, any of those 9,000 can say, wait a minute, I'm willing to get vaccinated and come back, and we saw over the weekend, a lot of that happening, thousands of people changing their mind coming back. To your second point - and we'll get you the breakout by agency, Nolan, I don't have that in front of me.  

To your second point, Nolan, let's be clear, we're watching very carefully. We're watching for any potential Taylor Law violation. I want to make clear to the union leaderships. Now I want to emphasize a number of union leaders in the agencies that were affected by this new mandate, in fact, have stepped up and said whether they agree with it or not, it is the law, and it's time for people to follow law. A number of labor leaders have actually been strong and noble and saying it's time to get vaccinated. And that has been very important. In a few unions we're seeing the opposite, where the union leaders are not being at all helpful, whether it rises to a violation of the Taylor Law, whether these union leaders have now crossed a line, we are watching every single thing they say and do, every email, every tweet, we are watching everything. If we see a violation of the Taylor Law, we will be in court immediately. We all know that that happened a few weeks back. We took the corrections officers union, COBA, to court for very clear Taylor Law violations. They backed down quickly when we did that. If we see a Taylor Law violation, we're going to act on it. 

Moderator: We have time for two more today. Next, we have Bob from The Chief Leader. 

Question: Thanks for taking the call. We got some call from some NYCHA employees that said that their understanding where they had to complete the entire course, that's the first and second vaccination, to be able to come back to work. I know it's an independent agency, but could you tell us what's required across civil service titles? Is it the one test or are you required to do both and – 

Mayor: One – not test not – Bob, not test one. One dose of vaccine, of course, people should then go get the second dose on time. That is also going to be tracked by the agencies to make sure people finish it. But to come back to work, to get your payback, to be in good standing, you need to get that first dose. People could do that in a matter of minutes. So, anyone who right now is on leave without pay, who wants to correct, could go down to any number of sites, get the dose, get the card, and get back to work and get their payback. Go ahead, Bob. 

Question: And then the other thing, this is a little granular, but a Local 1549, Eddie Rodriguez, DC37, they represent the 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers have been so slammed for the pandemic. He'd mentioned to me last week, 500 of the 1,400 critical central workers had not been vaccinated. Would the Commissioner Shea have an update, or would you know? 

Mayor: I'll see if one of the commissioners has an update on that number. Again, we saw an immense amount – I don't know when you talk to him, Bob, but I want to remind you in the course of just days, we saw thousands upon thousands of vaccinations. We saw a huge uptick. So, unless that information is very recent, it might be very different than you think, but does any of our commissioners have an update on that? Okay, we'll get that for you, Bob, but go ahead. Commissioner Shea, is that you?  

Commissioner Shea: The recent numbers - it is – the numbers I have from this morning were on the uniformed side of the police department, we had 34 people placed on the no pay status, as of this morning. I would remind people that's 34 out of roughly 35,000 workforce. On the civilian side, it is slightly higher rate. It's 40 members were placed on no pay out of roughly 17,000 employees. That's very fluid, that could go up as the day goes on, it could also go down as people get their vaccinations status. Regarding the 9-1-1 operators, we’re in good shape, we’re monitoring that closely, and again, I just remind people that you're – what you're forgetting is the reasonable accommodation component of this. And then we expect as those cases are reviewed and people are either granted or denied, certainly in the case of denied people, will choose to get the back vaccines. 

Mayor: Thank you very much, Commissioner. Go ahead. 

Moderator: Last, we have Erin from Politico. 

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. A couple of my questions were asked, but I do want to follow up. So, with regards to these exemption requests, you know, that number is pretty high, higher than the number actually being placed on unpaid leave. Is there a deadline, a specific time, at which you'll have these decisions made and then, you know, those who are denied or put on unpaid leave? And are you expecting – when you've talked about the exemptions being very narrow – so, are you expecting any substantial portion of these people to get the exemptions, or do you think most of them are going to end up in the same situation as these [inaudible] 9,000? 

Mayor: Really important question, Erin, thank you. One, you know, there's a number of requests. They have to be reviewed, individually. There's an initial determination. If the employee wants to provide more information, wants to appeal, I mean, there are several steps in the process, so it will take days to play out for sure. And then as Commissioner Shea said, someone - if they're denied – has the opportunity right then and there to decide, okay, now I'm going to get vaccinated. So, there's a bunch of steps, substantial numbers, we have to work through. We have to do it carefully and meticulously. It will play out over days. I don't want to prejudge except to say what we know from previous experience, is that it was – certainly looking at Department of Education, we got a lot of requests for exemption, relatively few were granted. The religious exemptions are pretty narrow criteria that we believe are very accurate, very fair. So, I think you'll see a number of people ultimately find that the exemption is not approved and then they still have that chance to correct. Get vaccinated. Come back. Go ahead, Erin. 

Question: Okay, thanks. And then with regards to the firefighters calling in sick, first of all, just one point of clarification because Commissioner Nigro was breaking up for a moment. Did you say 2,300 called in sick? And when you said they'll face serious consequences, what are those consequences?  

Mayor: Well, think about this, Erin, it's – there's disciplinary measures that can be taken in any agency, and if someone is faking sick leave and that's – that means they are, at that moment, they're AWOL, effectively. They're not where they're supposed to be, and there has to be a consequence for that. So, that's something every agency has their own approach to. But I want to be clear. This is serious stuff. If someone – first of all, if someone is out sick, when they're not really sick, they are literally potentially harming their fellow New Yorkers because we need them where they should be. Their fellow members of service need them where they should be. If they are doing something that violates the standards of their own department, that violates their oath of office, if they're doing something dangerous, other lives, the biggest thing they should be worried about is the moral question, why were you not when people needed you and the danger of not being there? But on top of that, as employees, if they lied to the department, there are real consequences. There's a normal disciplinary process around that and there's real consequences. Commissioner Nigro, just to clarify the numbers at this moment of folks who are out sick, could you do that again, please? 

Commissioner Nigro: Sure. As of this morning, the total number was 2,300, which is a phenomenal number, which I say should be under a thousand, and this all happened from the day the mandate began to now, as continued day in and day out. And as you said, this is the biggest consequence here for each individual is their moral consequence. But the department is not without tools to look into discipline for these members. So, I would implore them for both reasons. You're sick, you're sick, it's a dangerous job, I get it. If you're not sick, I want to see you back at work. 

Mayor: Amen, and I want to say to all New Yorkers, Dan Nigro has literally devoted his entire life, his entire adult life, and this is a striking example. His whole adult life has been in service of the people of this city, protecting the people. His father before him, a firefighter his whole adult life, his family has done so much for New York City. He's saying – if there's anyone who can speak with authority about life in the FDNY and how important it is for members to be there for each other, it's Dan Nigro. He's sending a message to his members, his employees, very clearly. If you're not sick, you have got to come to work for the good of all New Yorkers.  

And we're going to make sure to keep the city safe. I want again, commend Commissioner Nigro, Commissioner, Shea, Commissioner Grayson, all the commissioners, all the people in city agencies who are making sure the city is running well today, and it is, and I want to thank every city employee who did the right thing and got vaccinated. I want to say to anyone who is not yet vaccinated, come back, get vaccinated, join us. We want you to be safe. We want your family to be safe. We want this whole community to be safe, and we want to move New York City forward. Thank you, everybody. 



Media Contact
(212) 788-2958