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Transcript: Mayor Bill De Blasio Appoints Richard Buery as Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives

February 4, 2014

CONTACT:, (212) 788-2958

Mayor: Good morning, everyone. I want to start by thanking and acknowledging - wait, it’s always one co-chair is here and the other isn’t - thanking and acknowledging all of the folks who have done so much to build out this administration. Starting with our First Deputy Mayor, Tony Shorris; my chief of staff, Laura Santucci; and our transition co-chairs, Jennifer Jones Austin and Carl Weisbrod. The group has put just endless effort into finding the right people and making sure that the values we hold are exemplified in the people that we chose. Also, someone who gives me advice from time to time - our first lady, Chirlane McCray, is here, who I know is very enthusiastic about today’s appointment. So let me talk about the appointment at hand and then at the end I will give a little weather update as well.

So, every time we gather together to make appointments, to build this administration, I talk about the values that we believe in. We work every day to create an administration that is progressive, that reflects New York City and all the people in New York City, and that is effective and experienced. And once again we have hit the mark with this appointment. We search for people who are truly committed to our progressive agenda and have a vision of how to implement it. And so many of the things that we aim to do will change the lives of the people of the city for the better, but they’re not easy to do. And, in fact, they don’t fall within the traditional boundaries of government agencies in many cases. Let’s take the most obvious example there is - our effort to provide full day pre-K for every child in the city and after school for every middle school student. That involves the Department of Education, that involves the Administration for Children’s Services, that involves DYCD, and other agencies as well. That kind of effort requires leadership from City Hall to make sure that the effort is fast and effective and reaches the people we seek to reach. And that kind of leadership has been something we’ve focused on from the beginning. And that’s why we’re welcoming a new member of our team today - Richard Buery, who will serve as Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives. It’s a new post we’re creating to implement some of our most important agenda items and most ambitious priorities.

To begin with, Richard will focus on the effort to achieve the plan to fund full day pre-K and quality after-school programs for middle school kids, and that will obviously involve a lot of work here and in Albany. And upon achieving the funding, Richard will lead the effort to implement pre-K and after school working closely with the three agencies I’ve mentioned and others. He will also begin our effort to create 100 community schools city-wide in high need neighborhoods to make sure we are supporting every aspect of our children’s lives and our family’s lives - and this is a model that’s proven to be extraordinarily effective. Some people refer to the community schools model as the Cincinnati model - I think Richard and others at the Children’s Aid Society would say it’s the Children’s Aid Society model that Cincinnati took and built upon rightfully. And I have seen what’s happened with community schools in the Children’s Aid Society model - it’s extraordinary. I’ve been to Cincinnati and seen what it looks like applied on a bigger scale - and that’s extraordinary. And so no one’s in a better position to realize this community school vision than someone who’s already been working to make it a reality here in our city.

There will be many other initiatives ahead. As we make progress on each one, Richard will be assigned other elements of our agenda, whether they relate to children and youth or beyond. And he’ll also help coordinate across agencies in some of the areas that most need that deep coordination. We talked about a few days ago after the tragic death of Myls Dobson that we would be creating a children’s cabinet to coordinate the efforts of ACS, DOE, DYCD, NYPD, Health Department, and others. And Richard will head that children’s cabinet. Wherever you see an effort that needs that kind of interagency coordination and is core to our agenda, chances are that Richard will end up playing a major role in it.

Now, I honor Richard as a professional. I’ve worked with him for a long time on some of the issues I care about the most. But personally, I got to know him most deeply and had the privilege of bonding with him in 2011, when we were both on one of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York’s trips to Israel. And Chirlane and Dante came along. And it was an extraordinary, I think eight days, that we all spent together non-stop, learning about Israel and really learning about each other in the process. Now, I do want to point out, we did have one difference, which is that Dante insisted on climbing up the road to the mountain fortress of Masada. Richard chose a different path - he had been there before though - you had climbed up previously - you had climbed another time - you only do it once, okay. But Dante and I scaled that mountain together but I can say in many other cases Richard has scaled mountains and done extraordinary things.

Grew up in East New York in Brooklyn. Child of Caribbean immigrants. Started in circumstances that wouldn’t be described as plenty but worked really hard and had the mind and the initiative. Worked himself all the way to an undergraduate degree at Harvard and a law degree at Yale. He’s done extraordinary things in the non-profit world. And since 2009, he’s served as the president and chief executive officer of the Children’s Aid Society, one of the most respected and oldest organizations in this city that helps low-income families and helps our children. And the goal of the Children’s Aid Society is that every child that it works with is on the path to college. And it’s not just a noble aspiration - it’s a very sharply focused effort to actually achieve that goal. I’ll remind you we had an editorial that rightfully pointed out, in the last week or so, that this moment, according to city figures, only about a quarter of our kids who graduate on time are actually college-ready.

We have so much work to do. We believe that work begins with full day pre-K for every child and after-school programs for every middle school student and many, many other initiatives that we’ll have to undertake - and I think community schools is another great example. How we fundamentally change our approach to education so that college readiness becomes more common. The work that Children’s Aid Society has done really focuses on kids when they’re young and understands that if you reach them there all other things are possible. Work at Children’s Aid Society focuses on the community school model because it understands that bringing parents more deeply into the education process matters, that addressing physical health needs matters, addressing mental health needs matters - and that’s the model that Richard is so effective at and familiar with. He also founded a number of innovative programs - for example, iMentor, which connects young people with leaders and professionals, both through face to face meetings and online, and gives kids that support and that inspiration they need. And he knows a lot about bringing all the strands together to support children and families because he’s worked not just at Children’s Aid but in other settings at empowering people in need and helping them get the different pieces they need to move forward.

There’s nobody better to spearhead the administration’s efforts in these areas and beyond. And I’m proud to introduce Richard Buery as our new Deputy Mayor.

Buery: Good morning and thank you. Thank you, Mayor de Blasio. This is really an incredible honor. I can tell you as someone who’s been out there on the front lines of this work, we have all been galvanized by this administration and its commitment to lifting up children and families. As you heard, I grew up in East New York with my little sister, Sharina - one of your many employees at the Department of Education. East New York is a community that has not always felt like we’ve had City Hall by our side. My parents helped me to get the greatest public school education New York City has to offer, including a seat at Stuyvesant High School. You know, in his campaign, the Mayor talked about the tale of two cities. And I can tell you that I experienced those two cities first-hand growing up. Every day as I took the 3 train from East New York, a community with poor schools, lost opportunities, and rode that train to Stuyvesant High School, where I met young people from the other New York City, where families had the support they need to be successful. Our job is to make these two New York Cities one New York City. I share the Mayor’s vision about what it will take to make the promise of equal opportunity real for every, every, every citizen. From truly universal pre-K to bringing community schools up to scale to forming a children’s cabinet, we are going to elevate and reform the way that New York City supports families. And I can tell you that this administration is ready to deliver high quality pre-Kindergarten to tens of thousands more children next year with every 4-year-old receiving access to pre-K the year following. It will be my job, along with some tremendous new colleagues, to make sure our execution is as strong as our planning. I also want to say to those who think that this Mayor is too ambitious or moving forward too quickly, I just want to emphasize that if you say that you really don’t know this city. There is nothing that we cannot do when we come together. And I know first-hand that we have a strong and capable network of community-based organizations that stand ready, willing, and able to do this work. At the Children’s Aid Society, we were able to double our capacity in early childhood programs in just five months with new and stable funding. So this can and will be achieved. I want to thank the Mayor for this wonderful opportunity to serve the city I love so much, that has given me so much. Thank you.

Mayor: What I'll do - let me do some Spanish for a moment about this appointment, why don't we take questions about this appointment, then I'll give you a little snow update, and we can do anything else we need to cover.

And now, in Español:

Richard Buery será el vice-alcalde de Iniciativas Estratégicas, una nueva posición que estamos creando para ejecutar algunos de nuestros planes más ambiciosos. Richard dirigirá la gestión para implementar el pre-K universal y establecer programas extra-curriculares de alta calidad para los estudiantes de intermedia en nuestra ciudad.

With that, let’s take some on-topic question on this appointment. Rich-

Question: Mr. Mayor, will he go directly up to Albany to make your case on UPK?

Mayor: Lucky man, yes he will. Rich is going to be spending some quality time in Albany. He is going to be talking to leaders of all sectors of this city, civic and non-profit, business, labor, elected officials, to galvanize support for our pre-K and after-school plan, and then – once we get the funding, which we are confident we will get done– making sure we implement it. Now, you saw the white paper we put out just over a week ago, and it's clear that we have a path ahead, a very clear path, to get this done, on the scale that Rich just described: the 54,000 full-day pre-K seats for September, this year, up to 73,000 for the following year. Obviously, the after-school program moving as well, rapidly. But that's going to take a lot of implementation work across agencies and Rich will be in charge of making that project move along on schedule. Yes?

Question: What will be Richard's relationship with Carmen Fariña and the school system?

Mayor: A close working relationship, you know, this plan requires efforts from Department of Education, Administration for Childrens Services, and DYCD for it to work on the timelines that we need. Obviously all of the different pieces are housed in each of those agencies. Carmen is very enthusiastic and focused on our pre-K and after-school plan, but obviously she has the largest school system in the country to run, and has so many fronts to work on. So she embraces the notion of having a single focused leader for the pre-K and after-school effort out of City Hall.

Question: Are you planning to add additional Deputy Mayors, or are you done?

Mayor: We're done. Yes? 

Question: On pre-K, how concerned are you about the $340 million dollar price tag? Aren't there other factors, like the new union contracts, that might push that price tag up down the road?

Mayor: Well, look, at this point, we don't know where the labor negotiations will lead us. Obviously we've said we want to try to get an aggressive start on them, and we hope to achieve some real cost-savings in the bargain. But that is the great unknown, and we're going to be talking a lot about this in the coming days. 150 open labor contracts creates tremendous fiscal uncertainty, and we don't know even the timeline on which they will be settled. So we have created a plan that we believe is accurately expensed, accurately projected, under all the conditions that we do know. And we think that these resources will allow us to hit the goals that we've talked about in real time. But the labor negotiations are a great unknown for everything we're doing in this government.

Question: [inaudible] charter school money possibly going to pre-K, and I know you said that some of those stories were premature. Is there anything else in the budget that you're looking at now in case the tax plan doesn’t go through Albany. Is there any other space that exists [inaudible]?

Mayor: Well, first I thank you for noting the truth, which is we simply said we did not believe additional investments of capital money in charters was the right way to go. I've not said where that money will be reprogrammed. I have a number of concerns, as does Carmen Fariña, of things we have to address on the Department of Education front– overcrowded schools being one of the most pressing. Central Queens, Lower Manhattan, we have areas in Staten Island– North Shore of Staten Island– obviously, Upper East Side and Upper West Side have had waitlists for kindergarten– you know, that's unprecedented. So we have real space issues we have to address, and we think that that 200 million being freed up is for better and more pressing uses. Pre-K could also be an option, but we have not made that determination. On the– help me on the second part.

Question: Are there any other spaces in the budget that you have identified where money could be reallocated?

Mayor: We've said very clearly: we need the amount of funding that we need to achieve pre-K and after-school, we need consistency of funding, and the only way that can be achieved is with the tax on the wealthy. We are dealing with, as the previous question points out, the great unknown of 150 open labor contracts. I don't think the people of this city have yet focused on this issue; I think it's time to start focusing on it. I think going you’re to hear us talk a lot about it in the coming days. I think the New York Times editorial today framed it very sharply and accurately – that this is an unprecedented dynamic, and we're going to have a huge fiscal challenge ahead. And one that should not have been handed to us, you know, the future should not have mortgaged in this way, but it was, by the previous administration. And we will have to grapple with it. That is why I am so focused on a dedicated, consistent funding stream for pre-K and after-school, and the only way to achieve that is with the tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers. On this topic, yes?

Question: [inaudible] Don't you have a set amount of money set aside for labor settlements that you will make public? Because ordinarily the practice is to keep it somewhat squishy and vague and what can you say about that?

Mayor: I can't say anything until we present our plan. Sorry. Yes?

Question: So Richard Buery will be charged with the task of creating a “Plan B” if there is no state funding this year?

Mayor: I admire anyone who asks that question, I really do. But the last 217 times I have taken that question I have said: we don't bargain against ourselves. There is no “Plan B” because we intend to achieve plan A. And we are resolute. I have tremendous support from the people in achieving “Plan A.” The people want “Plan A.” They expect us to go out there and find a way to get it done. They expect Albany to work with us, rightfully. And that message has been very clear, by the way– again, look at the numbers statewide in favor of this plan. Pre-K and after-school– these issues, you know, these are issues whose time has come. This is a moment for reform whose time has come. And it is time for leaders all over this state to listen to the people, and make this happen, because we have the ability to make it happen. So that's what we're focused on. Anything on this topic? This topic? Going once. Going twice. All right, let's do some weather update and any other topics. As I discussed with a leading weather expert Jon Stewart last night, the snowstorm situation is really getting a little too common, so let's talk about tonight. The next snowstorm will start roughly, according to National Weather Service, and as I've emphasized, National Weather Service has a habit of updating their forecast and things change. I’m now learning that forecasts can change, meaning more snow or precipitation earlier. So, we’re going to keep updating you as we get information. Right now, start time for snow between 12 midnight and 2 a.m. It will change, as of now, to a mix of snow and rain around the 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. range. Everything should end by late afternoon, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., just as rush hour is beginning. Total accumulations between 3 and 7 inches. Again, we have a little bit of advantage over our previous storms in the higher temperatures. Today’s highs are in the upper 30’s, tonight we’ll get down around 30. Tomorrow, we’re going to have variations but we could get up into the 40’s. Obviously, that will bring on the rain. So, we’re preparing right now. We want to make sure that our assets are ready to address this one. This is going to be, again, a little different configuration than some of the other ones that we have experienced. But we’re hoping the warmer temperatures and the rain will help to reduce the impact of this. But, as always, stay tuned. Questions? Grace?

Question: You talked about the impact of all these storms on the city’s budget. Can you tell us at all, sort of, what the overtime costs has been so far, in between having enough supplies to handle all these storms? Are our salt supplies sufficient? Do we need to order more salt? And whatever we know so far about the fiscal impact of having so many storms?

Mayor: As of now, there obviously was an amount budgeted for storms. We’ve had this ridiculous run of storms the last few weeks. It’d be nice if this would be the end of them this weekend, we can’t bet – say that for sure. But that being said, the budget is for the entire winter; and before January 2, we were doing reasonably well. So I don’t have the most up-to-date figures but I can say we’re within the parameters of what’s budgeted. We’ll see how it goes from here. On the question on preparation, from my last conversation yesterday with Commissioner Doherty, we obviously have the assets we need. We have the salt we need. But that’s something we’re going to keep working on to keep the supply current. Yeah?

Question: You’ve made it very clear that you intend to have Staten Island well plowed every storm but yesterday, there still seemed to be some problems. With Bard Avenue in particular, there were about 12 school buses that got stuck in the snow. What do you think the problem is on Staten Island regarding the snow? Is it the timing, the logistics?

Mayor: Well, I want to frame this. This is a citywide effort. 6,300 miles we have to cover of road: huge and complicated endeavor, and we have to do it, obviously, very quickly each and every time in the middle of other circumstances like morning rush hour, evening rush hour. There’s a lot going on. What I talked about yesterday, our first focus is on the primary roads. If we get that right, everything else is possible. If we don’t get that right, everything bogs down. So it does take time to get to secondary and tertiary roads. And that case in Staten Island was simply not acceptable. It was not handled properly and we’re going to fix it. Every one of these is an opportunity to make adjustments and improve. I think we learned a lot from the last storm – I can’t even keep track of the days now – but the previous storm, we learned how to make some adjustments that I delineated yesterday, in terms of better coordination between agencies, better communication, making some earlier decisions like pulling down the trash collection and recycling. So broadly, I think yesterday’s performance by Sanitation and other agencies was strong. I think there are areas that need improvement, and certainly that one area with Bard on Staten Island has to be – you know, that was not well done. It has to be done better. But we did get additional crews on that, it was fixed, and we’re going to continue to focus. So my view is, I want the most consistent, the strongest effort each and every time. We’re going to keep learning from these situations, keep improving. But I also want to emphasize 6,300 miles of roads is a lot to cover. Marcia?

Question: Mr. Mayor, yesterday you spoke of changes that you had implemented including re-routing [inaudible] –

Mayor: No, no, no. I said that – just to be fair, I said that we are looking at a plan to do re-routing. That was not done for yesterday.

Question: What I was going to ask was if you – based on your experience in the three storms that you’ve had so far, and the two more, unfortunately, that you’re going to have to deal with that we know about; will you be able to do any of this re-routing for tomorrow’s storm or the next storm? And what would you say to New Yorkers, in terms of what they should expect for the morning rush hour, which looks like it’s going to be the worst part of trying to deal with the storm, and people are going to get on the roads [inaudible]?

Mayor: Well, I don’t think it’ll be a nightmare, because I’m hoping, this is going to be – again – unlike so much of what we do in government, this is the great unknown with weather. You know, the timing, the kind of precipitation. We get warmer temperatures, we get a lot of rain, we’re going to be in a strong position. If we get colder temperatures and a lot of snow, we’re not. So it really depends on what’s thrown at us. I think in the first storm and in yesterday’s storm, we saw many good, consistent efforts by the city agencies. I think we learned in the midst of these storms some things we can keep working on right now, adjustments we can make right now. The re-routing I think is a bigger question. I don’t expect that’s something that we’re going to be able to do immediately. It’s a bigger examination of our system to make decisions on whether we can come up with a better game plan. But if we build upon what we did yesterday, and make some adjustments and improvements, I think we’re going to continue to strengthen our efforts. With this one, what I’d say to New Yorkers is, from what we know right now, be ready for a difficult morning commute. If you do not need to use your car, don’t use your car. If you can use mass transit, please use mass transit. This point about when it changes to rain in the current forecast, 8 to 10 a.m. right in the middle of rush hour, if that happens a little earlier – again – things are going to be proportionally better. So I would hope that right now people would look at every mass transit option and know that we are going to have our assets positioned. But one of the other things I’m learning is – with salting and with plowing – you can’t start some of that until there is a certain level of accumulation. It doesn’t work until there’s a certain level of accumulation, so we’re in a little bit of a chicken-and-egg dynamic there.

Question: When do you plan to [inaudible] implement these re-routing plans, do you have any sense of like what you want to do with it?

Mayor: The bottom line: Again, this is a broad concept from the recommendations that came from the report that we’re working on, in terms of the previous storm. It is one of the things we think might improve performance, and something that has been talked about even in the previous administration. We don’t have the exact timeline yet. But I think what we can do and what we’re much more focused on is the right-now efforts, which is making the right choices on some of the early decisions and creating better coordination between the agencies. A simple thing like sanitation having access to police department cameras made a world of difference. A simple thing like the police and the MTA coordinating on how to move any buses that get stuck makes a world of difference. So we’re seeing a lot of improvement from those actions right away. Yes?

Question: Is sanitation’s access to those police department cameras something that that the sanitation department had requested in the past [inaudible] the NYPD?

Mayor: I don’t know the history, to be honest. I’m sure we can get you that answer, I know it’s something that – I see our first deputy mayor looming – I think it’s something that Tony Shorris is well known for understanding the entire government, because he worked in every government agency there is, previous to this job. And it’s the kind of thing that I think is emblematic of his approach to government - looking for ways to share resources more effectively. I’ve said it’s something that Bill Bratton believes in entirely – that concept of collaboration between agencies. So I don’t know the history. I know that when we saw there was an improvement in our capacity right there staring us in the face, we moved aggressively. Tony did a great job getting everyone on the same page, and it immediately improved sanitation’s abilities.

Question: Mr. Mayor, you mentioned several times now the fiscal challenges ahead. As you look at the budget, are you contemplating the possibility of a property tax increase, or can you tell New Yorkers today that that’s off the table?

Mayor: I’ve said repeatedly – we have no plans for a property tax increase.


Mayor: We just did some, didn’t we? That was – wait a minute, hold on – hold on, I’m looking at Phil. Wasn’t that off-topic right there?


Mayor: All right, we’re coming back. Hold on. Reset. Reset. Emily?

Question: [inaudible] calling for uniformed police officers not to participate in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade?

Mayor: I believe that uniformed city workers have a right to participate if they choose to, and I respect that right. Yes?

Question: Mayor, we’ve seen in these storms you shoveling your driveway, and you know, people in Park Slope have seen you around the neighborhood. Is there a plan for a date for when you’re ready to move to Gracie Mansion?

Mayor: No, there’s not a specific date, because we are focused on the here and now of making things work. And as we have an opportunity to prepare for the move, we will. But yes, there’s been a lot of shoveling and salting going on. I think I did three rounds of shoveling and three rounds of salting yesterday. This is really getting obnoxious. So, at some point, we look forward to making the move. Yes?

Question: Just to follow up on Emily’s question, I think that there’s a difference between allowing city workers on their own personal time to march in a parade and having them show up in uniform with signs saying ‘City of New York Police Department.’ So if we have a little bit more about your thinking on that, and are you planning to attend the parade?

Mayor: I’ve said what I think. I respect the right of our City workers to march in uniform – period. And no, I am not planning on marching in the parade, I haven’t in the past in my capacity as an elected official. I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city and the contributions of Irish Americans. But I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city. Thanks – OK, go ahead.

Question: On settlement talks around the Central Park Five case, there’s going to be an event today with some elected officials and some of the men who were involved in that case calling for a swift settlement. Where are –

Mayor: There’s going to be a swift settlement. Our Corporation Counsel, who was doing a lot while phasing in to the job – including arranging for the action in the Floyd case, the action to settlement into dropping the appeal in the Floyd case, which was a crucial, crucial step – he’s had a lot on his plate. But he is committed to making sure we get to that settlement quickly, some complicated issues but we’re going to work through them very, very quickly. Thanks everyone.