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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability


September 22, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. We have –

Unknown: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: I hear a voice. Good morning, good morning. So, everyone, it’s Climate Week, it is such an important week for this city, for this nation, for this planet. A powerful message from President Biden yesterday at the United Nations, focusing on what needs to be a unified global response to climate change. And every part of the world, every part of this nation has to be a part of it. New York City is going to keep leading the way. We’ve taken some of the boldest actions on climate change of any place in the United States of America. We have our own New York City Green New Deal. We have the toughest law on Earth for any major city to reduce emissions from our buildings. We are looking at every single possible front where we can make a change. So, you’re going to be hearing about, all throughout this week, big things that New York City’s doing to address the climate crisis.

Yesterday, of course, we’ve talked about a massive effort to bring hydro-power to New York City, to connect us to solar and wind power from around the state and from Canada, to make sure that New York City has renewable power for everything the City government does, and then beyond for so many of the needs of this city in the future. We need to cut our dependency on fossil fuels once and for all. We need to turn to renewable power. Yesterday’s announcement, crucial to how we get there on a big scale. Today, another big announcement that will help us change the way we move around and the way we use energy for the better of our planet. Today, we announce the single largest investment in electric vehicles in New York State history. And this is going to be about what we do as a City government, but also what we do for the people of the city to make it easier to use electric vehicles, which is what has to be the future more and more and more.

So, first of all, $75 million for electric vehicles and investments in electric vehicle chargers all over New York City. We need to make it simple and easy for someone to have an electric car, but that only works that there are chargers everywhere. And New York city is going to show what it looks like to have a big, big public effort to make those chargers available all through the city. We’re also going to get rid of gas-fueled vehicles. We’re replacing hundreds of gas-fueled vehicles with new electric vehicles right away. We’re converting 125 diesel powered trucks to electric, that can be done. And we’re buying 78 hybrid electric ambulances for the FDNY. So, whether you’re talking about cars, whether you’re talking about trucks, whether you’re talking about ambulances, more and more we can get that done with electric vehicles or hybrid electric vehicles. That’s where we need to turn rapidly.

So, we’ll be installing 275 fast electric vehicle chargers all around the city. These charge a vehicle seven times faster than regular chargers. That’s going to be a game-changer for so many New Yorkers who want to go electric, want to go to renewable power. This will be the way. You’ll be seeing solar chargers, mobile vehicle chargers, a whole host of changes that will affect all this city, all parts of the five boroughs to change the way we live for the better. We want a fully electric City government fleet. We’re going to get there in the course of this decade, into the beginning of the next decade. We’re going to get there, but it really depends on pushing the spectrum every single day. And I want to tell you, a lot of the other leaders of this city are stepping up. They believe in this. They know we have to turn to renewables. We have to turn to electric vehicles as quickly as humanly possible. One of the folks who has been leading the charge and also is joining with me throughout this great week in Queens, my pleasure to introduce the Borough President of Queens, Donovan Richards

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And that was a really good line – leading the charge, electrical vehicles –

Mayor: I didn’t figure that out, it was better than I realized.

Borough President Richards: But, first of all, let me thank you. I know it’s been an exciting week for Queens, the announcement of the new 116th Precinct in Southeast Queens, something that was fought for, for 40 years. We want to thank you for that. And now, fast forward to climate week, and I’ll put back on my hat as the former Chairman of the Environmental Protection Committee at the City Council. And I want to thank you, because Local Law 97 was a game-changer. We know that 70 percent of all carbon emissions come from buildings and our city and this aggressive bill is going to reign that in. And then, fast forward, we did Local Law 92 and 94, the mandatory green roofs bill, which has actually already enacted and we’re seeing that in practice when we pass land use projects across Queens, where it is now mandatory requirements when it comes to green roof, solar panels, or white roofs and other additions.

And fast forward for Climate Week, $2 billion of investment in infrastructure just last week, Mr. Mayor, you’ll be happy to know that we signed off on a $62 million project with DEP and DDC for our community in Rosedale that has always been impacted by climate change. And then, the other additions, as we talk about getting people out of their cars, the investments in Queensboro Bridge’s redesign, which is going to allow cycling, is a welcome addition. The redesign of Northern Boulevard. The Open Streets program on 34th Avenue, which is a model for not only the city, but the nation on how we can utilize our streets better. And now, we have the addition of busways as well. But fast forward, we need to wean people off of the reliance of fossil fuels and cars are also a big part of that conversation. And this is why I’m very happy as somebody who’s worked on increasing EV charging station capacity, this announcement is huge for New York City, $75 million of investment. And let me say, years ago, I remember UPS – companies like UPS who really wanted to wean off of fossil fuels and move their entire fleet to EV – electrical vehicles – they could not do it, because we did not have the capacity.

So, when you think about how climate change impacts, especially communities of color, we feel the biggest brunt of climate change when it happens. We have the plants and our neighborhoods. So, the welcome addition of ensuring that we now we’ll wean the City’s vehicle fleet off of fossil fuels is huge, because these communities are the communities that are impacted by asthma much more, and other health ailments.

So, today’s a great day. It’s a great week. Climate Week is continuing. May we all do our part. There are things that we can do, turning off our water, turning off our lights. I remember, Mr. Mayor, I had a bill that would model off of Paris where we would have these big skyscrapers in New York City turn their lights off at night so that we can conserve energy. And I’ll end in just saying that there are other things we need to do. We need to ensure that this Astoria power plant project does not move forward, and that is closed, and that we really focus in on renewable energy at that site. A renewable Rikers – even as we talk about building the new facilities, which one will be right across the street from Borough Hall, we need to rethink the way where we’re relying on fossil fuels and move into the future, a renewable future, and EV charging stations are a big part of that in vehicles.

So, thank you. And congratulations, Mr. Mayor. And New York City is truly leading the way and we have a lot more work that has to be done. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: Thank you so much, Borough President. Look, I love what you put together there, all the pieces that show New York City is doing things in a very, very different way. Whether it’s Open Streets, whether it’s electric vehicles, the laws we’ve passed to make sure that we act in a greener fashion, it all can be done. And what we announced this week in terms of hydro power, wind power, solar power, the point has to be really, really clear – all these things can be done. We literally have not found something we couldn’t do. We have to just do these things, do them boldly, do them quickly. I agree with the Borough President, get away from that Astoria plant, that is pulling us backwards towards fossil fuels. We need to, in fact, pass the legislation this year to cut off fossil fuel connections in the future in this city. We have to take that bold leap to renewable power. We can do it. And thank you, Borough President, you’ve been a great leader on this. Let’s keep going. Let’s show what New York City can do.

And, always in New York City, if you want to get something done that’s big and bold come to Queens, come to Queens.

Borough President Richards: [Inaudible] the money.

Mayor: Okay. That was not the appropriate slogan for this moment, but okay –

[Laughter]

I’m looking for something – it was green. It was a green [inaudible] You get that? Okay. So, not only is it Climate Week, it is Queens Week, and it’s been amazing. Any time I connect with the Borough of Queens and the people of Queens, I get inspired. There’s so much happening here. So many positive things, and we keep investing in Queens, because there’s a lot to do in Queens, and Queens is so worth investing in. Today, we announce investments in some amazing museums that help make Queens as special as it is.

We are, first of all, completing the Queens Museum Expansion Project. This is something that’s – been a lot of passion around it. The Queens Museum’s an amazing place. This gives it the tools and the resources it needs to truly cement its reputation as a world-class museum and to continue its work as an anchor of the community. The Queens Museum is really, really community focused. I want to thank everybody at the Queens Museum for that, for being so inclusive, for bringing people in. This expansion is going to create a dedicated children’s museum space and classrooms and, connecting to our previous theme, it’s going to help the museum be energy efficient and green, and that’s fantastic.

And then, second, a major investment in some place beloved in this borough, the Queens County Farm Museum. I love it every time I go there. $5 million investment for a new education center to help kids and the whole community learn about sustainability, about how it’s important to be at one with nature around us, and that’s how we build a future. Amazingly, 325 years of continuous farming at the site of the Queens County Farm Museum. 325 years, the streak has never been broken – that’s beautiful. And we’re looking forward to, as Halloween’s getting near, the farm has the amazing maize maze – say that five times fast. Amazing maize – m-a-i-z-e – maze – m-a-z-e – that’s a tongue twister – that will be open in the weeks now leading up to Halloween, and that’s going to be fantastic. I want you to hear from someone who loves, loves, loves the Queens County Farm Museum, who has fought for it. The reason this investment is happening is because of his hard work and it’s something that’s going to be great for the families and particularly the kids at Queens. My pleasure to introduce Council Member Barry Grodenchik.

[…]

Mayor: Thank you so much, Council Member. Thank you for really, really standing by the museum and helping them to continue to be great. And it’s going to be exciting. And I want everyone to remember the amazing maize maze, you go check that out. And I want to remind everyone why we can go to events like that, because New York City continues to recover, because we’re coming back from COVID, we’re going to end the COVID era once and for all, because of the number-one strategy that keeps working – vaccination. Vaccination is fueling our recovery. Vaccination numbers, climbing all the time. It’s making a big difference.

Now, we set a very bold course over the summer. We said, we’re going to push the spectrum. We’re going to do things that are being done – that haven’t been done any place else. We’re going to lead the United States of America in new strategies to achieve more vaccination. Obviously, we did incentives – the $100 bonus. That was a huge boost. President Biden picked up on that immediately and encouraged that all over the country. The workforce mandates that we put in place for our public workforce were replicated all over the country. And the Key to NYC – look, the Key to NYC has been a great example of us doing something here, proving it could work, proving it can be done – indoor dining entertainment, fitness. What we did here, started the ball rolling for so many other places.

I want you to see a chart that really epitomizes the progress we’re making. And we like when that line goes up, up, up, and that means more and more vaccinations. But they correlate – the increased correlates to the strategies. So, in the beginning, you see there’s definitely an increase, but then it picks up at the time of the $100 incentive. That was really a boost. People connected with that. They wanted that. It got more and more people vaccinated. Then we did the vaccinate or test mandate for City workers. You see the numbers go up more then. Then, we did the Key to NYC. When we did the Key to NYC, it was after we had done the 5 million dose mark, but then we hit nearly 5.5 million as a result of these additional strategies. So, hundreds of thousands more doses that happened because of incentives and mandates at the right time, the right way, they keep driving vaccination numbers up, and they will even more now. Stronger mandates come into place. Obviously, starting on Monday, the important mandate for everyone that works in our schools. You’re going to see his numbers continue to climb. So, this combination works, but we’re going to keep pressing and keep making vaccination available everywhere.

And tomorrow is Vaccine Day of Action in Queens and we’re using another great tool that we intensified over the summer and into the fall now – mobile vaccine buses. The mobile units have been incredibly successful. We’re doing more and more of that. There’s going to be one right here at Borough Hall tomorrow, Thursday. So, anyone’s not yet vaccinated or needs that second dose, come on over. And if you need more information, go to nyc.gov/VaxThursdayQueens.

Okay. Now, we were able to create extraordinary progress on vaccination, which has lowered the impact of COVID in this city, which has sped up our recovery. We did that by being creative. We did that by doing things we had never done before and weren’t done any place else. We said, we’re going to do it the New York City way – bold, fast, intense, make things happen. And we’re going to think outside the box, we were going to be creative. And that is what has sustained us during the COVID crisis, always creating new approaches, new solutions, engaging the people of this city.

We do that not just with COVID, we do that on many other fronts. You heard what we’re doing to address climate. Now, I want to talk about public safety, because some of the most creative ideas are coming out on the public safety front. A host of reforms have been made, a whole set of new approaches to community-based solutions to violence – this is an area where there’s tremendous innovation happening. The key always is to change the paradigm and pick up on everything we did with neighborhood policing and now intensify it for the post-COVID era. So, neighborhood policing was an innovation that clearly worked, strengthened the bonds between police and community, drove down crime. We’re going to continue that and deepen that. And that will have so much to say about our recovery as well. We know that when communities and police work together, that’s the true way to achieve public safety.

So, we’ve invited communities into the process, more in the selection of precinct commanders, for example – major, major reform and innovation. Community voices, interviewing candidates for precinct commander, helping to determine who’s best for the community. We have a new rule in place to ensure a diversity of candidates for each major position. These approaches are having a big impact. But to continue deepening the bond between police and community, we have a new innovation, and this is something you’ve never seen before with the NYPD. And I will frame this and then you’re going to hear from Chief Holmes, who has passionately been pursuing this project. But the frame is this – we all depend on the NYPD, and every one of us can have experiences that are powerful and positive, and moments where NYPD officers made a really positive impact, saving lives. As I say, at every graduation at the academy, an officer has an opportunity at a given moment to change the trajectory of someone’s life for the better, or a whole family’s life for generations to come. We also all have had experiences where we didn’t have such a gratifying experience and where that interchange with the police officer was not what it needed to be. And we need to keep making that better, because if you have a good experience, if you have a good dialogue, if you feel heard and responded to, you’re going to feel a lot better about working with the police every single time.

A new initiative to focus on policing as another form of customer service. This is really powerful. The idea is simple phrase – how did we do? The idea is for the NYPD to ask the people who are served whether they got the service they needed, whether it was respectful, whether it was a positive experience, literally falling up on anyone who came to NYPD for any kind of help in the month after the experience they had to find out what their experience was, how they felt, what could have been better, and then act on it.

This is a very different mindset. It’s a really profoundly important moment, because I’ve heard this from New Yorkers for years and years and years, believing in the NYPD, but wanting some of those interactions to be different and better. This has been started now in the 25th Precinct in East Harlem, the 113 Precinct in Jamaica, Queens. This is the way of the future. And one of the people who is been the great innovator and champion of this effort and believes in it, because she wants that deepening bond of police and community, our Chief of Patrol, who’s done so much work all over the city, but has served Queens, particularly well, Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes.

Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes, NYPD: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. This is all about community empowerment, community feedback. So, I’m proud to say that we’re now launching the “How Did We Do?” tech survey. If you remember, in September of 2020, we launched the “How Did We Do?” where you had to enter a precinct and then participate in that survey. But we were only reaching a limited amount of people, because, if you didn’t walk into the precinct, we didn’t get your feedback. Now, we’re going to be actually sending out texts surveys and we strongly encourage your participation. Why? Because this is how we move forward. This is how we learn gaps in services, your interaction with the members of the service that are serving you, uniformed as well as civilian members of the service.

So, I’m happy to say that in November – I’m sorry, I’m happy to say that this month, September, we are launching a pilot in the 113th and the 2-5 Precinct. And then, in November, it will be launched citywide. And yes, public safety, we always keep in mind the safety of our victims. So, with that being said, I’ll answer a few questions that you may have. Naturally, we’ve put things in place to protect the victim. Who will receive these surveys will not be everyone – naturally, if you live in the household with the person that you’re complaining against – the same household – or if you’re a victim of domestic violence or a sex crime. So, there’s certain times that we will not send out a text, you know, asking for your participation. Also, the NYPD has implemented industry standards when it comes to cybersecurity and complaint privacy. So, I want you to know that we have your utmost concern about safety, whether it’s through the internet or whether it’s just keeping you safe from a particular person you may live with. But the one most important thing about this is that we need your participation. So, please, when you get the survey, which should be in about 30 days after you file your complaint, I would like to strongly encourage you to please participate. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: Thank you, Chief. And I want to say, Chief, thank you. You’ve put a lot of time and energy into this. It’s been, obviously, a labor of love and I thank you for that. But I want everyone to understand, because we’ve talked about this before, what it’s really going to mean. We want every New Yorker to have positive experiences with NYPD officers. We want to strive to treat this as a customer service approach, just like you would with dealing with so many other parts of our society – businesses and all. You want to know that if you go asking for help, if you need something, that you’re going to be treated with respect and dignity, understanding good communication, get your answers to your questions. We need to make sure that happens every time. And the leadership of the NYPD is adamant that it can happen, it must happen. This is a way, as the Chief said, of empowering the people of this city to give their feedback and then for all the supervisors to make the adjustments and make sure everyone gets the respect they deserve. This is really powerful now.

I want you to hear about what this means from the community level. And I’m going to turn to a community leader who has done great, great work. I’ve got to tell you, the folks who get involved in community boards, folks who got involved in precinct councils do so much good, and they do it selflessly, and they put in long hours, and they help make policing better, they help make communities better. Here’s someone who is the public safety chair for Community Board 12 in Queens, and deeply involved in policing, deeply involved in community issues. Then, in his spare time, he’s also Chairman of the Rochdale Village Board of Directors. I don’t know when you eat or sleep, but I’m happy you’re with us. Clifton Stanley Diaz, tell us what you think of this new initiative.

[…]

Mayor: Listen, Clifton, I thank you. Again. I really admire the amount of time energy you put in. I don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad you do. And I really appreciate what you said, because we have to hold ourselves to a high standard. We have to create a reality where the public has confidence if they engage a police officer, that it’s going to be a positive experience. It can be done, for sure. And we’re pushing the spectrum here to get to a better place. It would still – it’s the way to make us safe also. When that bond is real, then everything else falls into place to make us safe. So, Clifton thank you for the extraordinary work you do for the community. It’s deeply appreciated

Now, here we are talking about all the ways that we are focused on public safety. Here are the men and women of the NYPD, working nonstop to keep us safe, even as we come out of COVID, highest amount of gun arrests in 25 years, outstanding work is being done, tireless work is being done. But now, we have to fight on another front. And I’m always amazed when we are doing the work we need to do here in this city and then we get the potential of interference from another part of government. Today, we have a real challenge in a case before the United States Supreme Court. We are filing today an amicus brief at the Supreme Court, a major gun control case, and this relates to concealed handguns. And I’m sure Chief Holmes would be the first to say, the last thing the NYPD wants to see is it for it to be easier for people to walk around the city with a handgun. The NYPD has worked tirelessly to get guns off the streets. And now, the case before the Supreme Court, you guessed it, funded by the NRA, to try to make it easier for guns, to be all over our society, everywhere. And the NRA chose to bring the case now with a right-wing court that is more likely to favor this type of approach. The NYPD – I’ve had this conversation with all my commissioners over the years – strong, clear gun laws, make sense for protecting the public and our police officers. When the NRA works to ensure that guns are everywhere and guns can be proliferated all over our society, it endangers people. We need to get guns off the street. So, we’re going to the Supreme Court, we’re pushing along with so many allies to make it harder to walk around with a handgun, not easier. And we know that so many lives are at risk. And so, look, we are the safest big city in the country because great policing, great community involvement, and strong gun laws. That’s what allowed us to become the safest big city in America. We cannot see the Supreme Court interfere with that. So, we’re going to do everything we can to ensure the NRA does not get its way and guns are not more present on the streets in New York City for the good of all of us.  

Now, continuing on the theme of public safety, we’ve been talking throughout this week about big changes that we’re making right now at Rikers Island. There is a lot of work to do right this moment, but what’s clear is we are all adamant about making every change we need to make to get this situation under control and positive, because it can be turned around. I want to say that once again, this is a bad, tough situation, but it can be turned around. We’re saddled with the impact of COVID, we’re saddled with Rikers Island, a place that should have been closed a long time ago. I’m proud to say that a lot of us worked together with the City Council to close Rikers once and for all. It will be closed. But in the meantime, we’ve got to improve the situation right now and we are. Intake has been a big issue, making sure that when any individual comes into Rikers, it moves quickly. This is something that’s important to do both to treat people properly, also reduce any gatherings. It’s important in terms of addressing anything around COVID. Intake has to happen in less than 24 hours. We’re going to drive that number down constantly. We are moving now very fast to reduce the intake time. We’re getting most inmates through the intake process in less than 16 hours. Commissioner Schiraldi has been very, very committed to this. My message to him is we will move heaven and earth to make sure that number keeps going down so intake goes faster. We opened up the new intake facilities yesterday to facilitate it. It’s working already. Also, we’re going to end the triple shifts. This is something that came out of COVID. This is something that came out of the absolutely inappropriate actions of the union that represents the officers, COBA. We are going to end the triple shifts in October, and we’re going to accent the positive, rewarding the vast majority of officers who have done the right thing. I want to commend and thank, again, the vast majority of Correction officers who stepped up, did the right thing, showed up no matter how tough it was, and kept doing the work to keep everyone in Rikers safe. These are heroes who need to be acknowledged and appreciated. We’re going to do that with real incentives. To the officers who didn’t show up and left everyone else in the lurch and endangered their fellow officers, you should be ashamed of yourself. To the union that aided and abetted mass absenteeism, you should be ashamed of yourself, which is why we are bringing a legal action against you.  

Here’s what I’m going to do for the good, hardworking officers. Bonuses for everyone working a triple. And, again, we intend to end them, but while they still exist, if you’re an officer who didn’t abuse sick leave, who did things the right way, and you have to work at triple – additional resources, additional incentives for you. If you’re working a double in a different facility because you are willing to help out your fellow officers, incentives and support for you. If you’re an officer going into units where we need additional help in housing, intake, medical, and, again, someone who did not abuse sick leave, but did the right thing, honored your duty, did the work – incentives, support bonuses for you. We will go the extra mile to reward the officers who have done right, even in the most difficult circumstances, but we’re going to be very, very tough on those who went AWOL. We’re suspending them. And the message is clear. We’re not paying people that don’t work. And if you’re not willing to work, time to get out. And legal action against the union is clear. The union has been foundational to this problem. A union is supposed to help ensure that people come to work in the middle of a crisis, not discourage people from doing their job, not encourage mass absenteeism. We will not tolerate it. And we’ll be in court today to make sure that union changes its ways immediately.  

All right, as we do every day, we’re turning to indicators. And again, you heard, or you saw, I should, say the chart earlier, really good progress on vaccinations. That number is going to climb a lot as these additional mandates are coming into play in the coming days. The number today, absolutely outstanding, 11,287,130 doses from day one. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today’s report, 117 patients. Confirmed positivity of 27.13 percent. Hospitalization rate, this is really important, this is the number we watch particularly – today’s rate per 100,000, 1.04. That is really important and really good news. It proves that vaccination is working. And new reported cases on a seven-day average, today’s report, 1,505 cases. A few words in Spanish, my favorite topic vaccination and the fact that it’s vaccination – a huge vaccination push in Queens. Vaccination day of action tomorrow, all over Queens.  

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish] 

With that, we turn to our colleagues in the media and please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist. 

Moderator: We’ll now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, we’re joined today by Borough President Richards, by Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes, by Dr. Chokshi, by Dr. Katz, by DOC Commissioner Vinny Schiraldi, by MOCJ Director at Marcos Soler, and by Deputy Commissioner for DCAS Keith Kerman. First question is today, it goes to Steve Burns from WCBS 880. 

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

Mayor: Hey, Steve, how you doing? 

Question: Doing all right. Wanted to first ask about the digital survey that was just announced with the NYPD. Wanted to see if there’s any kind of pledge or promise on how data will be released from this, and basically, how do we make sure we know what – the numbers we’re getting are kind of the raw numbers, and if there are any efforts to reach out to those who may not be so digitally connected? The homeless comes to mind. How do we make sure we get their input as well? 

Mayor: Well, thank you for the question, Steve. I’ll start and I’ll turn to Chief Holmes. We want this to be transparent. It’s really important because if we’re going to improve the approach – well, customer service – I remember this, I’ll give you a little experience from my own life that when I was a City Council member, my wife, Chirlane, used to be adamant whenever she called the office, that she wanted to make sure just as a constituent, that people picked up the phone quickly, had a friendly voice, helpful voice, were responsive, got people answers. So, she would call sometimes to see if it was working. And this is exactly what we need, whether it’s a City Council office, whether it’s a business, or of course the NYPD. People deserve to know that they matter. And so, we want these results to be public because we want to put good pressure on ourselves to keep doing better. So, in terms of both the publicness, the Chief can talk about that and how we reach people who are not so into doing things online that can obviously include some of our seniors as well, Chief Holmes, you can speak to that. 

Chief Holmes: So, yes, full transparency. I mean, after all we have the discipline matrix online that you can access. So, we’re all about full transparency. As far as the public that does not have access to texting, there will be a part three to this. We’re not done. Part one I said was when we walked – you know, the precinct surveys that were conducted for anyone that walked into a present, looking for service, the timeliness in which they were addressed and the quality and the service that they received. So, naturally we intend to reach that public as well. And you’ll see, we’ll in the future be launching, where we will be reaching out to the individuals that are not tech savvy. 

Mayor: Amen. Go ahead, Steve. 

Question: Separate topic for the second question here on the brief filed with the Supreme Court. Obviously, this is going to be a very notable case. It’s the first Second Amendment case the Supreme Court has taken up in more than a decade here. I guess I’m asking you to play pundit somewhat with this question, but how do you feel like this case is going to go given the court’s new makeup, given that this is the first Second Amendment case they’ve taken up in quite a while that might indicate where the court is leaning here? What do you think the future is going to be for New York’s gun laws? 

Mayor: So, I’ll start, Steve, and I’ll turn to the Chief of Appeals for our Law Department, Richard Dearing, who has argued before the Supreme Court before in another Second Amendment issue. Steve, look, I am very concerned that the NRA is very, very consciously trying to bring this case now because of the composition of the court. And I’m very concerned of some of the – by some of the actions we’ve seen from the court that are extreme, that are not in any way representative of the American mainstream. Americans overwhelmingly want smart gun safety legislation. It has been proven a thousand times. So, the idea of making it even easier for people to move around with a gun and encouraging gun ownership, instead of sensible gun safety legislation, flies in the face of the vast American majority. That said, Steve, I don’t want to prejudge because in the last term we saw some decisions from the court that did surprise people and showed more range of thinking than I think was assumed. So, we got to go and fight this case and make the case well about what it means at the local level to keep people safe. I want you to hear just – I know he will speak carefully because preparing to present our argument through our Amicus brief, we want to be very mindful of the process, but just to give you a little sense of why we think we have a strong case, Chief of Appeals for the Law Department, Richard Dearing. I don’t hear him. I believe he’s there.  

Chief of Appeals Richard Dearing, New York City Law Department: Hi, can you hear me? 

Mayor: There you go, Richard. Yeah, go ahead. 

Chief Dearing: Hi. How are you guys? Well, thanks so much, Mayor. So, you know, just to clarify from the outset it is the State of New York’s case, and it challenges the State statute governing concealed carry. We put in our Amicus brief because we in the City apply that statute here. And our experience has shown that the State standard is crucial to keeping the streets of New York safe. And so, we tried to highlight a few points for the court that are relevant to that. One is the deep historical roots of the State standard going back to the 19th Century in New York and carrying it forward. And also because it’s a brief from New York City, the unique and compelling, safe – public safety issues that are present in this city, you know, from the subways to the streets, all of the sensitive places like parks, churches, schools that we are all in constant proximity to when we’re walking around in this uniquely dense and packed city – packed not just with residents, but with visitors, commuters, tourists, and the like. And so, we wanted to bring forward that perspective of the nation’s both largest and densest city to the public safety risks presented by handguns on the streets. 

Mayor: Thank you so much, Richard. Go ahead.  

Moderator: The next is Michael Gartland from the Daily News. 

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. 

Mayor: Good morning, Michael. How you been? 

Question: I’m good. How are you? 

Mayor: Good, good. I’m in Queens. So, it’s all good. 

Question: Queens – all right, well, good, good. I got a question about Rikers. You promised yesterday, you’re going to hire private security to pick up slack there. And there’s a 2002 State law prohibiting the City from hiring any private person or entity to guard inmates in the city. So, how’s that going to work? I mean, the – COBA, the union, is saying that’s illegal, and they’re going to challenge that. I know you’re not, you know, seeing eye to eye with them right now, but could you – I mean, how’s that going to work as far as the private security goes and the law? 

Mayor: Michael, I find it more than ironic that the people who created the crisis are now complaining about the solution. If COBA had done what they should have done, what any decent union would have done and said, everyone come to work to support each other so we can fight our way through this crisis, instead of, as we say in our legal action, “engaging in, causing, instigating, encouraging, or condoning mass absenteeism, concerted stoppage at work or slow down.” Their voice on this issue, it’s not valid for the people who helped create the crisis to then say, don’t go to a solution. We need to support the officers who are doing the right thing. We need to create a safe environment for the inmates. We’re going to use whatever tools we have. We’re still in an emergency situation with COVID. The law also speaks to the ability of the City to protect its employees, to address public health challenges. This is an emergency dynamic. So, we believe when you factor in all elements of law, that what we’re doing here is absolutely appropriate and necessary. And as soon as we see a normalization where officers are coming to work in the numbers they should, and we bring in additional officers that we’re training, and we don’t need outside support from the NYPD or any other City agency or private security – when we don’t need those things, of course we’ll stop using them. But until this moment has passed, we’re going to use whatever tool it takes to keep people safe. Go ahead, Michael. 

Question: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. We had a story on the front page of the paper today dealing with a letter sent from former Governor Cuomo’s lawyer, Rita Glavin, to the State Assembly’s Judiciary Committee. And in that letter, which is about – which is 25 pages long, Glavin, you know, basically goes after the credibility of Charlotte Bennett, you know, raised some issues about her time at Hamilton College, Glavin, again, I think this came up in August, you know, said that at Lindsey Boylan was involved in “witnessed tampering.” And I’m wondering, you know, if you could just address this. You know, I know he’s no longer the governor, but this is a letter from the former governor’s lawyer to the State Legislature. What do you think about this? 

Mayor: I think in an effort to shame and attack the women who came forward courageously is absolutely disgusting. This is – I’m amazed that after the world saw these very brave women come forward, talk about the mistreatment that they received, harassment, even assault, how dare any lawyer attack these women for telling their truth. I think it’s just unacceptable on every level.  

Moderator: The next is Amanda from Politico. 

Question: Hello from Room Nine. I’m hoping to be able to be holding press conferences back in City Hall soon. Any update? 

Mayor: I think we’ve got a great system going here, and I’ve heard from a lot of journalists, Amanda, that they have found it very workable for them as well. And I think it’s working, so we’re going to stick with it for the foreseeable future. But I’m glad you’re at City Hall. I’m where the action is in Queens though. So, you know, I would urge you to get over here. Go ahead, Amanda. 

Question: That’s fair. It does have the superior baseball team. I wanted to ask, since we’re talking about, you know, being in person and at work today, the City Council has a policy for its central staff, which is about 300 people, where they’re only asked to come in at least one day a week, starting October 14th. This policy seems pretty at odds with the policy that you’ve been pushing and have faced lawsuits over. So, I was hoping that you could weigh in on your thoughts about, you know, 300 municipal workers, not under the same policy that you’re offering, or you’re asking your employees to participate in. 

Mayor: Look, Amanda, it’s – you said something important. There’s 300 workers out of almost 400,000. So, you know, I respect the City Council. It’s its own branch of government. I don’t agree with them. But what we’re finding with the overall effort is we’re seeing really good results. People are doing their work, they’re connecting with their colleagues and the public while keeping people safe. I would urge the Council to join in. Did you have a follow-up, Amanda? 

Question: I did. I did, thank you. So, I wanted to go back to your announcement about electric vehicles. So, can you give us an update on your effort to reduce the current City fleet? I think it’s around 5,000 now. So, I wanted to know where we’re at now and kind of how that intersects with making vehicles greener.  

Mayor: Yeah. And I’ll turn to Keith Kerman from DCAS who has really been leading the way on a lot of this work. But I’ll say to you, Amanda, we’ve proven it can be done on a big scale. I have said to my colleagues I want to speed this effort up because the faster we go, the better, of course, for the earth. But also, there are market dynamics here. New York City is a big market, New York City government alone is a big market. We got to keep moving everything toward electric or whenever necessary hybrid-electric, because that’s encouraging more and more companies to produce more and obviously lowering prices. So, the way of the future is just really, really put the pedal to the metal, so to speak, and move this thing. Keith, what’s the latest on the numbers? 

Deputy Commissioner Keith Kerman, Department of Citywide Administrative Services: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, and greetings from Flushing Meadow Corona Park. I’m sitting in an all-electric school bus. Behind me is an all-electric garbage truck, an all-electric police vehicle, and a hybrid electric ambulance. That’s the fleet of our future, and under your leadership, we’re getting there. So, on the fleet reduction – and the Mayor’s Management Report came out on Friday – we had committed, under the Mayor’s leadership, to reduce at least 1,000 on-road vehicles. If you check the Mayor’s Management Report, we reduced 1,109 on-road vehicles. So, in addition to the electrification, the reducing of millions of gallons of fuel, we met the commitment to look at the city plea, analyze it. And we met the thousand – we exceeded the thousand reduction target, and it’s 1,109 was the reduction.

Mayor: Hey, Keith, I want to thank you. First of all, very excellent choice of backdrop showing the future right there. And second, I know you really care about this deeply and your whole team. I want to thank you and all of them, because you’re making real progress here. And my message to everyone in the City government is great. We’re making progress and proving it can be done. Now, how can we do more, faster? And Amanda will be speaking to that more in the coming days as well.

Moderator: The next is Henry from Bloomberg.

Question: Morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you doing?

Mayor: I’m doing great, Henry. How about you?

Question: I’m doing very well. Thanks. I see you’ve got Mr. Met there at your elbow.

Mayor: Mr. Met is like – the problem with this Mr. Met, even though I appreciate the gift from the Borough President, is he’s ready to fall over all the time. I think he needs a little more body to go with this head.

Question: Well, you’re very happy because the Red Sox have survived and appear to be headed for the postseason. So, you can afford to tap Mr. Met on the head and keep smiling. But let me ask you a couple of questions. My first question is about vaccination of teachers. What is the percentage of teachers who were vaccinated as of today and what are you going to do about the remainder who need to at least have one shot by Monday?

Mayor: So, I’m going to turn to Dr. Chokshi or Dr. Katz, whoever has the statistics handy in just a moment. Henry, what we have seen literally day by day is the numbers going up. I don’t have a doubt in my mind. When you look at the numbers we’re receiving the fact that we’re seeing relatively few requests for any kind of religious or medical exemption. I think the unions involved have been very clear in supporting vaccination for their members and pushing people to do it and trying to support it and make it easier. I’m certain we’re going to hit the mark we have to hit. Because it’s quite clear. Everyone understands how important it is. And this is how we keep our schools right for our kids. In terms of the exact number today, Dr. Chokshi or Dr. Katz, do you have something else? We’ll get it to Henry later on.

Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Sir, I don’t have the precise number on hand. I know the Department of Education is following it very closely. And we have seen increases just over the last week including because of our onsite vaccine clinics at so many school buildings last week. So, Henry we will be happy to coordinate with the Chancellor and our colleagues to get you the precise number.

Mayor: And I’m handed a note just now. And I believe this is for all types of DOE staff saying that we’re around the 80 percent mark at this point. But I want us to confirm that formally. Dr. Katz, did you have anything to add on that?

President and CEO Mitch Katz, Health + Hospitals: No, sir. Thank you.

Mayor: Okay. Go ahead, Henry.

Question: If it’s 80 percent that means the 20 percent of about 80,000 teachers at least aren’t vaccinated. So, that’s about 16,000 teachers in classrooms who are not vaccinated.

Mayor: Yeah. Henry, go ahead. I’m sorry.

Question: What do you intend to do when Monday comes around and there are all of these un-vaccinated teachers are at the head of these classrooms?

Mayor: I don’t believe you’re going to see that. And I think there’s a lot of time on the clock. Everyone knows what time it is. Everyone knows what we’re dealing with. I’ve been handed another note. Specifically, for teachers and the percentage now is 87 percent. So, that 80 percent or so number was all staff. Obviously, the teachers is the single biggest component. So, 87 percent there. Henry, it is moving rapidly. Because everyone knows there’s a deadline coming up. And again, I think, very important question you’re asking, but I think the really interesting pertinent point is how many requests for exemption, religious or medical? Very, very few. There is a broad understanding among teachers, among staff. It’s time to get vaccinated if you haven’t. And if you’re not going to, there was an arbitration for God’s sakes. Everyone understands what happens if you’re not vaccinated in time, what the penalties are. I don’t expect a lot of people want to experience those penalties. I think the vast, vast majority want to be in the classroom supporting their kids. If there are folks who on Monday are non-compliant, deciding not to do this, we have a huge core of vaccinated substitutes rate to move in. So, we’re really confident that we can make this equation work.

Mayor: The next is Yoav from The City.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. I wanted to revisit the issue I asked about last week regarding special education students who attend private schools at the DOE’s expense because the public schools are unable to serve them. There are a group of the neediest students who are mandated to get yellow bus service, but who didn’t get it because the DOE essentially said, sorry, we can’t provide bus service prior to September 13th. And that means these kids went a week or more without a legitimate means to get to school. And this was after more than a year of remote learning, where many of their essential supports weren’t provided. So, I just wanted to get a better understanding of what you know about the situation? And how you justify the DOE thinking it’s okay, simply not to provide such an essential and required service?

Mayor: I appreciate the question, Yoav. And obviously, you know, I’ve focused a lot over the years on trying to improve support for special ed kids and their families. It was deeply, deeply lacking when I came into office. I can guarantee you, we’ve made a series of changes to try and make it easier for kids to get the special ed support they need and families to get the reimbursement they deserve and a number of other things. But I don’t have the final facts on why this happened. Obviously, if it happened, it wasn’t supposed to happen. I’m not happy about it. But the people online today are not the people that can answer that. I’ll have the Department of Education and I’m sure our First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan and his team can also provide information because they’ve worked to secure bus service each time. If the bus service should have been there for the kids, then it’s not acceptable it wasn’t. We’ll get you an update and we’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again is the bottom line. Go ahead, Yoav.

Question: For that I’m still waiting. Chancellor Porter indicated I would get a more detailed response last week. I’m still waiting on that. On another issue, I just wanted to ask your public schedule online hasn’t been updated since April 2020. What’s happening with that? When can we expect an update?

Mayor: I don’t know the answer to that. That’s the first I’ve heard that. We’ll make sure that our scheduling team and our Legal team figure out what’s going on with that and get the appropriate updates out.

Moderator: The next is Emily from NY1.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. You told –

Mayor: How are you doing, Emily?

Question: I’m well. I hope you’re doing well too. You told us last week that it wasn’t your focus to use your powers under 6A to conditionally release people at Rikers who might be sick or otherwise. Will you tell us why you won’t use those powers? You said yourself earlier in this briefing that there’s an emergency dynamic. Can’t be too unlike the pandemic?

Mayor: Yeah. Emily, it’s a very fair question. And I’ll say it this way. First of all, as I understand it from the team, we’re talking about very small numbers. Even though every single individual counts, we’re talking about very small numbers. Where our focus right now is on the big numbers that has to do with the things we’re doing with the State of New York, where there’s a potential to release hundreds more people, whether to not be incarcerated or go to State facilities. There’s a number of other efforts we’re working on to move people again by the hundreds to greatly reduce the population. That’s our focus. Now 6A, besides the fact that it’s a small group, I’m adamant about, given that we’re still dealing with serious public safety issues, still the impact of COVID and everything else that we’re working our way out of. If there’s no public safety ramification, if it’s talking about someone who is not involved in an act of violence, or has a background related to an act of violence, that’s something I would consider for sure. But I’m going to be very, very clear that we have to balance the need to address rapidly the situation at Rikers with our ongoing focus on securing public safety for the whole city. When we look that through and do that analysis, if there’s individuals, I’m certainly going to be ready to act on that. But I honestly believe that will be a fairly small number. Go ahead, Emily.

Question: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And then turning to the race to succeed you, Eric Adams has repeatedly recently used the line that the city is out of control. He’s talking about public safety. He lists some anecdotes like ATVs and seeing people shoot up in the park and of course some grisly murders we’ve seen recently. What do you make of this rhetoric? Or as he discusses the importance of perception as much as reality?

Mayor: Well, I would keep this broad and say again, I have real faith in Eric Adams. I think he’s going to be a great mayor. I’ve been talking to him regularly. We share a lot of values about the right way to address issues of safety. That has to be a partnership between police and community. And that’s what he’s put so much of his life into. And that’s what we’ve done so much in this administration. So, I think there’s a lot of continuity in the approach. There are real issues out there. And I think his approach is to be very upfront about the issues. But when you talk about perception and reality we got to be honest about the fact that the reality is often better than the perception. And I wish there was more attention given to the amazing work the NYPD is doing, the amazing work community leaders are doing, the Cure Violence movement, and Crisis Management System. I mean, the notion if it bleeds, it leads is alive and well in New York City. So, if he’s referring to those kinds of realities, of course, he’s right to say there’s a constant flow of imagery that gives people one idea. The truth is often something very, very different. But we’re going to work together to keep addressing these issues, unquestionably.

Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Julia from the Post.

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

Mayor: Good, Julia. How are you doing?

Question: Good. So, Attorney General Letitia James visited Rikers yesterday with the Bronx DA, the Queens DA, the Brooklyn DA, a delegation of State legislators. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve also had several Council members, the Public Advocate, likely next mayor, Eric Adams, who you just praised pretty effusively. So, why not go there yourself? I know you’ve said you’re focused on implementing this five-point plan. But you know, you like to say you can walk and chew gum at the same time?

Mayor: Well, I am – I appreciate the question, walking and chewing gum on the schools right now to make sure they are everything we need to be, on public safety, on climate. Everything we’re discussing today, including Rikers. What I’ve said is clear. I will be going to Rikers. As soon as I make the decision when, I’ll let you know. But the real issue to me is what I’m working on constantly throughout each day with First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan, with Commissioner Schiraldi, is the changes we need to make right now. The issues we have to address with the union and the unfortunate role the union is playing, the work we’re doing constructively with the State. That’s where my time and energy is going. And it’s having an impact. There’s a real change happening right now at Rikers. When it’s time for a visit, I’ll definitely visit. Go ahead, Julia.

Question: And I know you say that you liked Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s dress, but what do you think of her proposal calling on you to release all 6,000 inmates from Rikers?

Mayor: That’s not going to happen. I respect the Congress Member and her colleagues who signed that letter. Couldn’t disagree with them more. It’s not going to happen. It’s not the right way to handle things. We have to balance the profound need to address public safety in the city with a profound need to improve conditions at Rikers. We can do both those things the right way. Releasing everyone there is not the right way, obviously. Doesn’t make sense. And in the end, the real thing we have to do as a city is close Rikers once and for all. And this is something Eric Adams and I have talked about. We agree on. The plan is in place. It will happen during his mayoralty. Rikers needs to close once and for all, but when we have new, modern redemption oriented community jails for inmates to go to, the answer is not to just open up the gates.

Moderator: Last question for today. It goes to Julianne from Streetsblog.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. Can you hear me?

Mayor: Yeah, Julianne. How are you doing?

Question: Hi. How are you? So, we noticed that on the first gridlock alert day this week, and today being known internationally as car-free day, car traffic over the MTA Bridges was the same as previous Monday. And that subway and best use was also similarly flat while the roads are choked to the point of local business districts hiring their own crossing guards to help residents. So, why did you not create emergency bus lanes as the City did during the transit strike or HOV lanes on City controlled bridges or other measures to help reduce the car traffic?

Mayor: Julianne again right now, I think we have a real congestion problem. There’s no question. I experienced it myself. But the focus that we have is to get people out of their cars, get people back to mass transit. We do see progress in terms of folks going back to the subways. We’ve made a lot of announcements, obviously about expanding bike lanes, expanding bus service, busways, et cetera. I’ll look at the emergency possibility. It’s something that has been raised honestly, it’s worth another look. But right now, I think we’re trying to get to the bigger solutions rapidly. And obviously congestion pricing and keeping as much pressure as possible to get that done as quickly as possible. Go ahead, Julianne.

Question: Right. So given, I guess the congestion pricing meetings starting this week, do you plan on commenting at all or asking the MTA and feds to finish the environmental assessment faster than in 16 months?

Mayor: Yeah, I absolutely believe it can and must be completed faster. I think the federal government, State government, MTA all need to join that call, all need to work together to reduce it. Look, we know if we’re talking about any concept related to environmental impact, any traditional sense of why we do an environmental impact process. We know this will reduce car traffic. We know it will reduce emissions. We know it will cause more people to use mass transit. We know it will get us more revenue for the MTA. We know these things. We don’t need a 16-month study to know these things. The concern about any impacts in surrounding areas, I understand that, but that’s been studied deeply for years now. We do not need such a long process. We need to move this forward with an urgent situation. This would actually profoundly reduce congestion while addressing the bigger situation. So, I want to work with the State, the federal government to speed this up. And for everyone who rightfully is concerned about environmental justice, there’s nothing better we can do from an environmental justice point of view, then getting vehicles off the road. So again, what we know already, is I think much more powerful than anything we’re going to learn in the next 16 months of just endless study.

So, with that, as we conclude today, everyone, just want to emphasize congestion pricing is another example, an innovation, an approach as time has come, just like all the other things we’re doing to address the climate crisis, to address the pandemic, to change public safety, this city is always as best when we’re innovating, when we’re pushing the spectrum, when we’re being bold. That’s what’s going to get us out of this pandemic and move us forward and give us a recovery for all of us. Thank you.

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