Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Appears on Inside City Hall

January 9, 2017

Errol Louis: As we reported earlier, Mayor de Blasio attended Governor Cuomo’s State of the State address this morning at One World Trade Center – and he joins me now to share his thoughts about that and more in tonight’s Mondays with the Mayor segment. Welcome, Mr. Mayor, good to see you.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you.

Louis: What was the mood in the room? What were your – what was the general idea? Was it an exciting time for people? He sort of kept a lot of the proposals close the vest. And I imagine you were hearing a lot of them around the same time as the rest of us.

Mayor: Yes, and, I mean, some of them have been put out publicly – others were newer. But, look, it was honestly a briefer speech than some traditionally in that model. There were some good points I thought and some things I certainly agree with. But there is a lot of detail that wasn’t there. And obviously the budget wasn’t attached so there is a lot to be answered, particularly in terms of what it will mean for New York City. But, I thought there were some positive proposals. I don’t know if I could describe a particular mood. I think everyone is feeling a little sober because we understand the great unknown that is facing us in Washington DC and maybe it was the unspoken part that was the most powerful – that we are all about to face a Trump administration that could be very extremist, or it could be more moderate. We don’t know. We certainly know it could have a very negative impact on New York City or New York State depending on how they approach the budget and their attempt to appeal Obamacare and other issues. So, it might be fair to say that it was a speech given against a backdrop of the great unknown that kind of made it a little more sober.   

Louis: I want to get to the federal stuff in just a minute. When he’s giving the speech, I imagine that there are people – he gave a different speech or a version of the same speech in Buffalo where I know they were waiting to hear about Uber for upstate and other kinds of things that were going to be regionally important. When I heard him talk about money for the Kingsbridge armory, I am thinking to myself, oh, at last maybe something else will happen there. You must have had some of those moments as well.

Mayor: Look, anytime the State of New York steps up and provides us with the funding we deserve, it’s a big deal. But, we haven’t seen the numbers yet so I’ve got to be a little careful in saying – my job is defending the interest of the people of New York City. That comes down to real practical dollars-and-cents stuff. We don’t know what all this means yet. Now, he made the point about increased education aid. I’ve been fighting for years for the State to fulfill its commitment under the campaign for fiscal equities – a decision by the highest court in the state that said New York City and a lot of other cities around New York State deserve more education funding. That’s never been fulfilled. If what he talked about today means we are going to start to fulfill that commitment that’s great. But I want to see the facts. So, there’s moments like that – you know, certainly it’s good to hear. I’m glad to hear him talking about the housing plan. I think it should have been resolved in the June budget. I’m sorry that we’re still waiting for answers. We need that supportive housing for homeless folks with special needs. The City of New York is in the middle of a 200,000 apartment housing plan. We would love for the State of New York to become a part of that but, we’ve got to see details to know that it’s real.

Louis: When he talked about closing Indian Point Nuclear reactor years ahead of schedule, one thing I am thinking is it takes up or it accounts for a pretty substantial amount of electricity that New York City uses. What happens to electricity rates?

Mayor: Look, I would say before even the question of rates, I think it’s fantastic, but there’s a vision of closing down nuclear Indian Point that I think is necessary. I was involved in the anti-nuclear power movement when I was in high school and college, and I believe it’s always been right, but I believe what became challenging was – where do you get the electricity and the energy to replace it? And how do you do it in a way that doesn’t exacerbate the climate change problem? When I was first an activist on anti-nuclear power, we didn’t think in terms of climate change. Now, there’s that sobering reality that you go from nuclear to coal, you know –

Louis: Out of the frying pan, into the fire –

Mayor: Right. So I am hopeful and I am glad the Governor’s making it a priority. But now what the people of New York City need to know is where the energy is going to come from. Is it going to come from Quebec? Where is it going to come from? We have to see it and we have to know it’s real in time for this deadline. Two, you’re right we have to make sure it doesn’t put an undue burden on rate pairs particularly lower income and middle income rate pairs of struggling working class families who are having struggles making ends meet right now. So there is a lot of unanswered questions, but the goal is absolutely the right goal.

Louis: Well, I am thinking, if it were like electricity is for the creative businesses and for New York City like soil is for farmers, right? I mean, if that basic price goes up, everything else here goes up right?

Mayor: Right. But I’d say first, we need to know the supply is there. The worst of all – for some reason we didn’t have electricity available to us. Then we have to keep the rates fair, you’re    
Right, because it undergirds our whole economy. So, these are tough competing interests, but if we can find enough renewable resources we’ll certainly work with the state on this. Best of all worlds in terms of the well-being of people in New York City to get Indian Point closed down.

Louis: On to the Trump administration, you mentioned earlier today that you’ve been in discussion with Jared Kushner, the young real-estate business man who happens to be the son of the President-elect and has been, it was announced today is expected to become a top advisor to him in the White House. Not your problem necessarily, but doesn’t that create some sort of conflict of interest for you?

Mayor: Well, that’s an open question. When I was asked about it earlier, I said, look, I think the entire Trump administration has to deal with the conflict issue because they haven’t so far, right? The President-elect has business interests of a type we’ve never seen before and a president that has obviously not disclosed his taxes. There are so many open questions about how he will comport himself on foreign policy, if he has business interests in the countries we’re dealing with; the same for his children; the same for everyone around him. They are going to have to meet a standard of transparency quickly if they don’t want to lose the faith of the American people. And so far they have been pretty resistant it seems.

As to Jared Kushner – the person who I knew well before there was even talk of Donald Trump running for president – I have always found him being a very intelligent guy, a reasonable guy; someone who cares a lot about New York City; someone who I could work with even when I disagreed with him. And, I think it’s good he’s going to be down there from a New York City perspective. I think it’s good he’s going to be there. I’ve spoken to him about reimbursements of the NYPD reserves – deserves, I should say, for the coverage of Trump Tower. I spoke to him about other issues and I think he’s someone we can work with so I am glad he is going to be there, but that whole administration has to answer these conflict issues. By the way, I will give them free advice. They should answer them quickly because it will dog them if they don’t.

Louis: Well, yes, I also though imagine a situation where you know the Kushner organization real-estate interest all over the City. The City needs something for public housing or something else and you two have what would end up being, I would think, a very uncomfortable situation.

Mayor: Absolutely. I am from the school of thought that I, like elected officials of the group I’m in, who have no real assets and no business investments and no other –

Louis: You have a couple of nice houses in Park Slope.

Mayor: I know – I’m thrilled and I’m blessed, but I have absolutely no stocks. I have no investment in any business. You know, you see businessmen, politicians from time to time – I think this is a question of all of them of where do the potential conflicts lie. In New York City, we have very stringent disclosure rules. We have a Conflict of Interest Board. The federal system I am not as clear about. I don’t understand, for example, how a candidate for president is not required to – required by law to disclose their tax returns. And that makes no sense to me to begin with. So, I am worried about what exactly what you say that there could be all sorts of hearing conflicts we don’t even know about to begin with. And you’re right if I am dealing with someone and they have business before the City of New York and I am trying to get fairness for the City of New York from Washington that creates a strange situation. In the case of Jared Kushner, I believe I can deal squarely with him because that has been my experience. But I think he and everyone else should take these issues off the table for maximum disclosure and maximum disconnect from their business interest at least on a temporary basis.

Louis: And we will see. Here’s a question from a viewer – how is the City being proactive on our public schools to address legitimate fears of students in the wake of President Trump? And by that I think they mean immigrant students who are maybe in a tricky situation as far as their status.

Mayor: I think it is immigrant students, I think it is Muslim students who worry deeply about discrimination or the possibility of a “Muslim registry.” I think it is a lot of kids. I mean, as we have seen, bias crimes have gone up since the national election – three categories in particular, anti-Muslim incidents, anti-Semitic incidents, and anti-LGBT incidents. So, there are a lot of different people who are worried. I tried with my own message, repeatedly, to tell people, including young people, that they will be protected and they will be respected; and that this City is not going to allow some of the [inaudible] which we heard in the national election to infect us. And clearly, we’re going to be very aggressive about any hate crime. Our school system is also taking those messages – all throughout the schools, all throughout the grades. Carmen Farina has spoken very deeply about this and encouraged principals and teachers to talk to their kids. So, I am hoping the message is permeating – and certainly for immigrant communities to know we’re not going to allow our police officers to be turned into immigration enforcement agents, and we’re going to continue to do things like IDNYC that respect all immigrants regardless of documentation status.

Louis: Let me ask about IDNYC. I understand that some cultural institutions are ending their affiliation with it. I think from the beginning it was understood that a year, two years, three years – it would give free access and some other type of goodies. But are you recruiting new groups to fill that void? Is it still necessary to do that?

Mayor: Look, it’s a totally open situation where groups – cultural institutions are always welcome in and more are coming in. Some made a decision because of their specific circumstances that they didn’t want to continue – that is fine – but they have honored all their previous commitments. So, right now the numbers are stable, it’s about 40 cultural institutions. That’s how we started, that’s where we are now. That’s been stable. But look, we’re coming up on a million cardholders, and what I’ve heard – I‘ve talked to folks from some of the Brooklyn cultural institutions the other day who told me it’s been a boom because they have had – you know, many cases cardholders come in who never would have otherwise, love what they experience for that year, and then made their own investment thereafter – continuous permanent members. A lot of the cultural institutions are looking for new audiences, younger audiences, audiences of all different backgrounds and trying to become, bluntly, less elite, less exclusive. IDNYC has helped them and they’ve helped the City by participating in IDNYC.

Louis: Well, what about on a related issue involving this court battle about whether or not you’re going to destroy the applications that came in to protect the identity and immigration status of some of the applicants. If that happens, just as a practical matter, I was wondering if somebody loses their card or if you somehow have to work backwards and figure out whether or not somebody was a legitimate holder of that card – what happens if the records are gone?

Mayor: Well, we have duplicates of the cards. The cards have a photo on them that was created with the NYPD; a specific approach to the photo that is used for security purposes. That is kept on file. All the basic information from the application is kept on file. So, a card could easily be reproduced, that’s not a problem. It’s the backup material beyond that that will not be retained. We’ve now continued the IDNYC process by saying we’re not going to keep that backup paperwork and people have continued to come in wanting new cards. So, I think that message has been received that they are safe and secure. But they’ve been – look, this has been an unmitigated success; almost a million people. NYPD is thrilled because more and more people have IDs in this city, which is very important in any encounter with a police officer. The discounts work great, the cultural institutions feel great about the experience. And the folks who have it, and I constantly hear from cardholders that they feel like they belong in New York City including a lot of people who felt less secure about whether they were part of the City. They now feel they belong; they can get a bank account, they can get leases, all sorts of things that have worked. We’re in court, I feel confident that the City law was very, very clear about not keeping that backup material, and I think we will prevail in court.

Louis: On the subject of cultural institutions; you were up at the Brooklyn museum when the derailment happened at the LIRR Atlantic Terminal – it was really just a few blocks away. I was wondering, even if out of curiosity, why didn’t you just go by and see how things were.

Mayor: Look, I just felt that it was a very contained situation. Obviously, the train was at the end of the line. It was, thank God, not a more devastating situation. And I asked my folks at the beginning of the incident, including the Police Commissioner what was going on, and the answer was the worst injury we had was a broken leg. To me that just wasn’t the kind of situation where you alter everything to go to the scene of an incident. That’s always a decision you make depending on the severity and the specifics of the incident. It is as I said at the press conference; it’s obviously the jurisdiction of the State, the MTA. The Governor had been there, I thought it covered it fine.

Louis: Okay and in retrospect you would have done the same thing?

Mayor: I’m fine with it.

Louis: You had a fundraiser down in Washington DC with the American Federation of Teachers, the parent of the United Federation of Teachers. How did it go? How much money did you raise?

Mayor: Well, I don’t get into the specifics of each event. We’re going to have a campaign filing coming up soon, but it was a very successful event by every measure. Some of the great leaders of the American labor movement were there; a lot of leading figures in the Democratic Party were there. It was a really wonderful gathering. And a lot of people who care about the progress we made here in New York City and want to see it continue.

Louis: Okay, I understand there is a fundraiser tonight in Park Slope. We’re not going to hold you too long because I know you got to go out there.

Mayor: We have three fundraisers tonight in Brooklyn.

Louis: Okay, very good.

Mayor: It never ends.


Louis: Is that – the one in Park Slope in particular, I’m wondering if that is just sort of friends and neighbors or does it happen to be there and it’s kind of a bigger –

Mayor: It’s a lot of folks from the Slope, and many of whom have been long time supporters.  [Inaudible] get together as we come up on this deadline.

Louis: Okay. And I guess finally there is this talk about somebody jumping into the race, your old boss Hillary Clinton – any truth to that? Have you been in touch with her?

Mayor: I have not been in touch with her, but I think what Neera Tanden said on CNN on Sunday is the final word. I mean, Neera is one of Hillary’s top lieutenants. She said what I think everyone understands that last race was Hillary Clinton’s last. And that – you know she ran a great race for president. I feel very pain like so many others do that she won almost three million more votes and didn’t get to take office, but as Neera said I think people expected that was going to be last run. So, I consider that pretty straightforward.

Louis: You sleep a little bit better at night knowing that?

Mayor: Again, I think it was clear from the beginning.

Louis: Okay, good enough.

Great to see you, thanks for coming by.

Mayor: Good to see you, thank you.

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