January 6, 2016
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you so much, Maria. I have to tell you, first of all, not only do I love all that you do, and appreciate all you do for our children, and appreciate how hard you work, but I have a special appreciation for your name because that was my mother’s name – Maria.
So, I want to thank you. I want to thank you because, as you said, even when it’s tough, you still go there to help our kids. Even when you don’t know how you’re going to make ends meet, you look out for them, and that’s something that we are very appreciative and very proud of. Let’s thank Maria for everything she does.
And I want to thank everyone who’s here today – and a special thank you to DC 37 for hosting us. I want to thank you all. I want to thank DC 37 for standing up for working people.
I want to thank Henry Garrido. Henry has already in his leadership given added strength to this district council. This is a mighty district council with a noble history, and Henry’s making it even stronger. And he said something powerful –
– he said that unions not only uplift unionized workers, unions uplift all working people.
And if you look – if you look at the history of where this country started to take a wrong turn on income inequality, where we started to lose our middle class – the end of the 70s, beginning of the 80s – it was the same exact time that labor union membership started to plummet. There is a direct correlation, brothers and sisters. The more union membership, the healthier our society is, the fairer it is economically.
But I guarantee you that working people who are not blessed to be members of the union appreciate leaders like Henry Garrido, who are thinking how can we help them too? So, Henry, thank you. Thank you for all you do.
Now, Henry said something that I have to say – it brought a smile to my face. It is true – the issue of income inequality is finally being acknowledged and discussed the way it should be all over this country.
And, Henry, I’m honored to have been talking about it for years, and a lot of other people in this room have been talking about it for years. And just because it wasn’t fashionable, it didn’t mean it was any less true. But guess what, my friends? We’ve all been discovered –
– because now it’s being talked about everywhere, all over this country, as the future of our country is being debated. And you see it in the public opinion polls, and you see it in the town hall meetings, and the debates – we’re finally talking about what we should be talking about – how do we restore the middle class? How do we make sure that work actually pays? How do we reward work and not just wealth? That’s what it’s all about.
Now, here – here in this city, there has been a commitment over these last two years to act with every tool we have. I remind you, I had the honor of coming into office and some of the folks who asked me what the vision was would rightfully say, well, how much can a city do? How much does a city require action from the federal government, the state government? We sure as hell want more action from the federal government and the state government. The question is always, are we doing all we can do? And that’s why with the tremendous leadership of the City Council – that’s why we passed the best paid sick leave law this city’s ever seen, and reached more and more people.
That’s why we issued an executive order on the living wage to reach thousands and thousands of more people with higher wages.
That’s why two weeks ago we announced paid parental leave, and we are very proud of that.
And those six full weeks of paid parental leave begin with our non-union city employees, but we look forward, as soon as possible – and I know our union brothers and sisters look forward as soon as possible – to getting that benefit to union city employees as well.
All of these things are addressing the core realities of what people need just to get by – just to have a decent standard of living. Isn’t that what we are all trying to do? All of us in elective office, all the community activists, all the labor advocates, all the clergy – aren’t we just trying to get people a decent standard of living? That if you work hard, it’s supposed to mean something? It’s supposed to mean that you can feed your family. It’s supposed to mean that you don’t have to go through what Maria goes through. Why should anyone in the richest city in the world have to choose between paying the rent, or the medicines they need, or having electricity?
So, we’re going to do everything in the power of this city – the greatest city in the nation – some would say the greatest city in the world – I would say it –
– we’re going to do everything in our power. We’re going to reach every one of our people. We’re going to show what it looks like. And I’m very proud to say that today we mark another crucial milestone towards a fairer city, a better city, a city where there really is opportunity for all. Today, we announce that we are raising the wage to $15 dollars an hour –
– for 50,000 more workers in New York City.
That means every one of our city employees – when this plan is fully implemented, every one of our city employees is guaranteed a minimum of $15 dollars an hour – every single one.
It means that every one of our social service employees through our contracted agencies is guaranteed a minimum wage of $15 dollars an hour.
It means 50,000 employees – but, brothers and sisters, we know that means thousands and thousands and tens of thousands of family members are uplifted at the same time.
People who protect our children when they go to school in the morning, people who make our parks beautiful, people who take care of their fellow New Yorkers in need – those are the people who will benefit.
We’re going to be phasing these higher wages in. We’ll be at $15 dollars an hour for all by the end of 2018. It will mean families will be able to do so much more, to not have to make those tough choices, to be able to afford the basics in life. And when you combine that with all the other – all the other important benefits we’re trying to give people – paid sick leave is a benefit whether you’re in a union or not now in New York City, for example; the transit benefits we announced earlier in the week – and thank you to the City Council – so people could afford to get to work – that’s whether you’re in a union or not; pre-k, which costs for a family $10,000 dollars to $15,000 dollars a year per child, is now free to all; afterschool for our middle school kids is now free to all.
These are the ways we lighten the burden – and we have to keep doing it.
Now, this is a part of a bigger vision, and we said this very clearly last year in our OneNYC plan. We put forward a very audacious goal, but, brothers and sisters, it’s a necessary goal. We said we’re going to lift 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty – almost one in every ten of us. Over the next ten years, we must lift 800,000 people out of poverty. That is our pledge. That is our goal. For 50,000 workers and their family members, this pledge is becoming a reality today, but we will keep going until we reach each and every one.
And I want to take a quick moment to thank – I know I want to thank everyone here, because I have been at the protests, and the rallies, and the votes of different legislative bodies – and all of you, so many times – I see so many familiar faces who have fought this fight for years. But I want to do some special thank-you’s. In the vein that Henry raised of a union that believes in reaching far beyond its workers, we are blessed to have a leader here with us who took these issues of better wages and benefits, made it his own, made it his passion, and I know that we got where we got on paid sick leave, and we’re getting where we get today in large measure because of the leadership of Hector Figueroa, of 32BJ SEIU. Thank you, brother.
Yes, he only has 70,000 members –
– but he has reached for beyond –
Unknown: In New York.
Mayor: In New York – whoa.
But he has reached far beyond in terms of the impact. You’re going to hear from some of our elected officials who have been leaders in this fight, and I want to thank them. You’ll hear from them in just in a moment, but I also want to thank the members of the City Council. The City Council has been outstanding in all they have done to support these initiatives.
I’m going to name them all – Julissa Ferreras, Steve Levin, Mathieu Eugene, Brad Lander, Daneek Miller, Ben Kalos, Robert Cornegy, Fernando Cabrera – did I – oh, Margaret Chin – did I miss anybody?
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito: A whole bunch of people.
Mayor: I missed a whole bunch of people – Helen Rosenthal, Jumaane Williams, Vanessa Gibson – whoever I missed is going to be acknowledged by Melissa Mark-Viverito.
And I want to thank members of our administration. And, brothers and sisters, you don’t get to see the work of these folks every single day, but we’re at this milestone today – a lot of people contributed, but two people who did a lot are with us here today – our budget director, Dean Fuleihan, and our HRA commissioner, Steve Banks. Let’s thank them both.
Budget directors usually don’t get applause, Dean, congratulations.
Unknown: Especially in a union hall.
Mayor: Yeah, especially in a union hall – that is good.
I keep finding all the names I didn’t acknowledge, like Ydanis Rodriguez, Margaret Chin, Andy Cohen – anybody I missed Melissa Mark-Viverito will cover. Thank you.
We talked about – when I ran for this office and since – the fact that there is a painful reality. It was acknowledged by the previous administration – I give them credit for it. They studied the reality of folks who were poor in the city, and near poor, and the Bloomberg administration, through the CEO office, came up with a study each year to measure – and they said in 2013, that 46 percent of all New Yorkers were at or near the poverty level. Every one in that category – 46 percent – nearly 4 million people were struggling, just like Maria described, to make ends meet. Nearly 4 million people – that is a huge city unto itself of people who are not being treated fairly.
So, that’s what’s motivated us to take all these steps. Now, I said earlier, we will do all we can do, but we should not stop fighting on the other fronts as well. We need to fight on the federal front. We need to fight on the state front. The world we all should be working towards – and again, this debate that’s now happening finally in our country suggests that one day we can get there – is when the federal government sets a minimum wage that should be a standard for everyone in the country.
We want our state to go farther. We want it everywhere. And, remember, if you’re going to talk about this, look at what this movement did, because, maybe some of you remember – talk about fashionable and unfashionable – remember when the Fight for $15 was just starting out? Remember how many people dismissed it out of hand? Remember how many times people said that was incredible? Impossible? Unbelievable? I notice our friends here from the Working Families Party. I remember when they fought for a minimum wage increase in Albany years ago, and it was condemned as something that would destroy the economy and set us all back. Well, they eventually won that minimum wage increase. And like every other minimum wage increase that has been won in history, it not only didn’t destroy the economy, it moved the economy forward.
The history of this country, the history of the city constantly shows if you raise people’s wages and benefits, a miraculous thing happens, brothers and sisters – they spend more money. When they spend money, companies hire more people. It’s not complicated, but it is a fight we have to have every time, and it’s a fight we should fight in every venue until working people actually can afford to live the way they should.
Change comes from the grassroots. The Fight for $15 is the most beautiful example. Something that was dismissed has now made the $15 dollar minimum wage the currency, the object that everyone talks about. Something that had been dismissed out of hand as impossible is now the thing everyone must answer to. It’s on the minds of people all over the country in every corner of this country. So, for every one of you who went to a Fight for $15 rally, or called your Congress member, or took part in that movement, guess what? You’ve already succeeded because now it’s the irresistible object people can’t get out of their minds because of what you did. So, that’s something to be proud of, and that is changing this world for all of us.
So, we take this step forward today knowing it will reach many people, and knowing there are more people to reach, and knowing that this work will continue because an extraordinary movement has come together, and it’s not going anywhere. It’s not going anywhere. You have reached a critical mass, and this will only get stronger. So, this is a moment to celebrate because people made this happen. And I say God bless you to all of you who are a part of this great movement.
A few quick words en Español –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that – with that, I want to introduce a woman who always se puede – the speaker of the New York City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Mayor: So, we’re going to – I want to invite Dean Fuleihan and Steve Banks to come on over. We’re going to take questions about this announcement. Then I have a second update I want to give on another topic – we’ll take questions on that, and then we’re going to open up to general questions from the media. So, for our friends in the media – questions on today’s announcement first. Questions on today’s announcement – yes?
Question: Mr. Mayor, can you explain fiscally how is this possible? Where the money comes from? And ensure that the city’s budget will be intact?
Mayor: Yes, when this is fully operational, the impact – and Dean will correct me if I get anything a little off here – but the impact will be about $20 million a year for the city workers’ raises, and about $100 million for the contracted social service workers’ raises. So, when fully implemented – about $120-million dollar impact a year. It’s a budget priority for us is the answer. We are including this in the preliminary budget that will come out later this month. We’ll submit it to the City Council as part of the budget process. But I think we can safely say that a lot of council members are here because they believe in this type of approach. So, we’re very hopeful that we’re all going to move forward together on it. But it literally comes down to what you value. We in the OneNYC plan, we said this is a blueprint not just for next year in New York City, but for decades ahead, and that we had to get more and more New Yorkers out of poverty. We had to get people to a living wage, and this is the kind of thing we should be investing in.
Question: You’ve obviously been at the forefront of the fight for a $15-dollar minimum wage for some time, but you’re only proposing this – announcing this for city workers after the governor announced a similar measure for state workers, and I’m wondering if his action on the state level maybe encouraged you to take this step?
Mayor: No, we – as you heard from Jennifer, our first actions were in the last budget back in June, where we increased wages across the board – city workers – and we reached contracted workers through the cost of living increase. And we, at that time, said this was a first step, and we always intended to go further. And again, last year, the OneNYC plan indicated that we had to get more and more people to $15 dollars an hour. Now, what we ultimately want, and what we will fight for, is a federal and a state $15 dollar minimum wage. That is where the real big solution comes in terms of fighting income inequality, in terms of getting people out of poverty. So, it’s very important for all levels of government to reach their own employees, their own contracted service workers, but that’s only the beginning. We need a $15 dollar minimum wage for all, for every kind of worker to really break through. But we started strong last year, and we are now able to put the resources in. We see the resources available to us, and we made the budgetary decision that this had to be a priority. Yes? Oh wait, I’m sorry, do you want to add? Hold on, our host would like to add.
Unknown: I just want to clarify something, because I also represent state employees. I represent 10,000 state employees that were excluded from the governor’s announcement. Just to be clear, his announcement for $15 dollar an hour covers SUNY, but does not cover CUNY employees, and we’ve been told that that’s still the case. So, we encourage and applaud him for doing this for CUNY – for SUNY, but there’s still 10,000 CUNY employees who average $10 bucks an hour, who have not had a salary raise since 2009, and we’re calling on the governor today to do the right thing for those 10,000 workers.
Mayor: Okay, Anna?
Question: So, I mean, it just seems like in three years, $15 dollars an hour might not actually be the threshold that you guys might want to be at, given that the quality of life – you might need more by that point. Do you guys see this as something you might have to keep raising?
Mayor: I think that’s a very fair question. So, just to clarify – and, Dean, jump in any time you feel so moved –
You’re spending the money – I think we should be nice to you today. So, this moves in stages – $12 dollars an hour at the end of this year; $13.50 at the end of next year; $15 at the end of the following year. You’re question’s exactly on the money – we’re going to always assess, as we go forward, what’s appropriate. We’re always going to look, of course, at what we feel we can afford at any given moment, but we do want to watch what happens to the cost of living, what happens to inflation. So, it’s an ongoing discussion, but I think we can safely say this – the Fight for $15 established a new standard – a high bar, but the right high bar. We’re meeting that standard, but it is a living, breathing idea, and it will be something we constantly look at going forward.
Mayor: Yes, Jillian?
Question: Mayor, you know, a little over a year ago – or, less than a year ago – last February, you were proposing a $13 dollar minimum wage state-wide, and the governor’s office was saying that that wasn’t going to be workable. Now, here we are a year later – you’ve announced this – the governor’s announced a series of his own wage hikes – what do you think has changed?
Mayor: I think the whole debate is changing. I think what is possible – and, Hector, you can also feel free to jump in if you’d like to, because you’ve been a part of this from day one. It is – look, for one thing, we’re all looking squarely at what it’s going to take for people to get by. And when we issued the OneNYC plan – which, again, I remind people, is a long-term blueprint for the city – we took what Mayor Bloomberg did with PlaNYC, we updated it, and this is literally the document by which we try and make long-term decisions for the city. When we did that assessment, we came to the conclusion that if we’re going to raise people out of poverty in the kind of numbers we had to, it did take getting to $15. And, to me, it also became more possible because this fight changed the whole discussion. And this is the beauty of the Democratic process – as I mentioned, the Working Families Party, to their great credit, fought for minimum wages that, for years, we’re claimed to be impossible. For years, $15 dollars was claimed to be impossible. Now, it’s quite possible, and it’s something we can reach, that’s why we’ve set it as a standard.
Question: Mr. Mayor, the Citizens Budget Commission has expressed some concerns – I think less about the action itself than the process of basically providing enhancements to contracts that have already been negotiated, and they worry that it sets a troubling standard. Just wanted to see what you have to say about, you know, the ability to negotiate additional services, or things like that, when you do it in this sort of form.
Mayor: Sure, I’ll start, and, Dean, again, if you would like to add anything, feel free. First of all, we’re very proud of the labor contracts that we have achieved. With the contract with COBA that was achieved on December 31st, we’re up to what percent? Do you remember?
Dean Fuleihan, Director, Office of Management and Budget: 94.
Mayor: 94 percent of our – thank you, [inaudible] – 94 percent of our workers under contract in this city, starting at zero percent two years ago. And credit goes to Bob Linn, and all the team at the Office of Labor Relations. The reason I say that is, we believe these were fundamentally fair contracts – fair to working people, fair to the taxpayers, sustainable for our long-term fiscal health. We’re making this decision with those same criteria in mind. This is sustainable, it is something we have the revenue to achieve. We don’t think it changes the basic reality of negotiation because there’s many issues when labor sits down with management. But we also believe it will make for a better workforce. It will make for a stronger workforce. It will make for more longevity in our workforce. It will make for more productivity. People who have good wages and benefits are better employees. They don’t have to be looking over their shoulder all the time.
If you know you have enough money to pay your expenses, if you know that if you’re sick, you have sick leave, if you know that when a child comes into your life, there’s paid parental leave, these are the kinds of things that make for better employees, and certainly employees who stay with the organization longer, and that’s very much in the interest of the taxpayer – to get that commitment to the long-term. We train people – I’m in a room full of experts – we train people how to do their job well. We want them to keep doing it. So, we think it makes good fiscal sense as well. Yes?
Question: Mr. Mayor, this new policy, it covers some of the lowest paid pre-k workers, teachers’ aides, but there are other pre-k teachers and some daycare workers who get more, but are still low-paid. So, the Daycare Council released a survey today, finding that that’s forcing a lot of these teachers to leave. Do you intend to address that in any way?
Mayor: Sure. There’s a couple of different pieces here, and I want to make sure we’re clear. The pre-k program – of course, different workers in different places. We have folks in our public school buildings. We have folks in our community-based organizations, etcetera. And then there’s EarlyLearn, and EarlyLearn is the primary childcare program available to folks who need it from the city. Now, I believe fundamentally in the power of childcare, and it’s something we’re going to be putting a lot of focus on going forward in reaching our youngest kids. We’re very proud of having reached all our four-year-olds now, and there’s more to do. But the EarlyLearn program, which was authored by the previous administration I have some real differences with, and there’s some changes we look forward in that program beyond any question of labor relations. But the issues that have been brought up are part of the negotiation right now between the Daycare Council, which represents the nonprofits, and the union that represents the folks who work in those facilities, and the administrators of those facilities, etcetera. Those negotiations – we work with – they’re not purely our negotiations, but we certainly are engaged in them as an important player indirectly. We believe those negotiations are making real progress. We believe we will get to resolution in the near-term. And we’ll have an opportunity to see how we can address some of these issues. So, we’re certainly focuses on them. But this action today was something we thought was necessary across the board, separate from anything happening in those negotiations.
Other questions from the media on this topic? Going once – anyone in the back? Going once – on this topic – twice –
Question: Do you expect at all – I mean, it seems like you and governor seem to both be making this a big priority. Do you expect to be working together on this issue at any –
Mayor: It’s the same answer. I mean, you guys have asked it in different ways. I want to restate – it’s a very simple equation. We are always willing to work together. The governor’s office’s and mayor’s office’s staffs talk constantly. My formula is very simple – and I’ve said openly, I stole it from Ed Koch. When the governor and the state are going to help New York City, we’ll not only stand by them, we’ll thank them, we’ll praise them. When they do something that’s not in the interest of New York City, we’ll be very straightforward in saying it’s not in the interest of New York City.
So, that’s my job to do, but the door is always open for working together on these issues. Yes?
Question: Just on that point you just made, a lot of what you said your problems in the past have been based on is perception, and you guys –
Mayor: I’m sorry, when you say problems in perception, I’m not following you.
Question: You said that you had issues with the public not really perceiving how things are going in the city as well as you think that they are actually going.
Mayor: Okay. How does that related to this? Help me?
Question: I was about to explain.
Question: You guys work together constantly with the governor, but you’re holding –
Mayor: No, no – wait, wait, wait, wait – that’s not what I said just three minutes ago. I said the staffs talk together all the time. I said we are always open to working together – and I’ve said it several times before. Go ahead.
Question: [inaudible] you and the governor having dueling press conferences in New York City?
Mayor: We scheduled this according to our schedule. That’s all there is to it.
Mayor: No, we don’t compare notes on our schedule. We schedule things when it makes sense for us. I saw one other hand from the media – yes, Grace?
Question: On that point about standing together when you agree on something – it was on Monday that the governor had attended a big wage rally for a $15 dollar minimum wage – announced the wage hike for SUNY workers. Is that something that you supported? Were you invited to –
Mayor: I think it’s great. I don’t know the mechanics of the event. I think it’s great that the SUNY workers are getting that raise, so I commend the governor for that. I think it’s something that we have to do across the board, obviously.
Okay, last call on – I’ll give you another topic. Okay – update on several issues related to our shelter system.
We are clearing – you know, the conversation has come up in the last few days, and it’s a very important conversation – the state of our shelters. I’ve been clear that our shelters should be safe, should be clean for anyone who’s homeless. We know that not just for years, but for decades that has not been the case. We know there is more work to do. We know it will take a lot of effort and a lot of expense, but we will go and do that work.
Now, we started this work last year in the spring when I asked the Department of Investigation to study and come back with a report, which they came back with, identifying a series of challenges that we had to overcome. We put together our shelter repair squad. It was the first time ever there was a systematic effort city-wide to go at inspections and repairs in shelters. That squad has addressed – since the spring until now, has addressed about 83 percent of the violations that were found as a result of the Department of Investigations report. But there is more to do for sure, so we’re doubling down on that effort. We’re in effect announcing Shelter Repair Squad 2.0 – so, the updated version – and there’s four new elements to our shelter repair strategy, and they effectively all focus on the point of rapid response, and speeding up our ability to find the problems and address them so that we can support folks who are homeless and are in shelter.
First of all, there will be an ongoing inspection system from this point on where we will proactively and thoroughly inspect all of our shelter facilities. In the next 45 days – it’s started already – so, between now and February 15th, we will go through all shelters in the city – thorough inspections – top to bottom – and any problems that are identified will be addressed immediately.
Second, we are creating a new shelter complaint hotline. It will go through 3-1-1, but it will be a dedicated hotline that will be available of course 24 hours a day. Anybody in shelter can call and report a condition, and that will be acted on immediately – and that is the third point – rapid response.
We’re setting a 24-hour standard, and any complaint, or anything our inspectors find – whether it’s our inspectors finding it proactively, or a shelter resident calls it in – within 24 hours, there must be a city official on-site to address that complaint, to make sure that we are addressing it immediately, or maybe that the folks who run the agency where the shelter is can address it immediately. But the guarantee that that work starts within 24 hours – clarifying what the problem is and setting in place the approach to fix the problem.
Fourth, we are designating the Coalition for the Homeless to be an independent monitor to help us monitor the conditions in our family shelters. They already play this role.
They already play this role in the shelters for our single adults. Now, they will play a similar role at our behest in the family shelter system. So, all of this is taking the Shelter Repair Squad that was initiated last spring, and updating it so it will be faster and more complete in the work it does.
Let me just quickly summarize that in Spanish, and then we’ll take questions on that.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
So, I want to take any questions related to that update, and then we’ll do general topics. Yes?
Question: The governor was asked about the homeless problem this afternoon, and specifically certain homeless folks who have refused to go into shelters, and he said it was “a sign of sanity,” implying that the shelters are essentially a horrible place to be. Can you respond to that comment?
Mayor: I’ll start, and Steve Banks, who knows more about our shelters over the last quarter-century than almost anyone waling the earth, can fill in the blanks more. But look, every shelter is different. There are a number of nonprofit providers, there are faith-based organizations, nonprofits – every one is different. I think it’s fair to say some meet a standard that we hold to be the appropriate standard of cleanliness and security – others have more work to do. We’ve added, for example, in the last budget, hundreds more peace officers to make shelters safer, and we’re trying to also directly connect the NYPD and DHS in a different way to increase safety in our shelters. So, changes are happening as we speak. I don’t think it’s fair to paint it what a broad brush. I do think it’s fair to say that some homeless folks are shelter-resistant because they’ve had bad experiences with shelter, and they’re not wrong about that. And that’s why we came up with the Safe Haven program – to provide for folks, particularly those with mental health challenges and substance abuse challenges, a smaller, safer, more intimate setting that they would come into to help them get off the streets. But let me have Steve fill in a little more the state of different kinds of shelters.
Commissioner Steven Banks, Human Resources Administration: Thank you. As you know, I brought the litigation that addressed the city’s requirement to provide shelter, and requiring that the conditions in shelter meet basic standards of habitability, including litigating those cases to the New York State Court of Appeals. I think the mayor took decisive action in the middle of December when he asked for a 90-day review of –
The mayor took decisive action on December 15th, when he asked that there be a 90-day review of city homeless services and city homeless policies, many of which go back 20 years. And as part of the review effort, and even beginning right before it, there had been a number of unprecedented actions taken by the city to address the kinds of problems that have built up for many years in which New Yorkers have had concerns about conditions in shelter. First, the mayor’s invested substantial resources in providing Safe Havens. It’s a method of providing shelter that is not institutional, and that has a proven track record of helping people on that pathway off the street into shelter. Second, the mayor’s made an unprecedented commitment for supportive housing. The supportive housing commitment is for 15,000 units – that’s more than any city, and any agreement, and any initiative ever in terms of providing supportive housing. And that amount of supportive housing is based upon a proven model, which has provided safe housing, stable housing, permanent housing with services in which people can remain. The track record is 85 percent of people remain in that housing. The action that we took earlier this week in announcing the end of the more than 15-year-old cluster program in which multiple mayoral administrations –
– in which multiple mayoral administration have placed families with children in apartments that should have been available to permanent housing in buildings that, in many cases, had substandard conditions – we announced a new initiative to eliminate that over the course of three years through an aggressive enforcement program, through working with responsible landlords to convert those units back into affordable housing, and, where necessary, develop a new vision, a new initiative for how to provide shelter to families with children. Now, we – and we, in fact, are announcing today something that began literally on New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Day, HPD was in a number – began to be in a number of shelters, and actions have been taken to address those conditions. This is all part of a review process that the mayor set in place. This is one more announcement – when it was announced that we’d do a 90-day review, the mayor committed that we would take decisive action as we proceeded, and that’s exactly what he’s done, and that’s exactly what we’ve been carrying out each day during this review process.
Mayor: Thank you. Emily?
Question: Can you give us an update on the Safe Haven program? I know there’s a commitment for 500 beds, I don’t know if they’ve all been found, and everything’s in place –
Mayor: Okay. So, let me just say, the commitment – Dean will listen carefully – the commitment is that all 500 are not only funded, they will be in place by June. And I’ve said, and I’ll say it again, if we find the need for more I am pre-committing Dean Fuleihan to pay for more because we will keep building the effort as needed.
Now, in terms of where we stand exactly, Dean, Steve can you give an exact numerical update?
Either one of you or do you have to get back?
Commissioner Banks: We’re on the way to meet that goal. Part of the process is, obviously, arranging for units to bring them online. We’ve got a number of reputable not-for-profits that have offered units.
Commissioner Banks: And faith-based organizations are part of this effort.
The mayor made that call again this week, and that’s been an ongoing leadership by the Mayor to engage the faith-based community. And we’re confident that they’re going to come online. This wasn’t a commitment to get them online in January. This is a commitment to get them online by June. And when we get them on quicker, we will. But it’s an all hands on deck on effort to do so. Support of the budget director is critical to this, which we greatly appreciate his support in this effort.
Mayor: What’s that?
Question: Do you have a number of those already online?
Mayor: Well, we do have what was online before the new announcement. Do you have that exact –
Commissioner Banks: I mean there are literally hundreds that were already online. This is a commitment to bring on another 500.
Mayor: But we should get you the exact number.
Commissioner Banks: We’ll get you the exact number.
Mayor: There’s a certain number that were online before the announcement, and then of the new ones, what are starting to come on.
Commissioner Banks: Right and my renascence in giving you a number is I’m focused on what do we have, you know, now and we’ll get you the breakdown between what was what.
Question: Mayor, your third point about what’s new today – you said it’s going to be addressed. And my question is, does that mean it’s going to be like, ‘oh yeah, we’re aware of this’ or are you saying within 24 hours it could be fixed because we’re at one side – I guess it’s a cluster side on 182nd Street in the Bronx. I mean, they have so many violations I don’t see how you can get them fixed in 24 hours.
Mayor: Right, this is exactly the right question. So, for example, let’s take extermination – someone said it’s a problem with rats, a problem with cockroaches that’s the kind of thing you actually can address within 24 hours. You can have an exterminator come in and immediately address the issue. Some repairs can be identified and addressed within 24 hours. Some things take major capital work. Our point is, you call in something – an inspector will come – an HPD inspector, highly-trained inspector – will come and assess it. If it’s the kind of thing that can – that will allow for immediate action that will happen immediately. If it’s something that takes a longer time, at least on day-one we’ll know what the work plan is; we’ll know what has to be done, and we’ll make the resources available to do it.
Behind you, go ahead.
Question: Are you planning to go up to Albany next week to hear the Governor –
Mayor: Are we on this topic? Just because – I’m going to do general in a second, I just want anything homeless-related, then we’ll go to other topics, so –
Question: The Governor is going to announce his plan to address homelessness next week.
Question: Are you going to go?
Mayor: Of course.
Question: When was the last time that you were in a shelter – visited a shelter?
Mayor: I have to get to you the exact date. I’ve been in several times over the last months, but I have to get you an exact date.
Steve’s going to tell you when he was. I have a feeling it was very recent, wasn’t it?
Commissioner Banks: Yeah, on Monday night I was at the Bellevue Intake Center working with staff and speaking to clients. And last night, I was on the end of the line – outreach effort with [inaudible] residents committee and the NYPD and EMS; addressing the needs of people that were on the subway that night – last night and taking in people where they could to try to provide that assistance. I find it to be important to be a hands on manager in these situations, and since the Mayor asked me to take on this review that’s what I’ve been doing.
Mayor: And that gave me enough time to remember that it was just before Christmas, of course, when I went to the Women In Need facility with Christine Quinn.
Our Chair of the General Welfare Committee, who works on these issues with us every day, Steve Levin, just wants to add something.
Council Member Steve Levin: Thank you, Mayor. You know, just a word about the safe haven beds and how essential they are to the system. Anecdotally, in my district, in Greenpoint, we have a homeless population that lives on the street, often with substance abuse issues that are reluctant to leave the neighborhood of Greenpoint. Before we had a faith-based safe haven bed program up and running in the neighborhood, usually one or two individuals per year would die from hypothermia, sleeping in the park during the winter. And when we have the safe haven bed program in place there, those individuals are able to be – they go and they spend every night there, and they sleep safely and warmly. And so, you know, that’s the type of model where it’s a low threshold and can really make a tremendous impact for individuals that are reluctant to go into the shelter system. And I commend the administration for really advancing that.
Mayor: Thank you. And I think it makes –
– it makes the bigger point, that look, let’s be clear, there weren’t enough safe haven beds, there weren’t enough supportable – supportive housing apartments, and so, there was nowhere for people to go. Let’s be clear about this, there was shelter in the traditional sense, but if we’re actually trying to get people off the streets – and I think this is a fair complexity that we always have to work through on the issue of homelessness, the folks who are in shelter and then the 3,000 or 4,000 people on the streets permanently – those 3,000 or 4,000 people don’t get off the streets if we don’t have enough safe haven beds, and enough supportive housing units. That’s why we’ve committed to the 15,000 supportive housing units, that’s why we’ve said 500 more safe haven beds, right now, and we’ll keep adding them as we need because that’s how we break the cycle of homelessness.
Question: [inaudible] mentioned the Governor’s expected to unveil his full homeless plan during his State of the State. Has City Hall been briefed on it in anyway?
Question: When – do you have any sense if you will get a briefing?
Mayor: You’ll have to ask them.
Question: The Governor said yesterday, that homelessness is not an economic problem. What do you have to say about that? Do you think it’s a helpful remark?
Mayor: It’s absolutely an economic problem. It is a multi-faceted problem in the sense of, and, again I’m going to have Steve talk about – let’s just be clear, and I don’t want to toot his horn too much, but there’s just no one who knows more about homelessness in New York City over the last few decades. Very clearly, homelessness was, once upon a time, more about single adults, more about people with mental health and substance abuse problems. Today, the facts – 3,000 to 4,000 people on the streets and that is still a lot of single adults, and a lot of people with mental health and substance abuse problems – but 58,000 people in shelter who, more than ever, are families, are working people. Things changed profoundly, and they changed, in part, because of the Great Recession, in part, because of the cost of housing, in part, because the end of the advantage program – a host of causes. But it’s a very different look – a very different reality. Clearly, a lot of this is about economics.
Question: The Governor misunderstands the problem?
Mayor: I’m not here to characterize his thinking. I’m here to tell you the truth. The truth is a lot of homelessness, today, is about economics.
Commissioner Banks: I would just add to that, you know, before I was in government I spent 33 years at the Legal Aid Society including the last ten running it –
– including the last ten running the legal aid society; and I was counsel to the Coalition for the Homeless for a very long period of time. And one of the things that I was always critical about was that government would frequently take a one-size-fits-all approach to problems. And one thing that I really commend the Mayor for is to very methodically being – putting in place the pieces of a comprehensive approach to homelessness that gets away from a one-size-fits-all approach. Some people become homeless because they get evicted, and so the Mayor has increased by ten-fold the amount of funding for legal assistance to prevent avoidable evictions.
Some people become homeless and remain homeless because they can’t bridge the gap between what the rents are and what their incomes are – that was the subject of this prior announcement. And so the mayor’s committed a billion dollars for prevention efforts, including rental assistance, that resulted in 22,000 men, women, and children – through rental assistance and other housing resources – moving out of the shelter system over the last year. Some people end up in shelters because it’s been a descent onto the streets – and so the mayor created the most comprehensive approach to street homelessness ever – HOME-STAT. No city has undertaken an effort, which will be fully in place by March, to actually identify on a daily basis who’s on the street, connect them to police resources – if it’s a criminal matter – connect them to not-for-profit – reputable not-for-profit providers if it’s a you-need-a-helping-hand problem, and then convene the first ever effort to have a case conferencing process to see why that particular person is still on the street and can be done to bring them off. That plus safe havens plus supportive housing – this is a comprehensive plan to address the many different causes of homelessness. And at the same time, we now have the announcements over the course of the last week to deal with the conditions of shelter, which didn’t happen overnight. When the cluster program is a 15-year-old program – and I don’t know, Dave, which building you went to – but I have to say that may well be one of the buildings that we discussed at the press conference earlier this week that’s going to be targeted for immediate enforcement. That’s a process that’s been put underway. But remember, the 90-day review began about three weeks ago. We had the holidays in between. Consider all of the programs that the mayor has approved, that has been funded, and many of which are already in place, including the inspections that began on New Year’s Day.
Mayor: Thank you. And – and, Dave, to emphasize, we’ve said we will be out of the clusters within three years. Our goal is to move that as quickly as possible and get out as many of them as quickly as we can, but also to convert a lot of them to permanent supportive housing. So, this is another crucial piece of the equation. The clusters, as Steve said, were around for 15 years. We deemed them unacceptable. We’re moving out of them. We’re converting them. All of these pieces have to come together for this plan to really change the nature of homelessness in this city.
Alright, on this topic before we go to general – yes.
Question: Mr. Mayor, I wanted to ask you about the violations at the – at the 25 shelters from the DOI report. You mentioned, I think, that they’re 83 percent fixed at this point.
Question: It seems like – and correct me if I’m wrong – I think that’s a static figure from the violations that were found at the time, rather than an update of new violations, because Scott Stringer went to three of those and found a host of new violations. So, given that these were identified nine, ten months ago, what’s taken the city so long to address [inaudible]?
Mayor: So I – I want to – I appreciate the question, and Steve, I don’t know if you know how to compare the two sources of information. So Steve can talk to the – the details of what we did with the DOI information and how we acted on it. But I think the announcement we just made answers your question. We’re talking about everything – whether it’s an old violation or a new violation. We’re talking about anything that our inspectors find as they are regularly going through all the shelters or that any shelter resident calls in – and this is something that has not existed before in this city. So again, you – every one of you has the right to hold our feet to the fire, but I’m also – I really want to emphasize that there was no capacity previously like this for a shelter resident to call and have a guarantee of 24-hour response. This is going to keep us very current with problems. Now, the point Dave made is right – not every problem can be fixed within 24 hours. But a lot of them can be either fixed or we can begin to address them meaningfully. But the point is, we’re going to say we want an absolute and total list of all violations and problems – we want that. We want that so we can own the problem and act on the problem, and we’re putting the inspectors into play and we’re putting the repair squads into play to address each problem as it emerges.
Do you want to add on the numbers?
Commissioner Banks: Yeah, I think extermination is a perfect example. So, if it’s a violation posted for extermination, the problem is addressed, and then it builds up again. That’s part of the problem I think that Dave observed, and you look at some of the cluster buildings in which, if they’re not being maintained, the problem will build up again. That’s why this is an – basically a 2.0 approach to the prior approach, to ensure that we’re proactively seeing what the situation is, we’re creating a mechanism for if we don’t catch it, the resident can give us input, and on top of it all, the clusters, which have been a problem for 15 years, we have a particularized approach to those units. So, again, it’s a comprehensive, multi-pronged effort to address, I think, what the problem you’re identifying is, which is that you can fix a problem at one point in time and then it – another problem or a similar problem could build up again. I’ve read all the reports. I find them all useful in proceeding to really try to address this problem once and for all.
Question: But you’ve also said that 17 percent of those initial complaints haven’t been addressed. Do you know – what’s the nature of them that takes so long –
Commissioner Banks: Those are more – those are more fundamental capital-oriented problems, not the – the kinds of problems that I’ve seen in some of the more recent reports are more issues relating to extermination and other basic conditions of disrepair, not the kinds of conditions that are in that additional percentage.
Mayor: And – and look, the larger capital problems we are committed to addressing as well. And Steve is going to be sitting down with the key homeless services providers to talk about their capital needs too – that’s something we’re going to be addressing in the upcoming budget process. Because we know that some of those problems cannot be fixed with immediate repairs. Some of them are more essential and we have to get at for the long-term.
Anything else on this topic? Emily.
Question: Not shelters, but homelessness –
Question: How often in your time riding the subways or out in communities do you encounter a street homeless person? Do they often ask you for change? Do you have interesting stories to share?
Mayor: I don’t know if I have interesting stories to share. I will say it is a phenomenon that I have experienced since I started living full-time in this city in 1979 – and I have seen it throughout. And it pains me – it always has.
Question: [inaudible] seen more, just in your time out [inaudible]?
Mayor: What I have seen is a problem that has existed for a long time. Again, the street homeless number – and I urge everyone to look at the HOPE count. I want to really emphasize this – the HOPE count was what we had before this year. It was the federally-mandated methodology for determining the number of street permanent homeless in every city in America. That number has been fairly similar the last few years, but the number we’re going to have now is going to be based on daily updates because of HOME-STAT. So in 2016, really for the first time since homeless – modern homelessness – began, I guess, in the 1970s, we’re going to have a daily look at what’s going on in the streets and much more accurate numbers, and much more ability, therefore, to address the problem. But my experience has been, I have seen homeless individuals for many, many years. It is a painful reality. I think what’s evident and is factual is there’s a lot more people in shelter by far than there were ten years ago or 20 years ago. And again, I think that difference, so clearly correlates to the combination of the economic crisis – the Great Recession – the huge increase in housing costs, and the cut of the Advantage program in 2011.
Okay, we’re going to any other topics. Media questions. Media?
Question: A group recently opened a so-called recovery high school. It’s a private school for kids who’ve been through rehab, don’t want to go back to their old high school, where they’re likely to relapse, costs – tuition is $50,000 dollars a year. Advocates have been pressing New York City to open such a high school for years, and basically have not gotten anywhere. Don’t you think that public school children who want to stay in recovery and stay on track should have that option?
Mayor: I appreciate that model. I don’t know enough about it, so I want to be very straightforward. It’s certainly something I want to look at, and I will talk to Chancellor Fariña about. It’s something I have a personal perspective on, because of my daughter Chiara. She has pursued her recovery, obviously, continuing at her college, and dealing with all of the challenges around her very, very successfully, but I think there really is an argument that some people benefit from a setting that’s with other sober people. So I want to investigate that model and see what we think makes sense in terms of our schools. I – I just can’t answer until I get more information.
Question: [inaudible] have just really gotten nowhere with your [inaudible] –
Mayor: Well, I’ll make sure that they definitely get a hearing from our chancellor.
Question: The governor’s been talking about infrastructure today. He’s talking about rehabbing Penn Station – spoke about adding an additional rail line for the LIRR. I’m wondering if you have any kind of infrastructure wish list, and also if you’re skeptical or frustrated at all by sort of big infrastructure projects that so often don’t come to fruition.
Mayor: I am frustrated that the federal government is not supporting infrastructure development in the biggest city in the country, and one of the cities that is the core of our national economy. And I would think that a lot of my brother and sister mayors around the country feel the same about their cities the more and more our economy hinges on major cities. The federal government went from – in the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s – from being incredibly involved and generous in terms of infrastructure development – mass transit, and roads, bridges – everything that was part of our infrastructure was focused on and invested in – to – you know, from the 1980s, onward – really stepping away from the commitment. Now, the recently passed highway bill was the beginning of a potential major change, and I give Senator Schumer, in particular, for the role he played, but I’m also going to say a lot of my fellow mayors and I got very deeply involved on a bipartisan basis. So, I would say the first and most important thing is, we must get the federal government back into infrastructure investment. That’s how we will actually achieve a lot of the things New York needs the most. I see promising signs on the Gateway Tunnel. I think the governor’s announcement related to Penn Station is a great one. I think that’s a great step forward, but I think we have a lot more to do to upgrade this city and make it as strong as it can be for the future, and that’s going to take a very energetic federal role.
Question: Do you think your disagreements with the governor have pushed him to pass more liberal policies that have helped residents in New York City?
Mayor: I’m not going to judge that. I think our mission, which we talked about at the beginning of this press conference, is to address income inequality in every way we can and reach all of our people. And so much of what we have done is universal – pre-k is for everyone who needs it of any background, any income, after-school programs for middle-school kids, you know, what we’re doing with paid parental leave – there’s so many of our efforts that are universal, but we also know that we have to address income inequality and we have to get people out of poverty. So that’s my mission. I hope New York City shows that a lot of these things can be done effectively. I certainly know a lot of cities around the country have taken some of the things we’ve done and acted on, just like we’ve acted on some of their ideas, but I don’t judge other people’s way of seeing things.
Karen Hinton: Okay, last question.
Question: Assembly Speaker Heastie today in Albany said that he’s planning to propose a package of tax changes for the coming legislative session that would include a potential tax increase on [inaudible] earners, somewhere in the neighborhood of – making more than a million dollars a year, related back to the tax record that was reauthorized in 2011. Is that something that you would support – an increase on [inaudible] earners –
Mayor: Well, let me say two things. I have not seen Speaker Heastie’s particular proposal. Obviously, I work very closely with him, and I think he’s been a great speaker already, and he’s been very, very much a partner in a lot of the work we do, but I want to reserve judgement on the particular proposal. What I can say, obviously, on the bigger point – what I proposed in my campaign, and what I have proposed in different ways working with all my colleagues who were part of the Progressive Agenda, is to create a more progressive tax system in which we ask those who have done well to give more so that we can build a stronger society for all. So, I absolutely believe – I believe in things like closing the carried interest loophole, I believe in the Buffet Rule, I believe in tax fairness, and progressive tax systems. So, I’ll wait to see the specific proposal, but it sounds very, very consistent with what I value.