Mayor de Blasio, Police Commissioner O'Neill Announce $275 Million Investment to Rodman's Neck Training Complex

February 1, 2017

Police Commissioner James O’Neill: Good afternoon, thanks for being up here on this snowy afternoon in the Bronx. I have my team here – obviously the Mayor and Councilmember Jimmy Vacca with us. For the last three years we’ve made a lot of strides bridging the gap between cops and the people that we serve in all of our neighborhoods, and we’ve substantially pushed down crime all over the city, and we spoke about that at the year-end crime press briefing. In order to maintain those relationships, and in order to continue our primary mission of fighting crime and keeping people safe, we also need to keep our cops safe. That means the latest technology, the latest tactical equipment, and the latest and best training offered anywhere by any police department in the country. So in order to safely and effectively patrol New York City, we need to have the best trained officers around, and I think we do. And in order to have the best trained officers, obviously we need to have the best training facilities.

So, we’re going to talk about two things. We’re going to talk about Rodman’s Neck, and we’re going to talk about the show and tell we had outside with the vehicles. The New York City Police Department took over this property, believe it or not, way back in 1960 – even before I was on the job – and some of the structures have not been updated since. We’re planning six new outdoor ranges – fully outfitted with sound barriers, and that’s to help reduce the sound of gunfire which has long bothered the residents of City Island. We want to be good neighbors, and this will definitely help us with that. Most of the training here continues to be static training, and we need to change that. We need to transition into tactical training, so this will – with this remodeling it will definitely help move – transitioning into tactical training. The funding will allow us to add far more tactical training scenarios, shooting from different positions and locations that more closely mirror realistic situations that our cops face. We’re going to build a new tactical village. Our current tactical village is right outside – two to three story buildings. Soon we’ll be able to better train for active shooter scenarios and a host of other real world urban incidents. We’ve had a number of active shooter exercises throughout the city. I think a lot of the people here were probably at the one we did at Kingsborough College out in Brooklyn. We have to be able to make sure that we can do that more often. Constructing a new training facility with gun services and ammunition storage will also allow us to provide the necessary classrooms, lockers, dining halls, laboratories, and administration space. I think the same dining hall that’s been up here forever. I think I remember eating meatball sandwiches back here way back in 1983. It might even be the same meatballs.

[Laughter]

We’ll be upgrading and installing basic utilities like gas and water, and we need to perform some remediation and infrastructure work including drainage and paving a new roadway, parking, installing new security gates. And I think what you saw outside – and we gave you a little bit of that, I guess, about a year and a half ago – it’s important for our cops to feel that they’re safe. And in light of some of the incidents over the last two years – specifically Joe Liu, and Raphael Ramos, and Brian Moore – we had to do our best to make sure our cops remained as safe as possible. That’s why we have those door panels and the window inserts. We’re going to do a Q&A after the Mayor speaks and after Councilman Vacca speaks, and we can get into the specifics of what technology we’re actually using out there on the RMPs. Once again, thanks for being here, and now I’d like to introduce the Mayor.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you very much. Commissioner, thank you. And to all the leadership of the NYPD here today, thank you for your continued great work in this city.

The idea today that’s so fundamental is keeping our officers safe and helping our officers to be the best they can be, and that’s what’s occurring with this investment in Rodman’s Neck.

You know, it was very powerful to see the demonstration of those safety panels. You all saw those window panels into which numerous bullets have been fired and the panels stopped each and every one of the bullets. That means our officers are safe. That’s fundamental. We owe that to our officers and that’s a huge improvement in our ability to keep them safe.

And also the door panels – that’s amazing technology. I really literally couldn’t believe my eyes. You saw that material – very high-tech material that absorbs the bullet. It literally takes the bullet’s trajectory and uses it against it to stop it dead in its tracks. And the bullet was not able to go through the door. And again, you saw numerous examples of bullets that have been fired into that material and did not pass through.

So, this is the shape of things to come and this will done quickly. In the case of the doors – all of our patrol vehicles will have the door panels in place by the end of this year. In the case of the window panels – they are being put in steadily. They have to be manufactured and I was happy to hear from the Deputy Commissioner they were manufactured here in America.

They have to be manufactured. They have to be created – specialized fitting for each type of vehicle we have on patrol. Those will all be in place by the first half of next year and we’re trying to see if we can do that even more quickly.

But it’s so impressive to see what that technology is achieving and yet at the same time allowing our officers to have enough of the window space open that they can still communicate with people in the community. They can still see their side mirrors effectively.

As you saw, in the case of the window plates, they can come out in the event of an emergency. They can come out. They are meant to be in the vast majority of the time but if there’s ever a reason to, an officer could take that window plate out quickly or put it back in quickly.

Now, that’s hugely important to officer safety and everything we’re trying to do to make this an even safer city. It’s great to be the safest big city in America. We want to go farther.

But this next piece with Rodman’s Neck takes us to some places we haven’t been before because remember this is about our officers being as prepared as possible. And I want to emphasize that is for fighting for crime and that is for fighting terrorism as well.

Our officers getting the best possible firearms training is valuable to them in all they do.

As the Commissioner has told me many times, one of the untold stories about this police department is how infrequently our officers fire their officers. It’s a stunning example of the progress the NYPD has made over decades.

It’s one of the police departments that, per capita, fires its weapons the least in all of this country. And when our officers do fire the weapons, they do it to – for very specific purposes and in a very precise manner.

This training will help them to be even better and that obviously connects to the training related to de-escalating confrontations and being as careful and restrained as possible.

But also active shooter situations – this is the world we’re living in today. We saw this as recently as just a few days ago in Quebec City.

Our officers have to be ready. Not just our specialized officers in the CRC, SRG, and ESU but all our officers have to be ready to confront an active shooter situation.

The more training they get in more realistic settings, the better off all of us will be, first and foremost, for the safety of our officers. But their ability to quickly diffuse the situation, to locate, and address the shooter is paramount to everyone’s safety.

So, this will allow us to provide much better training to let them be the best they can be at that.

Now, I just want to show one thing. I’m going to migrate over here for a second because I know the Councilman will speak about the concerns that the community’s had about noise. I want to show you the before and after. This is part of the firing range today and you can see this is open, so our officers are practicing firing into this [inaudible]. There’s nothing that contains the noise and it’s heard constantly on City Island and surrounding areas.

This is what’s going to be. You can see here this is open only on one side and here’s our officers firing at targets in an enclosed area that takes the sound in and muffles the sound. This is going to allow for a great reduction in the sound that’s escaping to the surrounding the area. And the way it was described to me is – the sound that we heard on City Island will be ambient sounds. In other words, if you listen very carefully, you might hear it but mainly it’s going to blend in with everything around here.

I’m sure the Councilman will tell you what it’s like now which certainly cannot be called an ambient sound. So, this is an example of how this is going to improve the situation for the surrounding community.

I just want to say a couple other things. We also believe fundamentally because of our neighborhood policing strategy which is working so powerfully, that is about connecting our officers and our community members and making them partners. The Commissioner talked about being good neighbors. We want to be good neighbors to City Island and other communities in the Bronx.

It’s important that we show them we hear their concerns and are doing everything we can to address them.

And the Councilman has very persistently raised these concerns over the last few years. So I’m glad that we’re in a position now to address them. It will take time. We’ve said in the budget announcement this is a five to seven year project. Some pieces will happen more quickly but it will happen steadily over the next few years and the price tag – $275 million for the improvements at Rodman’s Neck.

And then for the investment in the bullet-resistant windows, again, every car – every patrol car will have them – that’s a $10.4 million investment. But I’ll tell you something this is $10.4 million that’s going to be some of the best spent money in our budget to protect our officers.

So, this is an investment we are proud to make.

In the end, the NYPD has a very, very tough job – one of the most complex jobs you could possible imagine – the most diverse in the country; the biggest city in the country; the number one terror target in the country.

We owe it our officers and to our residents to give them the best possible equipment and this is another step forward on top of the technology that’s been provided to officers like the smart phones, technology like ShotSpotter, the ballistic vests – all of the things we’re doing to upgrade and keep our officers as safe as they can be but also allow them to do best that can do.

A few words in Spanish –

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

With that I want to turn to, again, a man of great persistence and single-mindedness – Council member Jimmy Vacca.

[...]

Mayor: I just want to say two quick additional points. In terms of Rodman’s Neck – that town hall meeting was very important, and thank you councilman for hosting it because hearing directly from residents – how much of a problem it had become in their lives helped me to focus. Obviously, NYPD had long since realized this was an issue and had a vision for how to address it, but it helped to speed up the process for me to have heard directly from your constituents. Second on the bullet resistant panels; just want to emphasize on those window panels – and I held them up to show you guys the width. It’s an inch-and-a-quarter. That material was first developed by the United States military and is used – variations of that are used – in military vehicles. An inch-and-a-quarter of extraordinarily thick and strong material, and that’s why it could withstands all of those shots simultaneously, and you saw nothing went through that glass. And when you feel the other side of it, it’s just a small indentation. It’s amazing. All those shots concentrated right in the same area of glass, all you could feel on the other side was like a little bump – nothing got through. All those bullets were actually captured in the glass, just like they were captured in the door panels.

With that, we welcome your questions on this. We’re going to talk about Rodman’s Neck and the bullet resistant glass today. Any questions on that?

Question: As far as the thickness, what kind of bullet can it hold and what –

Commissioner O’Neill: Hi Juliet, I’m going to get Commissioner Martinez to talk about that. Robby?

Deputy Commissioner of Support Services Robert Martinez, NYPD: Commissioner Bob Martinez support services bureau – it’s rated for a level three, which is a .44 magnum is the rating of that. We went a little above that, and it still held up, but it’s rated for that.

Question: And at what range?

Deputy Commissioner Martinez: We did it as close as five feet. We don’t advise to go closer than that because of the safety of the person firing the fire arm, but we thought that would be a real life situation.

Question: For the Mayor of the Councilman, can you describe what it’s like for residents on City Island what is it like now? What does it sound like? [Inaudible]

Councilmember Vacca: It’s a loud, loud crackling. It’s something that you’ll get out of bed when you hear. It’s something that when you walk on City Island Avenue you will unavoidably hear and very, very clearly and a very significant noise. I’ve witnessed it myself. I don’t live on City Island, but I’ve been on the island when it happens, and it’s constant. And it’s gotten worse – I have to be honest with you. We don’t have any noise protection here at all, and the ranges we have now are open ranges as the Mayor said. So there’s no buffering, no protection at all from noise at all. This will give us one facility with buffering – significant, significant noise reduction to the point where as the Mayor said we expect there to be no noise at all because it will just be part of the atmosphere and to the residents of City Island will not be disruptive at all. That’s where we are going to have that type of input in years to come and to the design. But knowing that this is the objective is certainly reassuring to us after fighting for many years that this be the case.

Commissioner O’Neill: Juliet, just a clarifying point from what Commissioner Martinez says – that five feet was for testing purposes. That’s good up until point-blank.

Rich?

Question: What’s the timetable on all this? We have an idea on how long this –

Commissioner O’Neill: Yes, with the ballistic panels within a year. All the ballistic inserts, the windows probably a little bit more than a year. And that’s for all of our patrol vehicles.

Question: And on Rodman’s Neck itself with the –

Commissioner O’Neill: Vinny? Commissioner Grippo can give you an answer to that.

Deputy Commissioner of Management and Budget Vincent Grippo, NYPD: Deputy Commissioner Vincent Grippo – so the time table is – capital construction projects take time. We’re looking at a five to seven year time frame. We are looking to do sound mitigation as early on in that schedule as possible, but one of the issues we’re going to be dealing with is first the infrastructure out here. The rain causes flooding conditions. Storm water runoff is an issue, so the improvements to this island in addition to the newer facility we’re going to be dealing with all these environmental issues and pulling, sewage, and electricity, and gas to the island so we can have a modern, state-of-the-art facility.

Commissioner O’Neill: Commissioner Grippo is really looking forward to answering your questions.

[Laughter]

Anything regarding putting this on windshields or back windows?

Commissioner O’Neill: Bob, you want to talk about that a little bit?

Deputy Commissioner Martinez: So, to enable us to put on windshield or rear windows in a motor vehicle it has to be crash tested. So, current windshields are laminate. The bullet-proof glass is not that type of glass; it’s very rigid. It can only be manufactured flat and not make the curves. It also adds a great deal, of course, in weight to the vehicle.

Mayor: If you can just finish that – the current plan is that you’re not planning [inaudible]?

Chief Boyce: Right, currently – with the current technology – we’re not going in that direction, but certainly as time goes on, if technology changes and they can develop a bullet-proof windshield [inaudible] we’ll address it at that time.

Mayor: Yes, and Juliet the other point, we’ve seen horrible tragedies and near tragedies, like in Philadelphia – thank God the officer escaped from – but overwhelmingly, the experts can speak to this, but overwhelmingly the dangers to our officers come from the sides.

Question: [Inaudible]

Mayor: I’ll start – so, let me put this in perspective. I want to separate the immediate issue related to the executive order from last week versus the overall issue. We feel strongly in the executive order that we are in a position to challenge it as will other cities and states. And again, the most recent example – ironically – was from the other side, ideologically, was president Obamas executive action, which was challenged by a number of states and ultimately they succeeded in having it struck down.

So, if there is an attempt to implement – I want to emphasize the executive order is only a piece of paper until there is an attempt to actually make it material and effect our City’s funding. Unless and until there is an attempt to implement it is only theory. If there is an attempt to withhold any funding we will instantly go into court for a stay and ask a judge to stop any attempt to withhold our funding as you saw as recently as Saturday night a federal judge on a different executive order stepped in and issued a stay and then there would be a longer court process that could go on, not only months but potentially years as was true with President Obamas executive action. All of that likely would proceed with a stay in place at one [inaudible] of another and funding would continue to flow.

So, on the immediate threat to funding, we feel we’re in a strong position. I emphasize the funding, in terms of the executive order, overwhelmingly would affect one agency and one agency alone – the NYPD – and overwhelmingly would affect its ability to fight terrorism, which I think will cause many in the federal administration some pause when they actually realize that what they would be doing is inhibiting the NYPD’s ability to keep us safe.

Second element to your question I would say is larger budget cuts. This is an entirely different discussion where we have every reason to be worried, which is why there was a lot of caution in our preliminary budget proposal. The simplest two things to worry about – the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, without a very ample replacement, would immediately lead to a great reduction in funding for our public hospitals directly and indirectly; any Medicaid block granting or other Medicaid action would immediately hurt our public hospitals. More and more people without insurance would hurt our public hospitals to the tune of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars. That is a direct cut and then affects the rest of our whole budget. The bigger challenge, if major tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations are passed by the Congress they will then take the fact that they have a lack of revenue and look for equivalent cuts. Those equivalent cuts will most likely come from housing, education, and mass transit; all areas that would hurt New York City and other cities distinctly – again, potential of hundreds of millions of dollars of impact. When you add those things together we’re then going to have to come back and understand what that means for our City budget and where we would have to compensate. So, that will play out into the spring and in the federal budget in the fall. So, I think if your question is if anything we’re talking about here today effectively immediately, no – for things that will take us particularly into the end of this year into next year, yes real dangers.

Question: Mr. Mayor, looking to get a little more information on your upcoming meeting with Preet Bharara’s office.

Mayor: This is not what we’re talking about. We’re on this topic. Come on, come on we’re on this topic. I’ll see you later in the week.

Go ahead.

Question: Drunk driving in some cases being a minor crime [inaudible] –

Mayor: Again, this is not about this topic here. We’re going to talking to you later in the week on all sorts of other topics.

We’re just on this topic, that’s how it is.

Anything else?

Question: You sort of opened the door to talk about –

Mayor: I didn’t open a door because the budget question was about could it affect this.

Question: Well – well.

Mayor: I’m not going to have a debate club, my friends.

Question: Tell me if this relates to the topic – you mentioned yesterday that you might possibly consider expanding over 170 offenses that would trigger cooperation between City officials and ICE, which obviously the White House is very much interested in and it relates to the overall theme of some of the executive orders. Are there are any specific plans to change or amend that list?

Mayor: Again, I don’t think that is pertinent unless you’re trying to stretch it to the point of how they would respond to us on the executive order. I don’ think that is pertinent to the budget question.

On the budget front, I have said, those fine tuning questions have no bearing on the budgetary discussion. If the intention of the executive order is to withhold funding from cities like New York and many others – that have delineated different offenses – if that, the federal administration finds unacceptable e and they want no qualifications whatsoever, then your question doesn’t have any bearing on that reality. Anything – any attempt to take away our funding on the executive order we’re going to fight in court.

I think I was pretty clear the other day about – in Albany – that we’re going to have a discussion about whether areas needed to be added. I think those will be very limited, but I am certainly happy to do it. I’ll talk more to you later in the week on all those issues.

Last call on these? Thank you.

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