Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Joins Dunn Development, Arts East New York and Partners to Break Ground on Livonia Commons

April 7, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning everyone. I want to talk about all the people who are here today, and then we’ll go into the substance of the event. I just want to say at the outset, I’m sure people are concerned, as all of us are, about the status of the two police officers. I’ll go into greater detail later, but just to say at this moment, obviously, we have two officers fighting for their lives, both in critical but stable condition. Officer Guerra now at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Just want to say upfront, every effort is being expended to help these two officers – very, very brave individuals. We’re hoping and praying for a recovery – a full recovery for both. Every effort is being expended on their behalf. Every effort is being expended to help their families and support their families. We’ll have more details as the day goes on.

Let me – in terms of the event we have here today. First let me thank the Brooklyn Public Library, Linda Johnson, the president and CEO, for joining us. I just want to thank everyone at the Stone Avenue branch for their support hosting us today. I’d like to thank all of my colleagues in government – Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, our HPD Commissioner Vicki Been, our President of the Housing Development Corporation Gary Rodney, our colleagues in the state government, Commissioner and CEO of New York State Homes and Community Renewal Darryl Towns. I want to thank our elected officials – Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Council Member Inez Barron, former Council Member Charles Barron. And want to welcome as well the developer of this project, Martin Dunn and Catherine Green, the founder of ARTs East New York. You’ll be hearing from some of these individuals shortly.

We said as we started this administration that the central theme was to fight inequality in all its forms. It takes many forms. And the goal was to fight it on all fronts. And the goal was to create a city where everyone could rise together. And one of the most fundamental challenges we face – when you think about the economic reality of the people of our city – is the cost of living they face. And nothing brings that home more than the cost of housing.

So we are committed over the next ten years to creating 200,000 units of affordable housing for the people of this city. And today we are announcing progress toward that goal. And we’re doing it a neighborhood that has faced many challenges, that has persevered and that deeply deserves this kind of new opportunity. We’ll be putting shovels in the ground at the beginning of a project to create more affordable housing people of this community desperately need. Livonia Commons project is going to make a huge difference. We’re very proud of the fact that everyone involved has got us to this day, and we are focused on bringing it forward from this point on.

For decades, a dozen formerly city-owned lots sat vacant along Livonia Avenue. And I mean for decades they sat vacant, unused, not helping the people of this community. Well our affordable housing strategy means we don’t leave any land untouched that we can reach. We don’t leave any stone unturned. And we don’t leave any asset unutilized that might provide affordable housing or jobs for people and communities that deserve it.

And it’s not a particular secret that oftentimes East New York did not have the attention of city hall, even though it deserved it. We want to right this wrong. We want to make sure that investment is here. This is a strong and proud community. It’s a community that has tremendous strength in terms of the human strength in the community, but also some other important elements that we want to build around, which is good public transportation infrastructure. What’s needed is more jobs and what’s needed is good and decent affordable housing. And this project will help to bring those pieces to the poor.

And the only way to make such a project work is to build it in a sustainable way, a way that focuses on affordable housing for people. There’s a whole range of income levels, but the particular focus are those who are the lowest end of the income scale. And to do the work with the people of the community – be respectful of the community and work closely with community leaders and to hire community residents. Today we put shovels in the ground on the – for a new future of this corridor, and for the first phase of what will be a major re-phased re-development.  There will be three pieces to this, and we begin today with the first.

When all phases are fully built out, it will bring close to 800 affordable units and jobs and opportunities for people of this area of Brooklyn. And that includes a commitment by Dunn Development, and this is something I’m very, very appreciative of and want to thank Martin Dunn for – a commitment by Dunn Development to hire at least 30 percent local residents to work in the first phase of this multi-phase project for the structure.

Again, this will be an important piece of our goal of 200,000 affordable units over the next decade. And we’ve been clear, this development exemplifies so much of what we believe in – not just units for folks who are in the higher end of the income levels that we associate with affordability, but units for people across the income spectrum. Units for people who are transitioning out of our shelter system. Units for adults with disabilities. These are all part of this important project. The project will be 100 percent affordable housing.

So this marks the start of something important for the people of East New York, and I would say for the people of this entire city. I want to turn things over to Deputy Mayor Glen in a moment, but I just want to say that this is one of a number of things that we are doing that we intend to build upon to create  a more affordable city, to create a city of more economic opportunity, more economic fairness, with a particular focus on creating decent paying jobs, raising the floor on wages and benefits, creating more affordable housing. You can see those ideas exemplified in the changes that we brought to the Domino Sugar site in Brooklyn, to the new guarantees of living wage jobs that we won at the Hudson Yards site in Manhattan. You can see it in the work that’s being done in Albany on the HIV and AIDS rent cap, on the new efforts to prevent homelessness. You can see it on the expansion of the paid sick leave law, now reaching almost half a million more New Yorkers, providing them with a decency – it’s a basic economic security. You can see in the work we’re doing to move forward on living wage legislation and executive orders. And you can certainly see it in the historic expansion of pre-K and after school that will be felt by families and children all over this city starting this September.

These are all part of a much broader effort to fight inequality and to foster opportunity, to honor and reward work and give people [inaudible] for something they don’t have now. And it stems from our fundamental belief that every New Yorker deserves a shot at a life of dignity, security and opportunity.

Let me just say quickly in Spanish before I bring up the deputy mayor. Hoy comenzamos la primera fase en la construccion de un nuevo futuro para esta zona. Este proyecto traera 800 unidades de vivienda barata, ademas de oportunidades de empleo, para la gente de East New York, en Brooklyn.

With that I’d like to bring forward someone who has done absolutely extraordinary work in just three short months. She has been the driving force in changing the approach to development in this city and made sure we maximize affordable housing, maximize better wages and benefits. And she’s shown an incredible energy and focus in getting this done. And including the work she did to help close this deal here so we could move it forward. I’m honored to bring forward Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen.

[Applause]

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Housing & Economic Development: Thank you, I’ll try to be brief because there’s so many terrific people here today. I want to thank you Mayor de Blasio for making this day possible; Martin Dunn from Dunn Development; my colleagues in city government, Commissioner Vicki Been and HDC President Gary Rodney, as well as my colleagues in state government, Commissioner Towns and of course the fabulous Borough President Eric Adams.

You know, we’re very excited that we were able to close this deal in this administration and to really get shovels in the ground on a project that has been really too long coming for this neighborhood. And as the mayor said, when it’s done, we should have over 800 new affordable homes in this community. That’s really making a difference.

And it really will exemplify the values and our priorities and really be a major contributor toward that magic 200,000 unit number.

What’s great about this particular phase is that it’s going to include all affordable units, reaching into some very, very low-income families that haven’t had the same opportunities as many other people. And so we’re very excited to see the commitment that the development team has made to reaching much lower-income families.

It’s also really consistent with our emphasis on helping low-income New Yorkers who have really been trapped for far too long, moving in and out of shelters and or having trouble finding housing that gives them the services they need. So I’m very, very excited for this phase. It’ll have 43 units for families that were formally homeless, being developed in conjunction with are partners in the state under the New York, New York [inaudible] Program, an incredibly important program that provides [inaudible] to families who are really transitioning into permanent housing.

I also love this project because each building will have a super unit, and we all know how important that is to the quality of life and it’s something we really – it’s the details that matter. So thank you for doing that as well.

Today we’re also very excited because we are going to be issuing an RFP for the second phase of this project, which will continue our work – work with the community to help revitalize this whole neighborhood. And so the things we’re going to be looking for in that RFP – and it will be available later online. It’s really  reflecting the values that the mayor has talked a lot about. So we’re going to have an emphasis on more family-sized units. We really have to reflect that the – what the families of this city look like and when we’re building housing units, be very cognizant of that.

We want to have an even greater mix of affordability in our projects. We get low-income families and moderate income families – families who are working in our essential workforce that need a place to live as well. We also want to make sure that when we are issuing RFPs and working with development teams that we’re right-sizing our subsidy. It’s very important that we always stretch every dollar that we put into housing so that we can build more housing.

And then overall, it’s really about a comprehensive neighborhood-based approach to development that will include really important necessary retail and community facilities. So we want to reward proposals that acknowledge what we don’t have in communities. So proposals that include supermarkets, proposals that include the kind of daycare and other types of facilities that communities like this don’t just need, but they deserve.

So I’m very excited that we’ll be moving forward with that second phase, and then the third phase as well. I just want to thank all of you for making that possible. Thank you.

Mayor: I wanted to mention, we have had tremendous partnership from the state on so many important new initiatives, including the efforts to help folks with HIV and AIDS to get affordable housing, the efforts to combat homelessness more effectively and reduce the number of folks in shelter. This effort today is also possible because of a great partnership with the State of New York.

And I’ve had the pleasure for many years of working with Darryl Towns in his previous life as an elected official, now as the commissioner/CEO of New York State Homes and Community Renewal. I’d like to thank him for all he’s done to bring us to this day and welcome him forward.

Darryl Towns, Commissioner/CEO, New York State Homes & Community Renewal: Thank you very much Mr. Mayor. And good morning to everyone. It’s great to be here this morning wearing civil hats. First of all, representing our Governor Andrew Cuomo as his housing commissioner, being here as one of many partners in this effort to bring affordable housing to a community that is sorely in need of more development. And lastly, here as a lifelong resident of the East Brooklyn communities of Brownsville and East New York. I know this area very well. And my memory is fading in regards of what was there the last time something was there. So it’s great in order to come in under this leadership of the mayor today.

Mayor, let me also thank you for putting together a tremendous collective of housing professionals. And I look forward to working with Gary and Vicki  [inaudible], as well as the deputy mayor, and meeting those goals that you produces. Our tall guys who’ve worked at HUD come up with big challenges. And it will take all of us working together in order to meet those [inaudible] goals.

Also let me thank the community partners, because I think that the councilwoman will tell you that it’s one thing to have affordable housing direction come from amongst high, but you also need to have folks in the local community involved as well. I’d like to thank the participation of the – our partnership [inaudible] and ART East New York as well. Because truly we’ll have a community feel at the end of this. The mayor has a great dream team working with him for housing, and let me acknowledge my own team as well – Deputy Commissioner Chris Brown, [inaudible], Mark Fleischer, Jeannette [inaudible], [inaudible], Peter Mayfield, and Alex Oh, all who have been involved in making sure this project comes to fruition. So we're happy today to be at the groundbreaking, but of course, when we [inaudible], when we get an opportunity to put the keys in the door, and walk in and see these tremendous units that will be made available for East Brooklyn community families. Thank you so much. 

Mayor: I want to thank Martin Dunn, because, you know, there are many developers – they each have different philosophies, different approaches. Martin Dunn's been a great partner in this effort, and his focus on community hiring is something I particularly commend – so important to create new opportunity, and using these development projects not just to create affordable housing, but to create economic opportunity in the here and now, for the families of this community, is crucial. So, I want to thank Martin for that, and welcome him aboard. 

Martin Dunn, President, Dunn Development Corporation: Thank you Mayor de Blasio, and all the other distinguished guests. I'll tell you, back in the 1990s, I ran a local community development organization for five years in East New York. My office was one block from the Livonia site. I passed by these vacant lots almost every day, and even then, local residents talked about how some day, Livonia would be returned to its former glory as a thriving, bustling corridor, a focal point for the neighborhood. And I'm glad to say that that day is almost here. It is fitting that one of the first affordable housing projects to close and start construction under the de Blasio administration is Livonia Commons, a forward-thinking, innovative and comprehensive approach to community development. The first thing, the 270-units across four buildings, as was mentioned, will serve people of a wide range of incomes, including deeply affordable housing, with more than half of the units for households below 40 percent, 50 percent of Area Median Income. But this project is about more than just affordable housing. It's about trying to meet the broader needs of the neighborhood. So Livonia Commons will have 28,000 square feet of new stores and community spaces, designed to create a vibrant and active streetscape. And a new Boys Club of New York clubhouse is in the planning stages for a fifth site on Livonia. And we do want to be a good local citizen and neighbor in developing this project, so we are going to hire local workers and subcontractors and suppliers, and we're going to provide job training and pay a living wage. And we're going to build it green and sustainable. We'll work to attract retail stores that the community wants and needs, and we'll partner with neighborhood organizations, like Our Streets New York, so they will help turn Livonia Commons into a focal point and gathering place for the community, hence the name "Livonia Commons." And importantly, it's going to be beautiful both inside and out, buildings that the tenants and the community can be proud of, and that will spark other investments in economic activity. This project is only possible because of partnerships. I want to thank all of our partners. HPD, HDC and City Planning, who collaborated to make the project possible; state of New York and HDR, whose official financing helped make the project serve that wider range of incomes and deep affordability; the members of the development operational team; JP Morgan Chase Bank, which is providing more than $80 million dollars in equity and construction financing; and of course Councilmember Barron's office, the community board, the local non-profit organizations and community residents. We look forward to, in two years, showing off the finished product of this first phase, and we hope you'll all come back for the ribbon-cutting. Thank you.

[Applause]

Mayor: Next I'd like to bring up our Borough President Eric Adams, who – I have worked with him for many, many years, and he has been a very strong voice for a more fair and just set of policies that would achieve things like this project. I want to thank him for his leadership, and welcome him.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams: Thank you, Mayor, and I also wanted to just do a special thank you to the Barrons – for many years, their commitment to this community, and the importance of housing, and what should take place in Brooklyn. I'm glad that the mayor's policies [inaudible] of that vision. This groundbreaking is more than just a significant moment taking place from the stage of housing development. It's about breaking ground on the thought process, that we can bury concepts of bullets, and start dealing with building. We can bury the concept of gangs and start dealing with goals. We can bury the concept of uncertainty and poverty and start embracing the concept of prosperity. Of today's assembly – there is no property or land in Brooklyn that is undesirable. Today is a clear signal of that. But unlike other communities, where you saw those who remained here, when they weren't waking up to alarm clocks, but gunshots, they didn't flee. And what the mayor's doing today, and Mr. Dunn is doing today, is stating that we are going to allow local residents, not only to live in housing, but to build their housing. For far too long, we've witnessed men and women who don't live on Livonia Avenue, or Alabama Avenue, or Mother Gaston, are not participating in this prosperity. And so the signal today, the groundbreaking today, is to put a shovel in the ground, and bury those things of the past that locked our communities. We have community involvement, with community space, after-school program, and arts. Yes, arts. Our children need more than a structure to enter and live in. They need a place where they can develop their full personhood, and today we put the shovel in the ground, and started the continuation of a process that the Barrons have started years ago. I commend you, both District Leader Barron and Councilwoman Barron, and I commend the mayor for moving this process forward. This press conference is here on Mother Gaston for a reason. This is no longer a down town we live in. This is an entire – one borough, one Brooklyn, one city, one mayor – thank you. 

Mayor: Thank you. Thank you very much, Eric. Well, I want to tell you that Councilmember Barron makes her presence known at City Hall, and that is a compliment. She speaks up strongly for this community. She did so in Albany as well, before. And we are moving with a more progressive vision, because the people are demanding that vision. They're demanding these changes, and that's what a representative democracy is supposed to entail. So I want to thank the council member for all she does for this community, for all she's done to bring this project to fruition. I welcome her to speak. 

City Council Member Inez Barron: Thank you. At first I want to say, I give honor to God, who is the head of my life, and for all that He's doing to help this community to move forward and to advance. And it's very fitting that we're here, at what we call Heritage House, because it was Councilmember Barron who gave $400,000 dollars, so that the very place where you're sitting here today, could continue to exist. I believe that was in 2003 or 4, that we were able to have this Heritage house maintained. In terms of the housing that we're here to commemorate today, I did participate, as a State Member in the Planning and Developing [inaudible]. But it was Council Member Charles Barron, my predecessor, who did all the grunt work. I'm going to ask him to share the podium with me, and [inaudible]

Charles Barron, Former City Council Member: First of all, let me say that this is most affordable housing project, probably in the whole city, and I want to thank Dunn for doing that. We have now people who have our AMI, our Area Median Income, that now can move in these houses, just to correct to mayor a little bit. Yes, we have neglect from City Hall, but we fought, and East New York is the number one. There's no other district that has more affordable housing – ask HPD, not me – than East New York. Over 7,000 new units we had. This particular project, we worked hard on. And there are some people that will not be mentioned. We thank Arts East New York, we have a great relationship with [inaudible] – she does great work, but also A.T. Mitchell, and [inaudible] and some union leaders, to make sure that we get jobs for people in our neighborhood, and not just in the union, but also local neighborhood jobs. I want to get Mr. A.T. Mitchell a big hand for that. So, we, as we go forward, just to let no history is lost [sic], we were able to usher this through under our administration, and Council Member Barron was very instrumental in that, and so was Mr. [inaudible], who was in the office, please give him a big hand clap. And Ms. Anita Fisher – we had meeting after meeting, and the beautiful thing about this – 16 to 20 percent of the housing units is going to be for the homeless. And that's the way to get rid of homeless shelters, by building permanent homes with rent subsidies for the homeless. So with that, this is a historic day. The Boys Club is coming. We're very excited about this project, and I just wanted to come and let you know some of the other players that might have been left out of this, and that this process was long on the way, and we approved it in the last Council administration. Thank you very much. 

Mayor: Finally, we should hear from Catherine Green, because she's doing something so important, which is bringing the opportunity to so many in this community, to revel in the arts, to appreciate their own possibilities and creativity, and to really have it fostered in each and every community resident. And it's, in fact, a real virtue of this larger project, that there is an arts and culture component. I don't think there's anything that's more bonding – for all of our citizens, but particularly for our young people – the connection to arts and culture is one of the things that gives them encouragement, energy, hope, possibility, helps them find more deeply their talents and possibilities. And for that, in this effort, we will have to thank Catherine Green of Arts East New York. And now you'll get called. 

Catherine Green, Founder, ARTs East New York: Thank you so much for inviting me to speak today. We've been working a very long time with Arts East New York, and a lot of our colleagues in the room, so I just want to say thank you so much to Mayor de Blasio, to Martin Dunn, Borough President Adams, thank you all so much for inviting me here today to speak. One of the things I definitely want to make clear is that Arts East New York means more than just bringing arts into a building. We are building a cultural infrastructure for the East New York community, that not only exposes children and families to the arts, but also provides job training and an economic development engine for the East New York community as well. The cultural sector has a huge direct effect on communities, and so we want to make sure that we bring that as well. We are bringing arts instruction to students, and families, to be part of this structure, but we are also providing studio space, affordable studio space to artists in the community. That's a huge issue that's going around New York City right now, and possibly all across the country. Artists are scavenging. They're trying to find affordable studio spaces all around. I'm sorry, I'm a little bit nervous, but it's something we are very exciting about –

Mayor: You're doing great.

Green: Thank you. It's an opportunity that we've been working on for a very long time. These artists and students will not only work inside of this building with a beautiful sculpture garden, in a garden right across the street – sorry, at the garden across the street – but they also will implement arts activities all throughout East New York. So they'll be [inaudible] murals, they'll be doing the events throughout the community, just to really heighten what East New York is rich – the richness of diversity in this community is often overlooked. East New York has been overlooked for a very long time, but we have a rich community here, and we're really excited about this particular opportunity to bring us to that next level. We are looking forward to the renaissance, and we're looking forward to working with our colleagues. I do acknowledge [inaudible] who we've been working with for many years, Christopher Banks and his senior population, we've worked with them for many years, and to the council members, we've worked with them for many years. So thank you again so much for all of your support, and we're really excited to be a part of the project. Thank you. 

Mayor: I want to – as I was listening to Catherine, first of all, I appreciate your infectious enthusiasm. And a couple of things she said just made me think, I'm so appreciative of the holistic vision of the role of the arts in the community, and I have to say that notion of providing studio space is something we're going to be working on all over the city, and this is going to be a great model. This city is – one of the reasons for greatness is the creativity that's been sustained here over generations, but that was because artists could afford to be here. This is one of the first times we've confronted the notion that people with something to say, and something to create, and something to offer, might be priced out of the cultural and artistic capital of the Earth. We can’t let that happen. And that includes making studio space available, that includes creating affordable housing for artists, which is another one of the things we’ll be working on. So I want to thank Catherine for all that she is doing. I also want to note that one of the reasons we’re focused on this community, among many, is that one of our deputy mayors is a proud son of East New York. Couldn’t be with us today but Richard Buery, who is leading our pre-K and after school effort, and knows from his experience growing up in this community what those initiatives will mean for our young people. So East New York has a strong voice at City Hall in many ways now, and that’s going to be for the good of the community. With that, let’s do on-topic questions first.

Question: This is a question for you and Deputy Mayor Glen. What was the status of this project when you took office and how has it evolved since then? And more broadly, how does your approach to developing affordable housing differ from the Bloomberg administration’s approach?

Mayor: Well I’ll start, and I know Alicia will be able to add in more detail. Look, the bottom line is yes, as my colleague said, a lot had been done. It was our job to finish the process in terms of work done by the city government. We have a different set of values that we want to bring to the development process. Again, you’ve seen it already with the Domino site, you’ve seen it already at Hudson Yards. We’re going to be focused on – depending on the site – either increasing the number of affordable units, lowering the income level that can be reached in those affordable units, we want a better income mix than in the previous affordable housing approach. We, as the deputy mayor said, we’re concerned about unit sizes that reflect the totality of the city, so you’re going to see a more diverse mix of unit sizes. And as I mentioned, we really believe in local hiring. And we particularly appreciate and want to encourage developers who will hire locally, and it fits into everything we believe about not only creating more jobs but creating good jobs with decent wages and decent benefits. So we think that with all the tools in the development process, we can get a lot more done that the previous approach allowed for, and this is a great example right here of the possibilities ahead. Any other – do you want to use some housing speak or something to make it sound fancy? Okay, you’re tutoring me. Yes?

Question: So just to follow up, what – are there any differences between the first phase of the project as approved under Bloomberg and the first phase as launched now?

Deputy Mayor Glen: No. I mean, the project had been the pipeline for a while and obviously when we got into office, one of the things we do is we look at all the things that were in the pipeline. And make sure that those projects that really do ultimately, basically reflect our values, or could be part of our shift moving forward to absolutely get done and may be expedited. So we don’t want to take anything away from the work that was done with [inaudible] to this project. But I think that what’s really important to us is making sure that the future phases of the project begin to embody even more of these values. Again, wiring [inaudible], making sure that we’re dealing with some of the real problems with homeless families, making sure that we’re utilizing all the strategic investments in the neighborhood to really drive greater impact, to make sure we have better jobs, more community facilities. And really thinking about how this neighborhood will evolve, and we need to think about that from whether we’re housing seniors or more families, and what kind of incomes we want to see in subsequent phases. I think that the siting of the first phase is fantastic, and we should applaud the work that was done, but then add on in subsequent phases to really be able to drive even greater neighborhood revitalization.

Mayor: On topic still. Yes?

Question: This being 100 percent affordable is – I don’t know if it’s unprecedented but it’s certainly unusual for a development in New York City. What kind of percentages do you usually get [inaudible] closer to Manhattan? Do you think fifty percent is realistic, thinking about your affordable housing goals and the development [inaudible]?

Mayor: Okay, I’m going to give a broad answer and Alicia or – you know, I’m kind of shy. I’m not – Charles is helping with my assertiveness training.

[Laughter]

Mayor: Alicia or Vicki, I bet have something to add here. Let me just offer again, the broad [inaudible], and then you guys fill in the blanks. Every project is different because it depends on what kind of financing is available. So you can have 100 percent affordable housing projects. In some cases you can have 50 percent, in other cases you can have the traditional 20 percent, in some cases. But the fact is our job is to try and push those numbers up wherever we can. I think – and I said this a lot last year – that in many cases there was a bit of a laissez-faire approach to development. And whatever was put forward in a particular case by a developer was accepted pretty much wholesale. I think the job of city government is to up the ante, to demand more affordable housing and community benefits in each instance. And I think we have a lot of opportunity to do that. We’ll work with any and every developer who is going to work with the community to maximize the good for the community. And we’ll do everything we can to move those projects along quickly, but we want to see what we truly believe is the maximum community benefits. So I think the single most powerful community benefit, the one that’s most desired all over the city is the affordable housing, because there’s such a profound crisis of affordable housing. But I don’t want to minimize the part about local hiring. For a long time you heard a fiction: there was no way to do local hiring. That’s ridiculous. There is a way to do local hiring. There are legal complexities, as is true in much of life. But we’ve seen it done in some very major developments in this city to the good of all. Now here’s another case where a developer came forward with that commitment, worked with community leaders to work out the right way to do it; therefore maximizing the impact of the project. We believe in that model profoundly. So I think what you’re going to see in each case, you certainly saw it at Domino, you certainly saw it Hudson Yards, is we’re going to push for more. I think in many, many cases there is more there to be achieved. It starts with a city government that’s clear about its goals and its requirements in the process, and I think we’re going to find a lot more we can get done for communities as a result.

Deputy Mayor Glen: The only thing I would add to that is – and I think that the councilmember alluded to this – is that a lot of affordable housing is defined by what is the area median income for the city of New York. And the reality is that we’re a city of many neighborhoods, and neighborhoods have different immediate surrounding needs. And so one of the things that’s so important about this project and we’ll continue to drill down on, as we roll out our plan, is recognizing also what are some of the sub-neighborhood needs. And looking at is less as a macro issue, and really drilling down to neighborhood. So the kinds of income that we might see in Manhattan, that could reflect a different overall demographic there. But we understand that for far too long, many of the affordable units that were produced in neighborhoods like East New York weren’t in fact that affordable to the people who live in East New York. And so, we really want to do a better job of matching the supply and the demand with respect to the people who really live in these neighborhoods.

Barron: I think you’re right. The area median income of East New York is $30,000 for a family of four. So if we go by HPD’s formula of affordability, 80 percent of the AMI, that’s like $64,000 for a family of four. And most of our community would not be able to afford that, so when we sat down, we always ask developers, ‘Do you know the AMI of our neighborhood?’ Because what might be affordable somewhere else will not be affordable here. And that’s why the 7,000 units we brought in, most of them are 100 percent affordable, 40 to 60 percent of the AMI. And, East New York has the largest increase in Black population, according to the Daily News – not me – 13.2 percent increase in the Black population. Everywhere else – Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant – we’re seeing now gentrification coming in and decreasing the Black population in those neighborhoods, and increasing white populations because of the housing formula. And that’s why we fought very, very hard to make it real affordability for East New York.

Mayor: One more frame on this to remind people, you know, when that report came out last year from the city’s Economic Development Corporation, I talked about this many times. It said 46 percent of the city was at or near the poverty level. Let’s translate what that means. The poverty level for a family of four – I’m looking to all the experts over here – my best memory is that’s about $40,000, not even $40,000, annual income for a family of four. So if you have 46 percent of the city at or near that level, think about what that means. And think about what a huge percentage of this city is paying close to half their income for rent. If you do the numbers really quick, it’s quite clear that we have to do a very different approach with affordable housing if we want to have this be the New York City we know and love. That’s something that’s available to everyone, open to everyone, that has diversity in every sense, including economic diversity. So that’s why today is important on many levels, because it is an example of where we want to go – both in terms of making sure that the units are affordable to people of the community, and creating the job opportunities that give people more possibility of staying in the community. On topic.       

Question: This is a question about the [inaudible] that Deputy Mayor Glen said, heading toward that magic number of 200,000. For the first phase, which was a Bloomberg-era project, are you counting those numbers for your 200,000?  

Mayor: We think the simple standard is this: the things that we put our hands on and help to achieve, we are counting. There’s a lot of work involved in getting these things done. You’re going to see more and more original projects happening, obviously on our time. But the examples that we’ve talked to recently – Domino and Hudson Yards, are two projects that already existed by definition. But we wanted to see more possible there, and in both cases were able to add. Soon you’re going to start to see a lot of brand new projects coming down the line and those will further reflect our vision. Okay, other topics. Other topics.

Question: This is about the NYPD officer that was arrested in New Delhi. Do you think that was politically motivated? And do you give him your support? What kind of support could you actually [inaudible]?

Mayor: Well, first of all, we don’t have enough information to 100 percent determine whether there is an ulterior motive in that situation. Obviously, I’m concerned there may be. And I’m first and foremost concerned for his well-being. On the last report I received, we had checked in with the State Department and he was out of jail, he was at his hotel, awaiting the next phase of the legal process. We are very hopeful that that will go smoothly and he’ll be able to leave India without further difficulty. But we’re very closely monitoring the situation, working with the State Department, with the American Embassy in India to make sure that he is treated fairly.

Question: [inaudible] support or just [inaudible]   

Mayor: I don’t know the details yet of what he’ll need, I know he has a local lawyer. But, you know, we’ll make sure if we feel there’s anything he needs that he’s not getting, we’re going to be there to support him.

Question: Thinking about [inaudible] in Albany, do you have any update on where the speed camera issue might be, how much of a priority that will be?

Mayor: It’s a big priority for us, because Vision Zero’s a big priority for us. And even though, as you’ve seen from the initial statistics from the first quarter of this year, there has been some real progress in reducing crashes and reducing fatalities. We have a lot more to do, and we think that speed cameras play a crucial role in that effort. So it’s a big priority, we are hopeful from the conversations that have been had so far. We’re hopeful that we’re going to get a good result. But there’s more work to be done. Obviously it’s a statewide dynamic, so part of the reality here is it has to be decided in a statewide context. But we’re hopeful of a good result.

Question: Mr. Mayor, wondering if you could talk a little bit about the delays in FOIL [inaudible] for Bishop Findlayter’s arrest? When do you think it might be [inaudible]?  

Mayor: You know, the FOIL process – I am not a lawyer – but you know, the FOIL process is delineated and is pursued whenever a request comes in. you know, what we have said to our team is we’re going to process those, get the answer back. Obviously, if at any point a journalist or any other organization isn’t comfortable with the outcome of the FOIL request, there is an appeals process. So I’m not familiar with the details of it, but that’s the way it works.

Question: The video of the police and fire hockey game and the brawl. Your reaction to that? Should the officers and the firefighters be disciplined, since they didn’t represent –

Mayor: Well look, it’s an unfortunate incident, obviously. It’s a game that is for charity, which is commendable. It’s a moment that should reflect unity, so it was unfortunate. I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t have a personal view on whether other actions should be taken, but I hope that’s the last time we’ll see something like that.

Question: Since we’re going to Queens later for your appointment of a Cultural Affairs Commissioner, I wanted to know what you think of the Queens Library [inaudible] going on? Are you worried of that city library being under his stewardship, falling under [inaudible]? [inaudible]

Mayor: Well look, I know the City Comptroller Scott Stringer is doing an audit. I know there’ve been some real questions raised. I think we all need more answers, if we’re going to feel comfortable. I certainly would like to hear some better answers in that situation [inaudible] allegations were made, as might be possible.

Question: Do you have any thoughts on the new leadership of the state teacher’s union and whether some [inaudible] by the UFT?

Mayor: No I have not watched that situation closely honestly, and I don’t know the nuances of it. My focus, obviously, is right here. And what we’re focused on, day-to-day, is the larger negotiations going on over the contracts situation, which will have a huge impact on the future of this city. So that’s where I’m keeping my focus.

Question: In previous press reports which your administration never contested, it says the mayor’s office sent an email to an NYPD official regarding Bishop Orlando Findlayter. Then on Friday it turned out, that there were no emails. I mean, how was that exactly possible?

Mayor: Again, there’s a FOIL process. I am not a lawyer, there are lawyers who do this with great care and I’m sure they followed the appropriate rules. And if at the end of that process people aren’t satisfied, there is an appeal they can undertake. Again, I don’t comment on the details of the FOIL process, I let the lawyers do that. Thank you.             

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