Transcript: Mayor de Blasio, Senate Co-Leader Klein And Chancellor Fariña Urge Families To Register For Free Pre-K

April 21, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well it is such a pleasure to be at Riverdale Neighborhood House on this perfect spring day. Thank you Jess for arranging that. I want to thank our hosts Dan Eudene, the executive director, and his team, including Kristy Leader, the director of early childhood education for Riverdale Neighborhood House. Has a cheering section there I see.

I want to thank all the parents who are here in support of our pre-K effort. Thank you for being part of this today. And we want to thank our Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and all the elected officials who have joined us – State Senator Jeff Klein, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Assembly Member Jeff Dinowitz, Council Member Andrew Cohen. And I want to thank Bill Weitz who is here on behalf of Congressman Eliot Engel.

So everyone standing with me – the parents and the educators and the elected officials – all get it. They all understand how important pre-K is to the children and families of today and to the future of New York City. And we understand that we need to make sure that high-quality full-day pre-K is something for every child.

And I want to single out and thank Senator Klein for the leadership role he played in Albany.

[Applause]

He deserves a special thanks. I can safely say if it weren’t for Senator Klein’s leadership, it would never have been possible to get the state senate to fully support our vision for full-day pre-K and after school, our vision for five years of funding at the levels we need it.

And it’s particularly pertinent because we know that the fight for pre-K has now gone on almost 20 years in Albany. It began in 1996. And it was always the assembly – to the credit of the assembly. It was always the assembly that pushed the issue. And sadly it didn’t find support elsewhere.

And I stood with Speaker Silver a few weeks ago and said for him, he deserves tremendous credit. Almost twenty years of fighting and we’ve finally gotten to this day.

But for a long time the senate badly was the number one impediment. And at the beginning of this year a lot of people said to me that that history would repeat itself. But they didn’t count on Jeff Klein, who used his power and his influence to make sure that the Senate did the right thing. And that was one of the thing. And that was one of the things that made this year so different and allowed us to have this breakthrough.

So Senator Klein thank you for standing up, for fighting for the children of this city. And this is now allowed us to be at this unprecedented moment.

Now, let’s go over this again. Right now in New York City about 20,000 kids get full-day pre-K. About 40,000 kids get half-day. A number of kids get nothing at all whose families applied. Our plan takes us to over 50,000 full-day, high-quality seats by this September. And then we get to the grand total of over 70,000 the following year. All because of the actions that took place in Albany, allowing us immediately to more than double the number of kids who get full-day pre-K.

And, you know, if you spend a few minutes here, you see immediately what quality pre-K means, what it does for children. You’re going to hear from the chancellor, who’s the real expert on educating our children. But I’ll tell you my latest story from being in the classroom. I always get something interesting when I go into one of the pre-K classrooms. I guarantee you this is the most unscripted group of people in the world, our 4-year-olds. I can say it from personal experience.

I sat down next to a young girl named Mackenzie, four years old. I said, ‘Mackenzie, what are you doing?’ She had a green plant in front of her on the table. I said, ‘Mackenzie, what are you doing?’ And she says very seriously, ‘I am doing the observation of my plant.’

[Laughter]

So another budding young scientist. But she used the word observation fluidly, comfortably. I said to some of our friends in the room [inaudible] Ridgewood, Queens with me when the young man said ‘metamorphosis’ and the young woman said ‘chrysalis’.

What’s going on in pre-K is extraordinary – the vocabulary development, the poise you see, the inquisitiveness, the way kids in pre-K learn to work in a group, the way they participate. You give kids full-day pre-K with quality teaching and it allows them to take off. And we know that it’s decisive. We know that it’s fundamental to a good education. There’s still too many people out there who think somehow it’s an extra or somehow it’s something that has a small effect. But in fact reaching kids when their four years old – one of the most crucial developmental moments for a child – allows you to give them an educational foundation you literally cannot do later on.

So this is about – someone said it very nicely the other day. If you are building a house, you start with a strong foundation. Pre-K is that strong foundation for lifetime learning. And you’re going to see in the next few years, it will start to not only improve the lives of children and families individually, it’s going to start to bring up our schools system overall.

A couple weeks ago I spoke at Riverside Church and I said our obligation is to bring up the school system in every neighborhood and end the notion that there are some schools that families don’t want to send their kids to because they don’t feel they’re good enough. We have to enlist this entire schools system. And it starts with having every child achieve that strong foundation. And you’re going to see what that does – a multiplier effect year after year as it improves the quality of education. There’s a lot of other things Chancellor Fariña and I intend to do. But laying that foundation is one of the things we thought was most important, and that’s why we emphasized it so much in the beginning of this administration.

Talk to the people here at Riverdale Neighborhood House. You saw just in the short visit the amazing work they’re doing. They run a model program. And a lot of other pre-K programs look to this location to learn about how to do it right. And you’re going to hear from the leader of this great effort about the history of pre-K  in this neighborhood because it’s something people have wanted but haven’t been able to get.

Well we know that if we build that foundation – and remember, this is going to be free, it’s going to be full-day, it’s going to be ultimately, in the next two years, truly universal. I have this [inaudible] in the UPK pin. The concept of universal pre-K has been around for a long time. Just one problem it hasn’t been universal. Our plan literally makes it universal. And it begins this fall with its first big jump to over 50,000 kids.

We want to make sure that every child who is eligible that their family apply. That they take advantage of the process. And now let’s explain again, just for a moment – and please, my friends in the media, please help the people of this city understand this process because their children stand to gain so much.

The day after tomorrow – Wednesday, April 23 – is the deadline to apply for pre-K in the public school buildings. This is the first of several phases. The seats available in public school buildings. So that application deadline is this Wednesday, April 23. We want to hold up that application  for all to see. It’s a simple application to fill out. And any parent with a child that qualifies should fill it out. That means children born in 2010 who will be four this year. Anyone looking for information can get it at nyc.gov.schools, also through 3-1-1. Again, nyc.gov.schools or through 3-1-1. Any parent calling 3-1-1 looking for information on how to apply will get it. There are also 13 enrollment centers located across the five boroughs. And you can call 3-1-1 and get the location centers and go in and apply in person if that’s something a parent prefers to do.

Now, even if you as an individual don’t happen to have a child who is eligible this year, I’m not letting you off the hook. We need your help anyway. We need you to talk to all the members of your family. We need to make sure that our nieces and your nephews and your cousins who are eligible apply. It’s so crucial that parents know they have this opportunity. Let your neighbors know. Spread the word that two more days until this first deadline. And then after that there’ll be a whole range of additional options as part of our UPK plan that will be available through community-based organizations like this. Again, some in the public school buildings, some in community-based organizations, all of them high-quality, all of them full-day, all of them free. We want to get the word out so parents can take advantage of it.

I often say I know the value of full-day pre-K from my own experience with Chiara and Dante. And I remember vividly how they took to it. They were like fish in water. They loved it. They learned from it, they grew, they learned how to connect and interact with all of their young friends. It really brought them out. It sparked their lifetime love of learning. I know it can do it for so many other children.

And just one other reference that’s very appropriate to the borough of the Bronx. It’s one of the most eloquent voices on the importance of early childhood education in her own life. It’s Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. And it’s well-known that she grew up under some tough circumstances. But in her recent memoir, she makes clear that you know she experienced some tough things in the Soundview growing up in public housing. What she had was education. She said, ‘You’ve got to get your education. It’s the only way to get ahead in this world.’

By the way that is more true today than when any of us were growing up. Because the demands of this economy require more and more educational achievement. You’re fully going – you’re going to fully participate in the economy, you’re going to reach your economic destiny. It is because you’ve gotten the best possible education. That’s what we aim to do for all of the children of this city.

And now let’s make sure in these next few days we get the word out to all parents. And then continuing as additional options become available, so that they can take advantage of this great opportunity for their kids.

A moment in Español.

Estámos aquí pára pedírles que no piérdan ésta importánte oportunidád de íns-cribír a los níños de cuátro áños en un prográma grátis de pre-kínder a tiémpo compléto. La fécha límite pára puéstos de pre-kínder en escuélas públicas es el veintí-trés de abríl.  

[inaudible]

Muchas gracias Señor Presidente

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr: De nada

Mayor: With that, I would like to welcome the man who did so much to get us to this day. With profound gratitude, welcome Senator Jeff Klein.

[Applause]

State Senator Jeffrey Klein: Thank you. Thank you very, very much mayor. I also want to say a very special thank you to the Riverdale Neighborhood House. Dan and his entire staff, they are really showing what universal pre-K can do. Let’s give them a big hand everyone.

[Applause]

And I want to thank the mayor again. The mayor clearly had a vision. And he not only elevated that vision for all of New York City 4-year-olds, but really made it into a statewide issue. Because I think he recognized a very simple truth: this was about the kids. This was about making sure that every 4-year-old in the City of New York had the advantages of full-time universal pre-K. Thank you mayor, let’s give him a big hand everyone.

Soon after the mayor was elected, maybe even before he was elected, I made a promise. A very important promise to Mayor de Blasio that I would not pass a state budget in Albany unless we had full funding for universal pre-K. this was something that was important to me. This was something important to the parents, and especially our 4-year-olds. And I was so happy to stand here today and say, ‘Mayor, we did it.’

[Applause]

Because I think this is important. And I think everyone knows the value of universal pre-K. Everyone knows the foundation, as the mayor talked about, that it instills in a young person’s life. And one of the things that I did when I sort of got on board with this issue and fought alongside of our mayor is we put forth a study. And the study really showed a lot of what most people knew already but seem to ignore, that students who go through universal pre-K are better learners. They do better in school. They get better jobs. They have less problems with the law in their future, less problems with drug and alcohol abuse. It really is a game-changer in a 4-year-old’s life. And I think it has effects that are going to carry on to adulthood.

So when we had the question, ‘How can we get it done?’ I think the answer was very simple. We couldn’t afford not to get it done. And that’s why I think it was so important that not only were we able to get $300 million this year for full-time universal pre-K, just for the City of New York – but that funding it going to be guaranteed over five years. So I really want to thank everyone involved because this is something that was important.

You know I’ve stayed up in Albany for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of battles. But this was one of those important grassroots efforts where I think we only had one choice, and the choice was to make sure that 54,000 4-year-olds are guaranteed full-time universal pre-K this fall. And we accomplished that.

And so thank you again mayor. I look forward to many, many more victories in the months and years ahead. Thank you again Mayor de Blasio.

[Applause]

Mayor: And you know I first met Carmen Fariña almost 15 years ago. And from the first time I met her I could tell that she had an extraordinary level of insight, an extraordinary grasp of education that even very people – talk to teachers all over this city, they revere her as one of the great teachers of our time. And so not only will she speak to you about the importance of this program – although I’m going to ask her to give you a couple of insights into just what she saw in that classroom, what a highly trained eye immediately pulled out just walking into an extraordinary classroom like that. Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

[Applause]

[Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña delivers remarks]

Mayor: And we want to give credit to the extraordinary efforts of Riverdale Neighborhood House. And I’d like you to hear from the executive director, Dan Eudene, about the work they’ve done here over the years, how much parents have wanted to see more of pre-K and what it means to them. Dan?

[Applause]

[Dan Eudene, executive director of the Riverdale Neighborhood House, delivers remarks]

Mayor: So before I had the honor of working for the people of New York City, my immediately previous employer had a phrase. She said it takes a village to raise a child, which we all know is true. Well it takes a village to get something of this magnitude done. And we had support in the state senate, we had support in the state assembly, support in the city council, support from our borough president. It really is – as Jeff Klein said – it was because the grass roots believed. It was because leaders on all levels were pushing together in unity to get this done that we were able to do something [inaudible]. I want to bring up some of the other people who played an important role helping us to get to this day, starting with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

[Applause]

[Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. delivers remarks]

Mayor: Again, so much thanks to the Assembly for having been there for so long. Let's bring forward Assembly Member Jeff Dinowitz.

[Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz speaks]

Mayor: And finally, my great gratitude for the City Council being with us every step of the way, Council Member Andrew Cohen.

[City Council Member Andrew Cohen speaks]

Mayor: All right, let's take questions on this topic first. 

Question: [inaudible] director said about a waiting list the last time they had it, and what the Borough President said about the number of children there are out there, how concerned are you that thousands of families might not get into this program?

Mayor: Look, we've said very clearly that in the immediate term, we're going to make these numbers entirely different than what people have seen before. Again, this very day in New York City, 20,000 kids in full-day pre-k. Our plan gets us over 50,000 in September. That means 30,000 plus families will benefit immediately. The following year, we go over 70,000, meaning we could accommodate every single family. So, right away, [coughs] excuse me, we more than double what families have available to them by September this year, there'll still be some additional half-day options as we phase all the way over to full-day for everyone. But I think you're going to see such a big impact that it's going to be clear to people all over the neighborhoods of this city that something very big is happening that's going to benefit so many people so quickly. There's going to be a lot of appreciation for that, and a lot of desire to make sure when it's fully built out in the second year, that literally everyone who needs it takes advantage of it. 

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: Well, we have to see who applies. But, again – one of the things I pride myself on, and I want to thank my colleagues who were supportive of this plan, because we said, over and over, the same exact thing. We said, here's our build-out plan. It will take two years. We take a very big jump in the first instance. I – really, in all the last year and a half as we've worked on this plan – I never wanted to do a pilot project, I never wanted to just, you know, reach a few school districts out of our 32 school districts. I wanted to do the whole thing. We knew we could over 50,000 this year. We knew we could get the full strength to over 70,000 by the following year. By definition, you know, there's limits in everything in life, but we knew that we could serve a lot more families right away, and then in very short order, get it to full strength. And I think the families of this city will understand that and appreciate that. 

Question: While you're in Riverdale, what would you say to the area's former Councilman Oliver Koppell?

Mayor: Are we on this topic? We're on topic. We're talking about pre-k right now, my friend.

Question: Mr. Mayor, the people who are registering now, are they automatically going to their nearest public school, and as far the people who register in the next round, for the community-based, can they go where they like, or the nearest one to them, how does that work?

Mayor: Hold on, I'm getting myself fashion-appropriate here. The Bronx 100. 

Borough President Diaz: [inaudible]

Mayor: [inaudible] Now I feel better. I'm glad you asked. That's a fundamental question that families need to understand. Ok. The first wave, with the deadline this Wednesday the 23rd, is for additional full-day pre-k spaces in public school buildings. By definition, that means, where we had the space to get the full-day in a public school building, we're doing it. We know some buildings are over capacity right now, and we knew some just weren't in a position to add, but where there was capacity here and now, we grabbed it right now. Then, what's going to happen after this Wednesday is information is going to start to go out immediately on the community-based organization options. And they will be put out publicly as quickly as each one of them is determined. So, what we're trying to say to parents is, apply now for the public school spaces in your area, then keep applying for the additional spaces that are made available. Apply for anything that's pertinent to you, so that we can make sure you get something good. The fact is, that because the public school buildings, the space in public school buildings, are not perfectly distributed across the city, there's a limit there – in some cases, it might be the zone neighborhood school for a family, and in other cases, it may be several zones away, and it may or may not work for that family. That's why those community-based options are going to be really where the big numbers are, and we've tried to make sure that that's spread all over the city. So, more and more information coming, but the – I say as a public school parent myself – the key thing for parents to do is apply consistently. Whenever a new option comes up that might fit your child, apply for it right away to maximize your options.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: Well, we know that we – in the public school buildings – are adding over 4,000 full-day seats, but again, the majority, the vast majority of the new seats will be in the community-based organizations, like right here. And this is part of why we wanted to be here, is to show you an example of the kind of options that will become available quickly for parents. So, each and every week, there will be more and more information available, more and more options for people to apply to. Any one of us who's been through the application process, for any part of our public schools, knows that you get information back, and you weigh your options. And many, many parents do what parents do all the time in New York City – they apply for different things that might fit their child. If they get the thing they want, great. If they don't get it right away, they keep trying to get one that's a good fit. Parents will do that here. But the difference this year is there's going to be a lot more to choose from this year. And then next year, it will be – there will be literally a seat for every child in the entire city. 

Question: As of now, how many applications have you received for public school pre-k spots? 

Mayor: I'll get you the exact figure. I don't know the exact figure as of this day. I know demand has been very high, but I don't have the exact figures.

Question: As we have seen with other issues, affecting the city when the city has programs – oversight gets very lax at some point. In other boroughs, outside the Bronx, we've seen fraud in adult day care centers and other senior centers. How are you going to oversight this type of program, with community-based organizations?

Mayor: I think the history around pre-k has been a very good one. I think oversight has been strong. I think the results have been there to prove it. We clearly – it is my number one policy agenda item, and we're putting substantial resources into getting it right. The chancellor is focused like a laser on making sure this is done right, and she has the highest quality standards. The other agencies involved as well – I mentioned a few weeks back, we've convened all the pertinent agencies that are involved in oversight, to make sure that they are, every step of the way, working in close coordination. So, this is going to be run from City Hall – you know, we're making sure the resources are there, we're making sure the oversight is there – and I'm confident that we're going to get a good product.

Question: Is there any sense of whether enrollment or applications are up? I know you said that you don't have the exact numbers right nows, but you know, with all the focus on pre-k, are you seeing more people –

Mayor: Yeah, there's no question, the interest levels are very, very high. You saw it first with the applications from teachers to teach in the program that had been extraordinarily high. I can just tell you from walking down the street in the city, all over the place, parents are coming up to me and talking about pre-k. They're introducing to me to their children who qualify this year, or their children will qualify in a couple of years. The consciousness levels are very high. So I'm certain we're going to see a strong number. But again, this first number is actually only a small part of the total build-out you're going to see.

Question: For Chancellor Fariña, if you can clarify that many parents [inaudible] I know have gotten the space they wanted [inaudible] and now they have a better chance, that they can rectify that, and get a better seat [inaudible] say that in Spanish [inaudible] 

Chancellor Fariña: Thank you Univision. We actually had phonebanks, and we sent people in Spanish, and the most interesting conversations with parents were just "thank you." So, gracias por todo. Sí, mira, para los padres que son applicando para las escuelas publicas, casi todos [inaudible] sus primeros lo escogieron, pero por los padres que no resuslta la escuela que escogieron, a un pode aqui reaplicar para recibio las [inaudible] de communidades en [inaudible]. Los podes aplicar para las dos cosas, y escogerlo que mas sus conviene. Pero es muy muy importante, que este es asento, a lo que esta abierto y los son de podes y acuerda, podes llamar en telefono a tres-uno-uno, y quedan todo informacion hasta en español, este mañana recorde, tu se habló a un telefono en español, para que los padres [inaudible] porque ayuda. 

Mayor: On topic. Yes.

Question: I have a question for Senator Klein. You mentioned today that you had promised the mayor you would hold up the budget if pre-k wasn't funded. But I know in February you had said that you weren't going to hold up the budget [inaudible] dialogue [inaudible] so I just want to clarify, what –

State Senator Klein: I didn't say [inaudible]

Question: Ok. So could you – was there any – did you think your [inaudible] Did your posture on the state budget play any role in the final deal [inaudible]?

State Senator Klein: Well, it was clear what I said before, and what I said again today – that I promised the mayor we were not going to pass a state budget without sufficient funding for universal pre-k. And that's what we accomplished, the $300 million dollars over a five-year period just for New York City.

Question: But what I'm saying, if you believed that it passed because of the promise you made to the mayor –

State Senator Klein: Well, again, I think we all played a role. Certainly the mayor's advocacy was very important to the Assembly, [inaudible] was already on board. I made this one of my singular issues, because it was one of the mayor's singular issues. And I think that's what made it happen. And I think the people who benefit are the four year-olds in the city of New York. 

Mayor: [laughs]

Borough President Diaz: Yes, it was Jeff. The Senate would not have done it without the leadership of Jeff Klein. For many years, the Senate has always stopped this, he can't say –

[inaudible] 

Mayor: [laughs]

Borough President Diaz: I know that he can't say this, and he's being humble about it, but the answer is absolutely yes. Because for so many years – and I used to be up in the Assembly, and we passed it in the Assembly, we passed an increase in funding, we did maintenance of that, but we did it all in the Assembly. The Senate always said no. And it wasn't until the leadership of Jeff Klein in the Senate – that's why we're here today. [inaudible] la gracia al Senador Jeff Klein, porque por muchos año, el Senado siempre de al dice "no," [inaudible] Senador Jeff Klein [inaudible] ahora tenemos tres ciento million dolares solamente para la ciudad a Nueva York. El no lo puede [inaudible]

Mayor: Hold on one sec, this is on the previous question, the one before. To clarify on the question of public school parents – or parents who applied to their local public school in March, you know, applied for pre-k opportunities in their local public school in March, should they come back. Let's just clarify. Since the passage of the bill in Albany, additional seats were added in the public schools. So, if a parent had applied in March, they would have seen a more limited range of options. They would have seen – as I said, there's about 20,000 seats citywide this moment – parents would have seen that reflected. If they have not gone back and looked since March to see the new options that are available, potentially right in their own immediate area, they may not know that there's something there for them. So, they should go back. Any parent who hasn't looked at the application process since March should go back between now and the end of Wednesday and get a new application in. We're done on this? One more on this. Yes.

Question: Um –

Mayor: Ok, we'll do two. Look at that dejected face. Look at that face. Ok, go ahead. 

Question: People watching you traveling the city pushing this program have commented that – they feel like you're the director of universal pre-k, and not the mayor of the city of New York –

Mayor: That's a compliment. 

Question: But how do you respond to critics who say you're neglecting your other duties by being out here only [inaudible] UPK?

Mayor: I think we are, obviously – let me, allow me to delineate a few things we've been working on. We gave you a preliminary budget that recognized our fiscal realities. We've been staffing up the administration with tremendously talented professionals. We are moving an affordable housing plan to create 200,000 units. We've gotten – excuse me, we've gotten paid sick leave to over a half million more New Yorkers. We have created major reforms in the stop and frisk policy. I could go on, but I think I've made the point. There's lots going on, but this is my number one focus, because it is so foundational to the future of New York City. And I said, back at the time of my inauguration – when you're a leader, you're governing for today, and you're also building the foundation for the future, and this to me is the thing that we will do that will have one of the greatest lasting effects for this city.

Question: My second part of the question is, you said this will be run out of City Hall. Will one actually be run out of Tweed, and I guess part three of my follow up is, you twice gave the incorrect URL for parents to go to. This is your signature program, why can't you get the –

Mayor: Gotta work on my URL. [laughs] 

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: I apologize. So, on the question of being run out of City Hall. As you know, with the pre-k efforts, and the afterschool efforts, there's multiple agencies involved. The core of it, of course, is the Department of Education, but because it involves a number of different agencies, both in terms of providing the service, and then even more in terms of the oversight, we have made it a priority of City Hall, and that's why we had the leadership of Deputy Mayor Richard Buery to get it done. Right there.

Question: [inaudible] with the URL [inaudible]? 

Mayor: I think I'm a human. Go ahead.

Question: Is it accurate to say that funds have been released yet, because it looks as though there's an application process [inaudible] where you have to fill out – I guess you have to meet a couple of criteria in order [inaudible]. Have the programs actually received the funds, and could you just talk about how that will work, once the applications start coming in?

Mayor: So, we're really, at this point – remember they're not providing the service yet, so it's all being built out as we speak. In terms of providing the fund, Carmen, or Sophia, who wants to talk to that?

Chancellor Fariña: The funds come when we have the specific children registered in the specific schools with the specific teachers. Money always follows the child, no matter how you look at it, in the Department of Education, and that's exactly what it's going to be here. And I have to just say something about the mayor. You know, it's great to have of initiatives, but if you have one thing that you believe very truly in, all others follow. And I think having education as a major initiative doesn't get better than that.

[APPLAUSE]

Mayor: Before we go to other questions – what? Español? Si. 

Chancellor Fariña: [Repeats answer in spanish]

Mayor: Sophia Pappas, who runs the early childhood programs in the DOE, will be our guest designated hitter on the URL question. Take it away, Sophia.

Sophia Pappas, Executive Director, Office of Early Childhood Education: Thank you. So, it's schools.nyc.gov/prek. 

Mayor: Can you repeat that?

Pappas: schools.nyc.gov/prek. 

Mayor: Beautifully said. And in a strong voice. Off topic! 

Question: I wonder what you think about the NYPD horses that are also working in the streets too. Do you have any concerns about that or do you [inaudible]. How do you feel about that?

Mayor: Apples and oranges. Can I use apples and oranges with a horse analogy? It’s – you know, obviously NYPD I have immense respect for what they do to keep us safe. And the police horses have been a part of that. And that is something that’s about the public’s vital interest. So I think it’s a very different reality than something, you know, that’s about tourism.

Question: Fire officials have confirmed that there was an eight to nine minute delay in getting EMS to the fire in the Rockaways. What's your response to folks who are very upset about that, and what action, if any, are you taking –

Mayor: Obviously, I want to know all the facts. My heart goes out to the family. We need to know what happened here. I know there's an investigation underway, and as soon as we have results, I'll let you know.

Question: What's your assessment of the job that Fire Commissioner Cassano has done? And in your mind, or – could you explain, is he considered an interim fire commissioner?

Mayor: Yeah, he's been in an interim role, and I think he's performed admirably, and I give him a lot of respect, particularly for what he did in the middle of the East Harlem tragedy, which was an extremely difficult moment. And I thought he, and all the men and women who serve under him, did a fantastic job. But it's been clear from the beginning that it's an interim role.

Question: [inaudible] on two different topics. The first one has to do with Sandy aid. There are reports from HUD they might try to take as much as [inaudible]

Mayor: I have not heard a formal announcement from HUD. So I have heard reports, but not the same as a specific confirmation. But look, I think it’s clear the legislation was passed to serve the needs of people in New York and New Jersey who were devastated by Sandy. And it was about both getting people back on their feet and providing the resiliency we need for the future. So that’s the reason the legislation was passed. It’s self-evident to me that’s the central purpose of the legislation and the funding attached to it. And from my point of view, we are going to make clear what we need to get our people back on their feet and to move forward with resiliency. And I believe that the federal government will support us.

Question: [inaudible] has to do with Tavern on the Green. Apparently finally the restaurant is going to open this Friday. There’s a ribbon-cutting [inaudible] cost of [inaudible]

Mayor: I can’t comment because I don’t know the details, but I would be happy to get you a statement. Behind you and then you. [inaudible] You’re done? Okay. Okay, go ahead Courtney.

Question: Going back to the Cassano question, I mean you said that he's interim. Does that mean there's no way that Cassano would stay on?

Mayor: I think I've said all there is to say. He's interim.

Question: [inaudible] search for a new fire –

Mayor: Of course.

Question: I’m going back to the Cassano question, about his son – that he's reapplying to get back to the fire department, after he had made, you know, very [inaudible] remarks, racist remarks, and what do you feel about that?

Mayor: Look, I don't know the details of what he's seeking to do. Obviously the remarks he made at the time were totally inappropriate. I don't know enough about what he's done to redeem himself, so I can't comment further because I just don't have that knowledge. Yes?

Question: What’s the timeline on actually appointing a permanent [inaudible]

Mayor: Again, we’ve – I think we’ve been down this road many a time. We’ll have an announcement when we’re ready.

Question: [inaudible] care to weigh in on the potential primary race in the 33rd State Senate district.

Mayor: No, we – you know we – I’ve been asked about any number of primaries. It’s just not time for me to get involved in that. And when we get closer I’ll decide what I want to say on things. Thanks everyone.

pressoffice@cityhall.nyc.gov

(212) 788-2958
Mayor de Blasio, Senate Co-Leader Klein and Chancellor Fariña Urge Families to Register for Free Pre-K

More