Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks at West Indian American Day Carnival Association Breakfast, Holds Q&A

September 8, 2015

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, she works every day for all of the people of this city, and particularly for the children and families of this city – let’s thank our first lady for all she does.

[Applause]

And while we’re talking about thanks, I want to thank the people who make this parade possible, including the West Indian Day Carnival Association Board president, Thomas Baily – Chairman Eric Gibbs – let’s thank them. 

[Applause]

Let’s thank Bill Howard, who’s been a part of this forever. Thank you, Bill, for your leadership.

[Applause]

Grand marshals – let’s thank Grand Marshal Sylvia Ash, who makes us so proud as a state supreme court judge; and Maxine Williams; Earl Philips; Kenneth [inaudible] – all of them – we thank them. The leaders who have been here today – all the elected officials, we thank them for their participation, their leadership. A special thank you to Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, who is my sister. We have been through thick and thin together. We thank her for her leadership in this district, and momma Clarke, for all she has done for all of us, and for bringing us Yvette Clarke. 

Now, brothers and sisters, this is a day to celebrate all that people from the Caribbean have done for this city, all they have done to make this city great, because it wouldn’t be New York City without its Caribbean-American flavor, would it? We wouldn’t be as great. We wouldn’t be as strong. Well, that means also remembering where we all came from and our obligation to those who are still there. So, our hearts are heavy today. Our hearts are heavy for two reasons. One – our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Dominica, who have suffered so much because of Tropical Storm Erica. Now, we know how to help people where we come from, don’t we? We know how to reach out that – that hand of friendship. We’ve done it [inaudible]. I remember particularly what people in this city did to help the people of Haiti after the earthquake. So, let’s remember the people of Dominica now, and let’s be there for them. 

Will you be there for them?

[Cheers]

And, brothers and sisters, our hearts are heavy also because this young man is fighting for his life right now. A young man who works for the state of New York, who works for our governor. A good young man who is giving back through his life to his community. But right now, he is clinging to life because of senseless gun violence. And we will fight against the propagation of guns with everything we have, because we can’t keep losing good, young men. We will use all our tools to stop these guns from getting into the hands of those who would do violence to good and law abiding people. I want your thoughts and prayers to also be with this young man and his family as he fights for life – a life that’s done so much for all of us. 

Now, as we get ready for this moment ahead, it’s a moment to celebrate. Yes, this parade is a moment to celebrate, but, as the first lady said, it’s also a chance to think about what our communities need and what our children need in particular. So please – I want to deputize everyone in this room – make sure there’s a child – a three-year-old, turning four this year, or a child who’s already four – if there’s a child you know who’s not yet signed up for pre-k, pre-k starts Wednesday. 

[Cheers]

And we need it for every single child in this community, every child in this city. If you know a middle-school child who needs an afterschool seat – it is free, it is available to every middle school child in this city starting on Wednesday. And we know, when our children are in afterschool, they are safe and they are learning. So, let’s celebrate today. But the highest form of celebration is uplifting the community. So let’s help our children move forward together.

Thank you, and God bless you all. 

[…]

Mayor: Our hearts are heavy right now – and our thoughts and prayers are with the family of this young aide to the Governor, this young man who has devoted himself to public service, and nobly so. 

He is fighting for his life right now. Our prayers are with him, our prayers are with his family. And it's another reminder of a bigger fight we are engaged in every day, which is to get guns off our streets, to do everything that we can do to make sure criminals don't have guns in this city. And I commend Commissioner Bratton and Chief O'Neill, all the men and women of the NYPD – what they do every day to get guns away from criminals is extraordinary.

We have a bigger problem in this country with the supply of guns – and this is another example of the senselessness of national policies that allow guns to flow so freely into the wrong hands. So here in this city, we will fight every day, we will use every tool we have, to deprive criminals of guns. But we need a bigger change in this nation if we're going to finally ensure that guns don't flow freely across state borders and into the wrong hands.

With that, happy to take your questions. 

Question: Yesterday, the former mayor took a shot at you for the way that the homeless issue is being addressed. What’s your response to that?

Mayor: I think he’s delusional. If you think about what Rudy Giuliani did as mayor, homelessness went up about 40 percent on his watch. He clearly doesn’t remember the fact that he chased – as he said, he chased and chased people, but he also deprived families of benefits they needed and help they needed. Now I was very struck by the fact that one day in the last week he talked about chasing and chasing and chasing people. Then Cardinal Dolan very powerfully reminded all New Yorkers that people who are homeless are human beings who need help and need their lives turned around. At that point, you noticed that Giuliani changed his rhetoric, and, again, in a delusional manner, presented some wonderland over which he governed, in which he provided all sorts of wonderful, nurturing services for people. It didn’t happen that way. Talk to all the people who worked on behalf of the homeless in those years. So this is really a tale of two Rudy’s – one who says he’d like to chase people away and another who suddenly thinks he was nurturing to them.

Question: What can we expect with your plan?

Mayor: Our plan is working. 15,000 people have been moved out of shelter and into housing. So the number of folks who would’ve continued to be homeless has been greatly reduced because we took positive measures. Rental subsidies and anti-eviction legal services – we did things that changed the dynamic. We’ve also stopped a lot of people from becoming homeless in the first place. And we’re focused on mental health and we’re focused on substance abuse treatment. So our plan is going to change the fundamental reality. And I want to commend, again, Commissioner Bratton and Chief O’Neill – the NYPD is playing an extraordinarily positive role in this situation, helping the Department of Homeless Services outreach workers and the sanitation workers to clean up these 21 encampments around the city. All those encampments will be gone this month. But at the same time, ensuring that people who are homeless are steered towards the kind of services that’ll actually help them no longer be homeless. That is the name of the game. And that’s what’s working. 

Question: Mayor, related to that, on these encampments, we’ve talked to the people who’ve been cleaned out of there – they’re like, well, we’re not – I’m not going to go to the shelter, I’m not going to take the city’s help – and they’re just going to find another place, they claim, somewhere else in the street. What’s the message to them?

Mayor: Look, for – what is the definition of sanity, Dave? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? For decades in this city, people were, in fact, chased around, and ended up just in a different encampment or somewhere else on the street. We’re not doing that anymore. We’re getting rid of the encampments once and for all, and we’re creating options for people that I think they will take. We’re doing much more to provide mental health services – you saw the huge increase in the last budget. We’re doing much more to provide substance abuse services. We’re creating safe havens that are an environment that even shelter-resistant homeless feel more comfortable in. They’re more informal an environment that give the homeless an opportunity to come in, have an opportunity to get the kind of treatment they need without being in a big shelter that some feel uncomfortable with.  We’re also making the shelters safer. The NYC SAFE initiative we announced a few weeks back is aimed at doing a lot of things – first and foremost, identifying those who have mental health problems and violence problems, and tracing them, very specifically, getting them to the kind of help they need – off the streets and out of harm’s way and out of a place where they might cause harm to others. But the other fact is, when you – when you look at the shelters, for decades, they’ve been unsafe. And homeless people were not comfortable in many cases going into those shelters. We’re providing beefed up security in those shelters to encourage people to come in and know they’ll be safe.

Question: Mayor, later today, Governor Cuomo, Speaker Viverito, and others are going to Puerto Rico. How important do you think their mission is? And are you offended not to have been included in this trip? Do you think it would be a more effective mission if you were going as well?

Mayor: Governors and mayors do different things. They go on different trips, they give different speeches – it’s perfectly well established. I wish them well on this trip and I hope it’ll be helpful. I think it’s a good cause. I think the work we all have to do, going forward, will be in Washington, D.C., because neither the administration nor the Congress is respecting the needs of Puerto Rico at this point, and they’re not acting to stabilize the situation for Puerto Rico – and we’ve got to do that.

Question: [inaudible]. How do you plan to address that concern and [inaudible]?

Mayor: Look, I – we have a very aggressive affordable housing program – the most aggressive, the largest affordable housing program in the history of this city – 200,000 units built or preserved over 10 years. That’s how we’re addressing the issue. We have no illusions about the current situation in Washington or the current situation in Albany. We’re not getting the help we need for affordable housing from the state or federal government. We are going to do all we can to get our own resources to ensure that New Yorkers can live in their own city and in their own neighborhood. So that plan is on target – over 20,000 units of housing that were financed in the last fiscal year – that’s how we’re going to make a change. 

Question: First, to you, mayor – how did it feel coming to the West Indian Day Parade today and being a part of this event?

Mayor: This event is one of the great events in the city each year. It’s one that I look forward to because it is joyous and it’s a positive example of all that’s great about this city. And obviously I have my own personal tie to the Caribbean, which means a lot to me because of my wife and her family. But, again, it’s a sad day, because just as we were all coming here, we learned about this good young man who’s now fighting for his life. So it’s – it’s definitely a bittersweet day at this point.

Question: And to ask my second question regarding that to Commissioner Bratton, what is the NYPD doing now?

Commissioner William Bratton, NYPD: They’re actually doing quite a lot, as you would expect – an event that’s going to bring almost a million people and thousands of marchers – that we [inaudible] a lot of experience with this event over the – over the years. I’m still seeking improvement. As to the criminal events that occurred during the course of the evening, I have very active criminal investigations into those incidents. And that – that we’ll do all that we can, as we progress throughout the rest of the day, to just try to enjoy the [inaudible].

Question: And we heard that the suspect [inaudible] – can you confirm that as well?

Commissioner Bratton: I’m not sure which incident you’re referring to. There is no suspect under arrest for the incident involving the governor’s aide. 

Question: Governor Martin O’Malley said that the U.S. should help out with the migrant crisis in Syria [inaudible]. Would you add your voice to that? Would you welcome to New York Syrian refugees [inaudible]?

Mayor: It’s – look – let’s start by saying, first, it is the federal government’s responsibility to deal with an international matter. And second, obviously the United States should be part of the solution. But first and foremost, this is a European problem – and the European community has to own up to this problem, and so far has not done that effectively. I commend Pope Francis for sending a message, once again, for being an extraordinary moral voice, and saying, by his own action, that this is something that Europe has to take responsibility for. 

Question: For the – the pre-parties that are at the parade every year – are you considering dismantling them? There’s always violence. I mean, would you like to ban them or get rid of them? This is for Commissioner Bratton as well.

Mayor: Look, I have a lot of faith in the NYPD, and I think with every past year the NYPD has done a better and better job of keeping people safe in the days leading up to the parade. I think it’s something we work on every single year to do better. So I think we want to respect people’s rights and we want to respect the community, but at the same constantly make things safer. 

Commissioner Bratton: The department, leading up to the event, has significant numbers of meetings with organizers, political leaders, community leaders. The department has very intimate relations with the communities here in the precincts. Brooklyn South are the most directly impacted by the events of last night and today. And it’s something that this community wants to have – it wants to have it in a safe manner. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen this year, as we’ve seen years past, there’s some in the community – and the instances last night – [inaudible] that one of the incidents or two of them were gang-related. That’s traditional crime, unfortunately, in this area that we deal with all the time. So it’s unfortunate that it occurred during this event, but that’s no reason to not go forward with the events each year. And each year, we try to make them safer, and each year, the community works even more closely with us to that end. 

Question: What two are gang-related?

Commissioner Bratton: I’m sorry?

Question: Which two of them are gang-related?

Commissioner Bratton: [inaudible], who is the Chief of Detectives for Brooklyn, to give you a quick summary of a couple of the incidents that he’s investigating. If he’s looking a little sleepy, he’s been up overnight working on those cases. 

Question: Commissioner Bratton, a young man was stabbed last night – 

Unknown: Hold on, hold on – he’s about to talk – he’s going to give a briefing. 

Chief Conry, Chief of Detectives, Brooklyn, NYPD: Chief Conry, Patrick Conry, Chief of Brooklyn Detectives. I’ll go into the 7-1 Precinct – the shooting that the mayor and the commissioner have spoken about. At about 3:40 am this evening, on Bedford Avenue between Sullivan and Montgomery, a male was shot in the head one time. He remains critical at Kings County Hospital. It’s very early on in this investigation. We do have some leads we’re following up. We have recovered a firearm. Based on ballistics evidence recovered, it appears that there were two groups of people shooting back and forth at each other. At this time, we’d like to ask for the community’s help. If anyone has any information with regard to the shooting, or very importantly, if anyone was videotaping the celebration or still photographing and may have caught some of this incident, we ask them to call our tips hotline – 1-800-5-7-7-TIPS. Very important – we’re asking for the community’s help in this investigation. 

Question: So you think it was gang?

Question: Was – was Mr. Gabay just apparently caught in the crossfire of this?

Chief Conry: It’s very early in this investigation, but we believe right now he’s an unintended target. 

Unknown: Thank you, folks. 

Mayor: Okay, thanks, everyone.

pressoffice@cityhall.nyc.gov

(212) 788-2958