November 30, 2017
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Okay everybody, welcome. I want to thank all my colleagues who are here. It’s an important day for this administration, for the city as we look ahead to the next term. Chirlane and I are always humbled by the work we do and obviously to have an opportunity to serve the people of this city and the mandate that I was honored to receive in the last election. It’s time now to start to put the pieces together for the team that will take us forward into the coming years.
And I wanted to say something personal at the outset, that when we started on this road back in 2001 when I first ran for City Council in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, I remember Chirlane and I used to sit at the kitchen table, literally, and interview perspective team members. And we started with a very small humble team in that campaign and then in the City Council office. And then I got to build out the team a little bit more when I became Chairman of the General Welfare Committee in the City Council, and then later going on to be Public Advocate. So little by little over now, it’s been a long time, 16 years we have been building up a wonderful universe of really talented, really committed people. Some of whom worked with us in the past and we’re very appreciative to, some of us – some of whom who have worked with us more recently, some of whom who worked us in the past – I’m looking at one back there – worked with us in the past and then came back and worked with us again.
But from our point of view it’s a very familial dynamic. It’s been 16 years and the way that this team works is exceedingly collegial and respectful. I have heard many, many a people in this team say that they have never been in a more collegial, collective relationship at work and an atmosphere where people really do work together, really support each other, believe in each other. So as we get ready for another transition, for me this is a really important reflection on what we’ve tried to build and what we want to keep building. And we, Chirlane and I, put a lot of time and energy into the process of choosing the right people and thinking about both what they will bring to their work and obviously what they will do for the people of this city, but also how they will all work together and create a real team atmosphere.
And I look back on the last four years with just tremendous appreciate to all the members of this team. They surpassed my expectations for them, achieved in many ways more than I ever could have imagined, and did it with just a great sense of teamwork and mutual respect. And I’m so proud that that’s the team we’ve had and that’s certainly going to be the nature of the team that we will build going forward.
Today will be the first step. There will obviously be other opportunities going forward to give you further updates. I’ll say at the outset, I’m sure there’ll be questions but I’ll say it at the outset, when it’s time to talk about something in terms of personnel we’ll announce it overtly. If there’s no announcement, assume continuity. I think that’s the simplest way to think about an administration that’s going from its first term to its second term. Very different reality then when we started out literally from scratch. Here we have team that is very well developed with a very deep bench. So assume continuity unless you hear otherwise.
But today we’re going to talk about this transition. The team over the last four years that brought you Pre-K For All, that brought you the biggest affordable housing plan in the history of the city, that brought you a safer city, and better relationship between police and community and a whole lot of other things. You’re going to see in the updates we’re giving today a lot of continuity because it’s been a winning team. It’s been a team that’s really achieved a lot and when I thought about filling roles I immediately looked within because we had so much talent ready to go.
So, again, profound gratitude to everyone. And let me go through a series of updates now. And I’m going to talk about each person a little bit as I do and then I’m going to turn to Chirlane.
First, I want to say about Tony Shorris, everyone here obviously knows Tony has made the choice to return to civilian life and a well-earned choice. Four years as First Deputy Mayor of this city is arguably one of the single hardest public service roles in America. And I can say it with authority because I’ve watched every minute of those four years. You look across the achievements of this administration, Tony has been deeply involved in almost every one of them.
And I want to thank him. I remember when we first met, we talk often about when we first met at Bar Toto in Brooklyn, and Tony brought in a one page sheet of what he thought would be the right way to approach the role of First Deputy Mayor and we were just starting to talk about it. We had known each other a long time, but actually never worked together directly. And I – you know in the vein of Jerry Maguire the phrase ‘you had me at hello’, well you had me at your one page sheet because it was so clear, so smart and that’s what’s played out ever since. Tony has been an extraordinary contributor to this team.
And we joke here, we sometimes have meetings in this room and you see the painting of Hamilton back there, we joke about Tony’s longevity in government since he goes back to – well he only goes back to the Koch administration but we stretched it a little bit and suggested it was longer. But, both his intelligence and his substantive capacity and his managerial skill, all that matter but also a tremendous understanding of this city and how it works and how it should work. And Tony, I just want to say it’s been a joy to watch you take all that ability and all that history and actually put it into action over these last four years. So, I thank you on behalf of the people of this city, a job very well done. And I look forward to continuing many good and important projects together in the future as well.
I want to announce that succeeding Tony in the role of First Deputy Mayor will be Dean Fuleihan. Known to all Dean has been in the center of everything this team has done. I have often had the experience when talking to people in government and in communities that whatever the topic was they had a particular interest in meeting the budget director. And – something about that role brings out the best in people. So, everything that we’ve attempted to do was audacious, was difficult, in many cases was never done before. It took a lot of thinking and creativity but it also took a lot of very, very smart careful planning of what the budgetary ramifications would be and how we would create a budget that stayed true to our values, true to our vision, would move the ball constantly but also be fiscally responsible. That was a huge undertaking over these last four years. Dean has lead that effort brilliantly.
He also has created an extraordinary team at OMB. And I would argue has transformed the very meaning of OMB. OMB plays a different role in this administration I think than it has in any other. And I think that’s been very much to the good of all. So, Dean I watch with great admiration the changes you’ve brought there, the way you’ve lead the budget process, and obviously literally no one knows every agency of the City government better than the person who provides them their funding. So, I welcome you Dean into the role of First Deputy Mayor.
I am thrilled to say that two tremendous stars will be continuing as Deputy Mayors in this team. I want to first talk about Alicia Glen. She has done absolutely stunning work. When I say, in some of the things that we’ve done in this administration were beyond my wildest dreams, I asked things of Alicia that were probably this close to impossible. Alicia has a habit of doing impossible things. I mentioned to some of you over the years. I spoke to a very senior expert in the housing field when we first structured the plan for 200,000 units of affordable housing. This kind and learned individual said ‘Bill, that is this close to insane’ – that was the quote. I want to give Alicia one of the greatest compliments I can give which is she never wavered, she never showed any fear or any hesitation to take on that kind of mission. She has succeeded at everything I have given her.
And we’re going to be doing a lot more going forward. And we’re going to be doing a whole lot of new and big things going forward that you’ll be hearing about in the near future. And it’s a very, very exciting time. So Alicia, just tremendous appreciation for what you have achieved and great joy about what is coming next. And Herminia Palacio who came in to this role proud daughter of the Bronx and unlike the rest of us didn’t get to start at the beginning so she had to catch up quick and one of the things I noted about Herminia was a stunning breathtaking actually ability to take on a vast amounts of new subjects matter and make sense of them and act on them and kind of speed I’ve rarely seen in my career working with a lot of great people. Herminia has taken on some of the very thorniest issues in New York City. And she’s helped us to make a lot of progress on them and there is so much more ahead. And I want to thank her. She is also one of the coolest heads even in the midst of the toughest moments. And I want to thank you for your extraordinary leadership and look forward to many great things ahead as well.
I want to announce that Deputy Mayor Richard Buery you’ve see obviously earlier today. I am always trying to see which side I am looking at. There are we are – Deputy Mayor Richard Buery also will be leaving for civilian life. I think this is something that probably is obvious to everyone. My heart was first and foremost with achieving Pre-K for All. I turned to Richard in the very beginning and I said to Richard this is the most uncharted territory you could possibly imagine. I said we know we have to do this but no one has the perfect road map. It’s going to be very, very difficult. And Richard did an amazing job martialing the forces. Bringing together an effort that has changed the lives already of tens of thousands of families and it’s just getting started. And then because he is Richard Buery he actually said he had some ideas of going even farther. And after a series of conversations that led to the creation of the 3-K initiative which is even more audacious. I have been very open about that fact pre-K was really, really tough, 3-K is going to be a lot harder, but is going to be even higher impact and Richard will be forever remembered as the person who started that initiative on its path and so many other things you’ve done on after school, on helping to build ThriveNYC with Chirlane and so many other efforts. It’s been outstanding.
I want to thank you for just literally taking ideas that I thought were amongst the very most important that this administration needed to work on and bringing them to life and doing it somehow with good humor and good nature despite the many, many moments where we saw tremendous challenges. Extraordinary effort on your part and a great team you put together. I want to thank you for that Richard and wish you the very best. And again, look forward to working together on a lot of other things going forward.
I want to announce as part of additional changes we’ll make. We are going to be creating a new deputy mayor role. So first I’ll say at the outset the role held by Richard – we are going to choose a successor to that role going forward. That person has not been named, has not been identified. Rich is going to be staying on for a while we go through that search process. But we will be creating a new deputy mayor role as well. A fifth deputy mayor role, new role of deputy mayor for operations and that role will be filled Laura Anglin. Laura has done outstanding work over the last year as a member of Tony’s team taking on some of the most complex challenges the administration faced. And her specific mission was to work across a number of agencies and create in many cases brand new policies and approaches that didn’t exist. And often having to do it in a very, very fast timeline. She did that exceptionally well. Has a rich history in government previously, including having served as the state budget director. And I am really pleased that Laura joined this team and I will say Laura I didn’t know the day you joined the team, I didn’t know you except for in the interview process but I am so proud of what you have achieved and so impressed. And I have never seen you anything but cool under fire and creative and resourceful. And you have a certain love for making operations work which will be well placed in this role. Also we’re checking all of our historical facts but I think it’s important to note that Laura would be certainly in anything like recent memory the first female deputy mayor for operations for the city.
Next, someone who you’ve probably heard of before – Emma Wolfe. I am appointing Emma as my Chief of Staff. Emma has – its – I could not tell you everything I feel and believe in about Emma Wolfe unless I kept you here all day. So I’ll say it very simply. For Chirlane and I, Emma has been our partner since 2009 in everything. And we all complete each other sentences and think very deeply alike. I think Emma is widely regarded in the city and the state as one of the best strategic thinkers there is. And also has just the deepest, the most wonderful wealth of relationships and understanding of how government works and in the Chief of Staff position I’ll be relying on her more than ever to bring together all the pieces of this administration and help them work in harmony. I want to thank you Emma for taking on that role and I want to also acknowledge and thank Kevin O’Brien who has been my acting Chief of Staff for the last year. He has done an outstanding job particularly as we went through a very intense 2017. Kevin will be staying with us in a senior capacity. But wanted to thank him for everything he achieved and I want to welcome Emma to this role.
And finally, very happy to announce the appointment of a new OMB Director. And I’ll tell you a little back story about Melanie Hartzog. We actually first met – where is Melanie? Oh there you are, I am forgetting my left and right. Melanie and I first met in less than ideal circumstances. I want the chair of the general wealth fare committee. She was testifying on behalf of the then administration. But what I noted, even when you’re questioning someone and trying to be tough on them you quickly take their measure. And I noted that Melonie was extraordinarily smart an earnest and was someone who was devoted to her work for the right reasons. And even when I disagreed on something I couldn’t help but feel that she was making very important points. And so we started to get to know each other and work together on several things back then. She came into OMB a couple of years ago as one of the deputy directors and has been involved in some of the most complicated and important subject matter that OMB has handled. She in everything that I’ve done together I’ve seen resourcefulness, creativity, extraordinary calm and focus but also a ton of heart. And I want to just make clear how important it is. You know the historical notion of OMB director is sort of green eye shade say no to everything. Humanity be damned if I could be so cold. No offense to your trade guys. But Dean obviously showed a very different approach and Melanie is also from that modern and progressive school of what an OMB director should be someone who is actually thinking from the grassroots up. Thinking about what we do and what it means for human beings. And I always saw that in Melanie’s work, keen analytical mind but a lot of heart too.
So Melanie I want to welcome you, and congratulate you as you become the OMB director. I want to say as also an important acknowledgement of change and change we’ve needed for a long time. Its 2017, I’ll be very clear. There are a few positions more important than budget director because that’s the person who gives out the money and Melanie will be the first African American Budget Director in the history of this city. So I commend you for joining us in this new role.
With that – I am sorry I’ve droned on for a little bit. But it is a very important moment and a very emotional moment for all of us and the team and one I am very, very proud of. Before you hear from a few of my colleagues I would now like to turn it over to Chirlane and say it’s kind of interesting when you start the morning talking about major personnel decisions, and end the day talking about major personnel decisions and talk about them all through the day. We compare notes constantly and we do interviews together and everything to try and make sense of what’s an incredibly complicated jigsaw puzzle. But it is really great to have a conscious in that process. And there is a thousand reasons I am appreciative for Chirlane, but one of them is the way we have built this wonderful team together. With that I turn to our First Lady.
First Lady Chirlane McCray: Thank you, Bill. We’ve had quite a life together, and, yes, we have come a long way since those days where we sat around the kitchen table together.
Good morning, everyone. I’m happy to be here today, first to honor the contributions of two dedicated public servants – Deputy Mayors Anthony Shorris and Richard Buery – and Bill and I are truly proud to consider Tony a longtime family friend. I had the opportunity to work with his wife back in the Dinkins administration and we attended each other’s weddings and our families will always be connected. And I thank you, we really owe you a lot of gratitude for all of the work that you’ve done, Tony.
Tony is also one of the most gifted civic leaders New York City has ever known, bringing expert knowledge to so many of the issues that matter most to New Yorkers, from education, to transportation, to housing, and a steady hand to guide progressive change.
Rich has been an especially close partner of mine throughout the first term, and I attribute much of the success of Pre-K for All, the Children’s Cabinet, and the implementation of our mental health plan, ThriveNYC, to his incredible leadership. Getting people to work together across silos requires persistence, as well as artistry. And Rich has demonstrated the astounding ability to take plans on paper and orchestrate collaboration in a way that will benefit City Hall and all of New York City’s communities for decades to come.
This administration acted quickly and ambitiously to make historic achievements, and I cannot imagine us getting so much done in such a short time without Tony and Rich’s leadership. We will miss them dearly, but, whatever they do next, I know they will use their singular talents to improve the lives of New Yorkers across the five boroughs. That’s what every leader int he de Blasio administration does every single day, and our new senior leadership team will carry that commitment to serve us forward.
Now, from the very beginning, Dean Fuleihan has been a trusted and integral member of the team, serving even beyond his responsibility as an exceptional advisor. The appointments of Emma Wolfe, Laura Anglin, and Melanie Hartzog reflect another commitment we’ve made from the very beginning – a commitment to gender equity, both throughout the City and within the administration. And I could not be prouder to help welcome three accomplished women – three accomplished women – to the highest levels of City government service. When Bill and I interviewed them, I noted that they each possessed qualities that I always look for in leaders – a commitment to public service informed by their life experience, the desire to give back, and dedicate to a mission bigger than themselves.
It means a great deal to me to support them, to set an example for other governments and industries, and to have them as partners, going forward. The recent waves of allegations of sexual harassment across the country have unearthed just a small fraction of the pressures and inequities women face in the workplace, and it is more urgent than ever to bring women into leadership positions, and to pave a new way forward. So, we have a monumental and exciting task ahead and I look forward to working with this team to build a city where women and girls of all ethnicities have equal access to employment opportunities, and leadership in every industry includes people of color, where men and women work together to reduce intimate partner violence, sex trafficking, sexual assault, and harassment, and where we promote physical and mental wellness and treat everyone with disabilities with respect and dignity. That’s the kind of city New Yorkers want and these are the leaders who will help us build it.
Mayor: Thank you. With that, I want you to hear from a few of my colleagues. I want to start with Tony, again, with profound gratitude. I’m going to call you Tony instead of Anthony – I really feel –
First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris: It’s long enough. It’s about time.
Mayor: I want to thank you profoundly for what you’ve achieved for this city. Over to you –
First Deputy Mayor Shorris: Thank you. Listen, first, I’m deeply grateful not to have the completely dispiriting podium step to deal with.
Mayor: We employ people of all heights.
First Deputy Mayor Shorris: It was bad enough, so thank you for the table.
Look, I don’t have a lot to say that wasn’t in that letter that I sent around, which I’m sure some of you saw. It has been a great run for me. And since our first dinner back at Bar Toto – all three of us – reminiscing about weddings and everything else, and it’s been four years of hanging out with some of the smartest, hardest working, and most decent people I know, working with them on everything that matters to me about this city. I walked up those 10 City Hall steps quite a while ago – no, not with Mayor Van Wyck, or even with Mayor LaGuardia –
But I did walk up with Ed Koch about 40 years ago, and I’ve been here on and off for every administration since, and I still actually stop every morning and look around on those steps and I’m kind of amazed I’m here. I’ve never worked though, in all of those years, in any place that was so aligned with the values that I have and that we shared from that first conversation. And, as Bill said, it’s been true – we pinch ourselves constantly about how much we have been able to accomplish over those four years because of some of the people sitting up here with us. But it’s time for me to move on and give other people a chance. It’s time for me to spend a little time chilling out, sleeping without two phones and a radio next to my bed – my wife is very excited about that – maybe even taking my wife and son on a vacation without 300 emails a day, many of them from him –
I’ll miss a lot of this. I may even miss some of you.
Mayor: That was beautiful.
First Deputy Mayor Shorris: But look, one thing I have to say I will not miss is a kind of meanness that has come in the public discourse. Some of these folks I supervise – these 375,000 City workers – are not all saints and heroes, we know, although, actually, we have more than our share of them. But I think you can never actually change a place, change an organization without having an understanding, even an affection for the people, the mission, the values of a place. And I’ve always had that love for the City and for this government. And I only wish sometimes we could put aside the Tweets and the snarks, and celebrate even for a minute the organization that underpins this city and the people who make it run.
So, I’ll be cheering from the sidelines for the cops and the teachers and for the managers and the clericals. I’ll be cheering for those agency heads who make these vast organizations run. I’ll be cheering for all of you to keep making this a stronger, safer, and fairer place. And I’ll be cheering for a government that everyday proves that the Trumps and the Bannons of the world are wrong, and that Ed Koch was right when he told us 40 years ago that public service done honestly and competently was the highest calling of all.
It has been an honor. Many thanks.
Mayor: Amen, brother. Amen, well said. Now, I want to turn to Richard Buery, again, with tremendous appreciation and thanks, and I’m glad on my fifth attempt to recruit you, you said yes.
Deputy Mayor Richard Buery: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. Good morning, everyone. It’s definitely a bittersweet day. It has really been an honor to serve the greatest city in this world with the greatest public servants in this world. So, as the Mayor insinuated, I have told this story before, I did not say yes the first time to this opportunity, and there are a bunch of personal reasons why I said no, but I also will admit that I was daunted by the task that you put ahead of me. But I remember the Mayor saying to me that we had the chance to remake the City, to overcome the Tale of Two Cities, and for a young man from East New York, Brooklyn, who has gotten to spend a fair amount of time [inaudible] that very much resonated for me. He said that we could do it by building a city that worked for everyone, that made the American dream not just a dream, but a reality, that we could provide pre-kindergarten to every four-year-old in New York City – that we could ensure that every middle schooler had a safe, fun, enriching place to spend their time after school, that we could build 100 community schools – places where we provided the kind of support and social services that make sure that poverty and hunger and vision problems and medical problems don’t stand in the way of children being able to come to school ready to learn – and we had an unprecedented opportunity to make sure that kids from places that East New York would have the same opportunities as kids from places like the Upper East Side. He said he couldn’t promise me that we would succeed, but you did promise that I would regret it if we didn’t try. And I think you were right – I think we’ve done not half-bad. And we have pre-k for every four-year-old, but, as you said, now, we’re working on the three-year-old – and they’re adorable.
We not only reached our target of 100 community schools, but we have doubled that, and more. We’ve provided 20,000 free eye glasses our first two years – another 20,000 probably this year; dozens of new school-based mental health clinics; immigration services; supports for families from these schools, the places they know and trust. Not only do we have 116,000 middle schoolers in after school right now, but we have had the largest summer youth program in our history. We added 11 new beacons – the first time we’ve added beacon programs in two decades. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of some of the amazing things I’ve been able to work on.
So, I remember the first day of school on September 2014, I dropped my kids off at their new schools in Brooklyn, and then I met you at the pre-K center in Brooklyn. At that point, we had been working on pre-K for about six months – six of the most intense months I had ever had – never before have I had a job where I had 9 o’clock evening, daily phone calls with my team and some really challenging meetings with the Mayor as he pushed us forward. And I’ve got to tell you, to see those kids and those parents laughing, crying – mostly the parents crying – there’s nothing like it. It doesn’t get any better than that.
So, these four years have reminded me of an important truth – government can do amazing things for people. We can do big things for people. But in order to do big, you have to aim big, and wherever I wind up serving next, I promise to take that lesson with me.
I just want to thank some of the folks here, if you indulge me for a second. First of all, thank you, Mr. Mayor, for having faith in me on this important task. I hope we’ve done you proud. I want to thank you not only for giving me the opportunity to bring your third baby to life – ThriveNYC. For those of you who don’t know Chirlane McCray – I’ve learned so much about grace and dignity and leadership. It’s been a real pleasure to get to know you. To all of my colleagues up here – Tony, I know we’re going on vacation, I look forward to it. I learned to much from you, and Alicia, and Herminia – everybody on City government. It’s just really been an amazing group of people, but I particularly want to thank my team – Alexis Confer, my Chief of Staff; Dorothy, who is the nicest assistant in City government – Dorothy Cutler; the entire SBI team, some of whom are in the back over there; and all of our colleagues at City Hall, and all of the karaoke bars in New York City who have given us inspiration. And I also want to thank the public servants, particularly at the agencies who I have had the honor to lead – DYCD, Probation, DFTA, Veterans Services, the Office of MWBE, the Young Men’s initiative, the Children’s Cabinet, the Thrive team, the Pre-K team, MOIA, People with Disabilities, and, finally, my family. My parents – my parents came to America from Panama with nothing, and they made a wonderful life for my sisters and I, and they taught me the importance of taking chances for the people that you love; to my kids, for keeping me grounded as I was trying to write my remarks who just weren’t really interested in that because one of them had a French project tomorrow and wasn’t really interested in me at my laptop – I want to thank them.
And, especially to my life Deborah, who, for some reason, never says no to me in whatever cockamamie adventure I want to go forward on.
It’s been an honor and a pleasure. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Richard. I think your kids are doing exactly what kids that age are supposed to do. Now, a great pleasure to introduce our new leader, and I’m so excited with what he will bring to this team – our new First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan.
Director Dean Fuleihan, Office of Management and Budget: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. So, four years ago, the Mayor offered me the opportunity of running his Office of Management and Budget. And making a difference through the budget process on our policy agenda – a unique way of approaching it, and one I will always treasure, and all of the issues that confront this city. I am very proud that we have produced four very successful budgets, achieving many of our goals, we’ve done it in a financially responsible manner, and – I have to say it – we have the heist reserves the City has ever had.
In working on these budgets, I was very fortunate, and I will always be thankful that the Mayor gave me that unique role to be part of really – and Tony talked about this – to be part of an exceptional, hardworking, thoughtful, and creative staff at OMB, of which Mel is a key component part of, and I’m delighted that she’s going to be my successor and continue to be my partner and colleague in this.
Now, the Mayor is offering me another remarkable opportunity, and a challenge to pursue this agenda, to continue to pursue this agenda as First Deputy Mayor.
It’s a privilege and I’m deeply grateful. I am confident that working for you, with the exceptional team in this room, and following Tony’s guidance, I’m going to sort of insist on that on an ongoing basis so he can’t go too far. That we could continue to continue the success that the Mayor and Tony and the First Lady outline, that we can continue accessing and improve upon it. And finally I do want to take a moment to recognize that for me public service is a privilege of repaying the opportunities given to my father, my mother’s parents who immigrated from Lebanon, and to my wife’s family who are immigrants from South Korea, and then to obviously thank my wife and daughters for really their unwavering support and amazing amount of patience. With that, I look really forward to this and thank you very much.
Mayor: You are very, very welcome. Now my pleasure introduce to all of you, our new Deputy Mayor for Operations, Laura Anglin.
Chief Administrative Officer Laura Anglin: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, I would also like to thank you and the First Lady to appointing me to this new role. I am honored for this opportunity and I promise I will not let you down.
As the Mayor said, I bring to this challenge over 20 years in public service and various, different governmental roles, and I’ve also worked in the not for profit sector and have understood some of the challenges in leading a not for profit organization. And I’ve interacted in that role with many different levels of government and understand some of the challenges that not for profit face. So I think these experiences, hopefully, and I believe, will serve the City well.
So the Mayor said, although it was only, not even a year ago, I joined this administration, you asked me to join your team. It was clear to me in that short time that you and I and everyone here at this table share the same values and the same vision for the future of this great City. Sitting next to Rich talking about education, and Pre-K, and now 3k For All, who would have thought that we could have done that? So thank you for that Rich.
Programs like Vision Zero, who I’ve worked with closely over the last year to make our streets safer. And Thrive NYC, a passionate plan of the First Lady to address mental health and wellness, we talked about this the other night, I look forward to working with more on that.
So in this new role, I look forward to working with our agencies, we have many of them and they are amazing, and many of them have amazing leaders, and I want to work them to ensure that services will continue to be provided, seamlessly, efficiently, and also I want to make sure that we enhance the communications not only across agencies and with City Hall, but also with the public, because that’s who we serve. So I want to make sure and make that a cornerstone of what I hope to do.
I am also excited to work closely again, with my good friend and colleague, Dean Fuleihan. Dean and I started working together over 25 years ago. So I think we will be a good team to make sure that the Mayor’s values and agency operations are aligned. And finally I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my other dear friend, Tony Shorris, who without getting emotional, I have enjoyed every day of the last year working with. Just listening to his remarks, I realize why I enjoy it, every day of the last year. You taught me so much about dedicated service and passion and dealing with crisis and I will carry all those memories and guidance you gave me in the years ahead, so thank you.
Mayor: Thank you very much Laura. Now I want to authenticate the next speaker because even at the announcement of her new role, she brings a cup of coffee –
Director Emma Wolfe, Intergovernmental Affairs: It’s water, it’s water.
Mayor: Oh it’s water, it’s a coffee cup.
Director Wolfe: But usually it’s coffee.
Mayor: I would ask one of the media investigate how many times Emma Wolfe is without a coffee cup because it is very, very rare. She is personally keeping Starbucks afloat. I could not be happier to introduce her as my new Chief of Staff, Emma Wolfe.
Director Wolfe: Thank you. Oh, thank you. I wanted to first, obviously, thank the Mayor and the First Lady. I was reflecting back last night and I remember meeting with you both, also at Bar Toto, but this was going on nine or ten years ago, and I remember telling you both that I really wanted to work for public service – servants that I deeply believe in. And that has been fulfilled a thousand times over. And it’s been a true honor.
I’m so honored to be here with the team you’ve assembled. Both the veterans, and I will not talk much about Tony and Rich because I don’t want to get emotional that would not be a good way of starting off this day for me. But I will truly miss you, and it’s been such a tremendous honor, I can’t imagine serving for the last few years with a group of public servants who’ve shown more commitment to the Mayor’s shared mission, with more smarts, with more grace, integrity, tenacity, and humor certainly came in handy once in a while as well. And all these folks and all of my teammates and colleagues at City Hall and in public service in New York City that I get to work with every day, I hope it will suffice to say that I just owe them a debt of gratitude.
I’m here, we’re all here, to continue the work on behalf of the people of New York City. For our children, and our seniors, and the most vulnerable, and the working families, and for tenants and home owners, and all the folks worried about their futures, and their children’s futures. And all those worried about keeping a roof over their heads or getting their kids to the best schools, and the best opportunities possible. Or dreading what may come next from the federal government that could upend their lives. And it’s our job to reach as many of them as possible. And to even the playing field for each every New Yorker. So I am thrilled to be here today to take on a new role as Chief of Staff to the Mayor. To help actualize the agenda on behalf of New Yorkers to drive relentlessly toward product for the people and to make the Mayor’s Office the most effective it can possibly be and working towards these goals. This is a great privilege. Thank you Mayor and First Lady.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Finally I want you want to hear from someone who is about to become very, very popular. Melanie I can guarantee you, you’re about to get thousands of friends you didn’t even know you had as our new OMB Director. My pleasure to introduce Melanie Hartzog.
Deputy Director Melanie Hartzog: Thank you, thank you Mayor and First Lady. It continues to be an honor and privilege our dear leadership to be in public service and to advance and agenda that ensures all New Yorkers especially those most disadvantaged have the opportunity to thrive. I feel especially thankful to play this role given my own background. My mother and her family came to this country from Giana seeking better opportunity. My father moved from South Carolina to Brooklyn with the hopes of a better future. Poverty was a constant struggle for my family. Homeless, unemployment and hunger are struggles that I am all too familiar with. I am proud to embody my parent’s hopes and dreams that their children would have a better future and commit to helping other achieve the same.
Over the past four years this administration has produced four budgets and Dean reminds us that are a clear expression of the Mayor’s commitment of making the city more affordable, equitable, and safer. From Pre-K for All and after school for all middle schoolers to 2000 more police officers on the street and the largest affordable housing program in the city’s history. All of this has been done in record time and in a fiscally responsible manner. I believe that our budgets reflect the values of all New Yorkers. As we embark on this next term I am excited to continue our work making New York City the place that my parents, myself and millions or residents rely on us to be a place of equal opportunity and as budget director to continue to remind everyone that we must a have a balanced budget.
Mayor: Well you’re no fun after all.
Alright, first we’re going to take questions about today’s announcements and then we’ll do off topic. Dave?
Question: Mayor, with the exception of Dean. Everybody you have been talking about today in your team it’s comprised with women. Was that just the best person for the job just happens to be a woman? Or did you specifically want a woman in the positions because of the time, because of their unique perspective [inaudible] by design or it just so happened?
Mayor: Thank you for the question. The – clearly these were the best for the job, there is no question about that. And in every case people who I got to know through their work none of this is theoretical. I got to see them do extraordinary things and I knew each of them was right for the job. But as Chirlane said it is part of a bigger commitment we believe in from the beginning of the administration. More than 50 percent of the senior leadership roles have been held by women. That’s something we fundamentally believe in. that’s a goal we will continue to hold and we want to build on. And we believe in an administration that looks like New York City. So in the end every decision has to come down to is the person individually talent wise, experienced wise are they the right fit for the job. But we’re always looking to build upon the diversity we achieved in the first administration. I think we’ve done something important here today.
First Lady McCray: I just want to add that so often a woman is the best person for the job but is not considered. And this administration is very committed to making sure that does not happen. That we’re looking at the widest possible pool of people whether its people of color, women, people who are disabled to make sure we are getting to get the best possible person but everyone is considered.
Question: Another trend among these appointments announced today is that there promotions within the administration. Can you talk about why you have taken that approach at the top level of your administration and if you also did any sort of outside searches to fill any of these positions? And if you think it is important in a second term to bring in people who have not been part of this administration to take on high profile jobs?
Mayor: Great question but I would say this. Look, it is sort of a fundamental management question of how you approach these things. I am a huge believer in promoting from within. I love to promote people who have done the work and know the organization and know the players. You know, I think that’s what works. I also think it’s a really important message to everyone on the team. Keep working hard, keep doing great things, and you have an opportunity to rise up in this team. I think it is really important little analogy. When I came in one of the things that I saw in different parts of New York City government history was sort of the time I think it was particularly true in the previous administration sort of the idea of going outside was put on a pedestal on to itself. I think sometimes there is a great person outside and if they’re the best person you go get them. But I think the notation of saying look how [inaudible] it would be to go outside even on itself is really not that respectful to the extraordinary efforts to the people who are already inside. So we want a team culture that says to everyone not only your contributions matter but as you keep achieving more you can grow more and I, as I got to know each of these people, as I started to think about it – no, I didn’t really feel any need to look elsewhere. I reserve that right for certain roles but it’s not my impulse and certainly what I didn’t have to do here.
Question: Do you expect to continue filling [inaudible] more vacancies come up, I mean, in the weeks and months, filling them internally?
Mayor: So again, the first thing I’ll say – I just want to make sure ground rules are tight here, you know, assume continuity in all existing roles and when we have something to tell you we will tell you as soon as it is baked. But yes, I would say the first question in my mind is always going to be is there someone internal that fits the bill? And a lot of times I think there is. I don’t think every time there is but I think a lot of times there is. Yes.
Question: Is your chief of staff, is Emma is going to continue to do intergovernmental roles, working with Cuomo? Or are you expecting to fill that with somebody new?
Mayor: I think, I think she has a broader job description. Now look, the, yes there is going to be a new intergovernmental director for sure. I think working with the Governor has only been a small part of her existing work. But, no, I’m looking to Emma to strengthen the team, and to strengthen the coordination and the team both within City Hall and between City Hall and all the agencies.
Again on a product level, I could not be more proud of this team. I think we have hit really amazing metric goals consistently. Of course our goal is to do better and go farther. And I have tremendous faith in Emma as someone who can help us keep growing but also I say this with no fear of contradiction you know – Emma can be very tough but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Emma, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t respect Emma. It’s the nicest thing I have ever said about you.
Mayor: Okay, yes.
Question: New first deputy mayor, creating a deputy mayor for operations, naming a chief of staff when you haven’t had a permanent chief of staff for a year – does this all come out of an assessment and recognition that you need to change the way you manage city government and that there were shortcomings in the way you were managing?
Mayor: Well, your publication always has an interesting running line on that topic with all due respect and I have never quiet understood it. And I like to identify media bias when I see it.
The way you judge managerial capacity is by product and metrics. So I want to compliment everyone around the table and I am honored to have led them, whether it is Pre K For All or improved test scores or higher graduation rate or lower crime, more jobs – go down the list, you know, the most affordable housing every created – you know, setting up whole new ideas that didn’t exist before, IDNYC, NYC Ferry. Go down the list of all sorts of new components that we have brought in.
I couldn’t be prouder of this team and I couldn’t be prouder of the way that we’ve all work together. And I’ve had to call the toon. I’ve had to make sure things were working every single day. I’ve had the extraordinary good fortune of being able to lean on Tony every step of the way but in the end the buck stops here. And as Richard alluded to, a lot of times it was my job to call everyone into the room and say we have got to go faster, we got to, we need more, more lift, we need a better product, whatever it might be.
So I’m very proud of what we have achieved. I would turn the question a different way and say simply we aim even higher in the second term. We have to produce proportionally more. You know, you will note right before we got to the election that we provided not just a small update on affordable housing, but we said – and I want to thank Alicia because this was wildly audacious on top of her existing audacity – that we were going to go from 200,000 units to 300,000 units. That’s an amazing advance. A lot of really smart people didn’t think 200,000 units was possible. Alicia is the kind of person that – she literally walked into my office one day after a series of discussions and said ‘I’ve looked at it, I now believe we can go to this number.’ And our job is to do better, faster, more. So I think this team will be well suited to do that.
Question: Just a follow up – I like to identify media bias when I see it. What bias are you referring to?
Mayor: That your esteemed publication seems to have a hang up on the question of management and an interpretation problem on the question of management. I’m very proud as a manager of what we’ve achieved. Judge us by our numbers, judge us by our results. I don’t know where you get your little dig you put in every time, but I guarantee you just look at the numbers, and you’ll see good managements.
Question: So, slight follow up on that. I’m just wondering if you’ve talked a little bit about the decision to create this new fifth deputy mayor role and how – is it something that First Deputy Mayor Shorris gave some input to? How will it change the nature of the first deputy role vs this new deputy mayor for operations?
Mayor: First I’ll say, we are all going to work together to refine each of the roles and the specific responsibilities and the alignment at agencies. There’s still a lot of details we’re going to work through. Chirlane and I have always gone by the idea that you choose the people first and then work out a lot of the specific pieces. We’ve all been talking for a long time. It’s a running conversation – Tony and I for four years have been talking about what we think is ideal, what we think is good but needs to be better, things we want to do differently, and it’s an evolving conversation with all my colleagues, you know, and I came to the conclusion there’s no magic number of deputy mayors. I just preface with this – it’s another conversation I remember Tony and I had in the beginning, and there’s this running set of theories about how many deputy mayors you should have. I think Koch was the high water mark with the seven in the beginning?
Mayor: He did? The original seven did not work. I think we can all say history judged bad idea.
But you know we grappled with over the years, did we have the magic number, or do we have to do something a little bit differently. I came to the conclusion this was a good alignment, particularly for the talent we had, and now we’re going to refine it further. As I said, there’ll be further announcements coming both about specific elements that each deputy mayor will take on including I think some new and exciting pieces, and there’s still one more member of the team we’re going to bring in in the coming weeks. So I think this is the right alignment for what we need to do now.
Question: In terms of policy, obviously there are a lot of folks who are interested in the 3K program and its evolution. Will the transition with the departure of Deputy Mayor Buery impact the timing of any of that? Is there anything we should be watching there?
Mayor: No, it’s – you know if Thrive is Chirlane’s third baby, pre-K and 3K are my third baby. We will not let anything slow down, and Richard’s put us in a really strong setting or standing I should say to continue, and there’s a whole great team that will continue on doing that work.
Question: Follow up on [inaudible] do you expect to be doing more, adding more big initiatives for the need – for this fifth deputy mayor position or is there a sense that perhaps, you know, I think everybody knows that Tony Shorris’ position oversees a lot of the City government and the City agencies. Was there a sense that maybe it made more sense to spread that out? Can you just give us [inaudible] –
Mayor: It’s – we choose the alignment according to both what we feel we’ve learned along the way and the talent and also the mission ahead. There’s no easy perfect answer. There’s like a lot of components that have been thought about for a long time. But I’ll tell you this much – yes, you should expect some very big bold new elements.
You’re going to hear more in the coming weeks or next few months leading up to the inauguration and the State of the City of some big additional things we’re doing. And each of these folks are going to have different parts of that. So, everyone is going to have more to do because we’re going to bring the goals up even further in a number of areas.
Question: Do you expect to make changes at the commissioner level? It’s obviously at the time where people frequently leave.
Mayor: Yeah, I’m not going to do any hypotheticals on that. You know, people are all going to make their own personal decisions. We’ll certainly respond to that but this is the most important piece getting the senior leadership team aligned and ready, and then we’ll have time to give you updates about other pieces. Okay, on this. Gloria?
Question: Just a question for Director Fuleihan and for Melanie. With the budget season coming up and the budget gap that we might have [inaudible] do you plan to – are you thinking about any kind of [inaudible] program or – I guess my question is, how much of Dean’s budget style do you hope to carry on –
Mayor: That question switched in midstream. I’m going to – a yellow card on that question. That was – we’re going with the second part of that. I don’t even know if that even gets the two-part question. Those are two contradictory questions. Okay, two-part question. What was the first part?
Question: [Inaudible] are you looking at any [inaudible] –
Mayor: This is not the day for discussing the budget per say –
Director Fuleihan: Correct.
Mayor: But go ahead.
Director Fuleihan: Right, we just put out the November – the November update. We do have a serious gap that we have to address. We obviously are concerned about the federal – everything that happens on a daily basis by the federal government. But you know we’ll be working through that in a normal process with Mel leading that on the preliminary and then the executive and adopted budgets. Second part of the question, I can’t answer.
Incoming OMB Director Hartzog: Well, to address that question I think that I have the privilege of working for Dean. I absolutely think that under his leadership as I said before – four budgets balanced – that also reflect the values of the Mayor, and so I absolutely continue – believe that I will continue in in his style. Why not? It’s worked for us.
Question: Mr. Mayor, I just want to go back to this question about creating a new deputy mayor position. I’m still – maybe I missed something but I’m still a little unclear of what the assessment was that said this was needed. Around the time of, I believe, the Rivington hearing at the City Council, there was a lot of discussion that there’s too much on Deputy Mayor Shorris’s plate. Is this sort of a residual acknowledgement of that?
Mayor: No, I think, with all due respect to City Council hearings, that’s not where we get our insights about how to manage. And I was a City Council member, there’s no diss on anyone, there. But we – this is a running conversation we all have all the time about how we want to set up to get the best work done.
I go back to the numbers. Guys, I challenge all of you, go look at four years of just plain, old numbers. With Tony as our leader, we did more than we could possibly imagine and, I mean, I would look at just public safety alone which was one of the areas of greatest focus for Tony. I don’t think anyone – I don’t think even Bill Bratton or Jimmy O’Neill – expected us to get as far as we did.
And that came from a lot of decisions here and obviously tremendous leadership at One Police Plaza and tremendous work by the men and women of the NYPD and community partners.
But that’s an example of a structure that really worked on so many levels. The numbers speak for themselves. But again we want to go farther. We want to find ways to be even more audacious.
So, it’s about this group of people now and how we want to work with this group of people.
Question: Is there any sort of discussion or acknowledgement here about you being more politically active and – especially next year – and out-of-town more that means there’s more management structure that needs to be in place?
Mayor: No. The fact is, again, I’ve tried to make it clear to you guys – I’m not sure it’s always been heard, but I try not to be a micromanager. I think that, per say, is a bad thing. I think it is very good to be able to reach into anything that needs more attention, more work, more discipline, higher goals – and I do that all the time with this team. And that’s the only way it works.
I mean, these are great, great leaders but nothing replaces mayoral leadership. So, we’ve got a lot of big bold stuff we want to do. I’m going to be all over it.
I think it’s a great team that I have a ton of trust in but, you know, I got to have my hands on a lot of the details to make things really work.
Question: [Inaudible] First Lady. What was your, sort of – the qualities that you were looking for in these candidates and where there is a disagreement with the Mayor where you have to make your views known. And then I have a quick question for Deputy Glen.
First Lady McCray: Well, the qualities that I look for are very similar to the qualities the Mayor looks for. I’m always looking at the background to see if it’s a narrative, a story that is consistent and informs the way they do the work. I’m looking for someone who puts the mission ahead of personal gain, dedication to a vision – all of these are characteristics I look for.
You know, everyone is different so the questions are different and because the positions are different, I’m also looking at [inaudible] history and how that is consistent with what they are looking for in terms of their future.
The Mayor and I don’t disagree a lot about people. We have the same values and so we tend to agree. But I do often see different things than he does. So, two brains are better than one.
Mayor: Yeah. I would say it’s a – for us, we learned a long time ago about each other personally but it’s also true as we do this work professionally. We find consensus organically. I wish I had a better way to say it but we do. If I come out of an interview uneasy, I’m going to bounce it off of Chirlane. If she comes out uneasy, she’s going to bounce it off of me or sometimes she’ll just look at certain way at me and I’ll know what she’s communicating about wanting to probe something in a candidate or having a concern.
It’s a pretty extraordinary level of consensus but it’s also because it’s a constant conversation. I wish I could – I really don’t want to invite you to our home at 6:00 am in the morning or 11:00 pm at night, sorry, but it literally is an all-day-long conversation about this stuff. And that’s part of what I think creates that unity.
Question: I wanted to ask Deputy Mayor Glen, so in the City’s response to the NYCHA lead investigations, the Mayor talked to the press and said that the inspections were sort of all being done normally, this was in March of 2016 –
Mayor: Can I interrupt you, I’m sorry. Can I put that into the off-topic where you’ll –
Question: [Inaudible] off-topic?
Mayor: Oh, yeah. We’re definitely – we’re not going anywhere. We got all day. But the – no, no, I want to just stay on this and we’ll honor that in off-topic.
Let me see if there’s anything else about these announcements here before we move over to off-topic. Going once – yes?
Question: I think this sort of ties into this on-topic because she is staying on – the comments by Ritchie Torres on availability of Alicia Glen. If she can comment on – I mean he said, he sort of made a vague reference to developers being able to reach her more than you know a City Council member to an audience of African-Americans, as though it’s different in some way [inaudible] –
Mayor: I want to start and – if there’s anyone in New York City who can defend herself, it’s Alicia Glen. But I want to start. I think very highly of Councilman Torres but that’s a cheap shot. I have personally seen how much work Alicia does every day with elected officials and community leaders on how concerned and responsive she is.
You know, I just want to remind people her first job was as a legal aid lawyer which – sorry legal service lawyer, my bad. Same idea. And I think both in terms of what motivates her philosophically but also in terms of her orientation to the grassroots, it’s a big part of who she is.
So, she does talk to developers and I’ve actually walked by her office during some of those conversations particularly on speaker phone and she is as tough as it gets, and they rarely feel that they are getting it easy.
She really, really drives an incredibly hard bargain for this city and she takes no prisoners. So, I don’t know where he’s getting that from but over to you.
Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen: I’m not even familiar with the comments, so I’m not sure what the question is. I’m not sure what Councilman Torres has to say. But I think it’s certainly clear that I spend a huge amount of time meeting with all kinds of stakeholders involved in housing and development issues and have always had a policy, as my staff will tell you, that everybody gets at least one meeting and everybody gets called back. And that’s what we are paid to do and I meet with everybody whenever they want to. So I don’t know what particularly what the Councilman was refereeing to.
Mayor: Alright, still on the announcement and then we’ll switch to off topic. Go ahead.
Question: Do you have any concerns as you do a lot of internal promotion about you know, too much ideological alignment and not enough –
Mayor: Hang on, I’m concerned about too much ideological alignment. Could you get right on that please and fix that? I’d like an ideological unaligned organization. No. I think – I again this is one of these urban legend things I don’t understand. If you don’t have an ideologically aligned group of people you can’t achieve the same results. I mean look at the numbers, look at the results, They’re stunning and it’s because it’s a team. It’s the – it’s like the Iceland soccer team, you know, it’s like the – why were they even competitive because they were a team. This is – this is greater than the sum of its parts. No question. Because people believe in the same things.
Now that doesn’t mean people aren’t critical. I mean, we are always asking ourselves are there unintended consequences, is there something we’re not seeing. If we hear a critique that we think rings true we bring that into our discussions. And, we have to talk to everyone. One thing I’ve heard from a lot of people whether they’re a community activist or whether they’re folks in business or you name it is that unlike some other administrations there has been much more of an open door policy. And we take plenty of heat from people and listen to their perspectives and sometimes we come out of a meeting and say they’ve got a point, or we hadn’t thought about that. But, no. I don’t understand why on Earth I would want a group that is not aligned and harmonious. That’s what I seek.
Anything else on these announcements? Yes?
Question: As you shuffle things should we assume that it remains the practice that the First Deputy Mayor so going forward, Fuleihan, will be the one who gets to be the acting mayor when you are –
Mayor: Yeah there’s a progression and it will be that Dean will be the first up to bat. And then we’ll go from there. But it depends on whose there on any given day.
Okay last call on these announcements. Yes?
Question: I just want to make sure, are there any changes to salaries for these positions?
Mayor: We’ll get back to you on any of those details.
Question: When do they take effect?
Mayor: With the expectation of Richard, that we’re still fine tuning, and if I were betting today I think probably February. But we can – we’re still working that through. Everything else, we’re starting with the assumption January 1st. Again, we reserve the right to make some modifications depending on what’s going on and as everyone is going through the transition. But I think that’s the right working model to assume.
Okay let’s go to off topic. Let’s give –
Question: I wanted to ask about – take a little trip back in time to 2016 in March you made a statement saying tentative inspections were all up to snuff. The head of NYCHA Shola Olatoye finds out, she says that she finds out in April and immediately raised her hand to say that she has a problem. Now she reports directly to Deputy Mayor Glen. I’m wondering whether she did report that to you in April and when you told the Mayor. The Mayor says he didn’t find out until May. Why didn’t you tell him immediately and are you comfortable with the response that did not inform the NYCHA residents that there actually had been this problem but rather just said we need to get into your apartment.
Mayor: Again, I’ll start and pass to the Deputy Mayor. I’ve said clearly – I can’t give you the chapter and verse, the day, the hour, the context in which I was updated. The original information I had everyone thought was right, proved to be wrong. I‘ve said in retrospect we should have made that clearer that we were amending what was said previously. But what I care about is it was discovered, it was acted on promptly, HUD was notified, and the actions people took in light of a mistake were the right actions.
Question: [Inaudible] the residents weren’t informed about this?
Mayor: The residents were told –you’re putting words in my mouth. The residents – no I did not say that – I said what I cared about in terms of the question was about me and my dealings with my colleagues, so please don’t put words in my mouth, was we got the update, there was a quick decision made on what to do about it, HUD was informed, action was taken. And the action was directed right to the residents which is what mattered most.
I’m very satisfied that was the right thing to do, acknowledging the original mistake which I’m not happy about, no one’s happy about. I have also said I wish I had said publically, more clearly that what I had understood previously that I was wrong. But again, this is – this is – I want to be careful to not miss the forest for the trees. What mattered was telling people we were coming to inspect their apartment and inspecting their apartment and acting on it. That’s what mattered.
Do you want to add?
Deputy Mayor Glen: I mean I think you’ve addressed all of David’s questions. I’m not sure if there was a follow up?
Question: [Inaudible] told the Mayor, if you have a better recollection or – I mean obviously there’s documentation about this.
Deputy Mayor Glen: Sure. I mean I think your timeline is generally accurate. In April of 2016 the Chair informed me that they had discovered the problem and then we immediately began to put together a corrective action plan which first and foremost was putting together a schedule for making sure that all of the units that needed to be inspected were inspected and appropriately abided. And then sometime thereafter, I don’t have the exact dates, I raised it with the Mayor and I believe that was around the time that you then made those public comments. So I think that’s a correct timeline.
Question: Mayor, this Sunday is going to be the third anniversary of the Staten Island grand jury not bringing back any indictments in the Eric Garner case. Commissioner Bratton had said that he’d been asked by the Eastern District to hold off on doing anything as far as discipline goes but with all this passage of time and the change of administrations, does there come a point where you have a conversation with Commissioner O’Neill about, we’ve waited too long, it’s time to start the internal disciplinary process?
Mayor: It’s a very fair question. I’ve been confused by why it has taken so long for the Justice Department honestly. And I think none of us expected a change of administration, but even with that I don’t quite understand what’s taking so long. The conundrum here is we have a pending request from the Justice Department, we want to obviously respect that, we’d love some clarity from them about a timeline but we still don’t have it. So I can’t say, you know, how we’re going to deal with what comes next. I think we need to hear something more from the Justice Department before we can determine what makes sense to do.
Question: Mr. Mayor, the Regional Plan Association came out with a number of proposals dealing with mass transit. Two in particular I’d like to get your reaction to. Number one –
Mayor: I have not – just to say up front, Marcia, I haven’t seen the report so you’re the first time – you’ll be the first person telling me about it.
Question: They’re pretty straightforward ideas. Number one, they suggest closing down the subways on weekday nights so that repairs can be done, so the system could be kept in a good state of maintenance. I wonder how you feel about that as a proposal. And the second proposal –
Mayor: One the first one –
Mayor: Yeah, let me hit you with the first one. I’m a New Yorker. 24-hour subway service is part of our birthday. You know, you don’t – you can’t take that – this is not Washington DC, with all due respect to Washington DC. You cannot shut down the subway at night. It is a 24-hour city. You can, of course, shut down certain lines at certain times for repairs and put bus service in and things like that. But as blanket idea, no. I don’t believe in that.
Question: Secondly, they’re suggesting a new agency, believe it or not to be set up –
Mayor: I’m scared already.
Mayor: Be afraid, be very afraid.
Question: As are many. New state agency to be set up with the specific task of rebuilding the subways for the 21st century. So I wonder how you feel about the creation of a new state agency to rebuild the subways for the next generation.
Mayor: Reserving the right to hear the argument which I have not heard, I would say what we’ve learned many times in government is, yes sometimes new agency helps but often it doesn’t. That would be my – my basic human assessment. I have seen some examples where it works, I’ve seen plenty where it doesn’t.
I think the better question is, how do we fix what we’ve got with the tools we have right now? And, let’s just get real. We need a long term funding mechanism for the MTA. I’ve put the millionaire’s tax on the table. I’m so sick of this discussion of is it viable, is it not viable, someone show me something more viable, or more effective, or more fair, especially against the backdrop, tragically, at what could be huge tax cuts for the wealthy in Washington.
So, put up or shut up. That’s my message to everyone. But in terms of continuing to make. you know. the big, big changes needed in the MTA, I again, refer to Rahm Emanuel. I disagree with him on pizza but I agree with him on mass transit. He had an op-ed in the Daily News some months ago and he said Chicago bit the bullet a long time ago and invested in those signals and electrical systems, and all the unsexy stuff. Once and for all, we’ve got to recognize no more lights on bridges, no more displays clocks telling you what time the trains coming; these are not the things we need. We need the signal systems fixed. That’s where the money should go.
So what I’m saying to you is you could do that, in my opinion, with the existing agency you have. But I do want to see the RPA report, and I do want to hear their rational.
Question: Do you think the MTA has focused on [inaudible], like the clocks and the lights, and things like that, that don’t actually matter to …
Question: … the speed of service, and what would say to them about that?
Mayor: Stop doing that.
Question: Mr. Mayor, we’ve been told that there are 42,000 apartments, back to NYCHA for a moment, where there are children from zero to six, and the apartments were built before the lead law in 1968. So that’s the universe. Was there any thought in – any discussion about informing those residents, specifically informing them that those lead inspections had not taken place as per law, and they should – and advising them that may want to get their young children tested for lead immediately.
Mayor: I think it is a very fair question, and I’ll start and Deputy Mayor Palacio may want to join in on this. We start with the health reality and I fully appreciate all the concerns that have been raised and all the questions that are being asked, but I do want to say – I’m trying to give you a perspective, we start with the health reality, the health reality is thank God the challenge of lead poisoning has been steadily declining in this City, because a lot of hard work and a lot of work a lot of people did over years. And we know for a fact the vast, vast majority of kids are screened organically, so I think that knowledge inherently affected our view of things, the thing to do is to get in there and inspect and find out if there is a problem and remediate the problem.
But as you’ve heard, what really it came down to, thank God, very, very, very few kids were affected in any way and all of those kids are okay. So I think it’s very different than if you had a situation where you had an ongoing, pervasive, continuous health problem. This has been the opposite. It has been minimized so deeply over time that we knew that a lot of other realities, a lot of other methodologies, were catching these kids if there was anything that needed to be addressed.
So I just – I think that’s an important backdrop to keep into mind. Again I’m the first to say, in retrospect, I wish I had communicated more. I’ve learned a good lesson here, you know to think more deeply about have we said everything we need to say, but I’m very satisfied that the things had to be done were done. Do you want to add Herminia? Or not? Feel free either one.
Deputy Mayor Glen: We were conferring –
Mayor: - You compete –
Deputy Mayor Glen: - Have Herminia discuss really what the way that the lead, the notification to parents who actually had children who tested lead positive, and again Herminia do you want to?
Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio: Sure, I mean, I would confirm that, you know, lead has gone down significantly over the City, over the course of the years of the City, we, whenever there is a positive lead test, parents are informed –
Deputy Mayor Palacio: Right, anywhere.
Question: Sorry, so just to follow up on that, my understanding, and if I’m wrong forgive me here, my understanding is that in order for NYCHA or the City to become aware of a child with elevated blood lead levels, that child has to be tested. So without testing all of those children, how can we be sure that there are no other children who are affected, and it is true that children have to be tested I think between zero and two, but after that, it’s not all children that are tested every year. It’s only if a medical provider deems it necessary. So why not just suggest that the children living in those – the state universe of 42,000 apartments be tested?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: So, there are many homes, not just in NYCHA, that have lead. Which is why, and children under two are at the most at risk which is why that there is the emphasis, so this is the children most at risk, not just by behavior, but how they absorb lead. So that’s the emphasis of testing, requiring the testing of children under one and two years old. The apartments that were inspected and I’ll let Deputy Mayor Glen add anything, the apartments that were inspected and were found to have lead, those – that process of being those residents would be informed that there apartments were being remediated for lead apartments that were tested and didn’t, weren’t found to have lead, may not have been notified that they needed to test their children, there was no lead found in those apartments, lead hazards.
Mayor: Do you want add or –
Deputy Mayor Glen: Well I mean I can try to – I can – there is a lot different interplay here so I know it can sound quite confusing. When we inspected the 42,000 apartments that are subject to Local Law 1, any indication that there was any peeling paint, in any of those units, were immediately remediated, that is different than actually conducting a full test in the apartment for whether or not there is any lead. So I want to be very clear about that. The protocol, with the respect to what Local Law 1 requires when you see peeling paint in those units is to immediately remediate. All of those kids in all of those apartments that protocol was followed. We do not believe that any of those children also had been tested for lead, but everyone who lived in those apartments knew that we were going in there inspecting and remediating.
Question: Then how, I guess, one of the children, one of the two children, did test positive for elevated lead levels, spoke to his attorney yesterday, that child was only tested for lead because he went in for a regular wellness visit. Not because the City informed those parents that they should get their child checked. So I mean, my question is why not simply inform those 42,000 residents that they may want to get their children tested for lead.
Deputy Mayor Glen: I’m not familiar – I’m not familiar with the questions -
Mayor: Let me start with this, I think, one we are going to be providing additional information as we go through this whole process, because we are still learning as we go along. Two, we are going to do more public information every step along the way. Three, we continually find, thank God, very little impact from any of this, and that is the most important thing. But look, we have gone through all the apartments, inspected, remediated, we are in the middle of doing it a second time. I think for all of us, we want to constantly figure out what else we need to do, I think it’s a perfectly fair question, and that’s one things we may change our protocol and to make it that much more explicit. We think it’s pretty clear, but you can definitely make the argument you are making, that we should go even farther and go the extra mile, but so far thank God we are not finding the negative outcomes, and we are constantly now in those apartments between inspections and remediations. We are not done here, there is more we’re going to do.
Question: Maura asked a good chunk of my question but it is sort of along the same lines. What is your response Mr. Mayor to a Brooklyn mother, the mother of this four year children, that Maura I believe was mentioning, Kyan Dickerson, who is now the plaintiff in a class action federal lawsuit against you, your housing chair, and the City. She claims her son was severely lead poisoned in an uninspected NYCHA apartment in Red Hook Houses, calling into question your assertion that children were not seriously, medically harmed, she says her child –
Mayor: I’m not going to speak to a lawsuit, obviously, I think we’ve established all of us that our first concern is for children. We understand here, the situation was not handled the way it should have been handled, I’ve said that many times. I also want to be abundantly clear, we received a handoff from the previous administration, and it was a bad handoff. Had things been working properly we would have continued them. Obviously some people also in our chain of command did the wrong thing, but I’m not going to speak to an allegation, a lawsuit, we are only going to deal with the facts as we know.
Question: The question is how can you know when you make the assertion that thank God very few children were harmed –
Mayor: I know it because of Department of Health information, which is our gold standard, but again, once you say the word lawsuit, I’m not going get into any of the specifics on purpose, Zack Carter would hear, he would remind me of that fact. I will say everything you are hearing that we assert is from the Department of Health and the Department of Health is the gold standard in public health in this country.
Question: Mr. Mayor, on the ferries, what is your understanding of the cause of the holes discovered in the ferries on Sunday and Monday, there were two separate [inaudible] and do you still believe that the first three of those ferries that are now out of service or sidelined, we were told to relocate [inaudible] as your administration previously said, is still your [inaudible]
Mayor: I’m not getting – I’ll turn to Alicia who is more conversant in some of the specifics of ferry maintenance and ferry design, I’ll say this, we have had now over the course of this year an obvious and vivid success with NYC Ferry, in terms of how quickly it was set up, how well it’s been run, the amount of ridership far beyond expectations. We got more work to make it better for sure. We know that there has been some problems with individual boats, we have some specific issues that we made very clear to Hornblower, the contractor, that we are unhappy about expect to see better. But writ large this system obviously has been working very well. As to the specifics, Alicia you know better than me.
Deputy Mayor Glen: Yeah, and we can get you – again just to make sure everybody knows which boats we’re talking about. But there are six boats that have been identified that do have some issues on the keel, not serious ones. And they’re currently in Nyack. They’ve been pulled out of the water, and they’re being repaired and they’re all those boats under warranty and so the cost of those repairs will be borne by the manufacturer. And so again there is no life, safety, health issues here at all. We’ve been taking very strong proactive measures to go out and make sure that the Coast Guard is inspecting additional boats so that we can make sure and the public understands there is no issue with the boats right now. But there are six boats that are currently having some minor repairs at Nyack and they’re out of service right now.
Question: [Inaudible] in most cases leaks?
Deputy Mayor Glen: You know I am not an expert on this topic. I know that there are some smaller version and some – under the keel and some issues with some of the electric systems that are now being repaired. I don’t know if leaks and holes is the right word but they’re being addressed timely and those boats will be put back in service after the Coast Guard re-inspects and they’re giving a certificate to sail.
Question: Mr. Mayor this is a question actually for you and the First Lady. In light of what happened with Matt Lauer inquired. Then today Russell Simmons is now stepping away from his many companies. You have Pelosi and Ryan now calling for Congressman Conyers to immediately resign. I would like to get your reaction to all of these developments and also speak to the issue of what it is that you do in local government to prevent this type of activity from happening because at this point it appears to the public that we could have an epidemic here.
Mayor: I will start and join in. The – first it’s a zero tolerance approach. Not just to the extraordinarily important issue of sexual harassment but to any discrimination, anything that is inappropriate in the workplace. Not only there is a lot of training, there is a real report in culture around here. You know it’s about values. We would be deeply troubled – I would be, Chirlane would be, everyone would be if anyone engaged in activity and we would be very swift in dealing with it. So I have to say it’s a moment in history where a lot of pain is coming out, a lot of truth is coming out. And this is probably something our nation needed. Because all of this harassment, all of this discrimination, all of this oppression of women was covered up for a long, long time and it’s unacceptable. And those who are proven to have engaged in this activity should pay huge penalties. You know I think it’s very important that people see seemingly illustrious individual like Charlie Rose. You know, just instantaneously taken out of commission. Because I think it sends a powerful message to men to don’t even think about it, unless you want to destroy your family, and your career, and your reputation. I wish, I wish you know people didn’t have made example of for others to get the point. But let’s be honest about humanity. So probably this is something that was decades overdue.
First Lady McCray: That is certainly true. We do have to set a tone of zero tolerance for that type of behavior and I think it just, it also points the importance of having a work place where there are – you know women. A 50/50 world is what we aspired to when we’re in positions of leadership when you have everyone at the table working together. This type of behavior is not as common, it just isn’t. And that’s what we inspired to.
Question: [Inaudible] real quickly. Do you think that Congressman Conyers should retire immediately?
Mayor: I have a broad standard. I want to admit not having seen all the details of many of these cases. But I have a very broad standard. Once an allegation is confirmed of harassment, you know a specific allegation is admitted to, and confirmed with someone who is playing a public role and something they did while in public office to me it’s not even close. Again, can’t speak to each case. I don’t know all the details. But you know, I think if someone has done that, they need to admit it and they need to get out of office. Yes?
Question: Mayor just on the lead issue again. You said that he Department of Health is the gold standard for this subject. But the Department of Health over seven years has found lead paint in 63 NYCHA apartments. NYCHA went and did its own lead lab tests, and claimed on 17 tested positive for lead and only those apartments were aviated. So the Department of Health is the gold standard. Why not use their lead tests –
Mayor: I can’t speak to that individual situation.
Deputy Mayor Palacio: So I can begin to speak to that. The Department of Health goes in with a certain technology. That technology basically is an XRF. It can read lead but there are some samples that if its – for example paint on a door knob might give a false positive reading. Any landlord in New York City not just NYCHA any landlord has the authority to request a third party lab test of a chip of paint where the paint actually gets set and is screened with a – is tested with a different methodology and that’s the authority that NCYHA has exercised in those cases. It’s not a question of not taking the Department of Health results. It’s really sending it to a third party for confirmatory testing that goes above and beyond that the testing that the Department of Health does with its technology in the apartments.
Question: What if a child in one of those apartments has a positive DOH test later has a higher level of lead but didn’t tip of the NYCHA test?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: So there – we want to make sure that we’re not conflating two things right. There is Local Law One which is about independent inspections of apartments. The Department of Health which is following those inspections – there are inspections triggered by an elevated blood lead level in a child. Those are the inspections that the Department of Health is doing. So the Department of Health already knows it, that a child has an elevated blood lead level and is doing all of the case management that’s appropriate for that child regardless of whether the source was lead paint or candy or pottery. The care of the child remains the same.
Question: Thanks, Mayor. There’s a handful of City Council Speaker candidates who are talking about term limits and changing that –
Mayor: They’re wrong.
Question: Tell me more.
Mayor: Thank you for drawing me out. The – the people have spoken twice. Is it more than twice, at least twice? The people have spoken. Three times, thank you Marcia.
I’m updating my statement – the people have spoken three times. I mean it couldn’t be clearer. People believe in term limits. I believe in term limits. I’ve seen the positive effect of term limits.
It has really led to a more responsive government and I think a higher caliber of people coming into government. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So, no, people have to be really clear their bosses have spoken. People of this city will not tolerate it.
Look, the richest guy in the city used the most ridiculous power tools and wealth and influence to overturn the people’s will once and that got rejected immediately in the next referendum. And people like me who opposed Mayor Bloomberg apparently are in positions of authority now.
I think it’s really clear how deeply the public feels this. So, I would just say to the speaker candidates – I understand it’s an appealing to say to your immediate electorate in the Speaker election but you’ve got a more important electorate to think about, and that’s the people.
Question: Do you think that there’s a case for it to be made when it comes to legislatures for them to just serve longer terms –
Mayor: I think every place is different. I, you know, have always felt people have said what about Congress, what about the State legislature. I can’t speak to those. I haven’t served in those.
I’ve served. I have a particular perspective. Tony, having been here since the beginning of the Republic, can help me on this.
How many mayors were previously City Council members? You can work on that. You’re going to say, “Well, let’s see, in 1853 –”
So, yeah, I have the perspective of having served in both branches. For New York City today, this is the right idea. I’ve seen the positive effect. I personally believe anyone who wants to be mayor for more than two terms is not in their right mind. This is the most intense conceivable job in the world.
If you do it for more than eight years, you’re not even going to be able to spell your name right at the end of it.
So, just eight and out. It’s good enough for the President of the United States, it’s good enough for the Mayor of New York City.
So, I think here it works. I don’t have philosophical view about the other levels. I only talk about where it works or how it works here.
Question: [Inaudible] anyone who becomes Speaker [inaudible] –
Mayor: No because I understand everyone is pandering so I presume they will all be equal opportunity panderers and it will nullify like when there’s a penalty on each team in a football game, the penalties are nullified. If they’re simultaneous, they’re nullified. It’s like that.
I don’t think it has a larger bearing. I think if there were thinking beyond January 3rd, they would be better served to realize their constituents don’t want this. I’ll do a few more. Go ahead.
Question: I just want to follow up on that. When you were in the City Council in 2005, you did support –
Mayor: Wow, this is an original question.
Question: Well, I’m just saying [inaudible] –
Mayor: [Inaudible] four millions times. Go ahead.
Question: So you’re saying you have a change of heart, back then [inaudible] –
Mayor: I said very clearly then – and there’s tons of documentation – I was running for Speaker. I thought at the time what I was saying made sense. Obviously, I was responding to the flock I was trying to lead. But then when I saw the issue play out the way it did in ‘08, I thought it was obscene. And I obviously helped to lead the opposition to Mayor Bloomberg, and I’ve been very, very clear. I think that was the defining moment on this issue and I ain’t going back. Two terms for everyone, period, done, over the fence, gone.
Question: I have a question for Emma. Emma, you became involved in the negotiations around Harendra Singh and Water’s Edge. I want to ask you, whose decision was it –
Mayor: We covered all that, Willy. I’ll just interrupt. I’m sorry. Willy, you can ask it 100 times. We’re not going over ancient history.
Question: [Inaudible] involved you because –
Mayor: Okay, thank you for your question.
Question: [Inaudible] appropriate for [inaudible] –
Mayor: I’m going to give one more over in the back.
Mayor: Thank you, Willy. We’re not – we’ve covered. We’ve covered it previously.
Question: [Inaudible] never been answered.
Mayor: Thank you.
Question: How many companies responded to the request for proposal for ferries back in 2015 and why did the administration pick a company from, you know, not from New York City that had no previous ferry experience?
Mayor: They had plenty of experience. That’s – respectfully, your facts are wrong. I was really impressed by the thoroughness of the process. At the end of the process, the professionals brought me their recommendation, and I confirmed it.
Alicia certainly can add to this but I’ll start by saying, you know, if you will, the politic thing to do would not have been to choose the company from out of town. But when you looked at their proposal and you looked at their history, their experience, it was the best proposal.
The other proposal was good. I’ve said very openly that was a good proposal, it was a credible proposal but the one that we got that won the day was a better proposal. And that’s more important than where they are based.
And they have created a lot of jobs in the city and they homeported at the Brooklyn Navy Yard which was very important to us. So, I think [inaudible]. Last call.
Question: What’s your position on this Democratic unity plan in the State Senate? And I know that there are a lot of progressive who are very skeptical of it and still planning –
Mayor: I’m very skeptical of it.
Question: Can you elaborate [inaudible] –
Mayor: Thus proving I’m a progressive.
Question: Why – why are [inaudible] –
Mayor: Because this is getting to be a charade. The Governor and the IDC have enabled each other from the beginning and it’s been a de facto Republican governing arrangement. And it’s got to end. So, let’s just be real about this. A lot of us in 2014 had a commitment for the Governor to create a Democratic State Senate. We saw that commitment broken. It’s very convenient for him now as he apparently is running for president to be in good graces with the Democratic Party.
So, now he’s going to move heaven and Earth to have a Democratic Senate and he wants to elect Democratic Congress members in these swing districts and not see them redistricted against the interest of Democratic candidates. Well, he’s been in office since 2011, he could have done that from the very beginning.
So, I’ll believe it when I see it but my message to everyone is if you have a Democrat in your title, you better come home now because the people are really angry in their districts. They want Democrats to be Democrats. Of if they’re not going to be Democrats, call themselves Republicans.
Question: Are you supporting challenges to IDC members?
Mayor: [Inaudible] it’s very simple. There will be challenges. Forget me for a minute. There’s clearly going to be challenges to IDC members in their districts. That’s a given. Everyone knows that. They should come home immediately. That’s my simple message. Come home. Be Democrats. Join the Democrats.
Question: [Inaudible] involvement, are you –
Mayor: I’m a respectful observer. But the bottom line is the [inaudible] is already cast here. The election of Donald Trump achieved what should have been achieved by the Democratic Party of this state a long time ago. We should have had a Democratic Party in this state. We really don’t have a functioning Democratic Party in this state. We haven’t for a long time. Let’s be honest about that.
And this should never have been allowed. The full power of the party and the Governor should have been used to stop the IDC from leaving to begin with. So, I am a person who believes in redemption. Everyone comes home quickly and forms a Democratic majority and acts as Democrats and never goes back, let’s move forward together and I can work with them and I can work with Jeff Klein.
But there’s no more hesitating. We’re about to go – we’re officially in the election year, practically speaking. The people won’t take it. Democrats will not accept anything short of Democrats coming home immediately.
Question: How do you feel about the fact that this whole plan is geared to take effect after the budget negotiations so that the Governor can negotiate with the same people [inaudible]?
Mayor: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. We won’t be fooled again. That’s what I say to that. I mean, come on. We’re not all born yesterday. So, if you want to be a Democrat, be a Democrat right now.
I think that’s my good, final word. Thank you, everyone.