December 4, 2017
Errol Louis: Good evening, and welcome to the Road to City Hall for Monday, December 4th 2017. I am Errol Louis. Mayor de Blasio began the week with an announcement that we’ve heard repeatedly during his time in office, that crime is still going down. NYPD statistics show that the murder rate continues to drop down 17 percent from last year and heading for a new record low. The Mayor joins us now here in the studio to talk about that and much more as we officially resume our Monday’s with the Mayor segment on NY1 now that the re-election campaign is over and in his rearview mirror. Welcome back to the program, very good to see you.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: It’s very good to be back.
Louis: I should say congratulations; I haven’t seen you since then.
Mayor: Well, thank you, but the fact I am back something good happened. So I am feeling good about this.
Louis: Okay, we’ll see if we can feel good about these numbers.
Louis: Another drop in murders in particular the one that is the hardest to fudge or mistake. Shootings also down, a lot of different categories. What has happened, and why do you think?
Mayor: We’re in a whole new era and I am very, very excited about the future of this city because neighborhood policing has addressed one of the great missing links, which was the relationship between police and community. We have the best police force in the country. We needed more officers on patrol. Working with the Council, we’ve added 2,000 more officers. We needed more training, we needed better equipment. There are a lot of things we did. But the most important thing was neighborhood policing. Because now information is flowing to our officers on a steady basis so they can do their jobs better. And there is a real partnership developing between police and community. So you see amazing reductions now in murders, in shootings, and across all crime categories. And I think over the next few years, we have a chance to be the model for this country. I really do, I think we have a chance to be the example of both how to fight crime and how to put aside the divisions of the past and get police and community working as one and it’s very, very exciting prospect. I mean Errol you know these numbers – you’ve seen them steadily move during the year. This suggests something bigger is going one.
Louis: Is the NYPD, or the CompStat numbers or their analysis, their internal unit. Are they saying that it’s specifically the neighborhood officers, the folks who work across different lines like one day they’re helping detectives, another day they’re responding to 3-1-1 complaints or sometimes in the same shift, working in you know the same sector day after day after day –
Louis: – developing relationships. They’re tracing it directly to that?
Mayor: It’s one of the pieces for sure. I mean the whole precession policing strategy which evolves from CompStat is clearly another crucial part of making sure we’re focusing our resources, our energy, our officers where the problems are the most profound, focusing on that very small number of people, [inaudible] thousand who do most of the violent crime in this city. I mean there is a lot of different pieces always. But what’s different about neighborhood policing is the flow of information. That’s a given, and I was just up in the 3-2 Precinct which has seen extraordinary reductions in shootings and murders. They’re one of the first Precincts to get the full neighborhood policing approach.
Louis: I am sorry, which one? 3-2?
Louis: Okay, my dad worked there for a long, long time.
Mayor: Well, there you go. So you know it well.
Mayor: So, they’ve had one of the best results in the whole city. And they were one of the first to adopt the NCO program, the Neighborhood Coordinating Officers. And what we constantly hear is that that information that comes to officers stops crimes from happening. It leads to faster arrests, once there has been a crime. It shows patterns that wouldn’t have been visible to offices on their own necessarily, because they have community partners now. I think it is, it is, everything that we all learned from CompStat over these last couple of decades made even sharper now, because there is a virtues circle. The more you bring down crime, the more you can take your police resources and focus them on the last outcroppings, the places where you have the biggest problems. The more you do that, the more there are resources still available to work with community members, build those relationships, address quality of life issues. So something very big is happening now. It is happening fast. And the amazing thing is the confidence that the NYPD leadership has. There is more out there that we can get even better.
Louis: Well, in fact let me ask you about some of those outcroppings. These are again your numbers. Rapes up 15.6 percent, that’s from 96 to 111 year over year, transit up 9.4 percent from 216 to 232. Understanding that you know from a low base, even a small increase will generate big scary looking percentages. These are the kind of crimes that people really do worry about.
Mayor: Of course.
Louis: This isn’t auto theft, this isn’t –
Mayor: No, when I said, when I said the word outcropping, I meant the parts of the city where we still have more work to do. But on these key crime categories which are obviously very real, and very important. Thank God, year-to-date – you know, we we’re talking about this at the press conference earlier. Rape is down year-to-date. We had month of November where we did not get the statistics we wanted and obviously that means human lives. So we didn’t get the statistics we wanted, and obviously that means human lives, so we didn’t get the outcome we wanted, but year-to-date we are going down. Also in that crime we know part of what is happening now is more reporting which is a good and necessary thing and that’s actually going to help us stop future sexual assaults because we are going to get more arrests.
So no, I don’t take any – anything that is going in the wrong direction, we put more energy and resources on, and as I said, there are parts of the City where we still have more work to do for sure. There are some precincts that still need much more support. But you look at the overall trajectory, and how sustained it’s been, I feel great confidence that next year can be even better.
Louis: Let me change topics to the issue of the tax bill that just passed the senate. It’s going to conference this week, it looks like objectively the politics seem to be flowing in favor of some kind of tax bill getting through congress, has City Hall, has your office calculated the potential impact on revenues, on property values, other impacts if the Tax Cut Bill actually passes.
Mayor: Well a couple things, first we are focused on defeating it. And I agree with you that the conventional wisdom says it will go through but I would say not so fast for a couple of reasons. It has to go back to through the House and any – any iteration of the process has to go back to the House of Representatives.
In the House, 13 hours Republicans voted against it, including Congressman Donavan here from the City. Why? Because we are going to raise taxes on middle-class and working-class people in their district right away, and so my emphasis to you is there are dozens more districts around the country represented by Republicans where taxes will go up in a big way quickly starting with the fact that state and local taxes will no longer be deducted. Those Republican congress members have to decide in the coming weeks, are they actually going to vote directly against their own constituents interests with immediate effect, and what does that going to mean for their ability hang on to their jobs? A lot of those are districts that Hillary Clinton won or Barack Obama won in 2012.
I don’t think this ballgame is over. I think the bill could change. I certainly could see a scenario where the bill becomes unsupportable and can’t get through. But let’s take your question what do we do if it happens? So one, we have the highest reserves in the history of the City. So we are ready to address this situation. We need to. It would be very costly, I want to be clear, we don’t have the final analysis because the bill as you know back on Monday – Friday night was shifting.
We do know the immediate impact, the immediate impact is 700,000 New Yorkers would see a tax increase for a lot of reasons starting with they couldn’t deduct a state or local taxes anymore. 700,000 people just in the City, the average tax increase they would see is $5,000. A horrible, negative impact on their lives, and then here is the secondary effect which is the big long term danger, if the federal government goes even more into debt and will have less and less revenue, the ultimate impact will be on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. About half of New Yorkers depend on Medicare and Medicaid. They inevitably would see benefits cut back and premiums go up. Social security will be in danger for the long term. So this – this is a bill of tremendously dangerous proportion and impact for the City, our reserves are our first line of defense, but I worry very much what it means in the years ahead.
Louis: In the – in the intermediate term is there a concern or possibility that it might make real something that is often threatened in the abstract which is that it is now – it becomes financially advantageous to actually leave New York, either the City or the State.
Mayor: Well, the problem with that argument is that is usually addressed to the wealthiest among us, right? That’s usually – I mean Michael Bloomberg used to rattle this sword and say, oh the wealthy will leave. These are the same people who are going to have the biggest tax cuts, you know, 60 percent of the benefit of this bill goes to the top 1 percent. So I find that a little hard to believe –
Louis: No, I’m thinking of the middle-class though, right? I mean if you get to the point you are getting twice, all of the sudden a place like Florida which has no income tax starts to look a little bit more attractive.
Mayor: I think for middle-class folks it does make it harder. On the other hand what middle- class folks always have to think about, about New York City, is the level of opportunity here right now. Obviously we have the strongest economy we have ever had, we have more jobs than we ever had, if you are a middle-class person here and you have a good job, and this is a place that you can continue to have better jobs over time, I’m not sure it’s as simple as simply saying my tax bill went up. I think it’s a real issue, I mean all of us are going to feel it, but on that point about wealthy, ironically and wrongly, you know, the wealthy are going to laugh all the way to the bank. So anyone who says, oh they might leave, they will probably say, oh wait this makes it easier to stay.
Louis: Yeah, it could be.
Louis: We are back on the Road to City Hall and I’m speaking with Mayor de Blasio. Are any further procedural or personnel changes needed at NYCHA in light of what continues to be reported and sort of discovered by the public about the problems related to discovering, reporting, and remediating lead problems in the apartments?
Mayor: Look, as I’ve said, some things happened that shouldn’t have happened. I’m very dissatisfied with how some of this was handled. I also know a lot of that is because the original sin here, the original mistake was made in 2012 in the previous administration. And those inspections for lead were stopped for no reason I can understand and the team that came in at NYCHA didn’t realize that they weren’t happening in the way they should of.
You know some key officials have already been removed or disciplined. Look, we’re going to continue to look at the situation but I would say the most important thing to know is the leader of NYCHA, the Chair Shola Olatoye, has done all – by all accounts, meaning from everything I look at, has done an outstanding job. This piece should have been handled better, and the communication around it should have been handled better.
But the other things that we look at in terms of NYCHA: is it getting safer, are repairs being made faster and better, are all those ridiculous scaffoldings coming down, are the finances being better managed, and is NYCHA fiscally stable for the future, is more private investment being brought in. There is a host of other measures. Overwhelming NYCHA has been moving in the right direction on those under Shola’s leadership. And I think she has proven that she can make this – this organization that for years was deprived of billions of dollars in investment that it deserved. That she can actually make it better on a sustained basis. So she’s the right leader. We’ve got some more work to do to address this issue, but she’s the right leader.
Louis: Are you comfortable or confident that she can, if the billions were to arrive from whatever source, from the State, from the Federal government, move it through the procurement process, get the money where it needs to be and turn things around?
Mayor: Look, we’ve seen evidence of that. I want to differentiate the mistakes of the past from the last four years where NYCHA actually started to get some funding. Now it wasn’t the Federal government giving them anything more, the State situation was laughable. We were promised money by the Governor that never showed up. The part that is real is, by my decision, we gave back to NYCHA money that used to have to give to the NYPD. They used to have to pay the City in taxes. We put originally $300 million more in into fixing the physical plant and then we added another $1.3 billion in the last budget in June. As that money has gone in you see roofs getting fixed, you see lighting going up. I mean the lighting is a great example. You see both temporary lighting in a lot of places that didn’t have it and you see permanent lighting going in. You see community programs, you know the classic midnight basketball that didn’t used to exist in the past actually happening. You know, it’s now been three summers in the row that that worked and worked to great positive impact.
So, I think now NYCHA today under Shola has actually gotten to the place where it takes resources and acts on them quickly and well. They’ve actually gotten over a lot of that history.
I wish I could tell you there was a scenario where I saw the Federal government coming to our rescue. I don’t see it. I have not seen what I expected from the State. We’re going to have to do our damnedest, and that’s the next generation NYCHA plan, to figure out creative uses of both City resources and private resources and greater efficiency to keep improving the situation at NYCHA. But if you’re talking about literally who has put up the points, who has shown the product, I think Shola’s done that constantly.
Louis: Okay. Let’s switch to the MTA. One thing we discovered in the course of talking with the candidates for City Council Speaker is that all of them suggest – support some form of congestion pricing. All of them support funding the MTA’s emergency plan. Is this going to be – and I know you’re in those discussions, somewhere in the discussion about who should be the next Speaker. Is that going to be a point of contention between you and the next Speaker?
Mayor: I, you know, I don’t know how many have also endorsed the millionaire’s tax concept, my impression is a number of them have just from talking to them and working with them. I think there’s a lot of people that think congestion pricing as a philosophical idea is a good one. I’ve said very clearly, although I don’t rule anything out because I haven’t seen the plan, there’s no plan in Albany in right now, I said the problem with congestion pricing is it’s still a regressive tax and it particularly puts a burden on residents of Queens and Brooklyn. And it doesn’t provide waivers for folks [inaudible] legitimate reasons they have to come to Manhattan, hospital etcetera and don’t have resources. I think the millionaire’s tax is a better way to go because especially with what might happen in Washington, the millionaires and billionaires can sure afford it. In fact they’ll be awash in money and it’s the best, most renewable source of revenue to fix the MTA.
But as for the Speaker candidates, look, I know all of them. I think in general there’s a lot of philosophical affinity, and I’m certain we could work together on the MTA. Because whatever plan you like, you got to like a plan to provide the long-term revenue, right. One thing I’ll say is I put a plan on the table. You can see it, you can touch it, you know the millionaire’s tax. Anyone else who wants to fix the MTA, put your plan on the table. One of them has to happen.
Louis: Well let me just distinguish then between the millionaire’s tax, which is funding for the MTA or whatever else you choose to spend it on, and congestion pricing. Pricing is probably a word that throws off some of it conceptually. It’s intended to sort of provide incentives, in a non-punitive way, to get people a gentle incentive to maybe find a different way, or a different time to come into the central business district, right. I mean –
Mayor: I wouldn’t call it gentle. I mean, I respect the question but I wouldn’t call it gentle. I would say, look, the goal that we want people to use their cars less which we are working on every single day – that’s why we created NYC Ferry which has been a great success, that’s why we’re doubling down on Select Bus Service, 21 new routes coming, light rail coming to Brooklyn and Queens, expansion of Citi Bike, and the anti-congestion plan to do things that are common sense like stop deliveries during rush hour and the way that people are coming into the city or going back home –
Louis: Same idea. I mean, that’s a form of congestion pricing.
Mayor: Well, no, that to me is strategic. That’s saying, why on Earth would we allow deliveries during the very hours when the roads are most busy, when they could be done other parts of the day? That, to me, is regulatory, whereas congestion pricing is much more of a financial tool. And it is regressive. Come on, if you’re a rich guy, you’re not going to think twice about paying your $10, your $15, whatever the heck it is –
Louis: Well, of course, they do. Of course you do. I doesn’t matter – look, there’s a very –
Mayor: I disagree with that –
Louis: It’s a very New York thing where to avoid paying even 75 cents at the meter, there are people like me – there are a lot of people like me – who will drive around the block to try and park somewhere else –
Mayor: Unless I missed something, I wouldn’t put you in the rich guy category.
Louis: Well, I’m trying.
Mayor: You’re not there yet, Errol.
Louis: The point being – the point is, I’ve got 75 cents to pay for parking. If I’m going to go to the drying cleaners and I have a lot of stuff but I won’t do it because I’d rather park for free. And if you make it clear that it’s like, if you’re going to park on this busy street, you got to pay something. It doesn’t have to be a lot but it’s got to be something. All of the science behind this suggests that it affects people’s behavior.
If they’re on the fence about whether to make the trip, they won’t make the trip or they’ll do it at a different time, and that’s the whole different. And apparently, even a small incentive like that – that’s why I said gentle – can leverage a lot of change and get a lot of cars the heck out of the central business –
Mayor: I think for working people and middle class people it’s not the 75 cents to park because you’re talking about a lot of people for whom it might be a daily reality and it’s, you know, a doubling of the tolls or more. And that, look – I think by definition if you add a financial element to the equation and it’s going to unevenly affect people – easier for people with more resources to pay than it is for people with less. It’s like sales tax. No one doubts – you know, you can say, the sales tax is for everyone and it’s gentle. Well, if you don’t have a lot of money, the sales tax isn’t so gentle.
If you have a lot of money, you don’t even notice it. If there’s going to be any further discussion of congestion pricing, these bigger issues have to be addressed in my opinion and I have never a plan that does.
But I would say, I’m a little sick of this dismissal of a millionaire’s tax proposal because it’s the only actual proposal that’s written, that has real support in Albany, that makes, sadly, more sense than ever given what’s happening in Washington. I’d like people to say why isn’t that a good idea – well, I think it was a good idea before the Trump tax plan. I think it’s a better idea [inaudible] –
Louis: Well, wait a minute. Where’s this real support? I mean I talk to people in Albany just like you do. I don’t know that you have even half the votes you would need for that.
Mayor: I don’t know if I have all the votes I need either but I’m saying there are people – you may remember when we announced it, Senator Gianaris, Assembly member O’Donnell. There are actual human beings in the Legislature –
Louis: In the minority.
Mayor: Yeah, well, not in the minority in the Assembly. In the majority in the Assembly. There are people who support this idea. It is a proven idea, historically, in terms of taxation. It’s about to be potentially – and again, I’ll fight the Trump tax plan with all I got working with fellow mayors around the country.
But if it comes to pass, nothing makes the idea of a millionaire’s tax for the MTA more relevant that if millionaire’s and billionaire’s get a huge tax break. But there’s no other plan on the table. You can’t fight something with nothing.
Louis: Okay, we shall see. Nothing often does prevail in Albany as we both know –
Mayor: Well, okay, but we agree something has to give on the MTA – a bigger, long-term funding source is necessary. I’m the only guy, with my colleagues in Albany, who actually has a proposal on the table.
Louis: Okay, in our last minute, I got to ask you this. You and I have something in common. We both met our future wives at work. And as you may have seen, there’s been some sort of chit-chat about it because they say, you know, the story of Bill de Blasio meeting Chirlane McCray is that you pursued her relentlessly. You –
Mayor: Humbly and relentlessly.
Louis: Humbly, relentlessly. There’s some talk of –
Mayor: I was an underdog, Errol –
Louis: Stealing an unwanted – unwelcome kiss.
Louis: This is what it says here. This is what it says here.
Mayor: Not true. That’s wrong.
Louis: You were undaunted, you flirted with her mercilessly. Any concerns at all even on the outside that what was the beginning of a beginning of a wonderful love story back in the 1990s might be interpreted very differently now.
Mayor: No, not in the least. I don’t know where that characterization comes from. That’s not right. I –
Louis: No unwanted kisses.
Mayor: Yeah, no. I was, you know – I always say it was a variation for me. Literally the first moment I met Chirlane, it was September 1991, and I sat at a desk that was about ten feet from where I sit now, a cubicle when I was working for Deputy Mayor Bill Lynch.
And I saw her and it was the closest thing I know to love at first sight. And I always say she felt absolutely nothing.
So, then it turned out she was working right around the corner at City Hall in the press office, so I just tried to show up there all the time and try to get her attention. It was like – it was like a high school cafeteria. It was kind of silly. I was trying to – anything to get her attention.
And she didn’t pay a lot of attention and then eventually I worked up the nerve to call her up and ask her out to lunch and she hesitated and then said yes. And everything proceeded from there rather rapidly.
But, no, you know, to me, it was a very humble experience because I didn’t know if she’d give me the time of day so I just tried to get her attention. Simple.
Louis: Okay, we don’t want to see any #MeToos or anything like that.
Mayor: No. It was really – it’s a very different thing. What’s happening today or what has come out from the past is thoroughly inappropriate and I don’t think it’s just 2017. I think in 1991 or even before people knew that kind of stuff was inappropriate and some people thought they could get away with it and it’s a shame. But guess what, the chickens are coming home to roost.
Louis: Indeed and not a moment too soon. Thank you so much. Good to see you. We’ll see you next week.