February 7, 2014
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Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, I have to tell you this is a particularly moving day for me. I’m going to make an announcement today that’s for me very – personally – gratifying and, more importantly, will have a huge positive impact on the future of this city. Normally, I like to thank all the people who have helped us to build out this government, including our First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris, my Chief of Staff Laura Santucci, and then I often talk about our Transition co-chairs. You’ll notice one of them has morphed into someone standing next to me. And, I have to say, before I go into talking about Carl and his new role, that I spent weeks and weeks thinking about who would be the co-chairs of the Transition. I had wonderful lists and I’d check my lists all the time and I’d try different combinations of people and I kept coming back to Jennifer Jones Austin and Carl Weisbrod. And I’d try different lists, and I’d look at different combinations – and I kept coming back to it. And, to the best of my knowledge, they did not know each other that well in advance. I just felt in my heart that they would work wonderfully together and each would be tremendous leaders of our efforts. So I named them both and a few days later I started getting reports, one about the other, of how wonderful the other one was and how wonderful it was to work together. And it became a cacophony of Carl and Jennifer having a tremendous experience together. And obviously, their teamwork helped to energize so much of what we’ve done.
So, Jennifer, I’m not taking away a teammate. He’s just taking on – he’s wearing a different hat – and – but it’s been a tremendous partnership and so wonderfully productive for the city. So thank you, to both of you as you prepare to take on a new hat. So, you know, for me – I mean this is very, very personal again. Carl has been a friend and someone I’ve respected for over two decades. We served together in this building in the early 1990s and I can tell you, at the time, I always thought of him as one of the truly talented, truly visionary people – and one of the most respected people in the whole government. And I think that’s been true of everything he’s done. And, I knew from the beginning, ’cause Carl made it abundantly clear – his goal was not to return to public service. He had been there and done that in many ways very wonderfully. But underneath it all I kept thinking that maybe the moment would come when I could tempt him back for the good of all of us. And this today is a great step forward for this administration.
Now, as I always say, we have built our team based on the three core values of making sure that our progressive vision for the future of this city was included in everything we did, in every choice we made – that we had a government that looked like New York City and that we had an effective group of leaders who could get things done. Carl’s helped to lead us to a series of choices that really exemplify those values. And he himself exemplifies them. And if you want to know Carl, just look at the team he helped to assemble as evidence of his extraordinary capacity. His skills and his resume go far beyond the question of just putting together great personnel. For 35 years – sorry, Carl, I had to tell the truth – for 35 years, he has helped to revitalize and shape neighborhoods across this city.
And it’s my honor today to name him as the next Chair of the City Planning Commission. We’ve had a strong personal connection and philosophical connection since we first met and worked together. And maybe, in part, it is because we both got started on our own tracks in similar ways. Carl started out as a young, anti-poverty lawyer in the Lindsay Administration. I came along a few administrations later. Well, Carl and I started with similar origins, but what he did – I have to tell you – is simply extraordinary. He rose to become a man that mayors and governors – many different mayors and governors – turned to to revitalize neighborhoods and to move forward our city and our economy. And in each instance he has risen to the central challenge of his time. And one of the things you’re going to see is that Carl – either Carl never sought easy assignments or because he was good, people refused to give him easy assignments and instead reserved for him only the most difficult ones. And that is the measure of the man.
I know a lot of good public servants who were never asked to do the seemingly impossible. Carl has been asked to do the seemingly impossible multiple times and has succeeded each time. Started with the redevelopment of 42nd Street. Now, some of you may not have experienced the joys of 42nd Street in the 70’s and 80’s, but for those of us who did, if I had given you a picture of today’s 42nd Street and said this guy Carl is going to make it look like that one day, I would’ve asked you what you were smoking. Carl took a situation that was entrenched, that was unfortunately a New York City urban myth of the worst kind, and recognized that it could turn into a tremendous economic engine for this city. And by force of will and tremendous capacity, he moved forward a plan – and I’ve heard the stories from Carl – he moved forward a plan through thick and thin. It was not a linear dynamic. There were setbacks. There were difficulties. There were huge political and practical challenges but he kept it moving forward. By the way, with a huge criminal presence running through the area he was trying to fix, with it being the international capital of the sex trade, and nonetheless, Carl persevered and saw that it could turn into an area that all New Yorkers could enjoy and could be a foundation for the redevelopment of our city. And that it could be a place that would create good jobs for everyday New Yorkers. It could be a place that would help to move our economy forward.
And lo and behold, go to 42nd Street today and see what Carl Weisbrod’s vision led to. He then took on the top staff role at the City Planning Commission under Mayor Koch. And he took what had been a Manhattan-focused operation and turned it into one that recognized all five boroughs – and again, once upon a time in this city, thinking about government from a five borough perspective was very rare. So Carl, determined to change the approach and make it truly one that exemplified the need to treat all boroughs equally and to help each borough develop to the maximum its potential, and that’s why he laid the groundwork for the redevelopment of business hubs in Long Island City, in downtown Brooklyn – hubs that now, again, today, we think of as a part of the firmament. We think it’s normal that there’s a thriving, strong, business community in Long Island City, a normal and strong business community in downtown Brooklyn. Once upon a time that was considered very, very unlikely, but not to Carl. As the founding president, then, under Mayor Dinkins – the founding president of the Economic Development Corporation – he helped to secure, he led the effort to secure the 99-year lease with the United States Tennis Association – sorry, USTA, United States Tennis Association – for the national tennis center in Flushing Meadows. One of the most financially beneficial agreements the city of New York has ever struck with a private entity. In fact, one of the best sports deals struck by any municipality in the history of this country. Further proof that this is a man who can drive a hard bargain. And where others saw limits into what could be achieved in such a deal, Carl pushed the spectrum and saw much greater possibilities for the public good and achieved them. So I could close my nice book here and say those were all the challenges that Carl Weisbrod took on. And that was a great body of work.
And then, Carl Weisbrod became the director of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. And in the aftermath of 9-11 – the most unspeakable tragedy this city has ever experienced – it was Carl Weisbrod who had to help people over their fears, had to help them over their hesitation, and show them that downtown once again – that Lower Manhattan could once again – be a thriving economic hub, a place that not only would have its traditional businesses that could become a new mixed-use neighborhood attracting thousands of new residents and becoming more vital than ever – something people literally thought was impossible. Carl Weisbrod led the way to that achievement. And I have to tell you, that body of work could’ve made someone haughty, could’ve made them distant from the people they serve, but that’s never been Carl. Carl did not do his work from on high. He moved his office into the neighborhoods he was involved in and worked from the grassroots up.
Now, he’ll take on the greatest challenge of our time – the crisis of affordability and the crisis of inequality that grips this city. And we need someone who not only understands the neighborhoods and communities we’re fighting for, but knows every tool that we have to get the job done. And because of his experience, Carl knows where those tools are. Now, we’re talking about here the core of our agenda as an administration. It’s something I’m entirely focused on – this progressive core of what we came here to do. It’s something that Deputy Mayor Glen is entirely focused on. We believe this is what we came here to do. And Carl will work closely and directly with me and with Deputy Mayor Glen to ensure that we achieve these extraordinary goals because it’s a time in which we have to reach for goals of this magnitude. We have to preserve and expand our affordable housing and create 200,000 units over the next ten years. We have to do that for the good of the future of this city. We have to support new manufacturing and industrial uses in this city because they provide the good jobs with wages and benefits a family can actually live on. We have to develop strong mixed-use communities that are resilient to climate change – this is something our time demands of us and we are resolved to do it. And we have to be smart and strategic about creating a planning process that makes sure development is connected to the public transit that people need and the public schools that people need. All of that will take extraordinary effort and we’ve chosen an extraordinary leader to help us get there. And in the process we’re all resolved to cut down on the bureaucratic delays that slow some of the development projects we truly need to achieve these goals, that stop us from getting people the affordable housing and the jobs that they require. So our focus will be unrelenting and we’re going to achieve this agenda. And Carl Weisbrod will be the leader at City Planning that will help us to get forward to the next level in this city, that will help us to achieve the progressive vision that the people sent us here to work on.
I’m going to say a few words in Spanish. I’m going to bring up our special guest. And then I have just a couple of comments after we’ve talked – done on-topic questions – I have a couple of comments before off-topic questions. En español. Necesitamos a alguien que entienda las comunidades por las que estamos luchando, y que conozca los recursos que tenemos para lograr nuestra meta. Carl Weisbrod nos ayudará a construir y preservar doscientos mil apartamentos de precios módicos durante la próxima década. Hoy, tengo el honor de nombrarlo comisionado de Planificación Urbana y presidente de la Comisión de Planificación de la Ciudad. Carl Weisbrod will now give his comments entirely in Spanish.
Carl Weisbrod: Thank you. Well. For a moment I thought you were talking about a different Carl, I have to say. And, you know, I always aspired to be Nat Leventhal and not Dick Cheney, so I’m a little surprised to see myself up here, to be honest with you. First, I just want to thank Mayor de Blasio for this extraordinary honor. It’s – I really want to thank you. Really appreciate it. And also, thank you for your extraordinary powers of persuasion, which brought me up here. My entire life has – I’ve had a love affair with New York City for all of it. I was born here. I was raised here. I’ve always worked here. And my family was also raised here. And we’ve lived here our entire lives. I welcome this opportunity to help shape its destiny and especially to help address the challenge of meeting Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious goal of creating and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing. And I look forward to working closely with Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and all others in the administration to achieve that goal.
I also look forward to working with Deputy Mayor Glen and her economic development team to create high-quality jobs in the city for New York City residents. We need more of them. And to solidify and enhance New York City’s status as the greatest city in the world and the epicenter of culture and commerce. I’ve devoted most of my career to revitalizing New York City neighborhoods – Times Square, Lower Manhattan, and Hudson Square – and I’m excited about doing that in neighborhoods throughout the city of New York. I’ve learned that planning for sustainable neighborhoods requires more than zoning and aesthetics – although they are very, very important tools, obviously. It also requires capital and social investments, as well as engaging the citizens of those neighborhoods in the process. In the neighborhoods I’ve worked in, I have learned the importance of being part of the neighborhood and not just an emissary from the city. And that’s why – whether it was in Times Square or, as the mayor said, in Lower Manhattan or Hudson Square – my office was actually physically located in those neighborhoods. Obviously, this is not possible to do in every neighborhood as Director of the Planning Department, but I am committed to having city planning staff deeply embedded and empowered in the neighborhoods we serve. I learned a long time ago that New York City’s greatest strengths are its neighborhoods and the rich diversity of our residents. Those are the qualities that make New York the world’s global center and that distinguish us from the other great cities in the world. Now, I just want to give my special thanks to my fabulous Transition Co-Chair, Jennifer Jones Austin –
Mayor: Here we go again.
Weisbrod: – who has been such a great partner to me over these last three months. I also want to thank my colleagues at HR&A, who have taught me a lot of what makes cities great and I hope to continue to implement that in my new role. And, finally, my love and thanks to my wife, Jody Adams, and my son, Billy – without them, believe me, I would not be standing before you today. So, thank you very much and thank you Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Welcome aboard, welcome aboard. Jody, a special thank you on behalf of the people of New York City.
Mayor: So let’s take questions on this topic and then before we go to off-topic questions, again, I have a couple of quick comments up front. On this topic. Yes.
Question: I'm just curious if you could take us through the process of selecting Mr. Weisbrod, I mean, how many candidates were interviewed before you decided to select him for the position? And, as Transition Chair, Mr. Weisbrod, did you have any sort of say in submitting your own name for this position?
Mayor: Well, let me answer the first one– excuse me, the second one first. Mr. Weisbrod had absolutely, positively no role in submitting his own name. He was slightly aghast when I forcefully submitted his own name. No, there were a lot of people looked at, and it was clear to me that this was a pivot point role that we needed the right person for. And Alicia Glen and I spoke about this at great length, that this was going to be one of the places, one of the roles where we needed a leader who could move things very aggressively. To achieve these goals, you need someone who could have extraordinary respect from all quarters in this city, and the knowledge of how to strategically move a plan forward. And it's going to be a very different approach at City Planning, as someone who was able both to bring forward the philosophy we had effectively, but also understood the agency as it has been. And given the fact that he had the top staff role in this agency once upon a time, and has worked with it incessantly over the years, there just was no one comparable in all of New York – I would say bluntly, in all of the United States, comparable for this role. So even though it wasn't in his plan, it was in my plan. So, a little persuasion. I didn't get physical. I kept it all very high road. A little persuasion, but I can't say what an amazing step forward this is for our administration. We're absolutely thrilled. Yes.
Question: What neighborhoods are you targeting for revitalization, and to do what with them?
Mayor: Well, I think, the way we're looking at this is you have a citywide problem. I think a lot of the dialogue in the past, understandably, would target a particularly few troubled neighborhoods, and they kind of became emblematic of our challenge. I think we have a different reality today. The reality today is, we have an affordability crisis that is essentially a five-borough crisis. And the affordable housing we have to create is in every type of neighborhood. The job creation we have to do… Again, think of the difference. I'm going to – don't take it personal, Carl – think about when Carl Weisbrod started in this work, in another time, in another century, and the concept we had then, of what was a living wage, and what kind of jobs were available. Literally, the first day – since I've already gone down the road I'm just going to continue. What was the first year you worked in city government?
Mayor: Thank you. Thank you for your honesty. 1972. In 1972, a young person could graduate from one of our city high schools and have a pretty decent assumption that there would be a good-paying job, even if they never went to college. Now we're talking about an entirely different dynamic where we have to work aggressively to create the kind of jobs that pay a living wage, have decent benefits– what we historically call middle-class jobs. So, in effect, what we used to think of as an affordable housing crisis, or a redevelopment crisis in certain neighborhoods, has become globalized to the whole city. What we used to think of as certain people trying to get the fruits of our economy, has become a much more citywide challenge, because the middle-class has suffered so deeply. In that context, it's a very much more ambitious strategy needed to address the challenge, and again, that's part of why Carl is standing here. We needed someone who could really reach for the stars in the case. Yes.
Question: Is Mr. Weisbrod related to Anne Weisbrod who was the–
Mayor: I'll let Mr. Weisbrod speak to that.
Weisbrod: Anne Weisbrod and I often used to say that we were divorced and she took me to the cleaners, but the truth of the matter is we're totally unrelated, and we know each other pretty well.
Mayor: You were not married, either.
Weisbrod: We were never married.
Mayor: I'm going to teach him something about clear message. Your story suggested otherwise, so… [laughs]
Question: Do you have any intention to roll back some of the planning initiatives that the Bloomberg administration did – re-zonings, and high-rises, and plans for a soccer stadium….
Mayor: We're going to take – it's a very important question – we're going to take an entirely different approach, is the simple answer. We're looking at the soccer stadium with fresh eyes. We're looking at Midtown East with fresh eyes, and a whole different set of goals than the previous administration had. We are looking at the notion of what city planning is with fresh eyes. And I have a lot of respect for Amanda Burden. She had a very different strategic understanding of what city planning is and what it means than Carl Weisbrod does. Carl and I feel, and Alicia, we all feel that this is about using the planning process to achieve a bigger set of strategic goals. That includes the creation of affordable housing. That includes facilitating job development. That includes trying to address inequality. Inequality – you know, I remember we've had a lot of conversations in here – inequality affects transportation policy. Inequality affects, obviously, education policy. There are so many ways you have to bring these strands together, and ultimately a lot of them run through the decisions at City Planning. So yes, you're going to see a very different approach than in the previous administration. Back there, first.
Question: Can you talk about the governance of City Planning – the chairmanship position – will there also be an executive director, will this be overseeing day-to-day operations, it is a full-time position–
Mayor: Very full-time.
Question: But is there also –
Mayor: Full-time only begins to describe it. Carl can describe the structure.
Weisbrod: Yes, there is – the chair is also the director of the department, and there is also an executive director under the chair, and that's what the charter calls for, and that's what will remain.
Mayor: So the way it is structured, just so we're 100% clear – the chair is the chair of a commission, and essentially, the commissioner of the department like any other city department, simultaneously, the executive director is the staff director.
Question: With Carl moving into this new role, can you talk about the status of the transition, maybe what's happening, is that moving to City Hall?
Mayor: Yeah, no, it's phasing out, is the bottom line. It will, by the end of this month, be finished, and the work will be directed more and more here. During the month of February, Jennifer and Carl are going to continue, as they have been, to advise us as we make decisions, but then the locus of personal action will be fully in here, under our Chief of Staff Laura Santucci.
Question: Carl, could I ask, you have played a role [inaudible] the neighborhoods of this city, but you've also – those neighborhoods have become less affordable. How do you see yourself going in some of these new places, transforming them, without, you know, making them the new Times Square, so to speak.
Weisbrod: Well, I think Times Square is a very different kind of a place, because it's a commercial center, and entertainment and media center of this city. But the key goal of this administration is to produce 200,000 units of affordable housing, and they're going to be produced in neighborhoods throughout New York City. We want, certainly, to keep families who are living in affordable housing, in place, and as the mayor has underscored to all of us, the goal here is to produce affordable housing now, not just housing. And that’s what makes this such an ambitious undertaking, but a very, very important undertaking for the city. Now, in neighborhoods I've worked in, some affordable housing has been produced, but I think we want to produce a lot more. We have to produce a lot more, if the city is going to be viable, and the middle-class is able to live and stay here.
Mayor: Just to add to that, I want to make sure, because, you know we're going to be talking about this a lot in the coming days, and obviously in the speeches next week as well. This notion of how we have to address the 200,000 units of affordable housing, and how we have to address not just job creation, but raising wages and benefits – this is a huge holistic task. Now, for Alicia Glen, as Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, she has to bring all these strands together. There's all the different housing agencies. There's City Planning. There's all these pieces that are going to have to interconnect for us to achieve these goals. And then, as I said, if you really want to look at the big picture, you talk about transportation, you talk about economics, and basically, education, and how all of this comes together. So I hope it's abundantly clear, here, that we are getting the whole governmental apparatus to work towards these common goals.
And I'll editorialize about the City Planning Commission of the past: I think at times, the City Planning Commission focused more narrowly. I think a critique that was offered of the City Planning Commission in the past was that it was very siloed – focused on, perhaps, a purer vision of what planning was, or what aesthetics were. Aesthetics are important, don't get me wrong. But we see the City Planning Commission as a central piece of a strategy to change this city's reality, to make sure that people who are left out have more opportunity, to make sure that we're taking on inequality, to make sure people can afford to live here and have jobs that they can feed a family on. So, this is about getting all of the different agencies that have to interconnect in this process, to work towards a common goal. That has not been the governmental reality – I want to be very plain with people – for a number of years around here, and I'm not just talking about the immediate previous administration, I would argue the one before that as well. So, this is a much more coordinated, focused approach. And I think, again, given the respect that Carl has earned, and his connection to so many pieces of the world of development, and the world of affordable housing, et cetera, it's going to help to speed that connection between all of the agencies, that he'll be in the city planning world. Soon, we're going to have a lot to say on the other roles, the housing roles that are going to be central partners in this endeavor. And Deputy Mayor Glen and I have been working intensely to put together that team and bring them out, but the whole point is, everyone's being instructed the same way – that the goal is all of these agencies see themselves as having a single common agenda. Yes.
Question: In areas that have been hit by Hurricane Sandy, there's been kind of a lot of different approaches to rebuilding, people are rebuilding on their own, people are rebuilding through the city, buyouts – what's the strategic plan, I guess, for planning in these waterfront areas, you know, to make them more resilient for the next storm, get them recovered?
Mayor: Let me start, and then obviously – jump in. I've said – you know, I think it's well-established – I have no trouble challenging the assumptions of the previous administration when I disagree with them, but I also am very comfortable saying when I think they were essentially right. So I think the resiliency plan put forward by the Bloomberg Administration was essentially right, and is certainly a playbook we're happy to start with. I think the challenge in all we do is to not only think about the narrow mechanical question of resiliency, which is absolutely crucial – and that's things like changing the building codes, and elevating buildings, and moving generators out of the basement – you know, all sorts of obvious, very important, physical things, and the portable barriers, restoration of wetlands – lots of important and good policy, some of which, thank God, can be at least in part funded by the federal money we have coming in. But I think it's another step beyond that. I talked about this a couple months back in the Rockaways. We also have to see how we can use these opportunities, this funding, this strategic moment, to do some other things. We want to not only create resiliency – for example, for public housing in places like the Rockaways and Red Hook – we want to find a way to strengthen those buildings that have been neglected for many years. We not only want to do the work of resiliency, we want to see if the work of resiliency can provide some economic opportunity for folks who have been left out, and who were affected personally, their families, affected and dislocated, by Sandy. So I think there's a lot we have to do that connects to the work of resiliency, but the fundamental answer to your question is, we do believe that the playbook left to us by the Bloomberg Administration is a good starting point. Yes. Right there.
Question: There was a [inaudible] previous administration. Is it going to be a challenge to find areas for growth and have you mentioned some of the areas that you see as potentially, the ones that would be prime for the rezoning that would lead to more affordable housing?
Mayor: Well, I'll say this much, and again, jump in if you choose to. I think our goal is to look at the whole city as we assemble this team, and make that judgment. I think it's clear right off the bat that there are some areas that weren't rezoned that are worth a look. I think it's clear right off the bat that there are some areas where development took place, but not to the extent that we would like it to. I've spoken many times about Atlantic Yards. I'm very, very committed to getting that full affordable housing plan achieved there, and I don't care if it's officially on state land, we're going to have to find a way to get that done. So, I think the simple answer to your question is, we have to work through a full plan. As I said, Deputy Mayor Glen has been tasked with this, and she's taken it on with great vigor, to think about how all these agencies can work together for that common goal. But it will, of course, start with looking at what can be achieved in each neighborhood. Another obvious example is what is the right way to approach Midtown East, not only in terms of affordable housing, but in terms of infrastructure, and in terms of getting public value. So we're going to be taking a very fresh look at the situation and then coming up with a game plan that gets us there.
OK, we're going to do some off-topic, let me start with this off the top, because I came from – just before this – giving blood through the city's blood drive, and I just want to say this, just to reiterate what I said on Wednesday. The city's blood supply remains low, and that's why I continue to urge all New Yorkers to take a few minutes out of their busy schedules to donate blood. Without donations from volunteers, it's not possible to meet the daily demand for blood, and donating now can make a profound difference in someone else's life. The current need is due to the fact that the recent storms have reduced the number of donations being made throughout the city. We obviously had a series of storms so we had reductions day after day in the amount of blood coming in. It's very important that we strengthen the supply so that any New Yorker in need has the blood available to them. So this morning, Chirlane and I both went down to a center created by the New York Blood Center, where public employees were coming to give blood, and I think I can safely say that I have a pretty busy schedule, and Chirlane and I found a way to do this, we found a way to carve out the time, and I think a lot of other people in this town can find a way to carve out the few minutes to do something for their fellow New Yorkers. By the way, what goes around comes around. Someday, it could be any one of us that needs that blood in an emergency. We want to make sure the supplies are strong.
So, I want to strongly encourage it. For more information on where you can donate blood, how to donate blood, New Yorkers can call 1-800-933-2566. 1-800-933-2566. Or visit www.nybloodcenter.org. nybloodcenter.org.
And with that, we welcome off-topic questions. Rich.
Question: Just to follow on the blood experience, can you describe –
Mayor: The blood experience, Rich?
Mayor: Is that like the Jimi Hendrix Experience? What is that?
Question: Was it a pinch? What did it feel like? I mean, just to describe to the people who haven't donated.
Mayor: I think for most people, it's little more than a pinch. You know, you have that brief sensation, and then you don't even know it's happening. Very professional people at the New York Blood Center by the way, they're extraordinary, they're very personable, very helpful, and they know what they're doing. So, I literally, after a couple of seconds, I didn't even know it was happening.
Question: Did Chirlane try to stop you from the Lorna Doones?
Mayor: Chirlane was my enabler. She, too – let he or she who has not eaten a Lorna Doone cast the first cookie. That's a biblical reference, for all of you there. Yes.
Question: What can we expect next week from the State of The City, and the budget? And why aren't you wearing your wedding ring?
Mayor: Why what?
Question: You're not wearing your wedding ring.
Mayor: It's just from day-to-day. It's there in my little drawer, and sometimes I remember and I rush to put it on, and sometimes I don't, but I know exactly where it is. By the way, no one's asked what it is, and I find that quite amazing.
Question: What is it?
Mayor: I'm glad you asked.
Mayor: It is a Zuni, Native American Zuni Indian ring. And the story is simple, that it was the day before our wedding, and Chirlane and I had not been able to find a ring we found interesting enough to wear, with all due respect to other types of rings. And we went to a store in Greenwich Village and it was about to close, and it was the last store we could get to, and we're looking around – great planning, here – we're looking around, and this multi-stone – different kinds of stones – Zuni Indian ring, screamed out to us at the very last moment. It was meant to be. And I love my ring. And I love my wife.
Oh, the other question. Now I have to talk about the State of The City. Look, obviously I'm not going to foreshadow too much. I can simply say this: we're going to talk about, in the State of the City, how we're framing this first year of work, by definition, and how we intend to follow through on this very ambitious agenda. I think the people of this city deserve to have a clear articulation of why we're doing what we're doing and what we seek to get done in the short term. And I'm looking forward to having an opportunity to really lay out a bigger vision and plan. In terms of the budget address, we're obviously going to talk about the profound challenges we face. We are going into the great unknown here. We have never had all our labor contracts open simultaneously – we've literally never, ever experienced that before as a city. So I'm going to describe what that means. And I'm going to describe the actions we're taking to deal with that situation. We believe that to achieve this important agenda, we must have fiscal stability. So we're going to talk about how we're going to achieve that stability while driving forward a progressive agenda. Yes, you, right there.
Question: Are you going to the Chinese New Year parade tomorrow in Flushing?
Mayor: I am going to the Flushing parade. Yes.
Question: Can I just ask you about your method – if you can explain to us your method of charging charter schools rent or when you’re going to talk more about that?
Mayor: Well we don’t have the final plan. We will have that – I don’t want to give you an exact date yet, ’cause there’s some work to do. First, I want to say that the typical reality in much of the country – in all different kinds of states – is that charters are charged rent. What I’ve said is, we’re going to have a sliding scale dynamic based on the resources of that charter school. So I’ll give you an example. There’s a charter organization that’s well known where the chief executive officer makes $500,000 a year. If you take my salary and Tony Shorris’ salary as first deputy mayor and you combine them, that’s still less than that individual’s salary. So, I would say, that charter, also known to have a lot of other resources, might be one that legitimately could afford to help us by paying a little bit of rent so we can use that money for a lot of other important things we need to serve our children. There are other charters that really have very limited resources and we simply won’t charge them rent. So, we’re going to put together plan that delineates the terms of that. And we think when the people see it they’re going to understand that it’s a common sense approach and a fair approach. Sally.
Question: Just a follow up on what you said about the budget. The PBA [inaudible] sat down and resumed talks with your administration. Have any other unions that weren’t [inaudible] binding arbitration started talking to you?
Mayor: There’s no formal negotiations going on yet. What’s happened is a series of just broad introductory meetings. And some with some unions. And others will happen over time. But the formal negotiations have not begun.
Question: Mr. Mayor, at 5:30 you’re going to be meeting with this band.
Mayor: What’s the name, Dave? What’s the name of the band?
Mayor: Yeah, Dave. Would someone else like to say the name?
Question: Well, why - are you a fan of their music and are you trying to send a message?
Mayor: I am a tremendous admirer of what they’re doing. I think that they are speaking up for human rights. They’re speaking out against oppression and against the denial of the right to free speech. And their strength and resilience in the face of what they’ve gone through is truly inspirational to me. I saw the interviews when they came out of prison and there was an incredibly admirable defiance – that they basically made clear they would speak out even if it meant being imprisoned again. And I just think, like so many people in New York, that that is an example to the whole world and I wanted to be supportive. I wanted to, you know, let them know and people who care know that this is the kind of activists that we should be supporting.
Question: Will you be saying their name?
Mayor: Can I say Pussy Riot? Yes, I can.
Question: Mr. Mayor, what are you doing to address the pothole situation that seems to be everywhere?
Mayor: I’ve not experienced that personally at all. No, I’ve experienced it a lot. It’s a challenge. Look, we – this is connected to aging infrastructure, writ large, right? We haven’t received the resources we used to – federally and from the state government – for road repair. We’ve had really tough weather conditions. So, it’s something we’ve actually been talking about internally - how do we improve the response to potholes and how do we make it as lasting as it can be in a really tough circumstance?
So the first answer is, we’re going to be coming back with some ideas on that over time because I know people are concerned. I’m very concerned and I, not so long ago, was driving myself around and, you know, experienced it all the time. And I want to find every way we can to address it. The second part of the equation is something I’ve talked about a lot, which is we have to change the dynamics with Washington. And I went to the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting last month and I said, you know, what I said last year. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be years and years of work. But it has to change because the federal government has disinvested in our cities, and our cities – more than ever in our history – are the economic engines. And we’ve got to get the federal government to take responsibility again. I believe if we work together – if mayors work together, if governors work together, in blue states, red states, purple states – we can actually change the dynamic in Washington. But it’s only going to come from the grassroots up. It’s not going to happen within the current Washington attitude or dynamic. So that’s a big part of the equation.
Question: [inaudible] not going to happen overnight [inaudible] a long process. Are there short term goals?
Mayor: That’s what we have to – the answer is, of course we have to address the situation as best we can. And we’ll be able to fill in that blank soon. Last question.
Question: Vice President Biden compared La Guardia airport to a third world country.
Mayor: Not his finest moment.
Question: I wanted to know if you felt that was a fair characterization? And, if it is, what will you do to improve [inaudible]?
Mayor: I respect the Vice President, but I think his comments were inappropriate. LaGuardia obviously needs an upgrade, but that being said, the airport manages an extraordinary amount of traffic and the people who work there make it work under very difficult circumstances. So, as a proud New Yorker, I didn’t like that comment, and I think it was not the right way to talk about it. Thank you very much everyone.