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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Appoints Two Native New Yorkers to Key Posts, Pledging Leadership Committed to Progressive, Effective and Diverse Government

January 24, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everyone.

Audience: Good morning.

Mayor: Well, let's be consistent and start with a cold weather update. We have more coming up the next few days. I want to emphasize that New Yorkers need to take very seriously the cold weather that's going to be continuing to hit us over the next few days. Most importantly, people need to protect themselves from the extreme cold temperatures.
In particular, we need to be aware of the special needs of seniors, infants, the homeless and those with chronic medical conditions who will be at increased risk. I've said it before – I’ll say it again – particular focus on hypothermia and frostbite. I'd be very aware of anyone might be suffering from frostbite or hypothermia, that is an occasion to call 9-1-1 for immediate emergency assistance. I keep saying and I think it's so important, please check in on your neighbors particularly if they are seniors or folks with any kind of medical condition.

In the next few days we'll have the frigid cold temperatures. We'll still have some icy patches out there. People should exercise extreme caution particularly while walking. Some of the ice will not be visible. Crucial to wear layers, really layer up for this kind of weather and keep exposure limited. Today we're going to have a good amount of sun, but the temperatures really won't get out of the teens from what we're hearing.

Then, through the weekend we're going to see high temperatures in the teens at most. We're going to see again – with wind chill starting today, going into tomorrow – when wind chills factor in, we're going to be at zero or below zero. Winds today in the 15 mile an hour range – gusts up to 25. In some places wind chill, again, this afternoon will get down to zero or below zero – tomorrow, as cold or colder.

Right now, what we're hearing – and I think we're all learning that conditions do change when it comes to weather, so we're going to be very, very vigilant. Right now we're expecting tomorrow light snow, approximately two inches. This moment will start in the morning – last into the afternoon. Right now, National Weather Service is telling us about two inches. Thankfully that is very light snow, but we're going to be monitoring constantly and having meetings today to make sure that we're ready in case that number starts to go up.

Even with two inches of snow, expect reduced visibility and an impact on traffic. Those cold temperatures with the wind chill zero, or sub-zero temperatures, including wind chill will continue through Saturday and into Sunday morning. We would not be surprised from what we are hearing now – that will actually continue further into the beginning of the next week. We are going to assume some real continued weather challenges for the next few days.

The winter weather plan at the Office of Emergency Management remains active. There was a call earlier today of the advanced warning system to make sure that information is being provided to New Yorkers with special needs about the particular challenges of this weather, and that their service providers are being alerted and taking relevant steps. The OEM watch command will continue to monitor the weather and issue updates as needed. We will take action accordingly.

With that, what we'll do is let me talk about the appointments we're making today. At the beginning of the Q&A, let’s cover if there's anything about weather, if there's anything about the appointments, and we'll go to open topics. When we get to announce people it's something I always enjoy doing. It's a great beginning for each member of our team to join us, and it's really a moment where we celebrate finding the best and the brightest to come join this administration.

I always like to begin at the beginning by thanking Jennifer Jones-Austin and Carl Weisbrod – are two exceptional transition co-chairs. I want to thank our chief of staff Laura Santucci. I want to thank Tony Shorris our first Deputy Mayor. The Department of Citywide Administrative Services is under his command.

I want to thank Emma Wolfe. Our Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and the City Legislative Office is on her watch. I noticed the attendance in the first row of the lovely young lady who appears to be my wife, so I'd like to welcome the First Lady. I know she is very happy today to see additional Bajan presence in our city government. We'll talk about it in a moment.

I also like to – at the beginning of each of our announcements – to remind everyone we every single day refer to our core values, our core goals as we go through the process of building out our administration – a progressive government, a diverse government, effective government.

These appointees today really reflect that – the realization of those goals. I want to say – and you'll hear about them – they're two individuals who truly understand the grassroots of our city. That's something that is implicit in all of our criteria. Whether you're talking about progressive values, whether you're talking about the diversity of our city, whether you're talking about effectiveness, all of those points connect to an understanding of our neighborhoods, an understanding of all five boroughs.

These appointees epitomize that. Whether it is making sure that the very complex, dynamics of running this government are effective and efficient, or whether it is making sure the legislative process works well on behalf of New Yorkers, and that there's close coordination between our legislative goals and the work of our colleagues in the City Council. These are the kind of folks who make government work every single day. Stacey Cumberbatch and John Paul Lupo are the kind of folks I hoped we could bring into this administration – dedicated public servants who really believe in our values.

Let me talk about Stacey first, and the role she will play as Commissioner of the Department for Citywide Administrative Services. Stacey is someone I've known for quite a while and she's distinguished herself over many years as a great problem solver, someone who understands New York City government and knows how to make things work even under the toughest circumstances.

I first met Stacey early on in my career in the New York City Council. I was chairman of the General Welfare. One of the first initiatives I worked on was legislation to ensure that victims of domestic violence got really instantaneous access to shelter. We found that victims of domestic violence were being asked, unfortunately, unduly for documentation that kept them from getting shelter right away. Documentation in some cases was actually back where the person battering them was.

We needed to streamline it. We needed to make it a more compassionate and accessible system. At the time, Stacey was working on the issue of public housing and that was where – the reality is – many of our victims of domestic violence lived. We could work together on trying to figure out a way to improve access to shelter for people in need. I was immediately impressed by her nuts-and-bolts knowledge and the ways of getting things done.

If you look at her career, she has chosen to take on the tough missions, missions that involve having to untangle bureaucratic problems and get things to work. She's been at it for almost 25 years between government and non-profits, and she knows how to do the things that we need done at DCAS. Other people have relied on her to do similar work and she's done it with distinction.

One of the things I saw her do when I worked with her also on – when I was public advocate – was her work as the city census coordinator. Everyone knows the census process is an incredibly complicated one, particularly difficult for New York City. In the past, New York City often got under-counted because of the vagaries of the federal census system. We needed an aggressive, creative approach and Stacey did that. She worked with community partners.

She worked with immigrant advocacy groups. She figured out way to get the government to work with the grassroots in a new and compelling way to maximize our chance of getting the truest possible census number, which has everything to say with what kind of federal funding we get, and so many other crucial decisions. The result was very impressive – response rate that was higher than the city's response rate ten years earlier in the 2000 census, and it placed New York City in the most improved category in the federal government's analysis of how cities had done around the country. So, Stacey was the architect of a very effective effort to improve our approach to the census.

Now, for her trouble, she was rewarded with a new mission. And I will safety say that this was something that happened in the previous administration, when the City Time scandal occurred, and the ramifications of it were that a huge amount of tax payer money had been at risk, and we had a broken system hemorrhaging that money. Stacey was brought in to right the ship. She not only managed to make fundamental changes and turn it around, she figured out how to reset the system overall so it could serve the many people it was supposed to in a more equitable and effective manner.

Now, she serves as the Deputy Executive Director of the Financial Information Services Agency where she works to maintain and improve our time keeping system every day. You would look at all this and say that's a great professional record and that's all there is to know. I think if you look a little deeper you'll see that her ability to figure out these complicated things and make them work in the real world conditions of New York City is because she's not only a savvy person, but she's a savvy native New Yorker. The best kind of savvy person.

Grew up in East Elmhurst and has spent the last 20 years in Bed-Stuy. I must say, I'm going to speak on behalf of the First Lady here who would be the first to say that one of the contributing factors would be Stacey's Bayesian heritage, which has driven her to excellence, as is well known of the Bajan people. I would say her Jamaican and Trinidadian roots, as well. Got my plug in for the Bajans there. I am really appreciative of the fact that Stacey is ready to take on this new mission as Commissioner of DCAS.
DCAS does some of the most important work of government, yet it's some of the least known work. When you think about all of the things that we do to purchase the goods and services of government and the ramifications of that, the opportunity that that gives us to do better at bringing more people into the benefits of our economy.

Our purchasing system is a gateway into a more equitable approach when it comes to, for example, helping New York City's small businesses to have more opportunity in purchasing, helping minority women-owned businesses, all of the different opportunities in terms of personnel all over the city government that DCAS helps to coordinate. Our opportunities to get jobs to people who have not had them as readily, to help address unemployment pockets that exist in the city.

We have to make sure through DCAS that the city government functions efficiently and always with the tax payers interests in mind. We can do even more and make sure that everything we do in our city government is furthering the work of fighting inequality and creating opportunity.

Stacey knows that, and she understands that, and she understands the great possibilities that DCAS has to offer. I'm certain that she's going to continue to improve the work of DCAS, but also make it an agent for fighting inequality in this city. She's got the right mindset, the right skills, and I'm proud to welcome her as our new DCAS Commissioner.

[Commissioner Stacey Cumberbatch speaks]

Mayor: I'd like to say, thank you, mom. You did good. I want to give you the official response as Mayor of the city of New York – you done good.

Next I want to introduce our new Director of the Office of City Legislative Affairs, John Paul Lupo. Now, some people live in Brooklyn, some people come from Brooklyn, and some people exude Brooklyn. John Paul is one of those people, the latter special category and it's makes me very proud.

Born and raised in Marine Park – I'm going to have to tell the whole truth here, he attended Brooklyn Tech's cross-town rival Stuyvesant High School. We're not going to hold that against him. As if that weren't enough – as if that wasn’t – his roots in Brooklyn, his love of Brooklyn wasn't enough – he then became chief of staff to Mr. Brooklyn himself, Marty Markowitz. Now, that's when you get to be really Brooklyn.

In the last years John Paul did an extraordinary job helping Marty in his, I could dare say, tireless, enthusiastic, efforts to constantly promote and advance Brooklyn and help to develop Brooklyn. John Paul did an extraordinary job in that role. Whether it's helping to revitalize the stunning Low East Theater on Flatbush Avenue, or helping to pull off events that people all over the borough of Brooklyn love.

I want to note my personal favorite, the concerts in Prospect Park – the Celebrate Brooklyn series – but also the Wingate Field concerts, and the concerts in Coney Island. John Paul has kept close to the neighborhoods of Brooklyn and made sure that every day Brooklynites were given every opportunity to enjoy all that this city had to offer. 

He knows well that the outer boroughs have not always been in the center of decision making in city government, and John Paul is one of the people who are going to help us right that wrong and make sure that this is a government that works to serve all five boroughs equally.

He's coming into this job with a pivotal body of work to do on our progressive agenda. He'll work with our colleagues in the City Council, with our new public advocate, with our new controller, and our borough presidents to advance legislation and policies that lift up every day working New Yorkers in every neighborhood.

Everyone knows one of the first priorities will be to pass expanded paid sick leave legislation and reach over a half million more New Yorkers. Obviously John Paul is going to play a crucial role in pushing forward our affordable housing plan, to mobilize and support amongst our city elected officials for universal pre-k and afterschool. John Paul is tenacious, he's focused, he knows how to fight for the right priorities and he's going to need every ounce of that skill and energy in the work that he will be doing.

Now, there's one other thing you need to know. He is someone who knows how to get his point across because in college he was the national debate champion. It's worth noting that he is now a board member of the Urban Debate League. If any of you haven't heard of it, you're like me. Approximately two years ago and before, the Urban Debate League – the league that Mr. Dante de Blasio is a current participant in.

I get Urban Debate League updates on a daily, or sometimes hourly basis, and John Paul comes out of this fine, fine tradition. I can simply say this on a personal level, if Dante's increasing skill at prevailing in household arguments is any indication, John Paul is going to be startlingly effective in his new role. We welcome John Paul Lupo.

[Jon Paul Lupo, Director of City Legislative Affairs, speaks]

Mayor: With that, let’s do on topic questions from everything we’ve covered so far, and then we’ll go to off-topic. Sally?

Question: I actually have one for each. Quick question for Stacey, it’s probably only important to reporters. Do you know when the Greenbook for the city is going back on?

Mayor: That – that is a really nerdy question.

Question: I know, but, you know-

Commissioner Stacey Cumberbatch, Department of Citywide Administrative Services: Very shortly. You know –

Question: We miss it.

Commissioner Cumberbatch: I do too, actually.

Question: And for Jon Paul Lupo – a number of people have questioned, since you’re going to be negotiating bills with the council and you work with new speaker and sort of helped her get elected and set up her transition, can you talk about the relationship that you have with the council? And what sort of independence you feel you have from them? Because you –

Jon Paul Lupo, Director of the Office of City Legislative Affairs: Well I – I think that – you know, my qualifications in this job come from the breadth of my experience working for the borough president and my time in City government. And I think that – I know the speaker well. I worked with her for the past six weeks and I think she will be a strong, independent, and principled voice for the council. I think the speaker’s been clear that her and the mayor have many shared philosophies and priorities, but where the Mayor and the speaker disagree, I’m sure, we’ll – in a respectable fashion – we’ll hash out differences and move forward for the betterment of the city.

Question: Could we – Mayor de Blasio, I’m wondering if you could weigh in on that sort of same question? About the hiring of Jon Paul Lupo and what it says for people that are pointing to this as a sign that there really is a lot of blurring of lines between your side of City Hall and the City Council’s side of City Hall.

Mayor: You know I – I want to say, I was a council member. I want to remind everyone of this and – 51 very individual individuals in the New York City Council. I know each of them, and they’re strong-willed, they’re independent. They’re each going to pursue an agenda based on the needs of their districts. And I agree entirely with what Jon Paul said. I’ve known Melissa for almost a decade, and she’s a very strong, independent person. And we start with a great set of shared values, and then it’s going to be a day-to-day, you know, ongoing effort to find the specific ways that we can get things done for this city. So, I am certain that there’ll be – all of the checks and balances that normally are necessary to make government function. But it will be a very positive thing that there are profoundly shared values at the same time. Right side, left side – on-topic. Anything on topic? Yes?

Question: For the new DCAS – DCAS commissioner. The paid sick leave bill is – is based on what we heard last week, it’s going to require DCAS to be an enforcement agency –

Mayor: No, Consumer Affairs.

Question: Consumer Affairs – I apologize.

Mayor: Do you want to rescind?

Question: I want to rescind.

Mayor: Rescinding. Strike that from the record. Yes?

Question: Question about the weather?

Mayor: Yes.

Question: How do you feel about the way your response and the City’s response to the last storm has been portrayed nationally? It’s been all over television, and the perception is now that you and your Sanitation Commissioner didn’t do a great job.

Mayor: In the first point – for those of you who are baseball fans, when people get to their team in the major leagues, their newfound teammates often say to them, welcome to the show. So, you know, this – this goes with the territory. You know, you’re – you’re going to constantly be questioned and challenged. It’s a 24/7 job. There’s nothing I’m experiencing that I didn’t fully expect. I spent four years of my life in this building as a staffer. And the job comes with that constant questioning. And by the way, there’s something very healthy about that. You know, again, we’ve talked – we’ve talked about the values of Jeffersonian Democracy. It’s good to be questioned all the time. That being said, I think the bottom line is, in the first storm, a long three weeks ago, in another time and place, I – you know, I think the agencies – everyone performed really beautifully. There was a great coordination and I celebrated their efforts. In the second storm, I think a lot of things were handled right and I celebrated those efforts. What I had learned in the course of it was, some of the work wasn’t good enough. And, you know, the reports that I received about the Upper East Side and then saw for myself, caused me to say we have to do better. Right then and there, we have to do better. And we have to do better, going forward. The concerns raised by folks in Staten Island make me feel the same thing. We have to do better. And my template, going forward, is when I hear those kind of concerns and they’re that consistent, that persistent, you will see me go there myself or one of my top senior leaders of this administration will go out themselves, will see, and will make adjustments. And then we’re going to try and learn what worked and what didn’t work and how we do it better the next time. So, I’m always going to tell you the approach we take. And the approach we took in the last few days was absolutely consistent. The orders that went out were consistent for every single neighborhood. The execution wasn’t good enough, in some areas and we have to do better.

Question: On that topic, what have you done to assess the situation with the snow in Staten Island? We’ve seen lots of pictures of streets that still have snow on them today. And what do you think of minority leader Vincent Ignizio call for an oversight hearing on Sanitation’s –

Mayor: Well – and you know, that’s a good example of what we were talking about before. Vinny Ignizio is a former colleague of mine, and I think very highly of him. We happen to be from different parties. But I – I think very highly of him. And I think the way he framed it was very responsible. He said, this is not a shot at anyone. We want to figure out what happened. We want to figure out how to do it better. And I think that’s fair. You know, I’m concerned about the reports that I’ve heard from Staten Island. And I’m going to be spending time in Staten Island talking to people about what happened. I want to learn from them how we can do better. So, we’re going to work each and every time to get it better. I want each response to be better than the last one, that’s our goal. On this? Yes.

Question: Mr. Mayor, during the campaign you criticized the previous administration for being overly focused on the wealthiest neighborhoods in the City. But only in the Upper East Side, which is arguable the wealthiest and most well-connected in the City, earned this personal response from you, this effusive statement, a promise to redouble your efforts. I mean, how was this not sort of a continuation of the tale of two cities’ own administration?

Mayor: I think that – I respect the question, but I think the logic’s a little tortured. I think the fact is that throughout the city, in the first storm – I don’t mean this to toot our own horns, but in the first storm, I think there was a broad consensus that neighborhoods were served well all over the city. In the second storm, many, many neighborhoods felt they were served well. There were some places that weren’t served as well. The particular concerns raised about the Upper East Side caused me to see what was happening and to act on them immediately. I’ve heard more and more since about the situation in Staten Island and I’m going to pursue that as well. But no, I – I think, in fact, what we’ve said from the very beginning is we’re going to treat all five boroughs the same, all neighborhoods the same. And in the vast majority of the operations associated with the first storm and the second storm, people saw that play out. And you can talk to people all over the city who can confirm that. Yes?

Question: Sir, we’ve heard you say that the response across the city was equal and lived up to what had been done in past forms.

Mayor: No, no – I’m sorry to interrupt, my apologies. The point I’m trying to make is, we gave the instructions in different meetings, different conference calls, that we wanted everybody treated equally and we wanted a rigorous, strong, response. Again, what we’re now working on is making sure that that is implemented very consistently each and every time. So I don’t want to compare against past administrations - I’ve always had some differences with how past administrations handled these things. We’re setting a high standard for ourselves. 

Question: There’s an image making the rounds on social media that was sent to us. It juxtaposes the election map showing Republican voters on the Upper East Side with the snow plow map. What’s your reaction to this and are you concerned that it reflects a mindset that’s –

Mayor: Look, look, I’m not here to analyze mindsets. We’ll tell you the facts. First of all, we know that something went wrong with the PlowNYC system, which is another thing we have to work on and fix. PlowNYC is a really good thing – by the way, for those who remember history, it was a result of the debacle of 2010, where none of us knew what was going on with any snow plows anywhere. I always talked about my street in Brooklyn – three days absolutely impassable – and no one had a sense of when the cavalry was coming. PlowNYC was actually – I will say after offering that critique – I give the previous administration credit for coming up with PlowNYC. It’s a great idea. The problem is when it malfunctions, as it did, and that is a fact, it gives people the wrong impression. So we have to find a way to get it to work consistently or at least be able to notify people, if there is a problem, that it doesn’t indicate exactly what’s going on. We want people to have real-time transparent information. If, inadvertently, we’re giving them inaccurate information, we have to immediately flag that, and update it, and clarify. On the attempts to analyze what happened in any other vein, they’re just wrong and I’ve said that repeatedly and I’ll keep saying it – the orders were given. The execution was not what it should have been. And when I saw it with my own eyes I was thoroughly dissatisfied and I gave new orders, and clear orders, to beef up the efforts. And those did take effect, and we found out late on Wednesday night from talking to local leaders around the Upper East Side that they had seen the improvements they were expecting, and that they felt much better. Yes?

Question: Mr Mayor. Two parts. Commissioner Doherty was here yesterday meeting with staff for a snow briefing. You were not here. You were still in Washington at the time. So, first, have you had a chance to speak to him? Have you spoken to him about the Sanitation Department’s performance and could you categorize that conversation? And more than that, the Commissioner’s office is serving – you asked him to serve on an interim basis. Is his job secure at the moment? How long is he expected to stay on?

Mayor: It’s the same exact situation it’s always been. We said that we’ve asked him to stay on in a transitional capacity. You know, we’ve talked about focusing on the snow season, and that continues, of course. I did not have detailed conversations with him. Our First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris did, and we simply said we want to understand what happened and how we can do better. Look, I want to affirm to everyone in this room – this is – we work in real time around here. This is a 24/7 operation. We are preparing right now to make sure we do better the next time. The next time could be tomorrow. The next time could be a week from now. But, on this side of the ledger, we don’t have the luxury of knowing when the crisis will hit or what it will look like. We have to constantly improve our work. So the conversation with the Commissioner was, let’s go over what needs to be done better, let’s go over  – let’s analyze it, let’s figure out what resources need to be applied or what approaches need to be applied, so we can do better. And I think it was a very productive conversation.

Question: Mr. Mayor, a follow up on that  – are there any specific lessons that have been learned that you can say would be ready for the next storm?

Mayor: Well I think we’re still working to make that a systematic thing. I think the broad point would be, we need to understand better when something isn’t working. We needed to understand in real time that PlowNYC was malfunctioning and we need to understand in real time that some kind of glitch had occurred in the distribution of the trucks and so we’re going to work to improve that feedback. I also want to say that John Paul under the direction of Emma Wolfe and her whole team – Emma has a community assistance unit and all – they’re also now being charged to aggressively connect, hour-to-hour, with elected officials, community boards, etcetera, to make sure we’re getting real time reports of any situation like we saw where the implementation was not up to snuff. So we actually want to raise the accountability levels on every agency by creating a lot – a much stronger feedback loop. I will now editorialize – I don’t think the previous administration was particularly strong in the area of feedback loop. And I think one of the things we want to do – and I’ve mentioned it in terms of Stacy and John Paul – we are hiring people who know the ground, who know the grassroots, who know the neighborhoods. We are going to put together a very rigorous system for staying constantly in touch with neighborhood leaders and elected officials so that when something goes wrong we see it quickly and we can make quick adjustments. Yes?

Question: In the Myls Dobson case, you issued a public accounting of what went wrong [inaudible] public report. Will there be something like that for the Upper East Side debacle and if so when is it the deadline?

Mayor: There’s a review going on right now – less formal than what we did with ACS. Obviously, the ACS situation is  – was a very charged, complicated, legal dynamic that we had to go through in a very systematic fashion. And there is a pretty developed and meticulous fatality review process to understand what happened. This is less rigorous, if you will, in that sense. But what we’re doing right now is we’re getting a managerial review of what happened. You know, we’re getting a clear report on how to do better and we’ll certainly be happy. It’s not going to come in the same kind of formalized manner, but we’ll certainly be happy to go through with you what we’re learning. 

Question: Follow up. When will that be?

Mayor: In the next few days. On-topic, last call – on-topic, on-topic, on-topic. Rich?

Question: Mr. Mayor, any initial theories about what took place up there? 

Mayor: I don’t – Rich, I appreciate the question but I’m not here to speculate. That’s part of why we have reviews – to get facts and not theories. Whatever it was, obviously, again, wasn’t up to snuff and we’ve got to figure it out. But we do know this much, equipment was available, personnel was available, the orders were given. So now we have to figure out what went wrong. And by the way, I think in any of these cases there can be more than one factor. We all know – and this is objective – we know that the snow increased intensely right before rush hour. That is a tough template to work in. But we clearly saw other areas where the performance was stronger. So we have to figure out what particular factors – what happened in terms of the traffic dynamics, and other things that were particular to the Upper East Side that contributed to this, and why were the personnel deployments and all not more effective. That’s what we’re getting under the skin of. Off-topic – yes?

Question: Can you tell us why you didn't personally ensure that we knew about your AIPAC speech last night? [inaudible] and secondly, do you believe the public [inaudible] and press deserves to know where you are?

Mayor: Well I've been scrupulous about telling you where I am, in terms of which city I am and all that, and I'll keep doing that. And we certainly will improve our information system to let you know about something like the AIPAC speech; we're very comfortable doing that, we will do that. Now, the truth is that the event sponsors, whatever the event is, have a right to set the ground rules. And AIPAC believed – not because of me, but because of all the people speaking there – that they wanted to have the event they wanted to have, the way they wanted to have it, and it was a closed-press event. There are many events in this town that are closed-press events. So, we're not here to dictate to event sponsors whether their event is open-press or closed-press, but we do owe you a clear understanding of where I am and what I'm doing.

Question: Mr. Mayor, what are your thoughts on the folks who are complaining about the admission price to the 9/11 museum being 24 dollars? And secondly, as you know, there are some museums around the country, specifically the U.S. Holocaust Museum in DC that receives significant federal funding. Their admission is zero. Do you think it's fair given the amount of federal funding that has been provided thus far [inaudible] 9/11?

Mayor: Well, I think we deserve substantial federal funding for this museum, and I don't think we're getting what we deserve. This is something I agree with Mayor Bloomberg on entirely. This is, let's face it, what could be more of a nationally important site than this? As a national tragedy, and people come from all over the nation, all over the world, to see it, so of course the federal government should play a role, and that's something we're working on. I certainly hope that the museum, particularly if we can get that federal help in, we'll get that admission down as much as possible. There are times when admission is free there, as I understand it. Admission is free to family members of those we lost on 9/11. That's important, but I'd like to see them do better. But to be fair to the museum, they could do a lot better if the federal government would hold up its end of the equation.

Question: Is the city considering giving some money, and do you think that the price should be zero, ultimately?

Mayor: I don't want to conjecture the specifics of the admission structure, I'd like to hear from the museum what they think is right if they had the resources. The bottom line is, we're not going to speak about the financing from our side until we see something from the federal government. We have to hear a federal response here.

Question: Two things – so are you saying that, going forward, these events will be announced to reporters?

Mayor: Sure. 

Question: Secondly, do you think it's appropriate for you to give significant speeches that are not open to the press?

Mayor: I think it's appropriate for an organization to have its own ground rules. And think about the logical conclusion of that question. So an important organization wants to do a private event – if I were to say to them, well, I can't speak unless it's open-press, I don't think that's fair to them. Clearly we do this kind of thing a lot – I have a lot of public events, a lot of public speeches. We're going to make sure that you know when I'm giving remarks, but we have to respect each organization's ground rules. 

Question: Just following up on that, your office – that could be closed-press but you could authorize the release of your speech to the press even if we were not admitted in, is that something that you would do?

Mayor: In many cases, we'd be happy to do that. But I'm not going to say every case because there could be some particular dynamic that could make that wrong. But broadly speaking, again, we're very comfortable telling you where I am, having a lot of press conferences, having a lot of open-press events. This is what I do for a living – is talk to you guys and talk to the public. So I'm very comfortable with it. I will turn to the esteem-able Mr. Walzak and he will work with you in terms of the kind of ground rules we'll have going forward, and we want to make sure that we're as transparent as possible. 

Question: On another topic, there's an event today with some opponents of the NYU expansion plan. So they won a victory in court recently stopping part of the expansion project, they're calling for sort of the whole ULURP process to begin over again, and I'm wondering what your position is. My understanding is that the Manhattan Borough President is going to that event today to support the opponents, do you think, you know, we have a new Mayor, new City Council Speaker, should they reset this project?

Mayor: Well, I think there's a couple of different pieces here. On the legal issue, I don't yet have a full report on the ramifications of the legal situation and what it means for the city going forward. And every lawsuit, every legal case, has large ramifications. So I need to hear that from the Corporation Counsel before passing judgment on the legal case per-say. On the question of the NYU expansion, when I was Public Advocate, obviously I got involved in this issue, and I was not in favor of the original plan. I thought the original plan from NYU was too expansive and did not respond to a lot of community concerns, and I pushed for it to be a scaled back plan, which was what ultimately did happen. So, I appreciate a lot of the community concerns. I think a lot of the community concerns were valid, and we're going to work closely with the community going forward. But on the legal front, I want to reserve judgment.

Phil Walzak: Last question, you guys.

Question: Did you see any images of what happened at Grand Central last night when Metro-North was out for hours? Metro-North has had a very spotty record in recent months. Have you spoken with the MTA and how concerned are you about this even though you don't control them?

Mayor: I don't control them. And I have not yet spoken with the MTA today. Obviously, I’m concerned. I have not seen the images, but I did get reports, and it's a concern. Obviously, we depend greatly on Grand Central and all the functions of the MTA. So I'm convinced that people know they have to do better, and we'll certainly be in close communication with the MTA and any effort to make the operations better. Thank you, everyone.

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