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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Announces Two Senior Appointments, Pledges to Knit Key City Services Into Neighborhoods in Every Borough

January 21, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Places everyone.


So, I like to begin at the beginning, I want to thank everyone who was involved in bringing these extraordinary public servants back to the service of New York City. In this case, our deputy mayors were deeply involved; our First Deputy Mayor, Tony Shorris; our Deputy Mayor, Alicia Glen; our Deputy Mayor Lilliam Barrios-Paoli; all were involved in these decisions and did a great job finding the very best talent.

I see lurking in the corner our transition co-chair, Carl Weisbrod, who we've been keeping very, very busy – with his co-chair, Jennifer Jones Austin. They continue not to eat or sleep as we continue to do this work, but they've done a great, great job in all that we've done in this transition, and today I'm very, very proud of the people who are joining us.

Let me start with Maris Torres-Springer. I think a lot of you know that on the question of small business in this city I have some very passionate feelings. I see small business as the great job creation engine of this city. I see it as one of the great equalizers in this city, because small business exists in every neighborhood and every borough and gives many, many people their first chance at a pathway to employment.

I see small business as the way traditionally that immigrant families have established themselves in this city and prospered. My own family experience, my grandmother and her sister and her mother coming from Southern Italy – starting a small dress shop called ‘The Misses Briganti’, and thriving. These were three women from a small town in Southern Italy who were able to come to New York City and start their own business, at a time when women owned businesses were not typical, I might add – but this city gave them that chance, and it allowed them a pathway to the middle class, and then the generations thereafter an opportunity for education; an opportunity for greater economic chances.

So, small business means so much to us. It also speaks volumes about the character and the personality of each neighborhood of this city, and we as New Yorkers, we love our neighborhoods. We love their character. We love their personalities. We love the feeling we get in our neighborhoods, and our small businesses, particularly our family owned businesses, our multi-generational businesses, are so much of that flavor of this city.

So, there's so many reasons to focus on small business as a crucial part of our agenda.

Now, you will also remember that when I was public advocate we did reports on the reality faced by our small businesses in the last few years, and it was not a pretty picture. Under the previous administration, I think there were policies in place that actually made it tougher on small business. And by the way, those policies occurred during the second greatest economic decline of the last century.

Our small businesses were struggling to begin with. They did not need overly aggressive enforcement and overly punitive fines added to the equation.

So, we want to right that wrong, and we want to move forward in a positive way, and create a new relationship between City Hall and the small business community – a new relationship between all the agencies that work with small business and the small business owners in every neighborhood in every borough.

And that begins with understanding their perspective and communicating with them respectfully and through a prism of appreciating the role they play in this city.

So, when I thought about the Department for Small Business Services, I thought about the need to make that the focal point agency representing the interests of small business, and being an advocate within the administration on behalf of the small business community. And I thought about the need for leadership that understood the small businesses of this city, understood our neighborhoods, understood the different communities that make up our city, and particularly understood that outer borough small businesses have faced the toughest challenges in these last few years. In fact, challenges that the report I put out a few years ago pointed out were unfair and disproportionate, and that is something we will be rapidly changing and fixing.

So, I needed a commissioner for Small Business Services who really understood, but also could be that change agent, and I came to the conclusion that Maria Torres-Springer was the right person. She had the right mindset, the skills, the energy, the focus, the desire to make the changes we know – and always do it in direct consultation with the small businesses that we're here to support.

And she knows how important it is for us to build up our economy in every neighborhood, and how crucial a role small business plays. She knows it because of her extraordinary professional background, but she also knows it very personally because of her own experience and her family's own experience.

Her parents emigrated from the Philippines shortly before Maria was born, and her family often struggled to make ends meet. Her parents worked multiple jobs, and then very, very sadly after her mother passed away, the burden of providing for the family got even greater, and Maria grew up with those challenges around her. And I could tell from talking to her that they gave her a clear understanding and a spirit to help others in need who have faced the same kind of challenges that her family faced.

Maria was the first person in her family to go to college, and it was clear early on in her life that she didn't do anything halfway. So, she didn't just go to college. She went to Yale undergrad and then got her master's degree from Harvard.

And she then devoted herself to helping others. I often note when people have that kind of education, those kind of opportunities, there's a lot of things they could do for themselves. Maria chose instead to help others. She focused on affordable housing creation. She worked with community based development organizations. Then she moved into city service, both in the Deputy Mayor's Office for Economic Development and at the Economic Development Corporation.

For seven years, one of her crucial responsibilities was to work closely with the Department for Small Business Services. So, she knows the department intimately, understands what an impact it can make in terms of fostering and supporting small businesses; what impact it can make in terms of helping minority and women owned businesses to have opportunity; what impact it can make in terms of getting job training to people who are left out of our economy currently.

Maria gets all that personally, and is devoted to making the changes necessary.

As our small business commissioner, she'll lead our efforts to support small businesses, again, with a special focus on outer borough neighborhoods that have not been treated so fairly in recent years, and a special focus on immigrant businesses that have not gotten the help and communication they need to create the jobs that we need them to create for the good of our city.

And let's be clear, for too long the central relationship between small business and the city government has been when an inspector walks through the door of that small business ready to issue a fine, and that's not what we're here to do in government.

Maria's going to help change that – going to make sure that the programs that we create are innovative and responsive to the needs of small business. We're going to create, as I talked about last year, local economic hubs in low income neighborhoods and immigrant neighborhoods that focus on providing assistance to small business in their own neighborhoods, in their own language, to help entrepreneurs do better, to help them grow and stabilize their business, and hire more people and give more people opportunity.

As I mentioned, Maria has a particular focus on helping women and minority owned businesses to thrive, and getting them greater opportunity through the work of our city government.

She understands how important it is to create an economic reality in this city that doesn't leave New Yorkers behind, that doesn't leave families behind, but, in fact, is inclusive.

And I'm so proud to appoint Maria Torres-Springer today as our commissioner for Small Business Services. Congratulations.

And we're now going to do the magical step.


I almost forgot that, and now it's there.

[Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer speaks]

Mayor: Thank you and congratulations, Maria.

Maria Torres-Springer, Commissioner, Small Business Services: Thank you.

Mayor: Thank you, Ron. You're one step ahead of me.


That's leadership.

Now, Maria has a big job and a tough job ahead, and I think we can say the same for sure about our next appointee. Dr. Ramanathan Raju over the last thirty years has done extraordinary work in both our public and private health care systems. And like Maria, he understands the immigrant experience. He understands the lives of everyday New Yorkers, because he lived it.

Born in Madras in India, he began his medical career at Lutheran Medical Center, one of the pillars of Brooklyn's health care system. Throughout his career he's shown a fundamental commitment to bringing health care to people in need, to make their lives better. This has been his life's work.

Now, there's no health care organization in the country like the Health and Hospitals Corporation. The HHC, with its eleven acute care hospitals, is the largest, most complicated health care organization in the public sector in this country – at least at the municipal level. I won't take away from our federal friends.

There are very few people who have the experience, and the skill, and the sweep of vision to lead this system, let alone bring it into the twenty-first century, and guide it through all of the enormous changes happening in health care today. It's a very dynamic moment in the history of American health care.

And we need not only a change agent, but someone who understands the totality of the picture, and has shown the agility to stay ahead of the ever changing dynamics, and someone who understands the fiscal challenges we face. Let's be clear, and we're going to be talking a lot about this throughout the budget process. The City of New York is facing tremendous fiscal challenges, because of our open labor contracts.

HHC has its own set of huge fiscal challenges, on labor and other fronts. And at this moment for Dr. Raju to come in and make sense of that larger reality, it really will require all of his extraordinary experience to find a way forward that is fiscally responsible, yet able to serve the many, many people we are charged with serving.

And Ram has already demonstrated his ability to do that. He served two years as a chief operating officer of the Health and Hospitals Corporation here, but currently now serves as the chief executive officer of our nation's third largest health care system, the Cook County Health and Hospitals System. And he's begun the turnaround in Chicago that has defied the national trend. Care in his system has improved. Hospitals are more stable, and the future of health care is more secure, and there too, he's grappled with tough fiscal realities, and made substantial improvements, and we know he'll do it here as well.

He also knows how critical community health care is to our neighborhoods. Ram, I'm happy to say, is someone who understands outer borough neighborhoods very personally. He is a proud Staten Islander by residence, and he has spent much of his professional career in Brooklyn, so he understands the need to make sure that every neighborhood in every borough has the finest quality health care.

And Ram is going to be a truly active partner as we work towards the Brooklyn Health Care Authority, and the other measures we're going to take to preserve community health care in underserved communities.

As our next President of the Health and Hospitals Corporation, Dr. Raju will ensure that every New Yorker has access to quality health care options in every neighborhood, and we welcome a big man for a big job, Dr. Ram Raju.

[HHC President Dr. Ramanathan Raju speaks]

Mayor: And welcome home.

Dr. Ramanathan Raju, President, Health and Hospitals Corporation: Thank you.

Mayor: Just a few sentences in Spanish, and then we want to take on topic questions related to these announcements, and then we'll take off topic.

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

And with that, Ron, let me get the magical water bottle for a second. It gives me extra wisdom and knowledge. I am now ready for on topic questions. First on-topic, Sally?

Reporter: You talked a lot about lowering small – you know, lowering fines or giving fewer of them or whatever to outer borough small businesses. Have you given any plans or any instructions to Consumer Affairs or the Department of Health or any of these other agencies? [inaudible]

Mayor: That’s going to be an ongoing effort. The leaders of our administration are talking about this already, how best to adjust the approach to enforcement so that it reflects the reality on the ground; and less of a focus on being punitive or raising revenue, as opposed to fixing problems in a fair and equitable manner – educating store owners so we can fix problems more fundamentally. A bunch of changes that we’ll be making but that’s a plan we’re going to work out with our deputy mayors and then with the commissioners. So, I think in the coming weeks you’ll be hearing more about how we’re going to start to right the ship. Yes?

Reporter: Is there any room for HHC in dealing with the financially troubled Brooklyn hospitals?

Mayor: In terms of HHC?

Look, what we’ve said from the beginning about the Brooklyn Health Authority is that we want to bring together all relevant state and city players to come up with a long-term plan. Let’s face it, major decisions about healthcare institutions have been happening in this city over the last decade, based on no plan whatsoever. Let’s be blunt about this. Hospitals have been closing for very individual reasons without a public transparent process, without a larger strategy in place, and that has to end. And I said that throughout the last year, we’re simply not going to accept that situation. And right now we are actively engaged, in terms of Long Island College Hospital, in terms of Interfaith Hospital to begin with, in trying to create an actual working relationship between the city and the state for the common goal of preserving community healthcare. HHC certainly is one of the resources that we bring to the table. But the bigger goal here is to actually get the city and state on the same page consistently, and make sure in each case that we’re addressing local healthcare needs as these decisions are made.

Questions on these – yes, Rich?

Reporter: One for the doctor, please. How – could you contrast the size of the system in Chicago with the size of the system in New York and the challenges involved?

Dr. Ramanathan Raju: The Cook County Health and Hospital System is about one-fifth in financial – it’s about a billion dollar – $1.1 billion corporation, as opposed to New York City Health and Hospitals are over $6 billion corporation. So about – New York City is about five times bigger than the Cook County Health and Hospitals Corporation.

Mayor: Is that what you need or do you need [inaudible].

Reporter: No, that’s good.

Mayor: That’s good? We’re trying to quality control here Rich, make sure you got the answer you need.

Reporter: Commissioner Torres- Springer, I wonder if you get a sense of how big the new proposals for sick leave with the small businesses that employ more than five people having to provide five sick days. How might that affect small businesses and the city’s economy?

Mayor: Before our incoming commissioner comes up, I just want to make a comment based on our press conference the other day, and I want to remind you. We had that press conference in Bushwick outside of a small business. And that owner, Esmeralda, made the point that because she already was providing paid sick days to her employees at a small family-owned business, local restaurant, that she had a more consistent workforce, more productive, more loyal; that she had people literally been with her for ten years or more because everybody in the equation was being respected and taken care of. So, I’ve talked to small business owners all over the city who reflect those same values, who think that we can be fair to employees and that’s actually in the larger interest of the business in terms of things like productivity and retention of workforce, and quality of customer service. And by the way, as Esmeralda said to me the other day, we don’t want anyone’s customers getting sick. Particularly if you’re talking about the food service industry, the last thing you want is someone coming to work sick because they have no other option. So, a lot of small business owners get it and support this idea, and some have concerns. But I’ve said that they should look at the facts on the ground and the other cities and states that have already implemented this idea – Seattle, San Francisco, Connecticut, District of Columbia, more recently Philadelphia, and other jurisdictions – this is spreading like wildfire for a reason, because it works. Because it improves people’s lives, it improves our economic stability, our family’s stability. And in fact, as it’s been experienced, the challenges that were feared have not come to pass. This system has worked very, very well. So, we’re convinced that it’s something that small business owners will come to see as a net positive. But I also want to add, we’re so focused on trying to relieve what is, I think, a very sharp and present problem that they have not gotten an answer to, which is the unfair and arbitrary fines. And that – I hear a lot more from small business owners about that concern, and we’re going to act on that concern.

Maria Torres-Springer, Commissioner, Small Business Services: Let me just add two things, I think this new legislation provides a very immediate and dramatic opportunity to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of hardworking New Yorkers. And on the small business side, as the mayor suggested, there is a lot of research and a lot of facts on the ground that show that the productivity gains from legislation like this outweigh the costs. And on the costs side, I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues at the Department of Consumer Affairs, as well as the Department of Health to make the reforms that are necessary so that costs to small businesses – in terms of enforcement and fines – are lowered. And they can all benefit from our growing economy.

Mayor: On topic, anything else on topic? Yes?

Reporter: Good morning, Dan Marino from [inaudible] newspaper, The Rockaway. And, first of all, congratulations to our new commissioners.

Mayor: Thank you.

Reporter: I have a great interest in what you’re going to be doing in the Rockaways. For the Small Businesses commissioner, we did have a great relationship post-Sandy with the previous commissioner. We’d like to know what you had in mind for keeping that relationship going and expanding the rejuvenation of the Rockaways, again, post-Sandy?

Commissioner Torres-Springer: Thank you for the question. I think what Sandy showed us is that the real importance of small businesses to create a more resilient city. In the aftermath of Sandy, the ability for small businesses to open, and to do business as usual, was critically important. So I look forward to building on that work that was started, ensuring that for underserved neighborhoods across the city, and in particular those that are vulnerable to weather events like Sandy, that Small Business Services is doing all that it can to protect those small businesses and get them back on their feet should another weather event like that occur.

Mayor: On topic, yes. On topic? On topic? On topic? Yes.

Reporter: I have a question for Dr. Raju. The mayor said that you faced tough fiscal realities in your current position in Cook County and obviously you will here as well with HHC [inaudible]. Did you learn anything there that will affect how you will approach the fiscal situation?

Mayor: And I want to note – bring up the doctor – it is all the existing fiscal challenges of running such a system, in an ever-changing environment, plus the labor contract challenges ahead for HHC as well as the other agencies. That combination is sobering, but again I think Dr. Raju is more than ready to take on the task.

Dr. Raju: Thank you for the question. I think, in the mission of public hospital systems, such as Health and Hospitals, is the ability to take care of everybody without the insurance status of the person. So that mission will continue, will happen because that's – we serve adequate people with adequate healthcare, and also take care of the disparities in health care – better access. The uninsured problem in Cook County is as large as what Health and Hospitals system faces, under the ACA, Affordable Care Act, some of the nation’s population will become insured, but still the ACA leaves behind a large number of people who are uninsurable because they are undocumented. So the health and hospitals has always served these people and will continue to serve them. 

Mayor: On topic? Last call. Yes.

Reporter: Question for Dr. Raju. Do you plan on continuing HHC's pay-for-performance program that it instituted last year?

Dr. Raju: I think it's so important that we hold ourselves accountable for outcomes and quality. So whatever we need to do to make those outcomes for quality, I would definitely be interested in that. 

Mayor: On topic, still? On topic, last call. On topic? On topic? On topic? Ok you guys– Michael, we're going to go over this. [inaudible] On topic? Going once. Going twice. Off topic.

Go ahead, Michael.

Reporter: Mr. Mayor, what is your response to Governor Cuomo's proposal to fund pre-k and after-school programs [inaudible] you've been trying to implement for months, with money that already exists in the state budget, rather than going forward with your tax plan?

Mayor: Let me frame this for a moment, about what's happening in this bigger discussion of early childhood education. I think something very positive is going on in this city, in this state, and I think you've started to see it around the country as well. We're focusing more and more of our energies on early childhood education; we're focusing on how to make our school system work better for our children, but also how to make our school system relevant to the 21st century. So, everyone's heard about common core and the other efforts to raise standards, but actually the focus on early childhood education is the pathway to meeting those standards. So, the good news in all of this, and I think it was said very clearly in the New York Times editorial today, is that the gathering focus on early childhood education suggests a growing societal consensus about the path we have to travel. And we know it is something that the public really understands – in the vein of the public often showing the road, and showing the pathway for leaders – the public believes in this, we've seen it in any number of public opinion polls, we certainly saw it with the mandate that I received in November. In terms of the proposal put forward today, it's a commendable proposal, because it adds additional resources to early childhood education. I think it's an important proposal not just for the city but for the state. It's different than what we intend to do. What we intend to do is create a stable, consistent, reliable funding mechanism for the next five years that will allow us to have full day pre-k for every child and after-school programs for every middle school child who needs them. We've done that analysis, obviously, I put forward the proposal in 2012, and that analysis requires of us $530 million a year, every year. And it's something that we must have on a reliable basis to in fact build out the program properly and sustain it. So, we're going to continue to put forward a proposal that we know will serve the best interests of the children of our city, and help our school system progress in the way it needs to.


Reporter: On the home rule message, the City Council could pass that, is that still in the works [inaudible].

Mayor: Yes.

Reporter: Governor Cuomo's proposal has an opt-out provision, like, would you want the city to opt out, and not take money from the state and just continue with the tax?

Mayor: I think there's another bigger point here, and again, I commend the proposal and I commend the philosophy behind it. I think it's an important step forward. But we, first of all, want to make sure that our efforts in early childhood education and on after-school are secure and reliable over 5 years, and we think it's fair and appropriate to ask those in New York City who have done well to pay a little more. So, we have a revenue source available that is reliable, and we believe as a matter of the rights of this city, you know, our home rule rights, our rights to our own self-determination, that we should be able to proceed with that to create the programs that the people of this City voted for, and do it on a reliable basis. If Albany is looking for ways to support and improve our education system, there are many things that we can do. And I think it is encouraging again to see this governor focus on education in the way he is, because we know in the past it was a struggle with Albany to get the focus to education, I'm talking especially about the executive branch, historically. We've had to fight for our fair share of education dollars for years and years. There was a very dramatic court case on this, which the people of New York City won. And so, there's so much that we have to do to improve our schools, and much of it is long overdue – to address issues like class size and many other challenges. So, I'm glad to see more focus on education, and I think that support could take us a lot of very good directions. But we have to continue – in terms of pre-k and after-school – we have to continue to focus on a funding mechanism that we know is reliable. 

Reporter: Following up. Just to clarify – to push forward with the tax on pre-k – so you want the governor’s [inaudible] funding to be used for some other part of the education program, is that correct?

Mayor: Well, I think this predates me as mayor and predates Governor Cuomo as governor – that the challenge that we’ve faced for years is New York City not getting its fair share of education funding. And by the way, I can say that about many other areas, but let’s just focus on education right now. So, I think there are so many things that we could do with additional state support. That’s why I think if we know we have a reliable funding source for pre-k and after school, we should lock that in. Again, the people of this city want it. They’ve made that abundantly clear. And the voice of the people matters in this equation. And then if there’s additional resources available there are many other good needs that can be addressed.

Reporter: And the second part of that is, have you spoken to the governor about this plan?

Mayor: We – our teams have been speaking constantly. At various times I’ve spoken to the governor directly. At other times, my colleagues have spoken with his colleagues. It’s an on-going discussion. Absolutely.

Reporter: I’m confused. Are you basically saying to the governor, it’s my way or the highway? That you want to have your tax on the rich –

Mayor: You would never put words in my mouth – I know.

Reporter: Are you saying do it my way or I don’t want your money, or are you going to say, if I don’t get my way because it’s difficult to get in Albany, would you take the money?

Mayor: You know, respectfully, and I say this to all of you, the discussion from day one – I put forward a proposal 16 months ago almost. It has had exceedingly consistent popular support. It was arguably the number one proposal that I put forward in an election that I won with 73% of the vote. I think the jury has come back. I think the jury is in. The people believe in this idea. They want it and they want it to actually happen which means the funding source has to be reliable. So, I have a proposal that will achieve that. Other advances in terms of education are welcome. But, I don’t think of it the way you’ve just phrased it. I think of it in terms of following through on a commitment I made to the people of New York City that they ratified with great energy, and with a huge majority, that they want this to happen and believe this is the right way forward. It’s my obligation to continue to work to get that to happen.

Reporter: The reason I’m asking that question is because it’s politically difficult with Republicans in senate because they’re facing elections this year. They’re too worried about getting elected to support a tax on the rich. If they find it difficult to support that and they could support these other funding mechanisms – would you accept it, even if it was this year, so that they could maybe pass a tax next year when it’s politically easier for them to do that?

Mayor: You know, again, I respect your absolute right to ask this question like your colleagues and I’ve heard literally several hundred variations on this question over the last six months. I’ve always said I don’t bargain against myself. I have a mission. The people of this city have given me a mission. They have entrusted me with a mission to achieve this plan. I don’t worry about inside baseball. I don’t worry about political prognostication. I think we’ve all learned many times in the political process – and this is a broader point that’s true of the legislative process or elections or any part of politics and government – things change all the time. Things that were regarded as impossible one day are suddenly possible. So, I have a mandate from the people to pursue this plan. And I’m going to pursue this plan. And of course, we’ll be respectful and communicative, but this is the plan that will work for the people of this city. Melissa.

Reporter: How much of the $530 million is going to pre-k – to fund the ideal of pre-k that you want to create in this city. Because today we’re going to see some numbers from the state about how much it is proposing to give and whether or not you think it’s a consistent funding stream or a responsible funding stream or a long-term one, the question is, are you still concerned that however much money the governor is putting forward today may not actually be enough for fund the kind of pre-k that you want?

Mayor: I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves. The proposal we put forward 16 months ago – I want to speak about the next step in our process too – the proposal we put forward 16 months ago was for $340 million to go to pre-k. That’s for new seats; for the 10,000 kids who get no pre-k at all; that’s for upgrading the 40,000 kids who get half-day bringing them up to full-day; that’s for leasing of space. As I’ve said throughout this process going back 16 months, there is a separate capital cost that we’re going to prioritize in the capital budget. But that’s $340 million in the expense budget every year for five years. And then the remaining $190 million is for after school every year for five years. The process going forward, everyone knows – we obviously had a public announcement weeks ago that we have a working group of highly respected individuals, including our own Jennifer Jones Austin, who are putting together a very specific proposal to fulfill this vision rapidly. It will look at the space issues and how to address them quickly. It will look at the personnel issues, training issues – the whole gambit of the needs that we have to accommodate within that budget – and show the timelines. We know right now there is ample space in a number of school buildings – non-profits, community-based organizations, former childcare centers. We know that in terms of after school that’s true as well in our libraries. So this working group, in a matter of days, will come forward with a formal report, delineating the mechanics of how we’re going to get this done and the timelines involved. And that will show how this money will be applied here and now to reach the maximum number of kids – here’s the punch line – to reach the maximum number of kids for September 2014; September this year – the beginning of our next school year, so we can accommodate the most families in this city. Do you have a follow-up or not?

Reporter: I think the last time I asked you this question, you said you were concerned that while the governor’s plans were commendable, they weren’t quite of the same scale as what you were proposing. And so regardless of how we get the money, if it comes from a tax or it comes from the governor I’m just trying to figure out if what the governor’s putting on the table today would be –

Mayor: Well – I appreciate the question. I am only responding to media reports of the governor’s plan. We haven’t gotten a formal presentation. So one, let’s get a formal presentation. Let’s analyze it. Let’s ask our questions. And then we might be able to give you a better answer. But two, remember, one question is the total dollar figure and we stand by this dollar figure. The second question is the reliability and consistency of the funding. Any plan that puts more resources into education is commendable. What we need is a plan that locks in the resources for five years and is not contingent upon the vagaries of each year’s budget process. Yes.

Reporter: Mayor, on that topic, what do think of the situation of the airport workers who are being paid low wages by contractors and what’s your opinion of Port Authority [inaudible]. Should they intervene [inaudible]?

Mayor: They should intervene. We’ll support them intervening. I’ve said this for the last year. We have to use the tools we have to improve wages and benefits. Folks have to make a living wage. They have to have decent benefits. By the way, our airport workers – and we’ve seen this time and time again – we depend on them for our safety, in particular obviously the security workers, but anyone that works at an airport we depend on. And they deserve decent wages and benefits and I’ll certainly do all in my power to help them get it. Yes, Grace.

Reporter: On a different topic, you announced an extension of the Rockaway Ferry service this morning. I was hoping you could talk a bit about the future of that ferry service and also I wanted to get your reaction to the timelines for rebuilding the Rockaway boardwalk. The completion date is not expected until Memorial Day 2017. Is that an acceptable timeline? And could you speed that up?

Mayor: I need to get a briefing on that. I would say I’d obviously like to see a faster timeline but I don’t know the specific challenges, so let me get back to you with that answer. I know Phil and Marti will keep me to my word and make sure that we get you an answer rapidly. On the question of the ferry, so we’re extending the Rockaway ferry – and again it also stops in Sunset Park, so it serves southern Brooklyn as well – we’re extending the ferry through May with an option to extend further until August. In the meantime we’re developing a request for proposal process to see which providers might be able to continue the service going forward on a cost-efficient basis and a basis that can serve the people of the communities well but also protect the taxpayers’ interests. So, we’re definitely going to take it through May and then from there see what makes sense to do. Yes in the back.

Reporter: Yeah. Just wanted to ask if we can get an update on the New York City Commission for Human Rights lawsuit against the seven stores in Williamsburg [inaudible]?

Mayor: The lawsuit regarding?

Reporter: The dress code.

Mayor: For the stores? Yeah, I do not have an update. I’ll put in the same category – we’ll be happy to get you an update. Obviously we want to respect every community in everything we do. We also have laws that we’re here to uphold. So I’ll make sure we get you a more specific update on that. Okay.

Thank you, everyone.

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