March 3, 2017
Lehrer: And now it’s time for our weekly Ask the Mayor segment usually at 10 o’clock on Fridays, but a little later than usual to accommodate the Mayor’s schedule today – and, a little shorter than usual because of our membership drive schedule. So, Mr. Mayor, welcome back to WNYC.
Mayor: Oh, thank you, Brian. I’m calling you from Chicago City Hall this time.
Lehrer: What are you doing in Chicago?
Mayor: I just, first of all, had a great meeting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and I’m about to address the City Club of Chicago, which is one of their big civic organizations here – and had a fundraiser for my re-election earlier this morning.
Lehrer: And listeners because of the time constraints we’re using social media rather than the phones to collect your questions this week. Here’s the hashtag – #AsktheMayor on Twitter or post a question to us via Facebook, use the hashtag #AsktheMayor. And we should acknowledge Mr. Mayor that you weren’t here for Ask the Mayor last Friday because it was exactly when you were being interviewed by the U.S Attorney’s office in their investigation of your fundraising. I know you can’t tell us what went on behind those doors, but has that office promised explicitly to clear you of wrong doing if they decide you committed no crime, or will they just say nothing to the public unless there’s an indictment?
Mayor: Well, look, Brian I can’t speak for them and how they’ll follow up. Again, we had a – I think, a lengthy and complete interview and full cooperation is what I’ve said from day one. And, I’m very convinced we’ve handled things appropriately. So I’m going to keep doing my job and, you know, that process will play out.
Lehrer: And I do want to ask you about one of the issues in the investigation that came to my awareness since the last time that we spoke that’s been in the press. Under increasing scrutiny is apparently your relationship with a donor who’s a Samar rabbi, Moshi Indige. The website Kings County Politics reported that you personally intervened on his behalf – him described as one of your leading fundraisers – to have a partial vacate order lifted on a building on Sanford Street in Brooklyn that the City had deemed unlicensed, illegal, and improperly worked on. Did you personally intervene?
Mayor: First of all, Brian, there’s a lot wrong with the reporting of that story. Second of all, I am convinced – and I both say this for myself and everyone who works for me – that we are very careful about what we do. We stick to very high ethical standards. And third of all, I’m not going to go into detail because any matter that’s being investigated is just not appropriate to go into detail on.
Lehrer: Well, Kings County Politics said it was during the meeting between the Brooklyn Buildings Commissioner and Indige at the properties in question that de Blasio allegedly personally called in on Indige’s cellphone to inquire on the status of the buildings and ordered the commissioner for the borough to vacate the order – have the vacate order rescinded. Did you make such a call in the middle of that meeting?
Mayor: Again, I’m going to say it very clearly. One, there’s a lot wrong with that reporting. Two, I’m not going into detail because it’s a matter under investigation. I want to respect the investigatory process.
Lehrer: Then in general one thing – you told NY1 this week that you think it’s perfectly appropriate as a concept to put an issue on an agency’s plate and then they make the decision they think is right. But do you think it’s that simple when you’re the mayor – their ultimate boss – that you’re just putting something on their plate, and then they’re going to make a decision without feeling pressure?
Mayor: I’m convinced that the agencies know that they should make the decision that they find appropriate. That’s everything I’ve experienced, so I’m very consistent on this point. And, you know, again I get issues brought to me by community leaders, elected officials, business leaders, labor leaders all day long. I believe that the folks who work for me understand their job is to make decision on behalf of all the people – figure out what’s in the public’s interest – and that’s how we do it. I’m very convinced what’s been done consistently.
Lehrer: Alright. From listener Nicole via Twitter – “Sergeant’s Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins attitude towards helping ICE is worrying,” she writes, “is there a possibility of NYPD helping the federal government and ICE? Is their participation in deportation of undocumented people solely up to the NYPD rather than you?”
Mayor: No, there’s a law in New York City. First of all, you know, Mr. Mullins often has strong opinions that do not reflect the policy of the NYPD. And no one should ever mistake a labor leader offering a political opinion for what the policy of the City of New York is. Our commissioner, Jimmy O’Neill, has been abundantly clear – NYPD officers are not going to be turned into immigration enforcement agents. That would make this city much less safe cause we depend on a positive, respectful, communicative relationship between our police and half a million New Yorkers who happen to be undocumented. So that’s not going to change. We are governed by a City law passed in 2014 that delineates 170 offenses that if you’re convicted of – they are serious and violent crimes. If you’re – it’s all online, any of your listeners can look at it – if you’re convicted of one of those offense and you are undocumented that’s when we cooperate with ICE. That was a decision made through a full legislative process. I’m very comfortable with that law. We’ve said we would look at some additional offense that might be appropriate to include, but what we’re never going to do is act as immigration enforcement agents, and we’re never going to turn people over on quality of life offenses. Which is what the vast majority of course of crime is – people do very low level things whether they’re undocumented or they’re citizen. That’s what most crime is – littering and, you know, being in the park after hours. I know there’s huge numbers of those offenses. Those you don’t get arrested for. And that’s the bottom line that people need to understand to begin with. Those are not arrest worthy offenses on their face, but those are the kinds of things that would be ludicrous to deport someone over.
Lehrer: A listener by the name of Intently on Twitter, asks: What will you do about the NRA’s push on conceal carry reciprocity, an issue sure to impact cities with good gun laws? Are we vulnerable with that?
Mayor: I think we should never take the NRA lightly because they’ve had a horrible and consistently worst impact on American society and they’ve been [inaudible] of passing bad legislation. Now I think we are going to have tremendous support – not only the strong words of our Police Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill, who has spoken out against that and said it would absolutely endanger the people of New York City and police officers if more and more weapons could come into our city that way. I think police chiefs all over the country are going to join with us to fight this battle. I think it’s a winnable battle. In other words, I would never underestimate the NRA. I think this one’s a winnable battle, because just as cities all over the country are fighting every day to keep crime down to introduce a lot more guns into the equation would only worsen the situation. And, I think that’s an example of something we can win over some of the swing votes in Congress on. But, I worry about that kind of approach tremendously at the state level. Certain states, certain state legislators try to buy into something like that. That’s something we have to fight, but that’s a tougher venue.
Lehrer: Here’s another question from a listener, this one came in via Facebook. It says: how can we stop overdevelopment in order to keep a human scale city? That’s a conundrum when we have to build to accommodate more people right?
Mayor: Yes. And, we also have to build for affordability because, you know, let’s be clear. We have an affordable housing crisis now in its second decade, but at a level we’ve never seen before. If we are going to address the core questions that I care about and that I ran on –
we need a city that is economically diverse, we need a city for everyone. We need a city where people who grew up here can still stay here. Part of what we have to do is build a lot more affordable housing so there will be development. We also have to make sure development is more and more where there is mass transit, to get people out of their cars. So I don’t think there should be a knee jerk assumption that development has to be inconsistent with the values in the city.
I think we have to do it a different way and that’s what we’ve prevailed on, you know, working with the City Council. We prevailed upon the real estate community. We passed a law that requires the creation of affordable housing in new development whenever we provide authorization through rezoning. That’s one example of turning development into something that works better for people. There’s obviously places where we should not have higher scaled development. That’s what our zoning process is all about. But I think we need to show people consistently, development that serves their need. We’ve seen that for example with Midtown East, with what’s happened around Grand Central. Development is actually going to pay for a lot of transportation improvements and a lot of things that will make it easier for people to get around. That’s the kind of development I think a lot of people can buy into.
Lehrer: City Council is holding a hearing today on what is called Fair Work Week. And I know this has been one of your issues.
Lehrer: Can you talk about where that stands and what more progress you can make on that in 2017?
Mayor: Yes. Look, I am very optimistic about this one. I think there is a lot of support in City Council. We’ve got about 65,000 New Yorkers who work, in this case, in the restaurant business, fast food etcetera, who literally don’t even get to know when they are going to work; how much they are going to work; get no guarantee of advanced notice; have to do things like close down the fast food restaurant late at night and then be there for opening early in the morning; you know, have shifts given to them and taken away on no notice. This is 2017. People should not be treated this way. So this bill is very clear – advanced notice of schedules. If you are not given advanced notice, you deserve some additional compensation. If you’re asked to work extra shifts, not put people in the position of having to do a late night closing followed by an early morning opening. Some real common sense rules that will encourage people to have, you know, more sane lives, better family lives, the ability to take care of their health. This is the kind of society we should be building. We don’t want a rat race to the bottom and everyone ending up in a rat race. We want a situation where people can live a decent life. So we are going to fight hard for this legislation and then see where we can take it from there to address the quality of life of a lot of other working people.
Lehrer: Let me follow up on one more development question. I know our newsroom is reporting on the Bay Street corridor on the north shore of Staten Island, as you know, one of the next neighborhoods up for rezoning under the comprehensive rezoning plan. We are learning that residents are hoping the plan will be holistic in scope as they want affordable housing, public spaces, infrastructure and schools as well as whatever actual housing might go in. Can you reassure them in any way?
Mayor: I could say this – that I am familiar with the fact that residents of the community in Staten Island, you know, the area that we are looking into rezoning, that they care about all those things. We care about all of those things too. So, you know, the first thing that we are looking at is the potential to create over 1,800 affordable apartments and homes. That’s a huge deal. We want Staten Island, which is another area where housing costs have gone up. We want it to remain affordable. We want it to remain a place for everyone. So, 1,800 new apartments is a very, very big deal. But all those other issues, schools and other spaces, that’ is what re-zonings are all about – figuring out community needs in many cases that weren’t addressed for decades – and, having a concentrated opportunity to deal with them all at one time. Councilwoman Debbie Rose, I’ve spoken to her about it. We know there is going to be a very intensive community input process. It is going to play out over the course of many months.
So those are real concerns and we often are able to achieve those things in re-zonings as, for example, we did in the East New York, Brooklyn rezoning, where we were able to put a lot more school seats in as one example. It’s a great opportunity to get those kinds of things done.
Lehrer: Mr. Mayor, thank you very much. Talk to you next week.
Mayor: I’ll see you soon, Brian. Thank you.