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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability and Makes Announcement with NYPD Leadership

February 25, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, good afternoon. Second press conference of the day, because we have such important announcements to make today, and I want to start at the beginning. I want to start with what we need to focus on in the year 2021. The word you're going to hear from me the most in 2021 is the word recovery. Recovery, because New York City is coming back and we're coming back strong, but it has to be a recovery for all of us. It has to be recovery that reaches every neighborhood, everyone, regardless of income, regardless of background, everyone has to be a part of this, and this is what we need to build now. We need to build aggressively. I talked at the beginning of the week about the new efforts, we're going to make focused on recovery, working with all elements of the New York City community, and the beginning of the week, we started this week, naming our new Recovery Czar Lorraine Grillo.  

We are going to deepen our efforts and keep adding to a team that's going to lead the way in bringing New York City back, and I need the very best, most talented, most experienced people to do this. So, today adding to our recovery team, adding to the team that will bring New York City back, I name a new Senior Advisor for Recovery Safety Planning, and Terry Monahan will be taking on this role. And this role is so important because it is about answering one of the central questions that everyone needs answered for us to come back strong: making sure the city is safe, working with all communities, working with city agencies, working with the business community, the nonprofit sector, everyone – determining what concerns need to be addressed, helping us troubleshoot where there are problems, listening to the ideas. We're hearing from all over the city about how we come back, and how we come back safer. This is going to be the underpinning of how we do all that we're capable of doing in this city.   

So, I'm 100 percent convinced that this city is coming back strong, but I know it's going to take hard work, and we, as New Yorkers are never afraid of hard work, and I choose, always, people who are known for that incredible energy and work ethic. That’s who Terry Monahan has been for 39 years, serving the people of this city at the NYPD, 39 years of protecting us, but also innovating new solutions. Terry's one of the great architects of neighborhood policing, which to me has been a sea change in how we police the city, and we really understand that the city is safe when community and police work together, where there's a mutual respect, a mutual sense of destiny. That's what neighborhood policing has been creating over years and years now, and Terry has been passionate in that work, because he feels it, he loves this city and he loves making sure people are safe, and he knows the NYPD could only achieve its mission with the people, with the people. That’s neighborhood policing has been about.   

So, I turned to him now with appreciation for his great work for the people of the city and with a lot of excitement about the role he will play as my senior advisor, focusing on this recovery and bringing that same urgency, that same can-do spirit to the work of recovery. My pleasure introduced my new Senior Advisor, Terry Monahan.   

Senior Advisor Terence Monahan: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. First off, I want to thank you for this new opportunity, and thanks for having faith in me. First as the Chief of Patrol, and then as the Chief of Department, and now I really do look forward to working with you and the city's first-ever Recovery Czar Lorraine Grillo. I really do look forward to it.   
Listen, I'm a New Yorker through and through. Born and raised in the Bronx, some people say I may I have a little bit of an accent, but I love New York. This is the greatest city. So, for me to continue serving the people of this city and help to ensure its recovery, that is a true honor, and the importance of this mission isn't lost on any of us. There’s [inaudible] cities around the world, but there is only one New York City, the City that Never Sleeps, and we all know it's Times Square filled with crowds, packed restaurants throughout our city, and Broadway shows that have been missing for a while. It's restaurants on Arthur Avenue, in the Bronx, it's Downtown Brooklyn, DUMBO, and every borough in between, and of course the millions of people who normally pack our office buildings that bring this city to life.  
In this new role, I'll have an opportunity to ensure these businesses know that they are in a safe city and they can return, and when business is booming, New Yorkers thrive. There's no doubt that COVID has changed our lives, and although the effects of this pandemic are tragic and unprecedented, New York City has proven its resilience time after time. Whether it was 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, the city always emerges stronger. It's the innovation, the hard work and that New York attitude that's known around the world. You can't knock us down, but at the core of all of this is public safety. The city is already on its way back to getting on its feet stronger than ever. Just today, our middle schools welcome back students, but how are we going to continue this? How are we going to keep moving forward? We're going to do it together. So, it's going to be that cop standing on the corner or standing on a subway platform. They’re absolutely vital, but just as significant is public involvement. And whether it's the coffee cart on the corner that so many people start their day, at or a multi-billion-dollar corporations that flocked to New York City, each of them want the same thing: an inclusive, safe society that invests in our communities, providing opportunities for everyone, and I tell you, I'm proud to be part of it, and I'm ready to hit the ground running to get this city to recovery.   
I tell you leaving the NYPD is probably one of the toughest decisions I've ever made in my entire life. As a member of the greatest Police Department in the world for the last 39 years, and the last three as the Chief of the Department, I've had the opportunity to personally see that when New Yorkers work together, they can accomplish anything. I've also had the privilege of a lifetime to work alongside the best cops in the world. The work of these men and women has made a difference in our amazing city. There are truly no words to describe what it means to me to be a part of the NYPD's storied history. The NYPD will forever remain in my heart and they will certainly help lead the recovery effort, and I know this, I know this to be a fact because I know the leadership abilities of Chief Rodney Harrison. Rodney is a great friend of mine. We have worked together for many years, many years, going back to our time in the Bronx, and I can tell you without a doubt, he is the right man for the job. Together, with all New York's Finest, we've accomplished so much through neighborhood policing, and when we began neighborhood policing back in 2015, Rodney was standing by my side to make this the philosophy under which this agency works through.   
There is no one in the NYPD that knows neighborhood policing better than Chief Harrison. His dedication to serving every community in this city and taking care of our cops is second to none. When I look at Rodney over there wearing that uniform, and I'm quite jealous because now I'm in a suit, I miss that uniform, but he makes that uniform proud. He wears it and he's going to make it city proud, Rodney, you couldn't be a better person for this job. With Rodney taking the helm and Commissioner Shea at the helm, the NYPD couldn't be in any better hands, and I won't be that far away. I'll be working across – with all the different agencies, public and private, nonprofits, all with the same goal that the NYPD has and all New Yorkers: we're going to move the city forward and we're going to recover. I'm thrilled to be a part of it. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.  
Mayor: Thank you very much, Terry. As always, we could hear your passion, your love for this city, in everything you're saying, and it's a passing the torch moment and the Bronx is letting go of the torch and passing over here. I'll just go through Brooklyn, and now Queens is about to have they already have the Commissioner. Now they're doubling up and Commissioner - I know, you know, over these years you've been a part of great leadership teams and you have pulled together yourself, an extraordinary leadership team over the last two years. I've always admired your ability to see and nurture and support talent within the NYPD and I know you believe in that team building. So, this is a very important day for the NYPD, so I turn to you to announce the new leadership today.   
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea: Well, just one more moment for that Mr. Mayor, but before I do, it's, you know, I look to my left, I look to my right, when I look to that end of the table there and it's a bittersweet day in many ways because, you know, Terry and I have been through the battles together. He's a man – 39 years, we've known each other a long time, so much respect and admiration for Terry, and it's tough to see you go, Terry. It is. And I can only imagine what's going through your head right now, but on behalf of New York City and certainly this department, thank you, and thank you for everything you've done and you're going to be missed. You are - not everything, but some things, good catch.    
And now I look to this side and to Rodney, and you know, this, for me, this was an easy choice. It really was. And we have a deep bench, one door closes, another opens. We've said that many times. And we have a lot of great people in this agency, but for me, this was an easy choice, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with Rodney and talking to him about this job, and I told him pretty simply, Rodney, it's your time, and I believe it. Look at Rodney's career, Terry just talked about it, he's been an undercover, he's been a Precinct Executive running commands. He's been behind with Terry neighborhood policing from the onset. That's not enough. He's been the Chief of Detectives. I mean, he is so well-rounded and ready this job, I think the sky is the limit. Rodney, you're going to do a phenomenal job, incredibly proud of you. It's great to see your family here joining - and join you with it. But congratulations, and I know you're going to do an amazing job for the people of this city and for the people of this department. And last but not least happy birthday, brother.    
Mayor: It’s your birthday, too?    
Chief of Department Rodney Harrison, NYPD: Yeah.    
Mayor: Happy birthday, our new Chief of Department, Rodney Harrison.   
Chief Harrison: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Mayor, for your faith and giving me an opportunity to be not to speak, but show, Chief of Detectives, and now to be the Chief of Department. You have shown me a lot. You support for this agency doesn't get the recognition it deserves, and I'm going to make you proud, sir. I going to make you proud. Commissioner Shea, I've known you for a long time and you use the word bittersweet, and coming from the Chief of Detectives, now going to the Chief of Department, it’s not going to be easy. The men and women of the Detective Bureau are absolutely phenomenal, and you know that. I'm going to work hard for you. I'm looking to partner up with you and pick your brain and figure out what can we do to continue to make this a safe city and revive the city once again.    
Chief Monahan, I'm sad. You brought me on board maybe five, six years ago regarding neighborhood policing. That philosophy is absolutely what this city needs. We cannot keep this city safe unless we have that partnership with the people that we’re here to serve, and you had the vision, and you put it together, and you made sure that I understood the nuances of it, make sure it's implemented correctly, and you mentored me. We spoke every single day, on the weekends, I know that I had been a little annoying, but you took every single one of my phone calls and you guided me through some very difficult times in this department, be the Chief of Patrol or the Chief of Detectives, and I will always be grateful to you, sir. And I commend you on your accomplishments within the NYPD, I speak for myself, I speak for Commissioner Shea, I speak for Mr. Mayor, that you're going to be missed. And unfortunately, I’m still going to call you. I'm still going to ask you about certain things that I may need some guidance on. So please keep my number locked in. Mr. Mayor, if you don't mind?    
Mayor: Please.   
Chief Harrison:  My family's here. I'm not going to get choked up –   
Commissioner Shea: Too late –   
Chief Harrison: But you guys have been my rock, Treena, Tyra, Amber, I wish my youngest daughter could be here as well. She actually has a game tonight against the University of Miami, a very big game, which we'll all be watching, but I thank you for your support. There's been many a night that I've had to run out the house two o'clock in the morning, three o'clock in the morning for a major incident, and as much as you say, hey, daddy, do you have to go?  You supported me. You made me proud. And I love you all. So, thank you. For the men and women of this Police Department, I want to show I make this very clear, I'm going to support you. I'm going to make sure that we get through what was a very difficult time in 2020, I can reassure everybody here that's listening to my voice, that I have your back, and we'll get through this together. For the residents of New York City, I'm here to protect you. I'm here to serve you. I'm going to be knocking on your door, I’m going to be coming to your churches, I'm going to be coming to your community meetings. You may get tired of seeing me, but in order for me to be successful, in order to make this city safe, we have to work together, and I'm looking forward to the challenge. Mr. Mayor, thank you very much.   
Mayor: Thank you and I wanted to say, it's really been a joy over these years getting to know Chief Rodney Harrison, and you didn't talk about your roots in Southeast Queens, and I know this is something so important to you, Rodney, that you come from a neighborhood you're so proud of and you're so deeply connected to, and that your commitment to this city comes from being a New Yorker through and through. And I've admired your many accomplishments and the way you go about addressing even the toughest challenges. What I have most admired is your heart because you've never forgotten where you came from, and before we go to questions from the media, I'd love you just to talk a little bit more about coming up in southeast Queens, and what that has given you as a leader and as a public servant?    
Chief Harrison: Mr. Mayor, thank you. Yeah, I apologize because I really wanted to talk about that, so thank you for giving me that opportunity. So, yeah, I grew up in Jamaica, Queens, grew up in a co-op called Rochdale Village, and growing up in that community we had negative interactions with law enforcement. There was some struggle sometimes, some frustrations, but I also took a leap of faith in coming into this organization. There was a time, one time, Mr. Mayor that I was stopped by a police officer that was extremely unprofessional, and I said to myself, all cops can't be like this and how can I make a difference? And how can I make a change? And that's why I took that application and came on his job to make a change. We have to remain professional. We have to serve this city. We can't have incidents that we've had back in the 70s and 80s. All the members of the police department, we we're going to go a professional route going to the future, but yet at the same time, we got to get the respect from the communities that we're here to serve as well. And it's very, very important.   
I grew up in a place where I had some troubled times. I grew up around unfortunate gang violence and drugs, and then I came on the job saying, what can I do to save people, to help people. So, me getting the opportunity to be the Chief of Department, I'm looking forward to this challenge, it's not going to be easy. I have great people around me that are going to help me with our philosophies that we have in place. But public safety is very important to me. I'm a victim's advocate. I'm going to work my hardest for everybody to make everybody proud. So, thank you, Mr. Mayor.    
Mayor: Thank you. Thank you. Really appreciate you giving us a little bit of a window on everything that moves you that has made you the leader you are now with that. With that, let’s turn to our colleagues in the media and please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.    
Moderator: We'll now begin our Q-and-A. First question today goes to Myles Miller from WNBC.  

Question: Hey, good afternoon, everybody. The question is for – two questions. One’s for Chief Monahan. I mean, you know, you're leaving this job after 39 years, you know, what are you feeling? And what are you most looking forward to in the next job? And for Chief Harrison, moving up in this position and the Department definitely must have some meaning. You'll be the second African-American in this role. And just talk about that as well. 

Mayor: Those are two questions for our colleagues. We'll take them both. You start, Chief Monahan.  

Senior Advisor Monahan: Miles, it's a tough decision to leave the NYPD. This has been my life. 20 years old, I came on this job. Now, turning 60 in a couple of weeks. So, this is where I've been my entire life. But you know, I'm going to miss seeing you late at night, two o'clock in the morning, out on a scene – maybe not, but I look forward to where I'm going. Listen, there's nothing I want more than to see New York like it was just two years ago. And the recovery is going to happen. And to be part of that, to be part of bringing this city – this great city that I love back to where it should be, there is nothing better, nothing better than I can do. And I'm not really going that far away. So, maybe across the street. I'm sure I'm going to be running into Commissioner Shea, Chief Harrison quite a lot, and I'm sure I'm going to have to run into you too, Miles. So, I look forward to that.  


Commissioner Shea: I'm changing my number.  


Mayor: That's right. Chief Harrison – 

Chief Harrison: So, Miles, I just – I don't want to correct you, but I believe I'm the third African-American to be the Chief of Department, and I'm flattered. But I also want to make sure this is somewhat clear, I'm also qualified for the position. I've – thank you, sir. I've worked in every single borough. I know this city like the back of my hand. I've worked in five different bureaus. So, I've been in the trenches. I've been out there with the men and women – what has to be done to make the city safe. So, I'm grateful for the opportunity once again. I'm looking forward to working with all the great executives that we have in this department. I mean, we really have an all-star team and we're going to get the job done, Miles. So, thank you for that question.  

Mayor: Thank you. Who's next, the next is Juliet from 1010 WINS.  

Question: Good afternoon, gentlemen. And congratulations to both the outgoing Chief Monahan and incoming Chief Harrison. So, my questions are for both of you as well, given the controversy and criticisms after the demonstrations late spring, early summer, what lessons have you learned? And what's your takeaway from that? And how are you pivoting in a different direction? 

Mayor: I’m just going to ahead and start and then we'll turn to both chiefs, Juliet. You know, I want to emphasize that everyone learned from those experiences, that all of us want to do better, that all of us believe that a very important objective report done by the Department of Investigation is what is guiding changes that we need to make and we're implementing as we speak. And we believe that 2021 is going to be a very different year and a year where the city comes together in a year with a city moves forward. So, every single one of us takes from that experience we've got to take this whole city to a better place in 2021. That means bringing police and community together. And we know it works. We saw it for years – six years in a row with neighborhood policing, crime went down, the relationship between police and community got closer. We’ve got to do that again and do it even more.  

Senior Advisor Monahan: Listen, this is probably – again, a 39-year career, this was the toughest year that I've ever spent in law enforcement, going through COVID, going through the demonstrations, everything that we faced during that time. But as a city and as a police department, we move forward, we get better, and we continue to keep this city safe. You know, we went through this in 2014, we reformed the city. We came up with neighborhood policing. We had the lowest crime rates and best connections we'd ever had before. The NYPD is better than anyone at adjustment and I have all faith in the world that Rodney Harrison is going to make whatever adjustments need to be made. We're making them already with Commissioner Shea at the helm, running things. We are moving in the right direction. And I'm telling you, as you look back, when 2022 comes and you see this city in recovery, and it's back to where we were in 2018, it'll be because of the work that the men and women of the NYPD, our public and private partners, and all New Yorkers do. So, I have nothing but good things looking forward to in New York. 

Chief Harrison: Good afternoon. You know, the most important thing for us is transparency and training. In order for us to get better to serve this community, those things are – got to be at the forefront – how we allow peaceful protests. I may not be in this position right now if it wasn't for protests, but it's important – there's a very, very thin line between protesting and violent demonstrations. I think it's something that myself – I'll be working very closely with my executive staff to allow those peaceful protests to go in the right direction, but make sure we have a good strategy in place just in case of there are unfortunate individuals that want to make it harder for those individuals that want to do the peaceful protests. And so, we have good things in place. We have Harry Wedin, that’s overseeing our city-wide Operations Division; Juanita Holmes, who's our Chief of Patrol; Jeff Maddrey, who's absolutely phenomenal as well as a mentor to me as our Chief of Community Affairs. As a team, we'll come up with great strategies to make sure that we protect people that want to protest peacefully.  

Mayor: Go ahead, Juliet. 

Question: Thank you. Thank you. And Chief – now, Senior Advisor Monahan, what do you – what do you see now? What's your first order of business? What do you – who you're sitting down with, coordinating? What do you see happening, you know, when you start? 

Senior Advisor Monahan: Have to sit down with a Lorraine Grillo. I haven't met her yet, but I hear nothing but fantastic things about her, that she is the right person to put together the economic plan that we need. I believe we have our first war room meeting tomorrow, which I will be a part of. And we're going to hit this learning right away. I know I'll be working closely with Chief Harrison and Commissioner Shea on the safety portion, but it's so much deeper than that. It's what do the businesses in this city need to feel comfortable to return to business. How do I get buildings that are five-to-10 percent occupied – office buildings – how do I get them comfortable to come back to New York? And they will, and that's what we're going to be working on. We're going to be reaching out to everyone, every community in this city to see what we can do to get them back. I'm really looking forward to it.  

Mayor: Amen. Go ahead.  

Moderator: The next is Katie Honan from the Wall Street Journal.  

Question: Hi, good morning. Sorry, it's the afternoon. It's 1:00 PM. My question is for you, Senior Advisor Monahan – I guess, following up with Juliette's question, looking at the priorities that you are working on, if you could speak a little bit about your experience in the NYPD and how it sort of made – equipped you for this job, beyond just the public safety aspect of recovery, but like you mentioned business outreach, whether it's small business or large corporations. Just some of your background within the NYPD and how it applies here. 

Senior Advisor Monahan: 39 years, I've worked through all sorts of communities at every level – small businesses, bodega owners, Fernando Mateo all the time with the businesses up in the Bronx and some businesses in the Heights. Go into the [inaudible] family, to the large businesses, what do they need to come back together? Restaurant Owners Association, I've spoken to them all, I've sat down and listened to their complaints. The BIS – the BIDS throughout this city, there are issues that they need to have handled, and it's not always an NYPD problem. There are a lot of different agencies in this, and we have to come up with solutions together. The NYPD may do some, Department of Homeless Service and others – Health + Hospitals, the third. There's a lot of different agencies that we need to put together, focus along with our local communities, how do we solve an issue in an area and make everyone feel safe and get these businesses? It's what I've been doing my entire career. It's what neighborhood policing was all about. Neighborhood policing was making each and every neighborhood safe, where the people not only were safe, but felt safe. We have to get rid of the perception that the city is not safe, because we really are moving in the right direction and things are coming back. And this is what I've done in my career and I really look forward to moving this – moving the ball down the field guide.  

Mayor: Go ahead, Katie.  

Question: Thank you. And I guess if you, Mr. Mayor, and Mr. Monahan, maybe the Commissioner just wants to chime in about how this all kind of fell into place. Were you thinking about retiring and then approached the Mayor? Mayor, did you say, hey, you know, leave the NYPD and come over to me? How did this kind of work? Was it we – you know, just some curiosity of the background of how this works, because, you know, it is interesting to see you know, someone like Lorraine Grillo has worked in government, she’s been your sort of go-to person for a lot of this, particularly harder stuff, and just the – how this happened, that you brought Mr. Monahan over, I guess, across chambers or whatever? 

Mayor: Yeah. I'll start and I won't speak for Terry and, you know, the family considerations and everything else. I will simply say, I knew Terry was thinking about the future and what he would do after this administration, after the NYPD. I have been thinking about putting together a recovery team and the right folks to help us supercharge recovery. Lorraine, obviously, someone I've just had the most extraordinary experiences with, during my administration, but even well before. And I knew the role she would play made so much sense, but I knew there were other pieces to the puzzle. And the questions around safety, we needed a lot of energetic efforts to work with communities, especially the business community, to figure out how we could get everyone communicating, understanding what's being done to address real concerns, but also hearing concerns and figuring out solutions. And I knew Terry would fit that. We have worked very, very closely since the initiation of neighborhood policing. I remember vividly the first meetings on neighborhood policing, and we joke about it. Terry showing me different maps and charts, and I elegantly challenged him.  

Commissioner Shea: And despite that – 

Mayor: Despite that – yes, some of his explanations at first were not as clear as they might've been, and we worked it through. But, you know, someone who was one of the architects of neighborhood policing, I can't think of someone better to help us develop the strategy for the comeback. And so, it really was very organic to me once I knew and it made sense that he was trying to make sense of what were his next steps, I said this is an opportunity to get him involved where we need him most, which is on the recovery. You want to add? 

Senior Advisor Monahan: Yeah. Again, 39 years of doing policing, I was looking to get to the private sector. I had actually spoken to a few companies. The word – people know that I was looking for something. It's just recently the Mayor called me in, gave me this opportunity. It's great for me. It's great for my family. And I believe it's going to be great for the City of New York.  

Mayor: Go ahead.  

Moderator: Last question for today goes to Craig McCarthy from the Post.  

Question: Mr. Mayor, Commissioner, Chief Monahan, Chief Harrison – I want to first say, congratulations. So, we reported this morning that Chief Monahan was scheduled to appear for the CCRB next week, during – for at least two contentious police responses during the George Floyd protests. Will Monahan still appear for those meetings? And if you can answer that, then I have a follow-up. 

Mayor: Well, I can handle that one. Yes.  


Mayor: Go ahead, Craig.  

Question: But, so how – with that then, if he's moving over to be an advisor, how would you respond to the message it sends to the rank and file in public when it comes to police discipline, if the highest-ranking uniform officer can resign, get a new post, and won't sit for disciplinary probe in the sense that he won't face any discipline since he's not the Police Department anymore, if, you know, he did anything wrong.  

Mayor: Look, I think it is, first and foremost, what's going to bring our city back. Let's start at the beginning, what's going to bring our city back? Putting together the most talented group of people, whether they're working directly on the recovery effort, as Terry will now, working with Lorraine and me and others, or whether it's folks who are going to lead the NYPD forward, like Commissioner Shea and Chief Harrison. How do we come back? Because everyone we're talking about has given their life to New York City, let's be clear about that. I absolutely respect critiques and concerns. But I want to start at the beginning, these are – every single person up here has given their life to New York City and will continue to. Whatever processes going on, of course, as we said, Chief Monahan will participate with CCRB openly and we will respect whatever they decide. I'm someone who believes the CCRB needs to be further empowered, which is why we came up with the discipline matrix, which is why we agreed – NYPD and CCRB agreed to the MOU, which is why we're expanding the CCRB power in so many other ways. But I think the message this sends is that we're moving the recovery forward and the city needs to move forward. I really think that's the essence of this. This is about our future, and I don't know a New Yorker who doesn't want to see us recover and get back to where we were, and then some. In fact, we have to recover and be even fairer and more just, and that's what we're all going to work on together.  

Okay. That's what we got for today. Everyone, just to conclude by saying a lot of leadership working together for the good of New York City and a really special day when someone who came up through the ranks now is going to be able to serve a city in a new way. And someone else who came up to the ranks now raises – rises up to the highest uniform position in the NYPD. This is just an example of the extraordinary talent and commitment that people have in this city. And that's why we will come back and we will come back strong. Thank you, everyone.

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