April 8, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well another day that we are very happy to bring together an extraordinary group of talented New Yorkers to join this administration. I want you not to think for a moment that Councilmember Antonio Reynoso and Councilmember Rafael Espinal are taking new jobs. They are here in solidarity with the folks being named today, obviously happy as I am to have these great individuals join our team. And they will continue their good work on the City Council afterwards. As always, giving credit where credit is due. In terms of these wonderful appointments, I want to thank First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris and Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, and my Chief of Staff Laura Santucci. All of them put a lot of time and energy into finding the right folks for these roles, and I am convinced that once again they have succeeded. We’ve said over these last three months that we had to do three things simultaneously. We had to make this government work every day for the people of the city, no matter what was thrown at us, snowstorms or any other challenges. We had to keep things running effectively and efficiently. Two, we had to bring together an extraordinarily talented group of people to staff this government. And three, we had to change the direction of many policies of the city government, on issues ranging from pre-K to stop-and-frisk to paid sick days, and move this government in a more progressive direction. We’ve had to do those things simultaneously, and we feel very good about where we stand now after these three months. And the appointees that we are naming today fit beautifully with the approach we’ve taken, both in terms of their experience and capacity, and their values.
These leaders play a really crucial role in making New York City government work. The roles that we’re talking about today, they don’t always make the front pages. But they are among the most crucial roles in city government in terms of actually making sure that services are efficiently and effectively provided to people. And making sure that taxpayers’ interests are watched, making sure we get our money’s worth, making sure we get the revenue we deserve, making sure the money we spend when we build things is used effectively and efficiently, we use the most modern and sustainable approaches. And obviously, in the case of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, making sure that we continue to build not only our economy, not only grow jobs, but grow good jobs – quality jobs, with good wages and benefits for people who need them. So this is really where the rubber hits the road in so many of these agencies.
Let’s start with the department of finance, our new commissioner Jacques Jiha. The department of finance by definition is one of the bedrock agencies in city government, makes everything else we do possible. The department of finance, for example, collects more than $30 billion in revenue each year to make government work. Now, to lead this agency, we needed someone with three distinct skills and they’re hard to find in this combination. We needed an extraordinary thinker, a real wizard with numbers. We needed an experienced manager, and we needed someone deeply versed in the intricacies of public finance in New York City and New York State. And intricacy is truly the right word when it comes to the reality of city and state government and the finances of these entities. Jacques Jiha has all three of these qualities and he has them deeply. Over the course of 25 years in public finance, he’s built a reputation as someone of extraordinary integrity, and someone who is particularly expert in budget and debt management, in economic analysis and forecasting, and understands deeply and personally the intricacies of the New York City and New York State pension systems. For eight years, Jacques managed the Bureau of Financial Analysis at the City Comptroller’s office. He worked there in particular on municipal tax and revenue issues. He also served in the state government as deputy comptroller for pension, investment, and public finance. In that role, he managed all aspects of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, was then valued at $120 billion, and at the time was the nation’s second largest pension fund. But as important as his experience, his knowledge, his insight is – his understanding of the people of New York City, and his particular journey, exemplifies so much about what New York City has been about historically. Jacques is truly a great New York City success story. He emigrated from Haiti. He was the first person in his college to go to college, attending Fordham University. He worked his way through college in a true New York City profession, as a parking garage attendant. And he understood, from his family’s experience, from the work he did, what working people go through – what immigrants go through, what people do to struggle to make it in this city each and every day, no matter how much adversity they face. And when he thinks about the finance department and all it does, he thinks about our need to serve everyday New Yorkers, and to make sure that their interactions with the finance department are fair and just and effective. And make sure that the department treats everyone fairly, listens to the people we’re serving, and increases confidence in government in the process. It’s my honor to introduce our new finance commissioner, Jacques Jiha.
Incoming Commissioner Jacques Jiha, Department of Finance: Thank you Mr. Mayor for this opportunity. I came to New York City about 34 years ago from Haiti with the simple dream to looking for an opportunity – better opportunity – whether it was job, whether it was education, and to come in society with upward mobility. New York has exceeded all my expectations. From the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree at Fordham University and a Ph.D. at the New School, while working full time as a garage parking attendant, to my current position as the COO and CFO at Black Enterprise. So it is with great joy Mr. Mayor that I accept your appointment as the next finance commissioner, because it gives me the opportunity to give back to a city that has given me so much – which is New York City. Throughout my life, my modus operandus has been to open up doors, keep the door of opportunity open, and pave the way for people coming behind me. So I share your vision and your passion to make this city a beacon of hope and opportunity for all New Yorkers. Our job at finance will be to provide you the resources, the revenue that you need – that you and the city need, basically to implement your agenda. But be assured, that as we administer the tax and revenue laws of the city, we will implement them in ways that are efficient, balanced, transparent, and more importantly, fair. Again, thank you Mr. Mayor for the opportunity to serve the citizens of the city of New York. I’d also like to thank First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris and Budget Director Dean Fuleihan for all their support. I’d also like to thank my current employer, Earl G. Graves, Sr. and Butch Graves, for their support for over the last nine years as I worked with them. On a personal note, I’d like to thank my wife. She has provided me all kind of support in the last 32 years. Without her, I wouldn’t be here today. I’d also like to thank my daughters, Christine and Kimberly. And a special thanks for my mother, [inaudible]. She’s not here this week, she’s in Haiti and she’s coming back next week. She’s been my bedrock in my life. She’s been the moral compass of my life, giving me unconditional love and support. Again, thank you Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: And I do want to note – I want to amplify that the Graves family and everyone at Black Enterprise was wonderful in recognizing that you were off to an important mission of public service. I want to thank them for understanding that we had to take away one of their talented people to help the people of New York City. So please pass on my thanks.
Now, the next agency I want to talk about is New York City Department of Design and Construction. Again, for many New Yorkers it may be a little abstract to think about what this agency does, but in fact, you can hardly go more than a few blocks in this city without encountering the work of DDC. Look up and see the buildings that DDC constructs and renovates: firehouses, libraries, police precincts, senior centers. Look down and you’ll see the roadways that DDC designs, you’ll see the water and sewer mains – or you can at least envision the water and sewer mains. Over the last decade, DDC has completed – here’s some statistics – more than 745 miles of new roadway, 735 miles of water mains, 588 miles of storm and sanitary sewers, and installed more than 42,000 sidewalk pedestrian ramps. This is extraordinarily important work. And to effectively run DDC, you need a leader with both the vision of how to make the agency run well and run effectively for the people of the city – and someone also with a profound knowledge and history in the areas of engineering and construction management. Our new DDC commissioner, Dr. Feniosky Peña-Mora, has both of these qualifications in great measure. Feniosky was raised in the Dominican Republic, where he got his undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering. In 1988, he and his sister moved to Washington Heights to join their mother, who had immigrated to New York City ten years earlier and was working on a factory line. Feniosky proceeded to go to MIT, where he was ultimately – ultimately received a Doctor of Science in Civil Engineering. I always like to say when we get to a reference like this, MIT – you couldn’t get into a good school, huh?
Mayor: And then in 2009, became a professor at Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. And he has an extraordinary history, not only with that role but also having taught in areas of civil engineering, mechanics, earth and environmental engineering, and computer science. So he really has an extraordinary breadth of knowledge and capacity. His research findings have been tested and adopted in several large-scale infrastructure projects in a variety of parts of the world – including cities in the United States like Boston, including in Puerto Rico, and in other nations as well. In his role as a university administrator, he made enormous strides in both effectively running his department and – or his school – and diversifying both the faculty and the student body. The number of women on faculty grew by 20 percentage points under his tenure. The number of women and minorities admitted to the school increased. At DDC, he will ensure that New York City’s public works set a worldwide standard for design excellence, while also bringing about an unprecedented level of community involvement and input into the building process. And I have to say that when I talked to Feniosky about his vision, I was deeply struck by how human-scale his worldview is. He has obviously extraordinary academic credentials, he’s worked on the biggest projects – and yet he saw the work of DDC from the neighborhood level, from the grassroots level. And that was very appealing to me, to make sure this agency would be run well, but always would reference to the people it served. I am honored to bring forward our new DDC commissioner, Feniosky Peña-Mora.
Incoming Commissioner Feniosky Peña-Mora, Department of Design and Construction: Thank you Mr. Mayor. First of all, I would like to thank my family who is here today with me, and those in the Dominican Republic. Without them, I would not be here – my mother, Mirtha Lopez, my father, Ramon Peña, my step-mother, [inaudible], my step-father, Jose Lopez, who is not here with us, my amazingly beloved wife, Minosca Alcantara, and my most precious treasures, our children – Aramael, Amnahir, and Giramnah Peña-Alcantara. I would also like to thank all my colleagues from academia and the Domincan Dispora for all their support throughout the years. I want to especially thank the mayor and his incredible team for their commitment to a progressive agenda that bridges the gap of the two New Yorks. I can be considered part of that other New York, the one that the mayor so passionately and forcefully would like to include in the conversations and the decision-making table. My mother and I emigrated to New York City from the Dominican Republic, specifically to Washington Heights. With very little money but a boundless dream to become better, to go ahead through our education and hard work. I’m happy to say that as I stand here with you all, I’m a testament to the American dream. I see in this administration the commitment to listening and including all the voices across the city, including that of the Latino community to ensure that we all have the same opportunity to realize the American dream. I look forward to the work ahead and I’m excited to collaborate with all my fellow citizens who make this city the incredible place it is. As commissioner of DDC, I will make sure to continue to build on that legacy and support the great work the department has made in bringing design excellence to city projects. I look forward to working with all my colleagues in DDC and beyond to ensure that our department is the world leader in design and construction for city projects by ensuring a strong relationship with the community and our city agency clients. Preserving our past, designing and constructing our present, and building [inaudible] for the sustainable future of the greatest city in the world, New York City.
Now I would like to make some remarks in Spanish.
Antes que nada, debo agradecer a la ciudad de Nueva York y al equipo del alcalde de Blasio en haber confiado esta importante labor, desde la cual podré dedicar toda mi experiencia y experticia en la solución de numerosas situaciones latentes que día a día escuchamos de nuestros conciudadanos. Sobre todo, siento orgullo de formar parte de una administración que tiene sus oídos abiertos para cada ciudadano, no importando el origen o la posición social. Que escuchando las mayorías, no pierde la vista las minorías excluidas y necesitadas. Somos tan fuertes como el más débil es la [inaudible] de la cadena. Es precisamente por ello que tenemos que asistir a los más débiles, a los que más necesitan. Como emigrante dominicano que residió en Washington Heights, debo decir que esta posición estará al servicio, no solo de la comunidad latina – la cual orgullosamente formo parte – si no también al servicio de todos los ciudadanos motivados en el progreso y bienestar de esta hermosa ciudad.
Mayor: Now the next agency I want to talk about is the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, another one that may not be on the lips of every New Yorker. It may not be on the front pages, but it does such extraordinary work overseeing all of the contracts that city agencies enter into with outside companies and with nonprofit organizations. These contracts could be for the simple things, like the computers or the paper, the equipment we need to maintain our parks, the salt for snow removal. All of that goes through the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, otherwise known as MOCS.
They can also be – for a wide range of services we need, whether it’s the services of professionals like architects or the folks who run our after-school programs and community-based organizations. In Fiscal Year 2013, for example, New York City procured more than $ 16. 5 billion worth of supplies, services and construction through more than 40,500 individual transactions. All of that had to go through MOCS.
It’s a massive taxpayer investment we make every year, and I was committed to finding someone to run MOCS who could watch out for the taxpayer first and foremost, make sure the money was used wisely. And make sure we were using it in a way that had the maximum positive impact on our city, including the opportunities we provide for our own people.
Our new director of MOCS, Lisette Camilo, certainly shares that vision and has that capacity. A resident of the Bronx, Lisette was born and raised in Washington Heights by parents who also came here from the Dominican Republic. So today is a very proud day for the Dominican community, seeing two of its own rise in the administration. And I again want to thank Council Member Reynoso and Council Member Espinal for their Dominican solidarity today.
The – Lisette was the first member of her family to go to college. And received a bachelor’s degree from Columbia and her law degree from George Washington University. Also could not get into a good school, sorry. Before she came into city government she worked as general counsel for a labor union, United [inaudible] Local 100, representing food service and restaurant workers. She then in 2007 joined the staff of the city council. And I had the honor of working with Lisette on several occasions and saw right away that she was a special talent. And she has continued to rise. She was council to the committee on contracts of the city council, the committee on juvenile justice and also worked closely with the committee on general welfare, one near and dear to my heart.
She then joined MOCS, where she most recently served as deputy general council, where she directed the implementation of the MWBE program. She helped to draft new rules that require materials, supplies and equipment that the city purchases to be greener. So she’s someone committed to sustainability. She’s committed to continuing modernizing and streamlining the work of MOCS. She’s someone committed to fairness and justice and making sure that the work of city government is inclusive of all New Yorkers. She really has an extraordinary history and an extraordinary vision for this agency. And I know Lisette Camilo is the right person for the job as our new director for the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services. Welcome.
Incoming Director Lisette Camilo, Mayor’s Office of Contract Services: So thank you Mayor for appointing me as director of the mayor’s office of contract services. At MOCS – for those of you who are not familiar with our office – our mission is to ensure that the city has the goods it needs to operate. That the people of New York receive the services that they need and deserve. That we use our city’s tremendous buying power to increase opportunity and to ensure that equity and fairness to the many businesses and community organizations that contract with us.
I’m excited to work with the mayor’s team, specifically with First Deputy Mayor Shorris. And my wonderful team at MOCS, who I’m proud to have worked with for the past three years to help this administration achieve its vision for New York City.
We will continue to strive to increase city contract awards to our minority and women-owned businesses, to remove bottlenecks in city contracting, and to make sure that city taxpayer dollars go to support companies that meet our standards of business integrity. I’m proud to serve in a progressive administration whose mission it is to help all New Yorkers.
As the mayor mentioned, I live in the Bronx and I was born and raised in Washington Heights. Again, the daughter of Dominican immigrants. One – my mom is sitting right here. My family and I have personally benefitted from this wonderful city. And I am honored now to serve this city, our business partners and our customers, the people of this city, to ensure that other families benefit as much as mine did.
[Incoming Director Camilo delivers remarks in Spanish]
Mayor: I think everyone in this administration knows that they have to [inaudible].
Mayor: Okay? I’m going to put that on the wall to remind us. Finally, this is the last appointment. This is personal to me because it’s someone who is going to be leading one of the crown jewels of my home borough of Brooklyn. David Ehrenberg has already established a great reputation as president and CEO of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation. And I am looking forward to him continuing in that role.
Navy Yard – I think it’s a good example that sometimes there are legends that are a little overwrought, and sometimes there are legends that are true. And the legend of the Brooklyn Navy Yard is the real thing. It’s an amazing place, an amazing example of taking something very different in its past and turning it into one of the most extraordinary and most modern and most cutting edge facilities for economic development anywhere in the City of New York, anywhere in the country.
David has been a part of that extraordinary achievement and has the vision and the leadership skills to continue to build upon what’s happened over this last decade. Now, something we need to do more often in public life is give credit where credit is due. Some who ply my particular trade are not that good at that, so I’d like to engage in an act of humility and say the work that’s been done over the last decade in terms of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and its success, a lot of the credit goes to the man in the back row there, Alan Fishman. And as chairman of the Navy Yard, he did extraordinary things to achieve this transformation. Alan, I want to thank you for all you’ve done for Brooklyn and for New York City.
Now, as I said, David’s been on the job already about eight months. He’s proven time and again he is the right person to lead this extraordinary effort to keep building on the success. Prior to leading the Navy Yard, David was executive vice president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, at EDC. He worked on small uncontroversial projects including the Cornell-Technion campus at Roosevelt Island, the Lower East Side development at Seward Park, which has been a great victory for this city. And the implementation of hundreds of millions of dollars of programs that support small businesses after Sandy hit this city. So David has been through the fire and he’s learned how to deal with the most complex situations. And he has the leadership skills to make things happen.
And not only has he worked on these high-profile situations, he’s also known to have worked on – known as someone who worked just as energetically, just as intensely, on less well-known but crucial industrial and manufacturing projects around this city. Someone who understands that that part of our economy is still strong and crucial to our future. And nowhere exemplifies that more than the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Now, some people have said – you know, a lot of people we’ve hired are from Brooklyn, that’s true. I want you to know we did an exhaustive search. I live on 11th Street. We looked all the way over to 13th Street where David was born and raised, yes? And we found the right man. He has since migrated from Park Slope to Windsor Terrace, but he’s still in the neighborhood. And he’s still – this says you’re still living in the same zip code you grew up. Is this? You’re in 11215? All right. The paper never lies. Still living in the same zip code he grew up in and bringing those small town values to the work of New York City government.
And he sees – and one of the things that struck me. I’ve heard such great things about David and I’ve gotten to know him. But one of the things that struck me is David understands what the Navy Yard can do to really give opportunity, including to a lot of folks who haven’t had it. You think of where the Navy Yard is, you can go within a few miles of the Navy Yard and find some neighborhoods in this city that are still struggling. And here’s this incredible beacon of economic development and progress. David sees the Navy Yard as something that’s helping New York City to grow, but also as a place of opportunity for folks looking for a new chance. And I want to thank you for that commitment and welcome you as you continue your role at the Navy Yard.
David Ehrenberg, President and CEO, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation: Thank you Mr. Mayor. I am thrilled to join your administration and serve the city. As a Brooklynite – having actually moved to Brooklyn when I was about three months old – so not quite born and raised, but – but raised in Brooklyn [inaudible] and someone who’s now raising a family in Brooklyn. I can think back to the Brooklyn of the 1970s and 80s when it was not a – known as an engine of economic development and opportunity. And having a role and playing a part in the further development of that and making those opportunities to as wide a variety of residents of Brooklyn and the city is frankly a dream job.
The yard’s mission is to ensure that New York City remains a viable and nurturing location for traditional industries, as well as innovation companies that are now largely driving job growth in the city. I think businesses grow and create more job opportunities. The logical conclusion of our mission is to ensure that those jobs are available to as wide a variety of individuals as possible. And that’s something that we take very seriously at the yard. Through our employment center, the yard operates – last year alone we placed 250 individuals in jobs on the yard – more in businesses near the yard. And placed another 200 students into internships on the yard.
One of the facts that really hit home for me about the navy yard’s history was that at the peak of its employment in World War II, 77,000 people worked at the Navy Yard. That was more than 0.1 percent of the American workforce. The yard was not the industrial powerhouse of Brooklyn. It was not the industrial powerhouse of the city or the country, it was the industrial powerhouse of the world. But when the yard closed in the 1960s, that legacy was largely lost. And by the 1970s and 1980s when I was growing up in Brooklyn, that legacy was almost entirely forgotten for most people. And what that really meant was that the critical path to the middle class had closed for hundreds of thousands of New York residents.
At its low point, there were only 800 jobs on the Brooklyn Navy Yard. And that was not that long ago, about 25 years ago. But today, every inch of the yard’s 4.5 million square feet is fully leased to 330 businesses that now employ 7,000 people. These are well-paid jobs that develop careers and help shrink our city’s omnipresent income gap, particularly for workers with less formal education.
I will work tirelessly with my great team, who’s also to be credited with the extraordinary progress of the yard over the last number of years to bring 2 million square feet of additional space online in the next few years. This space will provide additional affordable options to small and medium-sized businesses that are currently on the yard or who call us every day looking for space at the yard. So they can grow and hire thousands of additional employees. And above all else, our employment center will continue to work to make these job opportunities accessible to New Yorkers – to all New Yorkers. And restore the promise that the yard once represented in years past, the promise that all New Yorkers deserve preparation for and access to great jobs. Thank you again for this extraordinary opportunity.
Mayor: Before we take your questions, un poquito de Espanol. Hoy me complace anunciar a quienes serán los líderes de cuatro agencias muy importantes -- dos de ellos son orgullos hispanos de origen dominicano: El Doctor Feniosky Peña-Mora, como Comisionado del Departmento de Diseño y Construcción; Y Lisette Camilo, como Directora de la Oficina del Alcalde para Servicios Contráctuales. También anunciamos a: Jacques Jiha, como Comisionado del Departamento de Finanzas; Y la re-asignación de David Ehrenberg como Presidente del Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation.
With that, let’s take questions on the topic of these announcements, and then we’ll take off that. And I’d like to welcome State Senator Adriano Espaillat as part of Dominican Pride Day today. Welcome. And we’ll take questions on topic first. Yes?
Question: [inaudible] working on an assumption that there are probably several very well [inaudible] who are declaring residencies in Florida or perhaps Connecticut, who really are New York City residents. And I’m just wondering whether you share that assumption and whether you will go after them so that they pay their fair share.
Mayor: I just want to say something as Jacques comes up. Look, we want to make sure everyone pays their fair share. And I think it’s fair to say that people who live here, work here, benefit from all the services the City of New York provides. And it’s very interesting. I’ve talked to a lot of folks in the business community, a lot of folks who have done well. And they’re the first to recognize that the money they pay in taxes to New York City actually buys them a very, very effective product – a very profoundly important product in terms of public safety, in terms of schools, in terms of the quality of life in this city. So I just want to accent the positive. I think a lot of people do understand it’s not only the right thing to do to pay your fair share, but you’re getting a lot back for the investment you make. And we certainly want to make sure everyone does what they should do.
Incoming Commissioner Jiha: Yeah, I share the mayor’s position when it comes to this issue. It’s a very complicated issue. Our goal is – as I said before – is to make sure that all taxpayers are treated equally. Because this is a critical issue when it comes to tax compliance. You’re dealing with [inaudible] compliance. People have to feel like everybody’s treated equally. So from my perspective of what – from a banker to an entrepreneur in the underground economy, we’re going to make sure that everybody has [inaudible] to tax laws and revenue laws of the city are treated in a way that is fair. But again, you also have to deal with the bigger issue here [inaudible] the rules and the laws. You know many – as you know, folks have to spend a number of days in New York City. And at times folks try to skip New York City – you know 30 minutes, 40 minutes before – before time expires. So it’s an issue we have to look into. I share, as I said the mayor’s position, that our goal is basically to make sure that the tax laws are administered in a way that are very fair to people [inaudible] transparent. But again as I said, we have to look at every aspect and see what can be done to make sure that that – you know [inaudible] tax avoidance are minimized.
Mayor: On topic? Yes?
Question: So as you know, the city property tax [inaudible] a lot of people who feel that [inaudible] aren’t accurately reflected and that their bills aren’t really reflecting what they owe and that people whose homes are worth a lot more are paying less in taxes. Do you share that view that it’s an unequal or unfair system and is there anything that you plan to do, either in the city or in Albany, to change that?
Incoming Commissioner Jiha: It’s a major issues. We have a lot of unfairness and inequity. We think particularly some of the classes that we have in New York City. Again, it’s – we’re going to look into every aspect of this property tax – property taxes in New York to see what can be done. It’s a big project, okay? We’re going to have to review what’s taken place. If there are discrepancy and inefficiencies within the system we’re going to have to try to minimize them. But at the end of the day, the issue of equities – inequities between [inaudible] You know, you have to go to Albany to deal with this kind of issues. But to – our goal is basically to try to minimize to some extent the – as best as we can, to try to minimize the inequities within [inaudible], okay? So a class 1 property, you know, your neighbor shouldn’t be treated – equally situated people should not be treated differently. Okay? That’s our goal.
Question: [inaudible] would have to go to Albany to really change the structure of [inaudible] plan to do?
Mayor: Let me jump in on that one. Look, I think Jacques laid out exactly what – this is a big, sprawling area of concern and we’re going to look at it very closely. Part of why we wanted a finance commissioner with Jacques’ experience and insight is to take a whole look at the tax system of this city and look at ways to make it clearer, more transparent and more equitable. And I think Jacques is exactly right. Some of that we can achieve locally. Some of that can only be achieved with Albany’s help. But first we have to come to an analysis of what is going on and what’s a better way to approach it. And then when we feel we’re on that firm ground, then we’ll start discussions with Albany.
Question: About the [inaudible]
Mayor: You’re very popular Jacques.
Question: Speaking of [inaudible], according to the campaign finance records, at least as of last fall when you [inaudible], do you still live there? Do you plan to move to the city and – yeah. [inaudible]
Incoming Commissioner Jiha: Actually, taxes are higher in Nassau County. No, I will move to New York City. As of today, I still live in Nassau County. Before I start I will make sure that I move to New York City.
Mayor: On topic. Jim?
Question: This is a little less technical . [inaudible] So, did I hear you say that you were a parking lot attendant at one time here? And what – I know mentioned that – I think you mentioned – if you did, when was that and could you ever imagine that [inaudible] position that you are in today? What happened – because I know a lot happened – [inaudible]
Incoming Commissioner Jiha: Yes. I was a parking lot attendant for a good five years. As I was I working, I was going to college and the first two years I was in grad school. To be honest with you, this is New York. Even though I at times say you cannot believe it but you see so many examples in New York of folks coming from nothing and to achieve their dream. And, to me, that’s what’s so critical again to make sure that we continue to provide this kind of opportunity for people. And, again, as I said, our goal at finance will be to do as best as we can to provide the mayor the resources that he needs and the city needs to basically implement his agenda, which is to create opportunity for all New Yorkers.
Mayor: I want to – I’m going to help Jim with an assist here. I think that’s two different questions. Did you ever see yourself going from that to this kind of thing, specifically?
Incoming Commissioner Jiha: No. No, but it’s – again, as I said, it’s New York. This is the American dream. We have a lot of examples. But again, I think the mayor for giving me this opportunity.
Mayor: Thank you. Before I take another question I just want to amplify – this – I think Jacques said something particularly powerful there – that he saw other examples. He saw enough of them to believe it for himself. It wasn’t something faraway and distant. It was something that was thoroughly believable and, obviously, like so many people standing by me now, their hard work, their determination got them to that goal. That’s gotten a lot harder. And I think what we’re devoted to, as an administration, is trying to revive the notion that anyone can make it in New York City – and provide a lot more evidence of that possibility, provide a lot more open doors, provide a lot more ways for people to break through and get to the middle class and even beyond. And I think – you’re hearing it in each and every person up here. They all have very different kinds of agencies but they share that sense of commitment that the New York City we all came up in was filled with that sense of opportunity. The New York City today, much less so – and we’re not going to let it slip away. We’re devoted to reopening that door and creating that opportunity again. On this topic, yes.
Question: Another property tax related question.
Mayor: Exciting crowd here today. Okay.
Question: For homeowners who were having their homes rebuilt [inaudible] after Hurricane Sandy, property tax law [inaudible] they won’t be subject to the property tax cap anymore because of the [inaudible] wondering if this was something that was on your radar, something that you’re looking to maybe see if Albany can adjust for [inaudible]?
Mayor: I am not clear on the specifics of what we’re doing on that. James do you want – or Alicia, since you’re standing here – one of you want to come up to bat and help us? James Patchett, always ready. James Patchett, Chief of Staff to Deputy Mayor Glen.
James Patchett, Chief of Staff to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen: [inaudible] as we’re coming out at the report this week. We’re highly – you know, the Sandy report that we promise last weekend – we’re highly aware of this issue. It’s something we think is incredibly important. It’s an Albany-controlled issue but we’re very focused on it. I mean, there’s an opportunity to look at legislation around that and we want to explore that as much as possible.
Mayor: You can go back to the bullpen now. Not that bullpen – the baseball analogy. Okay. In the back.
Question: [inaudible] New York towards a more sustainable city and perhaps even bring New York [inaudible] in the future?
Mayor: Dr. Peña-Mora.
Incoming Commissioner Peña-Mora: Thank you, mayor. This is a very important question. And I think – to add to your comment – I think we need to make sure that our infrastructure is resilient and sustainable. And I believe that former administration in the department, has actually done valued work and great work bringing design excellence into the construction. And I think now we need to actually move to the next level to ensure that all our infrastructure that sometimes – most of the time – is not seen by anybody, but when something goes wrong, everybody sees it, actually is one of the criteria. How do we ensure our design, our construction, our [inaudible] and ensure that our city functions and everybody can do what they want to do. And I believe that that will be something that has to be included in the planning phase and the specific parameters be included in the design phase. And I think I like your second part of the question about how to maybe looking at intelligence, as we have seen, computer sensors, social networks are becoming more and more embedded in a lot of our day-to-day lives. And I think we should try to tap into that – what is called kind of community knowledge, shareware of information – to ensure that our assets are actually to build in the most efficient way by maintaining in the most efficient way.
Question: [inaudible] For a number of years, council members have been very critical of the EDC, saying that their capital projects and capital projects throughout the city are [inaudible] really overrun by [inaudible] always [inaudible] EDC. I’m just wondering if this is on your radar or if you plan on addressing [inaudible]?
Mayor: We want to work closely with the council to improve the process around capital projects. And I think that means being realistic about what can be done when and making sure the project makes sense. We also think, in general, that the capital projections that we’ve received from the previous administration were in some ways unrealistic and needed to be adjusted and made more responsible. So throughout everything we are doing in terms of capital, we are trying to start with leveling with everyone involved with a fact that – leveling with them about what can be done, when, and doing better job of explaining the kinds of things that could be done quickly, the kinds of things that take more time, helping people understand what might be the best investment they can make. So that’s an ongoing effort. But let me let Dr. Peña-Mora add to that.
Incoming Commissioner Peña-Mora: In any project, particularly in a city like ours, it’s old city, kind of tight space and big dreams. And actually, there is a lot of scrutiny. And I think it is important to increase transparency so that everybody understands from the beginning what is going to be done [inaudible], which is something one that large projects tend to have. And to be clear on the schedule and the cost. And I think I have been always been focused on what I called “the project ecosystem” for the whole construction, in which the cost, the scale, the quality, the social environment, as well as development and environmental nature – the environment that we work on – is really protected. So I will be looking at how to make sure that our projects [inaudible] that echo system in order to ensure that our resources from the city are spent in the best possible way and in a timely manner.
Question: Can I just get one more?
Mayor: Okay. Henry before, let me just get someone who hasn’t gone yet.
Question: For Dr. Peña-Mora as well. Can you specify what kind of initiatives you might [inaudible]
Incoming Commissioner Peña-Mora: I think one of the first things that I have to do is actually learn more about the city, department itself, and particularly our clients. Because as you look at DDC, it’s a service organization. We actually deliver projects for other agencies in the city, like the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environment Protection, the Department of Parks, and so on. So we need to understand and work with them to ensure that their priorities are taken care, their needs are taken care, and really work on delivering those in the most efficient and effective way. So I would say that a lot of times in construction what happens is that you have almost like a traffic light metaphor. You have a green and red, you know, stop and go. And then when you get to go, you have to rush. And I think we need to really spend time at the beginning. There is not a short cut for planning, and we need to make sure that the planning is taking – so I will put a lot of emphasis on the planning, being mindful of pressures and the constraints that we all have, but I will say that that will be the first [inaudible] that we will look. Better planning and more thoughtful engagement of the communities affected by the projects, as well as our clients, the city agencies.
Mayor: I just want to note that Dr. Peña-Mora, when we were interviewing him , one of the things that was really important was that he valued sustainability as part of the thought process in a very, very tangible way. And his argument to us was from his previous experiences. He had tried to infuse the notion that sustainability had to be factored in – just like cost, just like schedule, anything else on equal footing. And that was refreshing to hear. I think there is still a lot of people, not shockingly, in private and public sector who think a little bit too much in the here and now and don’t think about the long-term ramifications of the projects that they are working on. Dr. Peña-Mora is an actually innovator with the idea of treating sustainability as as important as any other factor in the projects we do. Okay, we’ve got time for one more on topic. Andy? On topic. Anyone who didn’t go yet, otherwise Henry gets it. Anyone who didn’t – okay, Henry?
Question: [inaudible] how much at risk was the Navy Yard from these sustainability issues – from flooding. And how much would it cost to make it resilient?
Ehrenberg: So the Navy Yard was hit quite hard by Hurricane Sandy, both our tenants and our core infrastructure. We are currently working with FEMA to address some of those. We have a full plan to raise our electrical sub-stations, to harden some of our buildings. Our tenants have been doing some of that, sometimes with our support, where we’ve – waived rents in exchange for them investing in their businesses and our buildings. The total cost is still being worked out, and it’s in the tens of millions of dollars. And it is a major concern. We’ve taken some immediate steps to prepare ourselves for the next hurricane season, but there – we certainly do have more work to do. But we’re on the case.
Question: Is it time to go to off topic now?
Mayor: Off topic – Andy.
Question: [inaudible] Chancellor Fariña in 2005 was the city’s lead witness is support of the ban on regular religious worship in schools. And she swore that statement, [inaudible], that it violates the separation of church and state, confuses the children [inaudible] favors Christianity over Islam and Judaism because Sunday is available and Saturday and Friday are not, oftentimes. And that these perceptions can’t be overcome with a disclaimer. So my question is which of these sworn statements do you disagree with, because her office wouldn’t comment. What public process are you going to engage in as you try to change the policy? And why aren’t you enforcing the existing policy now, given that it’s been upheld by two courts of appeals and sustained by the Supreme Court.
Mayor: I admire the complexity of your question. I would have expected nothing less. I commend you. I’ve said very clearly what I believe, that a faith-based organization has a right like anyone else waiting in line their turn, paying the same amount as any other organization to use that space. We will, as a result of the court decision, will update our rules and refine our rules to make clear some specific parameters. By definition, when I say a faith-based organizations, it means that any faith is equally welcome. So I want to just emphasize that any organization of any faith can apply for space. And I think that’s important to understand. So, you know, everyone is entitled to their opinion. The previous administration had a different opinion. I put forward my view very clearly over the last year. And we are going to take this court decision, work with it, update the rules, but continue to give opportunities to faith organizations. Yes?
Question: So your thoughts about the city council’s request for a 10 percent increase in its operating budget?
Mayor: They are an independent branch of government. I respect the Council greatly. Having served in the body, I have a lot of respect for the city’s legislature. I have a lot of respect for Speaker Mark-Viverito. They have every right to put forward what they think is necessary. I think they have done that with integrity. There is a budget process up ahead , and all elected officials and offices and all city agencies are going to go through that process, and that process is far from concluded. A lot of decisions have to be made. Obviously, those decisions will interact deeply with the state of labor negotiations, and that timeline is still obviously something that has not been resolved. So they put forward a proposal. It will now go into a broader budget discussion. More news when we put out our executive budget in the beginning of May. Jonathan?
Question: Mr. Mayor, Reverend Sharpton is an ally of yours. You’ve appeared with him multiple times. He’s acknowledged that he worked as an informant for the FBI and may have been wearing a wire [inaudible] I wanted to get your reaction to this. Do you believe he behaved appropriately? Does this impact your friendship at all?
Mayor: It doesn’t change the relationship one bit. I’m very proud to be his friend. I think he has done a lot of good for the City of New York and for this country. What’s obvious from what he said this very morning is that he was asked by the FBI to support their efforts and he agreed to help, and that’s what a citizen should do. So I have the exact same positive view of him I had before.
Mayor: [inaudible] Don’t you get together and pool the questions in advance? Courtney?
Question: Any thoughts on the poll numbers released this morning? A 49 percent approval rating, as well as [inaudible] way you handled the charter school situation.
Mayor: Look, I don’t focus on polling in general. I don’t focus any one poll. Every poll is different. The methodologies are different. It’s just not how I see the world. I focus on governing. I focus on the substance of what we are here to do. And the public will judge that over time. So I think the bottom line is that I am confident that we are on the right path. Many, many polls show close splits from time to time. You see something that jumps off the page a little bit, but one thing that obviously jumped off the page in that poll to me was that almost two thirds of New Yorkers thought that the outcome we got on pre-K and after school was the right one, and that’s very good to see. But I can tell you we have plenty to focus on in terms of governance without worrying about polling.
Question: Yes, Mr. Mayor, a very important topic. The mayor of [inaudible]
Mayor: There’s a late show
Question: The late show –
Mayor: late show.
Question: – to Los Angeles. [inaudible] wants to stay here in New York. Where do you stand?
Mayor: I had a very good conversation yesterday with the man who will actually make that decision, Les Moonves. And I emphasized that New York has been an extraordinary home for the late show. And that we think it will be a great home for the late show going forward. And I’m hopeful that that’s what will come to pass. I think we have so much to offer, and the proof is in the pudding. Obviously David Letterman made rich use of the surrounding environment of New York City, and I hope that his successor will do the same.
Question: [inaudible] I’m just wondering if you’re sympathetic to that argument or whether you think you might settle or [inaudible]
Mayor: We do not accept inequality in pay, period. I will just make this personal for a moment. Some of you have heard the story that my grandmother came to this country from Southern Italy with her sister and her mother, started their own business. My mother was a professional woman starting in the late 1930s at a time when there weren’t that many professional women in her field. We’re just not going to accept inequality in pay towards women, and we’re going to find a way – an appropriate way to fix that situation. And it goes well beyond the question of the lawsuit. I’m sorry it ever got to the point that the women involved felt they had to bring a lawsuit just to get some justice that they already deserved. But we are going to ensure that there’s equal pay in New York City government. Thanks everyone.