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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Carranza Announce Citywide Meatless Monday's

March 11, 2019

Mayor Bill de Blasio: I feel like Aiden already is a lawyer – 

[Laughter]

That’s pretty eloquent – fifth Grade? Aiden, you are well on your way and I want to thank you for speaking from the heart about why this matters so much to you. And I love what you said, when you have that healthy food, you're ready to learn, you're ready to keep moving forward, and that's what we want to do for all the kids in our schools. 

Let's think Aiden for that great speech.

[Applause]

So, I love P.S. 130, I want to tell you that, because when I was a school board member, this is one of the schools in our neighborhood. Now, the school has changed and it's a beautiful new building, but the spirit is the same. This is a great school and a place where amazing changes are happening and you could see it in the cafeteria, you could see the extraordinary food being served and it's a labor of love. Can we do something that doesn't happen often enough? Can we thank all the folks who work in the cafeteria to make that good nutritious food?

[Applause]

Now, we’re going to do a little public opinion research, okay? This is just for the kids – sorry, adults, just for the kids. You have to cheer really loud if you like the thing I say, okay? Cheer if you like hummus. 

[Cheers]

Okay, it’s a poll, we’re going to find out what wins. Cheer if you like grilled cheese. 

[Cheers]

Okay, cheer if you like pizza.

[Cheers]

Okay, last choice – cheer if you like pasta. 

[Cheers]

Okay, I’m feeling like grilled cheese and pizza were really in a dead heat there. Let's settle it now. Okay, we have two finalists, but you have to really let us hear you. Okay? You’ve got a choice – grilled cheese or pizza. Ready? Cheer, if you like grilled cheese. 

[Silence]

Oh, okay, this is democracy in action. 

[Laughter]

We will finish the voting now – cheer if you like pizza.

[Cheers]

Chancellor, I think we have learned a new way to determine what the menu should be. I'm going to save you a lot of research. But all of those foods will be part of Meatless Mondays, because they're healthy and they allow kids to have the kind of food that gives them a great start. And you heard it from Aden, that’s what we want to do for kids in every school. Now I want to talk about another young person here in school, her name is Elah, and she is in the fourth grade, and she was sitting right across from me when I was sitting there at the table. It's Ella, in this case – E-L-A-H. And I said, Elah, what do you think of Meatless Mondays? And here's her exact quote – she says, it's good for the environment and it's good for you, yourself. I think we're done here. 

[Applause]

You're going to hear from some great people in a moment who had been a part of this effort and believe in it, but I also want to give some credit where credit is due to some other important folks from my administration. Someone who does so much to help address global warming – the Director of our Office of Sustainability, Mark Chambers. Thank you, Mark.

[Applause]

And someone who looks out for all the kids in District 15, Brooklyn, and that is something that’s, for me, a true labor of love – Anita Skop, thank you for all you do – the Superintendent.

[Applause]

And the Principal – this is maybe this is maybe my favorite principal name in the whole school system, because my mother's name was Maria, I love this name, and she's a great principal. Maria Nunziada, thank you.

[Applause]

So, for me, this is very personal, because – and I will say up front, I eat meat and I eat vegetarian dishes and I try and strike a balance between the two. But I have two vegetarians in my home and they feel very strongly about this. And I, for years – in fact, both my kids in their early teens decided to become vegetarians and they just did it spontaneously, they made their own choice. And they talked about the choice in terms of a lot of different things, what they felt personally, and also course what they felt about animals, but what they felt about the climate as well. So it was something that they felt [inaudible] and they explained to Chirlane and I why it was so personal for them. So, when I sit at the table with fourth graders and seventh graders, it's not surprising to me to hear the passion they feel. And the Borough President is going to speak in a moment – no one has done more to move this movement forward in this country, I’d say – in this whole country.

[Applause]

But, Borough President, remember when we were in Sunset Park at a public school that they had voted – the elementary school kids had voted for Meatless Monday, and they organize that themselves. So, we have to listen to what we are being told by the generation coming up. Now, I also want to be clear, this is all new, because for generations American parents have told their children to eat their vegetables. It's not a new idea. And too often kids thought vegetables weren't cool, or maybe they weren't being cooked the way that kids like to eat them, but now you have young people who want eat their vegetables, who want to eat fruit. It was beautiful at our table. They were just all about eating their vegetables and eating their fruit, and they were happy about it. So, this is a really good thing. This is important on so many levels, but I’ve got to say if you're thinking about our kids individually, we want them to be as healthy as they can be and we want them to learn as well as they can learn, and Meatless Mondays will help. It'll create more balance in their lives. We're talking about our climate, the existential threat of global warming. This is something we do that's another contribution to addressing global warming, striking more of a balance in our whole society. 

So, I will now make it official – as of this coming September, Meatless Mondays will be in effect in all 1,800 New York City public schools. And we are proud of that.

[Cheers]

Now, all of us in public life have to acknowledge the folks who led the way. Sometimes it's our elected officials who are the trailblazers and the visionaries. A lot of times it's also our children, our teachers, our community members. P.S. 130 was one of the first 15 schools in this city to go ahead and institute Meatless Mondays to try it, to see how it went – and it was a huge success. And I want to say, I enjoyed my grilled cheese a lot. I enjoyed – and the barbecue beans, I was impressed. Yeah, so, this has changed, I can believe in.

[Laughter]

So, I also want to say, we were able to do this – take a something we heard from our kids and our parents, try it out, and then decide in a matter of months it will be in every school. There's only one reason we can do that and that is because of mayoral control of education – mayoral accountability. I want to be clear about this, people have different views and nuances, and I get it. But I was a school board member, I saw how things used to be. There would have been literally no way to do something of this sweeping impact, nor were there have been anything like pre-K or Advanced Placement Courses for All, or Computer Science for All – none of that could have happened unless someone was in charge and someone was held accountable. So, I just say to everyone who believes this is a step forward, recognize there’s a way our schools are governed that allows me to make this change that people want and believe in. 

And I want to just say one more thing about the larger ramification of this. So, we here in this city, we understand when it comes to global warming, we take it personally. Everyone experienced Hurricane Sandy. Everyone understands this threat is here and now and real, and we cannot depend on our national government. It's just a fact. We have to make the changes ourselves. That's why this city is committed to cutting its emissions by 80 percent by 2050 – that is the global standard. We have to do that.

[Applause]

We are the first major city in America to divest our pension funds from fossil fuel companies.

[Applause]

We are the first city or state in America to commit two percent of our investments to renewable energy – a commitment.

[Applause]

Now, because we're New Yorkers, I just want to say – two percent, that doesn't sound like much until you realize it's $4 billion. That is real money and that's going to have an impact. 

[Applause]

And while we're at it, can we get rid of plastic bags once and for all? 

[Cheers]

Can we get rid of plastic straws once and for all?

[Applause]

Okay, I think we've settled a lot of things here today. So, I want to say a few words in Spanish to summarize this, but I want to say, you know, everything we talk about in the City is about fairness. Everything this administration focuses on is about fairness. But when you think about fairness, it begins with listening to the voices of the people and with protecting the earth for everyone. If we get that part wrong, nothing else will be here for us. So, this is why today is another way we are contributing to that change and that progress. A few words in Spanish –

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

We are united in the fight against climate change and global warming. And I have to tell you, the person I'm going to introduce is taking this step and making this change. And I think leaders of school systems all over the country, superintendents and school boards are going to turn to him. He is already one of the greatest voices of public education in this whole nation. But people going to look at this and they're going to start to emulate what the New York City schools are doing. 

So, it is my pleasure introduced chancellor Richard Carranza –

[Applause]

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza: So, thank you, Mr. Mayor. And I want to say how excited I am to be here with all of our students. So, we had a good lunch. And talking about those barbecue beans – how about a Buffalo cauliflower florets, which is one of the suggestions that I had for a dish that's not on the menu but should be on the menu. 

[Laughter]

We all owe our school leadership in food here, so they're listening. So I want to thank you, Mr. Mayor, for your leadership here. And how about Aiden? Great job –

[Applause]

I also want to recognize some folks that are here in support of Meatless Monday – our Public Advocate-elect Jumaane Williams. Thank you for being here, sir.

[Applause]

The Council Member who represents this area – Council Member Brad Lander, thank you, sir.

[Applause]

I want to recognize also Cynthia Kim from the Coalition for Healthy School Food –

[Applause]

And our Chief Operating Officer, who has done incredible work in moving this forward for our system – Ursulina Ramirez, thank you.

[Applause]

And although she's not presently here – but I also want to recognize the Executive Superintendent for Brooklyn North, and that is our Executive Superintendent Karen Watts. She couldn't be here, but she’s here in spirit.

[Applause]

So to say that we're excited about being a P.S. 130 is an understatement. And I have to tell you, as I walked into the cafeteria, first of all, it's orderly, it’s very well organized. But then when we got our plates and we sat and we had an opportunity to eat a clementine or an apple, and then we had our beans and we had our grilled cheese. Like the Mayor, I was really excited about it. And then the students at our table showed us how you can combine the beans with the grilled cheese and you get a whole other flavor profile. And, you know, we learned a lot. And then when we finished our meal, to be able to put the recycle in the recycle bin and the compost in the compost bin and the true trash in the trash bin – and not mistakenly, the trash was a smallest bin because everything else is either recyclable or compostable. We're learning about what it means to sustain our world and our city. But I do want to say this before I jump into my concern – or, into my comments– I can't think of a more visionary, vocal leader who has also demonstrated through his own personal experience why it's important to eat healthy and be healthy – and that's our Borough President Eric Adams. Thank you for being [inaudible] inspiration. 

[Applause]

He's inspired me. So, when I started as Chancellor almost a year ago – 11 months, but nobody's counting – I went on a citywide listening tour, meeting with students and faculty and families and I heard their concerns and we were doing well and we are doing well in many, many areas, but there are also areas that we could improve upon. But the one thing that I heard consistently from students is that they wanted better food. And as I heard this in every district that I've been in, every borough, I think also it's important that we have food. We know that for many of our students, but for the food they eat in their schools, do they not eat? So it's important that that school, that food is important and the food in schools meets the needs of our students. 

Here in New York City, we are leading the way, providing free breakfast and lunch not for some students, not for the students that fill out the form – for every student, right here in New York City.

[Applause]

And in order to make that better, we asked our students, our consumers, if you will, how can we make your experience better? How can we bring you to test kitchens and how can you give us information? So, we have our student – our Food Student Advisory Council who regularly samples food and gives us feedback. And you'll notice that we had a lot of delicious things in the cafeteria today. Not one of them had meat in it. That's because here at P.S. 130, every Monday is Meatless Monday, and they were one of the original schools that piloted Meatless Monday. And last spring, very quietly, we piloted the program in 15 schools across Brooklyn, and it was a hit. But what you don't know is that the very next semester without a lot of fanfare, we rolled it out district-wide. And the reason we did that is we had such overwhelmingly positive feedback that we knew this was the right thing to do.

So I'm excited to join our Mayor and our Borough President today as we officially expand meatless Mondays to all 1,800 New York City public schools. And so, that means that all up 1.1 million children will be eating healthy, delicious, all vegetarian meals every Monday. Vegetarian options – and Borough President Adams will also tell you – reduce the risk of heart disease, of cardiovascular disease, of diabetes and cancer, which are plagues in many of our communities. It's also good for the environment because it helps us to reduce our carbon footprint and preserve essential resources, including water. 

So this is an exciting day for our students, our communities, and yours truly. But it's also thanks to the vision of two men that I'm standing with here today – Mayor Bill de Blasio and our Borough President Adams.

[Applause]

Borough President Adams, as I've mentioned, has been a champion for better food and I look forward to continuing our work with him and eating vegetarian every Monday. And to our mayor – Mayor de Blasio, he's always pushing me, he’s always thinking about ways that we can best serve our students, and he understands that our students are our future and is committed to making sure that our schools are stronger each and every day. And I will echo the fact that because of mayoral authority, mayoral control, we can make Meatless Mondays a reality, not just here in District 15 in Brooklyn, but in District 20 next door, and in the districts next door to them in Manhattan, and in the Bronx, and Staten Island and Queens. This is going to be a reality in every borough, in every neighborhood. 

So, I want to thank you, Mayor de Blasio and Borough President Adams for your leadership. And I would be remiss if I didn't also give incredible thanks to our Office of Food and Nutrition Services staff for preparing such a delicious meal for us today.

[Applause]

So to our students with whom we had lunch today, I want to say just three things. First one is – buen provecho. The other is – mangia. And the third is – bon appetit.

Mayor: Wow, you’ve got range.

[Laughter]

Chancellor Carranza: I’m working on it, sir. I’m working on it. So, just a few words in Spanish –

[Chancellor Carranza speaks in Spanish]

I'm looking forward to those – those ranch [inaudible] cauliflower florets next time I come back. 

Congratulations –

[Applause]

[…]

Mayor: Okay, we are going to take questions from the media on – first let’s do the Meatless Monday’s and then we can into other education topics, while we have the Chancellor here, and then we’ll open up to general topics, so anything on Meatless Monday? Grace.

Question: Two questions. One, it’s my understanding it has actually started citywide as a [inaudible]. Is that the case?

Mayor: The Chancellor will go into the details.

Question: And then why [inaudible] today would create fanfare –

Mayor: So, this is, this is making it a formal official policy. So I want to be very clear, and the Chancellor will talk to the details. But we try things, we experiment with things, we are now saying this will be the policy in New York City public schools, and starting September this will be consistent from this point on. Go ahead; speak about what we’ve done before.

Chancellor Carranza: Sure, so with the pilot we wanted to do several things. First of all, we wanted to make sure that we could get the menu right, so that students would like what they were eating. So we had lots of input from students, we had lots of taste testing; we had our chefs working on that. And we all know the first impression is critically important, so if kids out of the gate would have said, we just don’t like what’s being offered, that would have not been the kind of start we wanted. So, we wanted to make sure in those 15 schools that we had the right kind of launch. Not only did we have the right kind of launch, and I think it’s because we had a process grounded and student voice, and student feedback. It was so successful that we just kind of started inching our way out to more, and more schools, so that’s kind of what I was talking about. It kind of went beyond the 15 pilot schools. I think what today’s important, the import of today’s announcement is that we are formally with the leadership of the Mayor, with the leadership of the Borough President have said this is the way we’re going to go forward. It’s kid tested, it’s kid approved, and now it’s officially policy of the New York City Department of Education that we will have Meatless Monday’s. Never say never, it may just go beyond Monday in the future, so I think we’re really, really excited about what we’ve learned, how we tested it at scale, and now it’s officially the policy.

Question: Just to follow up. So, Tuesdays are burger days. So tomorrow at the school, bacon burgers are on the menu, which seems like quite a swing in the other direction.

[Laughter]

I was wondering if you could kind of address that, and you know there are sort of healthier meals other than burgers. But it seems like from one extreme to the other.

Chancellor Carranza: Yeah, so again this is a progression. So, we’re starting with Meatless Monday’s but even at the table today we heard one of the meal options was a vegan burger. Could we have a vegan burger? Or different kinds of burgers, there’s turkey bacon, there’s all kinds of different things we can do. So, we’re starting with Meatless Monday’s but we’re continuing to kind of push that ideation of how do we get everything that we offer to be more and more healthy, that’s one of the next steps as we go forward.

Mayor: Any other questions on Meatless Monday first, Meatless Monday, yes?

Question: So, if a kid were to show up with a ham sandwich or chicken salad packed from home, there is no problem?

Mayor: We welcome all children, with all sandwiches.

[Laughter]

It’s New York City; you could bring whatever sandwich you want. So, no, this is, this is why it’s really important, and I want to say, you know, very clearly as a statement of consistency, I think for a lot of us we still eat meat or trying to eat less and trying to have more balance in our diet, eat more vegetables. But a lot of us are continuing to eat some meat too, and some people eat a lot of meat, and some people eat no meat. It’s all part of life in this city, and we want to respect all kids, whatever their choices are and their parents choices are. But what we’re hearing in really substantial numbers is kids who want these meatless options to be more prominent and you know, this – Richard just said it, this got, this happened very organically. There was really a groundswell from kids and then we tried and they liked it. And if you were, if you were – I’m sure watching it at the table earlier, I mean I am a parent, I was looking at all these apples, and carrots being, like eaten with great reckless abandon, I’m like what country am I in?

[Laughter]

This is like amazing. So this is, this is a really good sign. But yeah, everyone will be welcome, whatever they eat. Anything else on Meatless Monday’s and then any – yes please.

Question: One clarification here, so if a kid shows up on Monday and says I don’t want to eat the vegetables, and does not have a lunch from home, then what happens?

Mayor: Well, look, there’s a lot of healthy food, and good food available. I mean, I am a parent, I don’t know a lot of kids who don’t like grilled cheese for example or pasta, I think  these are very, very popular options, so if a parent really, really feels or the kid really, really wants to have something that’s meat, that’s something the family can accommodate in their own way. But I tell you, if you look at the lives of kids, there’s plenty of non-meat options they like a lot.

Unknown: Peanut butter and jelly is –

Mayor: That’s a rather classic American choice, peanut butter and jelly, yeah, that one is way up the scale, still popular after all these years. Okay, last call on Meatless Monday’s and now anything else on education, education? We’re taking media questions; I just want to know who’s media and who’s not?

Question: I’m both.

Mayor: You’re both, okay, you’re in.

Question: [Inaudible] I’m a parent and journalist, and the founder of the New York City Healthy School Food Alliance.

Mayor: Congratulations.

Question: [Inaudible] very excited for this news today, it’s an amazing support for our city and our planet. My questions are – it takes two years to get a new menu item on this current –
the way that the current system is working. What is being done to change that, given that I think we need to move forward on changing the highly processed food being served to our children at a quicker rate? Can you speak to that? Also, could – food purchasing, where you are on that? And finally I’d like to talk about the removal of sweetened milk. So –

Mayor: Sweetened milk? Maybe Ursulina, you want to take the ball on all these?

Chief Operating Officer Ursulina Ramirez, Department of Education: So, on your question around – it takes two years to get food on the menu. We agreed that that is problematic and it makes it really difficult for us to easily adjust our menus and so we’re actually looking at our procurement policies now to actually go straight to the manufactures rather than going through distributers. So that’s something that I think will have a quick impact on how we change our menus. Your question on sweetened milk, we are looking right now at you know, I should say at all of our food options that we’re providing to students and making sure that not only are they healthy but that students want to actually [inaudible] I know that this school in particular got rid of sweetened milk like six years ago. And I think that there are many schools that are doing that and so we’re heaving conversations with school communities to see if there are other options that we can provide beyond just milk. So we’re thinking about that, and we appreciate your advocacy on that issue in particular.

Mayor: Did you cover all three? Did she cover all three?

Question: [Inaudible]

Ramirez: Sorry, what was it?

Question: [Inaudible] food purchasing or doing a [inaudible] food purchasing right now. Can you speak to how far along you are in that process, and when you’ll start implementing the standards required by the [inaudible] purchasing?

Ramirez: So we’re actually going – we’re going through an audit currently with Ernest and Young around some of our food purchasing. I don’t know if that is you’re referring to, and maybe I can get back to you on the details and we can circle back.

Question: [Inaudible]

Ramirez: Okay, sorry. We have a separate audit that’s going through Ernest and Young on our food purchases, but I can get back to you more directly on the good food purchasing.

Question: [Inaudible]

Ramirez: Yes, and if – I know you, Andrew you have met [inaudible]

Question: [Inaudible]

Ramirez: Yeah, yes.

[Laughter]

And so, anyways we’ll be in contact with you around that particular – thank you.

Mayor: Yes.

Question: Question in regarding the cost of this. Will the cost – will there be a difference in cost for them?

Ramirez: No, this is a cost neutral proposal.

Mayor: Alright, stick around in case there is anything – yes.

Question: The Daily News has been reporting on early lunches, as early as 8:50 am I think I saw.

Ramirez: Yes.

Mayor: Yes.

Question: So, I was wondering where things stand with [inaudible]?

Mayor: Yeah, that has to change, it’s unacceptable. I am a parent, and I can say parents don’t want to see that for their kids. And we all understand some schools are dealing with real challenges in terms of a number of kids in a school and the amount of space in the cafeteria, some real logistical challenges, I don’t want to diminish that. But this is not the way it’s supposed to be. So we have to come up with changes that will allow kids to eat lunch when it’s lunch time. Do you want, anyone want to add? Chancellor, want to add here?

Chancellor Carranza: So, I want to just echo what the Mayor said. Lunch should be lunch, it should not be somewhere between breakfast, and lunch. So, we totally recognize that, but I also want to reinforce what the Mayor has said. When I was a high school principal, one of my high schools was over 4,000 students and we literally had to feed 4,000 students in a cafeteria designed for 420. So lunch has started, I kid you not, started at 9:30 in the morning and it was seven lunch periods to feed all 4,000 students. Obviously we had to do something different. Yours truly has a lot of experience and how to do something different. So our goal is to make sure that students are eating lunch at an appropriate time. That being said, there’s a lot of moving parts, especially in schools where you have a lot of co-located schools. But we have some principal, and principal advisory teams and we are driving that process centrally.

Mayor: I want to add you know, this to me is in a line with two other historic problems. And when I came into office I kept hearing from parents about the lack of air conditioning in classrooms. Now this had never been addressed by any previous Mayor, Chancellor, anybody. And we said once and for all we are going to put air conditioning in every classroom. And it can be done, it helps that the School Construction Authority has gotten much more capable and they are able to move much more quickly under the leadership of Lorraine Grillo. So something that was considered impossible, logistically too difficult, too expensive is now going to happen. The same with Phys. Ed, for decades and decades and decades the New York City public schools ignored the state law requiring that kids all had access to Phys. Ed. We have said and we are going to spend the money to make it happen that we are going to put a gym facility in every school or we are going to build on the school yard and facility or we are going to lease a facility nearby, but we are going to get something for every school. It will not happen overnight, it will take a lot of money and we are going to do it. I put this in that same category. We have to find a different way of addressing when kids eat lunch. It may take some time and some real resources but we have to find a way.

Question: The issue was nearly identical four or five years ago, so have there been steps taken in this interim period to try to get to the point where you have done something?

Mayor: Well I am going to start on that and Richard or Selena may want to add. Yes we have been taking a huge step which is to build a whole lot more schools. I mean you are sitting in one right now that is an example of the wave of new schools that are being built and Richard or Selena may remember the exact quote in the, the exact number in the capital budget but we’ve put an unprecedented amount of money into building new and rehabbing – when you rehab, trying to fix some of things that were missing. We can get you exact details on that.

Question: So will it stay this way until new schools are built where kids who are going to be eating lunch that early?

Mayor: I think it’s a mix and again you come up, either one of you or both – in some cases a new school or rehab school will solve the problem. In other cases it won’t and it’s a matter of how you use the space you have or can we find some additional space to tap into like I said with the gym programs. Some schools if you said hey we need a gym, there’s just no place for gym. The only way to do it is to build something new or lease something. So we are going to have to look at all those solutions.

Chancellor Carranza: Yes, so we are not about the status quo, so we are actively working on adjusting schools. Start times, adjusting lunch times, so you will see changes that are coming, some of them as the Mayor has mentioned, it’s a matter of space. You just don’t have the space or you have a multiple number of schools so some of them are a little more complex. But we by no means want to have the same number of schools starting early lunch next year as we have this year and we are actively working with principals and our senior leadership to actually find ways that we can maximize that.

Mayor: Any other education questions? Yes?

Question: Mayor, Michael Mulgrew referred to the state of the discipline, the state discipline in city schools as “broken” which is a pretty blunt assessment, categorical assessment. City lawmakers have also complained that they have had constituents, teachers, parents, approach them on this issue. So I guess the question is how do you strike a balance between maintaining viable learning environment and not being overly punitive?

Mayor: Sure, one what we were doing as a city in the past was not working. That was broken. Kids were getting suspensions for really minor offensives and they were losing time in the classroom and there was a lot of discrimination in the process and it was a very destructive system. We are not going to go back to that. Two, we cared deeply about the safety of our teachers and the ability of our teachers to teach so of course you needed a disciplinary system that comes with real consequences to make sure that can happen. And any teacher who raises that concern, we take it very seriously and we act on it. Three, I spoke to Michael Mulgrew this weekend and I would urge people to get the fullness of what he has said. Because sometimes pieces of what someone said are reported in a certain manner. I think he is someone who fundamentally is there to defend the rights of his members, but also understands the abuses and the overuse of suspension and the discriminatory use of suspension in the past. So I want to be careful that his view point is not mischaracterized there. Other, yes?

Question: Mr. Mayor, what is your response to the Fieldston School controversy that involved a group of students making racist remarks in the video?

Mayor: I want to be very careful when I have not seen a particular video that I don’t overstate the specifics. I think the bottom line though unfortunately we have seen more than one of these videos recently in our city and our country. And they have to be addressed immediately. They cannot ever be ignored. You know, I had a very searing personal experience yesterday in Charleston, South Carolina at Mother Emmanuel AME Church. And talking to the pastor there about how hate speech leads to violence. And we got into a conversation, he said something very powerful to me. He said everyone in this congregation has been hurting since the massacre and that was back in 2015 and all their pain was brought forward again by the massacre in Pittsburgh in a synagogue. And it doesn’t matter which faith you are, it’s the same thing. But he said what the congregation talks about a lot is that the atmosphere of hate which is so much being fostered from our nation’s capital tragically. Is causing a lot of impressionable people, especially impressionable young people – to say and do very destructive things. We as parents, educators, leaders have to confront it every single time. And any child who does that, needs to understand there are going to be consequences, they need to understand it’s not okay. When they see adults responding consistently it’s one of the ways to make change. Please.

Question: A question for you and the Schools Chancellor. Last week there was a Customs and Border Protection –

Mayor: Yes.

Question: – parked outside of a Washington Heights school. There was a rally or an event there today from some lawmakers denouncing it – I’m wondering if you could both speak to it and if there is anything that the City or schools are doing?

Mayor: It’s already been done. It’s disgusting to me that you know, that that would happen. I don’t know these officers and maybe they didn’t realize where they were parked but it’s unacceptable. And as I understand it, either to directly to the officers or to their supervisors – the concern was raised directly by our school officials saying that’s really a very negative situation. So many kids are living in fear, so many families are living in fear because of the way ICE is acting and that’s why I’ve said ICE should be abolished the way it is now. We need to protect our borders and we need an agency that can do it. But this one is poisoned and polluted at this point and we can’t have border agents outside a school in effect fostering greater fear. That does not help anyone. We want our parents to know they can come to the school and they will always be safe and they will always be respected and no one is going to ask their documentation status. So my understanding is it was raised to the officers or supervisors and they have affirmed that they will not do that again. Chancellor you want add?

Question: And Chancellor if you could address it in Spanish?

Chancellor Carranza: Sure. So first in English I echo what the Mayor has said. Schools are safe and supportive environments for all of students and all of our families. And if you listen to rhetoric nationally, coming from the executive branch it is understandable why communities feel threatened and they feel very much not at ease when they see one of these vehicles or one of these agencies in their neighborhood. My understanding is also the same that this issue was directly raised with the agency and that they will not, they have given us their assurance it will not happen again. But I want to give kudos to the principal of this school. Because the principal could have said this has happened, oh my goodness, I’m going to send an email. She got out of that building, she went into the local doceria, she told those people get over there and move your vehicle, you are sending my community into a tizzy and they did. So I want to give her tremendous kudos for getting out and taking care of her community. That being said –

[Applause]

We will continue to do everything that is necessary to make sure that our communities are safe and supportive and I want our families to know that these communities, your school community, we do not ask for any identification for immigration status. We want you, we welcome you and we will continue to support you in the education of you children.

[Chancellor Carranza speaks in Spanish]

Mayor: Okay anything else on education? Last call, any questions related to education, going once, twice. Okay let’s go to general topics. Yes, Gersh?

Question: Mr. Mayor I would like to circle back to a proposal you made last month when we were talking about placard abuse. Specifically you spoke about building or leasing parking lots for police officers and firefighters.

Mayor: Yes.

Question: Study shows that when you give free parking to city employees they are far more likely to drive to their workplaces. We did a little spot check using publically accessible data and looking at where police officers park their personal vehicles. We found at five precincts this morning in Brooklyn, 213 police officers’ cars, 169 of which had gotten tickets, that’s 80 percent, 40 percent of which had gotten repeat moving violations –

Mayor: Okay, Gersh, I hear a lot of stuff but help me understand your question.

Question: My question is this. Do you worry that if you provide more parking for NYPD officers who have proven that they do not drive safely, you will –

Mayor: I disagree with that on its face. Gersh, Gersh, respectfully, I know you are doing – Gersh, I know what advocacy journalism looks like, God bless you. The fact is these are our first responders, we expect them to show up no matter what. We expect them to stay when we need them to stay. A lot of them live quite far from where they work. It is important for everyone to drive safely. That’s what Vision Zero is all about and Vision Zero is filled with consequences and you are seeing more and more consequences each year. But it makes no sense to say okay we know a lot or our uniform service officers have to drive to work and we are not going to give them a park. That makes no sense. We are clearly very adamant that everyone has to follow the rules and there are consequences for those who don’t. But if we want to stop placard abuse we need to do something the root causes.

Question: My follow up, why do you think they need to drive to work?

Mayor: I just said it in the beginning of my answer and I said it in the beginning of my answer last time. Because a lot of them live very far away from the city, there’s not always great mass transit options, a lot of them have to stay all sorts of hours, a lot of them have to show up on short notice. It stands to reason. Yes?

Question: Today, HUD has proposed steep cuts to public housing [inaudible] funds and changing work rules for residents. Were you surprised by that given your partnership that you formed with Secretary Carson?

Mayor: No, HUD did not propose that. HUD did not propose those quotes. The President of the United States of America proposed those quotes. Let’s be really clear. This is the same Donald Trump who was razing me over the problems in public housing in New York City but he has created a lot of those problems by refusing to fund public housing and right as we have come to an agreement and we’ve put plenty of skin in the game as New York City – $2.2 billion more, here’s a President of the United States wanting to cut out the money that would repair those buildings, those apartments, for 400,000 public housing residents. You know something? It would be ironic on its face as it is, but it’s worse because he’s from New York City. And he’s hurting the Housing Authority of his hometown and the people who live in it. So this is just hypocrisy of the highest order. Please, Grace?

Question: During your trip to South Carolina there was a video of you moving your arms to R. Kelly song, I Believe I Can Fly. And I’m wondering if you have any regrets about that?

Mayor: I didn’t know it was his song. I just didn’t know it was his song. I know the song but I didn’t know it was him, period.

Question: If you had known would you have –

Mayor: I guess you know you act differently if you know it. I just didn’t know. Go ahead Marcia.

Question: I also have a question about your trip to South Carolina. [Inaudible] you’ve been traveling around the country not only to South Carolina, you’ve been to Iowa –

Mayor: Yes.

Question: [Inaudible] New Hampshire. The polls aren’t being very kind to you and yet you have a lot of really important questions to deal with here in the city – coming budget, state budget, almost [inaudible] NYCHA, [inaudible] murder rate going up. At one point do you cut faith and say I’m giving this up because I have serious issues that I need to deal with as the Mayor of the city?

Mayor: Marcia I am absolutely confident in my ability to address those issues. I’ve been doing it for five years. We’ve had a slight uptick in the murder rate that worries me a lot and the Police Commissioner but we’ve also proven for five years that we can drive down crime and we intend to do that again this year. In fact in the last few days you’ve seen that gap is starting to close rapidly. So I’m very confident that we can keep driving down crime. I’m very confident that we can improving our public housing, very confident that we can keep insuring that our schools move forward. Whatever I do is going to be with the people of New York City in mind because the people of New York City need the leadership of my administration to make sure that we address these issues and they also need out federal government to be very, very different. We can’t do a lot of the things we need to do for the city if we don’t have a federal government that’s going to help us. Look at what we just talked about. We have a president trying to take money away from our public housing. That status quo was unacceptable.

Question: [Inaudible] R. Kelly [inaudible] swinging [inaudible] song. Are you not worried that sends a bad message, given R. Kelly’s –

Mayor: Marcia, I did not know it was his song. And I know you guys have a job to do, but I hope if you are in the same situation you would accept. If you don't know it’s someone song, you can't pass judgment in the moment. I was a guest in that church. You know, the minister played the song and spoke about it, and I was being respectful. I think that's all there is to say about it.

Question: [Inaudible] 

Mayor: Again, I don't know because it wasn't something I had forward knowledge of. C'mon, let's go on to other things. Anybody else?

Question: Mr. Mayor there seems to be a fear among some Democrats because the, you know, the number of Democrats running for president is so gigantic at this point that it's going to split the party up – that there is – that there will be nobody really to challenge Trump with a unified party behind them.

Mayor: I disagree fully. So, first of all, I mean, on the factual front, we had four major candidates or potential candidates pull out of the race in the last 10 days or so. So, it's not like it's all going in one direction. A certain amount of winnowing is happening and there will be a number of candidates probably similar to what the Republican's side had – and whether I like the result or not, they won last time. They went from that huge field and they went on to win. Democrats have had big fields before, not quite as big as this, perhaps, but they've had big fields and it doesn't stop you from winning. But no – what I like is the amount of energy I'm seeing. People are excited to see candidates with different views, different proposals from different backgrounds, different regions. It makes everyone feel they're represented and it makes it really clear that this is a representative, inclusive party. And there's a lot of excitement out there – I mean, people want to talk about what's going on and they want to be a part of solving it. So, I'm not worried in the least on that. I think we have to have – here's where I think it's important to do it right – let’s have an actual substantive debate. You'd be amazed how many people came up to me and in Iowa, how many people came up to me in South Carolina – they said, they were really impressed by the things happen in New York City – we talked about pre-K we talked about Thrive and addressing mental health concerns, paid sick leave, all these things that people are really excited about. That's what they want to talk about, and they want to hear every candidate, every leader's ideas and, and solutions. They're not into the horse race. I think a lot of people are keeping their powder dry cause I know it's going to be a long process. They want to watch, they want to learn, but they'd really like to talk about the things that will change people's lives for the better.

Question: [Inaudible] you haven’t made up your mind?

Mayor: Correct.

Question: Do you have a feeling in your heart of hearts that lightning could strike for you because of your experience with public advocacy and [inaudible] the mayor, people told you that there was no point in running and then – what goes through your mind?

Mayor: I would make a broader statement, because, again, I've been really clear that I haven't ruled out national office, but I want to speak to your question very personally, which is – I have seen conventional wisdom defeated so many times, I literally cannot count that many. There's so many instances. What I learned is that conventional wisdom is almost always wrong. What I learned is, the underdog, very often, is the winner and it where you start is not how you end. I will remind you, the first campaign I worked on as a younger man here in this city, I literally – I went on the campaign in May in 1989 with David Dinkins – did not think for a moment about what would happen in 1990, because everyone kept saying there was no way he was going to win. It was just a good cause and a good man with an important message. I didn't think about, oh, I can't wait for my job in the City government. We all assumed we weren't going to have that job because how on earth was he going to be Ed Koch and then how on earth was he going to beat Rudy Giuliani, who, at the time, was really a very, very important and respected figure before some of his idiosyncrasies came out. 

[Laughter]

So – and they’re emerging still to this day. 

[Laughter]

So, that was May – that was May. It was supposed to be like this long-shot, you know, noble, tilting at windmills – and by November he was Mayor-elect. And I've seen a repeated so many times. So, no, I get all the conventional wisdom, but I don't believe it. 

Last call – yes?

Question: [Inaudible] he talked about his [inaudible] New York to Amazon. He’s not quite [inaudible] you sharply expressed your thoughts [inaudible] 

Mayor: Yeah.

Question: Just your thoughts now on the [inaudible] letter from the business leaders [inaudible] just saying, hey, don’t rule us out.

Mayor: I thought the letter was heart felt, I thought it was, you know, very honestly portraying to Amazon the strengths of New York City, and it was gentle. I mean, I spoke a little more boldly. They took their ball and went home. And of course there’s been an effort to see if there can be a dialogue and we’re not getting anything back. So, I guess that’s who they are at this point. But if anything changes, and they want to have a dialogue, I’ve said ill engage in a dialogue. But we have to make sure that if ever there was an interest that it was something that would really work for New York City. Who has not gone? I’ll come to Marcia. Okay, Marcia, go ahead.

Question: I wonder if you have a time table to making up your mind whether you’re going to actually [inaudible].

Mayor: Sure, its sooner rather than later is my answer. Because, obviously things are developing rapidly, a lot of people are making their decisions in the coming weeks, so sooner rather than later, but you know, as soon as somethings clear, of course I am going to talk to you guys about it.

Question: So, you [inaudible] a lot of attention. You’ve been on the Bill Maher Show; you’ve been on Showtime last night. People are listening to what you have to say. So is that part of it that you want to get your message out that you want to talk about the need for the Democrats to not have a moderate candidate but to go with somebody who is Progressive?

Mayor: It’s going to be part of what I do no matter what my decision is. And I know, again, I get – we’ve all been put into this funnel where we have to talk about the horse race, and we have to talk about the timeline, and I get it, I get it. I feel like we’re all kind of in this situation that we all can’t break out of. But I wish the conversation was about something else. I wish it was about where are we actual going. And so my fear is that my own party is actually not going to learn the lesson of 2016. And my fear is that this country is not going to have a conversation about the issues, but it’s going to be another conversation about personalities. And we’re going to miss the chance to figure out how we actually fix these problems. So I have a sense of mission that you know, this city right now I really believe in my heart we’re kind of an antidote to some of the problems that are plaguing our country. We’re the most diverse city in the entire nation, and we have proven that people can get along better, our police and our community can get along better, our economy can be strong, but it can also be more fair and give more people a chance, and that you can do big things, you can do Pre-K for All, you can do Paid Sick Leave, you can do, you know, Paid Time Off. And I’ll tell you just – I was in these churches yesterday in Orangeburg, South Carolina, three churches, and I spoke about literally those exact things we are doing in New York City, and the response was very powerful and emotional and people kept saying they didn’t realize these things could actually happen. So whatever I decide about a specific office, I want to spread those ideas, because they should be a part of our national discussion.

Question: So [inaudible] Democrats to nominate a moderate that the –

Mayor: Yes.

Question: - in order to prevail in the next election, what kind of a candidate do the Democrats need?

Mayor: So, it’s a great question, and Marcia, I believe in 2016 even though Hillary Clinton was an extraordinarily capable person, and I think was in public service for all the right reasons. I think too many Americans didn’t know what she and the Democratic Party stood for. And they didn’t believe the Democratic Party was on their side. And they feared that the party had become the party had become the party of elites, and that’s not acceptable, that’s not who we are, that’s not who we were supposed to be. So we have to break out of that very quickly. When we are a party of progressive economic populism, we win, and we do things that make people’s lives better. Franklin Delano Roosevelt proved it, Harry Truman proved it, Lyndon Johnson proved it, all sorts of leaders around the country locally are still proving it, but that’s the party we have to be. And I hear these folks saying, oh let’s elect a moderate, and that’s going to be great. The problem with putting a moderate in as a nominee is a lot of our voters will stay home, and if you don’t believe me, look at what happened in 2016 in a lot of those Midwestern states, but you could see plenty of other examples; senator races, governor races where our fundamental base, women, people of color, progressives, young people, working people, labor union members felt that moderation meant no change, nothing that was going to change their lives for the better, the status quo would just continue and they’re not voting for that. So we better break out of that now. Okay, last call.

Question: The NYPD recently put up no parking signs along a few blocks on 218th Street to clear traffic. They towed 30 cars to create parking for NYPD officers who were playing in a flag football game at Columbia University’s football field, and I wanted to get your reaction to that. Because a lot of local residents felt like it was an abuse of power, that they were forced to move their cars off of a city street to create parking for officers playing in a flag football game.

Mayor: Yeah, that can’t happen again, that was wrong. Commissioner O’Neill knows I feel strongly on this matter, and that’s not something we can see happen again, because it undermines the faith we’re trying to build between police and community. You know, people shouldn’t have their cars towed because someone wants to play football. I like football as much as the next guy, but that’s just not appropriate, it’s not fair, and it cannot happen again.

Question: He defended it as that it was sort of standard practice by the NYPD when he was asked about it.

Mayor: Everyone knows how much respect I have for the Commissioner, but you know, we had a very straightforward conversation, and I’ve just made clear it can’t happen again.

Thanks, everyone.

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