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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Appears Live on MSNBC's Morning Joe

March 15, 2019

Willie Geist: Welcome back to Morning Joe. Beautiful picture of Manhattan from the top of our building here at Rockefeller Center and joining us now is the Mayor of that great city, Democrat Bill de Blasio. Mr. Mayor, thanks for being with us this morning.

Mayor Bill de Blasio: My pleasure, Willie.

Geist: We've got a million questions to ask you, especially about what you're doing in terms of prevention and what's happening downtown after Hurricane Sandy, stopping some of the impacts of the next dorm. But want to ask you first, in response to what we're seeing in New Zealand this morning – 49 people killed in two mosques. What's being done in New York City to protect worshipers in our mosques?

Mayor: Willie, this is a horrifying attack in New Zealand and it's causing a lot of pain, a lot of fear in communities here in the United States, including the Muslim community in New York City. It’s a large, proud community, a community that contributes a lot back. We have 900 Muslim officers in the NYPD, for example. So, a community that really gives back a lot in New York City. We're going to be protecting them today. NYPD is going to be out in force in front of mosques, in front of Muslim community locations. I'll be reaching out to Muslim community leaders. It's just like the horrifying attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. You can imagine what a member of any faith feels after they see a house of worship desecrated and made a killing ground. They need to know – the community needs to know they will be protected and embraced. And so you'll see that in New York City today, you'll see a lot of support for our Muslim community and a lot of protection.

Geist: And we were just discussing in the commercial break how terrible it is, how many houses of worship we have to protect in response to these. I told you I lived next to a synagogue and after the Tree of Life there was a show of force. But every Saturday morning there's a show of force from the NYPD. And the number of houses of worship continues to grow unfortunately.

Mayor: Well – and there's an intolerance that's being spread in this country, in this world, and it comes from the political dialogue. Let's be clear, it comes from political leaders here. We see it in Europe obviously as well, and we have to defeat that, but in the meantime we also have to show that we will protect people – that a truly inclusive society doesn't just do it in words, but in deeds, that we have that police presence. We show overtly the government is on the side of all faith communities. This is an American value. You know, we were a country formed – we did not have a single state religion. Our founders were very clear about that. They explicitly said we would respect each faith. We'd respect people who choose not to believe in a particular faith. We've got to live that now by showing we will protect people, by showing that leaders will now show up, they should do it all over the country, at mosques in solidarity to let people know nothing like this gets taken lightly. I believe slowly but surely we will defeat those forces of intolerance, but we've got to do it every single day.

Donny Deutsch: Mr. Mayor, can I just shift gears for a second? As a New Yorker, I was devastated when we lost Amazon. It wasn't just 25,000 jobs. Every one of those jobs had dry cleaners and taxi drivers. It was 100,000 jobs and setting us up as a tech center. What's your responsibility in that? What could we have done differently? Because that should not have happened.

Mayor: Look, the bottom line is we had a very fair deal with Amazon. The Governor and I came to an agreement with Amazon. There was never any indication, Donny, that they were thinking of leaving. They accepted the deal very publicly and there were criticisms raised, well guess what? It's New York City. You're going to hear criticisms. Some of the criticisms could have been easily answered and that's what we were trying to steer towards – a response to the valid concern.

Deutsch: [Inaudible] those ducks in order, and others, to me AOC was – it was so pathetic to hear her talk about that we're going to give $3 billion in cash. It's not cash.

Mayor: It’s not cash.

Deutsch: But you know, obviously there were so many constituencies – yourself and the Governor, shouldn't you guys have had those ducks lined up?

Mayor: My friend, we had popular support for it. Every poll [inaudible] a clear majority of New Yorkers believes that getting those 25,000 jobs and the huge amount of tax revenue that we could have used for mass transit, education, public housing, those – that was clearly supported. There were relatively few voices against it. We've got to remember in the end, Amazon made that decision. We would have happily worked with them to resolve and address the community issues, but in the middle of nowhere we got a call from the board room in Seattle. They're taking their ball and going home. That’s the [inaudible] –

Noah Rothman: But Mr. Mayor wasn't it about the State Senate and the board's effort to create this – put the person on this board that has to approve this project who is openly hostile to it. I know he was seen as a good scapegoat, but it really was the compliance issue there that was going to make this a much bigger lobbying issue.

Mayor: It was well known that that was resolvable, that the Governor ultimately had the right to adjust that situation. This was going to move forward. It had clear popular support. We've got to remember in the end – you know, unfortunately Amazon confirmed everyone's worst fears by arbitrarily, in the middle of the night, leaving and leaving a community high and dry. We got to put this clearly where it belongs. Had Amazon wanted to continue a dialogue, we would've worked this through and this project would have been moving forward.

Susan Del Percio: But one of the reasons that they were considering it was because they were getting tax relief, tax incentives, which goes to the fact you need them because it's so expensive to be in New York and you need those incentives. Now, that was $3.5 billion –

Mayor: [Inaudible]

Del Percio: $3 billion. Now, you have the Hudson Yards opening.

Mayor: Sure.

Del Percio: Which is fantastic news for New York right –

Mayor: I like your visual there –

Del Percio: There you go – with over $5 billion in incentives and we never heard anything. And now I guess I just want to piggy back that on to you going to New Hampshire tomorrow and ask you, do you believe in the capitalist system?

Mayor: I believe in – I'm a social Democrat. I believe that we're living in a capitalist system that has strengths and weaknesses and we have to address it with a strong role of government. And right now that's not happening sufficiently. Here's the bottom line. We look at a country where the federal government has substantially, consistently put wealth in the hands of the wealthy. That's why I say very clearly, we have an opportunity to, this year, out loud, say our national government from Ronald Reagan to present has continued to empower the one percent through the policies of federal government.

Working people have created all that wealth in this country. They have not benefited. So I say there's plenty of money in this world and there's plenty of money in this country, but it's in the wrong hands. And we have to have policies that give people a chance again, by redistributing some of that money back to working people.

Del Percio: So, do you consider yourself a capitalist?

Mayor: I consider myself a social Democrat.

Del Percio: So not a capitalist?

Mayor: It’s a different – look –

Del Percio: You don't believe in capitalism.

Mayor: No, that's not what I'm saying, my friend. We're living in a capitalist society, but if you say, how do you philosophically identify yourself? As a social Democrat, I've said that's an identification for me. I'm a New Deal Democrat. I believe Liberation Theology has been a very important influence on my life. I think we look at this through the prism of what is fairness, what are we here to do in this world? We're not here to continually empower the one percent. We're not here to have government policies that make the rich richer while working people work harder than ever and get the – less, less and less back.

Del Percio: And yet you govern a city that allows Hudson Yards to come forward. That is an exclusive mall and –

Mayor: That decision, as you know was made in the previous administration and the kinds of subsidies that were approved in the previous administration we no longer do,

Rothman: So why is the failure of Amazon not indicative of the social democratic view towards capitalism?

Mayor: Because Amazon made an arbitrary decision. We had – look, I think we all know –

Rothman: They were urged there by some of your [inaudible] –

Mayor: We know – absolutely disagree with that statement, respectfully. First, I think we could all say that unusual things were happening within the Amazon family at that moment in time and that was said politely. There was clearly some unusual factors happening. We know who the ultimate decision [inaudible] –

Rothman: You think his affair had something –

Mayor: I only am saying it was an unusual environment.

Geist: But what does that mean in relationship to the deal? Why does that [inaudible] –

Mayor: It means that a deal was struck and that deal was moving forward for weeks and weeks and weeks. No one discussed anything changing. I want to be clear about what this –

Del Percio: But the City Council didn't approve the zoning on it –

Mayor: And they did not need to and that was clear from the beginning. So, look, I assume you want a fact-based discussion and so I'll push back on this. A deal was struck. The Governor and I – we happen to be the two most important office holders in terms of the popular votes we've received. I govern 8.6 million people. He governs 19 million people. We both had been recently re-elected. We said, let's get 25,000 jobs, let's get all the money that can help us to do the things that actually create a fairer society deal. A deal was struck, deal was moving forward. In the end, anyone around this table, if you are having a problem with the deal, we had announced publicly you would've picked up the phone and said, we have some things to work through here and we would have worked in through. You would not have called out of nowhere and said we're out of this.

Rothman: Well, the reason [inaudible] the vote was not going to be for 18 months and they couldn't stay [inaudible] –

Mayor: That’s not the truth and it was well known that that vote was going to move through it.
We cannot re-litigate on the facts that were well known.

Geist: Mr. Mayor, you floated something out that we've got to pin you down on – you believe Jeff Bezos’ affair somehow –

Mayor: No, I didn’t say that. I said it was an unusual environment meaning there are a lot of cross pressures. There was a lot of things going on –

Geist: Like what?

Mayor: I – again, you're going to figure out yourself.

Geist: I think I have figured it out. I'm trying to figure out if the relationship –

Del Percio: But if it’s a fact-based discussion, what are the facts that support that –

Deutsch: Are you saying he [inaudible] bright lights of New York City going on while his affair was happening?

Mayor: The facts are a decision was made very arbitrarily. We had an agreement. The agreement was moving forward and suddenly it wasn't. That's all I'm saying. And in the end, what it comes down to is we have to have a commitment to trying to empower working people. We were trying to do that with a lot of jobs and I'm a progressive, but I believe working people want not only get jobs, not only higher minimum wage jobs, they want quality jobs. And this to me – if this discussion had played out further, you would have seen the popular support grow. There was majority support for this from day one. By the way, there was a skew in that support. There was more support from working class people than there was from people who have [inaudible].

Geist: Ironic.

Mayor: There was more support from people of color who were looking for opportunity for their families. So there's no question my mind as a progressive, our job is to create jobs and good paying jobs and jobs that can be a career and that's what we need.

Deutsch: [Inaudible] agree that was a big loss for New York City –

Mayor: Unquestionably. Unquestionably, but not because of a decision made by New York City or New York State. In the end, you got to understand – we've seen arbitrary decision making in our day. This was extraordinarily [inaudible] –

Geist: So, your fellow lawmakers who are celebrating this are wrong?

Mayor: Of course they're wrong.

Geist: I just want to get to one more thing so – but I just want to nail down one more time. You believe that part of the reason perhaps this deal unraveled is because of what was happening internally at Amazon –

Mayor: There was a lot of turmoil. There was a lot of turmoil, let's just put it in –

Geist: The turmoil was an affair [inaudible] –

Mayor: [Inaudible] over many things, and a decision was made in a very arbitrary fashion.

Deutsch: But Mr. Mayor, you clearly are suggesting that, when you're suggest –

Mayor: I’ve just said what I've said.

Deutsch: Okay.

Geist: Let me ask you about the resiliency plan for Lower Manhattan. I referenced it at the top. We all saw, we all lived through what happened in 2012 with Hurricane Sandy. What's the idea here? How do you put it into place and what do you hope it will prevent? The idea is that we have to deal with the existential threat of global warming. There's no climate deniers hardly left in New York City at this point after Superstorm Sandy. Forty-four lives lost $19 billion in property damage. Thousands of people lost their home. People get it now and we've got to be serious about protecting Lower Manhattan. Hundreds of thousands of people work there, 75 percent of our subway lines go through there, tens of billions of dollars of property. There's so many things – the center of global finance. There's no national policy right now, Willie. There's no national policy to truly fight global warming, but there's also no national resiliency policy.

I was just down in Charleston, South Carolina. They're truly threatened. Miami's threatened. New York City's threatened. All over the country. New Orleans, we hardly even have to say –

Geist: So, that's the philosophy. What does this mean practically [inaudible] going to happen downtown?

Mayor: $10 billion initiative to literally extend the land of Lower Manhattan out into the East River and build up.

Geist: We’ve got a graphic here.

Mayor: Right. That whole area is going to be extended it out. So we're going to build more land put it higher and protect the Financial District and Lower Manhattan where these hundreds of thousands of jobs and residences, more and more, are. But listen to what I'm saying, Willie. This isn't the federal government saying, ‘This is probably one of the most sensitive and important locations in the entire nation and as part of our national resiliency plan, we're going to help you.’
There's not even a discussion that's not even a hint of a national resiliency plan. We have to do it ourselves.

Geist: And the $10 billion comes from where?

Mayor: At this moment we're going to start down the road and do the planning and the design with our own money as New York City, but we can't afford $10 billion. It has to come from the federal government if it's going to work and I hope the next election leads to a leader who's ready to have a national resiliency policy for tens of millions of people.

Geist: Thank you Mr. Mayor for leading me to my next question. Are you still considering running for president?

Mayor: I have not ruled it out and I'll be up in New Hampshire this weekend talking to folks up there and talking about the very same point I made, that if money is being concentrated more and more in the hands of one percent and working people are not getting their fair share, we have to be able to say out loud, there's plenty of money it's just in the wrong hands. And we need policies that are actually going to change that.

Now when I was in South Carolina, I talked to a variety of audiences, and I got to tell you, people respond to this point. They want Democrats to stop being mealy mouth, and halfway on this point, they want Democrats be honest about the fact that federal policies have made the one percent richer than ever before. And we've got to reverse them. And I think there's a lot of support for that idea.

Geist: Anytime a politician name checks Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina in the same interview, we have to consider the possibility that he's running for president.

Mayor: You know, you are a deep and insightful man.

[Laughter]

Geist: Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City. Thanks for being, appreciate it.

Mayor: Thank you, Willie. 

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