April 10, 2018
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you.
Thank you so much and it’s a real pleasure to be here and I want to talk about you, Iris, in a second. I want to talk about the conversation we had upstairs in your apartment.
But I also just want to do some introductions. First, I want to welcome and thank, joining us – you’re going to hear from several people – but I also want to acknowledge and thank our Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, Alicia Glen; the General Manager for NYCHA, Vito Mustaciuolo. I want to thank from Wavecrest Management, the principals of Wavecrest Management, Susan, Fred, and Joseph Camerata for their exceptional work; and the principals at MDG Design and Construction, Mike Rooney and Nick Deacetis.
I want to thank everyone because what I have seen today is an example of the shape of things to come – what we’re going to be doing more and more in NYCHA developments around this city. And what you’re seeing here is one of the trailblazer places – one of the places where the model of change is being developed. And it’s extraordinary to see.
So I want to thank everyone and congratulate everyone who’s been a part of this. As you heard from Iris, almost 14,000 families now will have new renovated, quality apartments. This is a model that we can use over and over going forward. So, congratulations to everyone who’s been a part of that.
Iris, I want to talk to you – or talk to everyone – about what you said to me earlier. And I want to first of all congratulate you. You brought up three sons. That’s not easy in the modern age for anyone but you did it as a single mom. One who’s got a got a great job working in Queens, I think you said –
Iris Collado: At Chevy.
Mayor: At the Chevy dealer. One who is serving in the U.S. Navy, stationed at Pearl Harbor. And your son, who is finishing high school now, on his way to college, has been accepted to college. So, let’s give this mom a great round of applause.
And Iris mentioned in her remarks that this has not been an easy road for her or for people who live here. Iris, how many years ago did you move here?
Mayor: Twelve years ago. Twelve years ago – and she said that one of the first things she experienced was a bullet coming through her window. And Iris told me up in her apartment, she used to wonder if she could go out in the morning and be safe. And today, thank God, it’s an entirely different environment and she walks out in the street and knows she’s going to be safe.
And I want to say that is a credit to everyone – all of the residents who worked hard for change, all the community leaders, elected officials, of course the NYPD and everyone at NYCHA – to go from a situation that was not safe a little over a decade ago to a situation where now you assume you’re safe when you walk outside your door.
It took a lot of work and it’s a great, great achievement. But I also want to say in talking to Iris, I am reminded of conversations I’ve had over many, many years with public housing residents. I think it’s really important that we respect people’s humanity and not treat them like political footballs or stereotypes.
These are human beings – 400,000 proud New Yorkers who are the salt of the Earth, who are the backbone of the city, who work in so many parts of this city, and keep this city running who happen to live in public housing and who do all they can to make sure that their developments are as good a place to live as possible and also do amazing things to make sure that they’re apartments are beautiful for their families.
And what we saw today is what we want to see more and more of – these good residents getting the support to have the resources for a beautiful new apartment.
But even folks who have not yet gotten that do so much to make sure that their developments are as good as they can be. And I really want to honor that. I think that gets left out of this discussion way too often because when I talk to Iris, I admire what she has done and I admire she has also contributed back to the community.
But I had the same conversation with residents at Queensbridge Houses last week who have fought in good times and bad to make public housing work. And I’ve met people all over this city in public housing developments who have done the same thing. We all, together, are going to continue the work of turning around NYCHA and righting a lot of the wrongs of the past.
And here you get to get a glimpse of the future. This has already reached 14,000 families. It’s a model that works, again, that we’re going to apply a lot more broadly and we’ll talk about that in a moment.
But Iris, thank you for helping everyone in the whole city and all the other 400,000 residents of NYCHA to see what’s possible when everyone works together.
I want to focus on the fact that we didn’t get here overnight into the challenges and problems we face and we won’t solve them overnight either but what we do know is that these challenges can be confronted and overcome. And when you see an example like this it proves that nothing is set in stone, nothing is immovable.
We know that for decades, public housing did not get the investment it deserved from the federal government, did not get the investment it deserved from the State government, did not get the attention it deserved from the City of New York.
NYCHA is its own entity, its own organization but it always needed help and support and for literally decades it wasn’t there and that’s why we have the depth of the problems we have now. But what we knew from the beginning of our administration over four years ago was there were solutions.
One of the very first things we did in February of 2014 was to start investing in NYCHA. There was no law that required it. There was no mandate. It was just the right thing to do. So, it was literally at that moment that we ended the practice of NYCHA having to pay the NYPD for police services. I mean when you think about that, that never ever made sense.
That money was returned to NYCHA in 2014 and put into speeding up the repairs that residents needed. That was the first of a whole series of actions that started to change people’s lives. It was a beginning.
We know that those investments made a difference, and we’ve continued ever since to the total now of – since this administration began – adding $2.1 billion into NYCHA for major capital initiatives and $1.6 billion for operating funds. That’s a massive investment. The City of New York has never ever made such an investment before in public housing.
And I wanted to say on this day that one of the reasons that I decided to make that investment – again I want to remind people, $2.1 billion plus $1.6 billion, when you add that together, $3.7 billion in City funds – unprecedented.
One of the reasons we made that investment was because we had a leader at NYCHA who had a plan and vision for how to move the agency forward. Now, I want to say from the beginning, Shola Olatoye did not say this is an insurmountable problem, this is too tough a job, this is going to be difficult. She didn’t say it’s a dangerous mission therefore I’m not willing to on it.
I want to remind people of that from the very beginning. This – when I asked Shola to step into this role, she knew full well what the challenges were. She understood there had been decades of disinvestment. She understood the physical plant of NYCHA was in very, very painful shape.
It would have been very easy to just walk on by but she took on the challenge because she cared about the people who live here. In fact, as you told me in one of our first conversations, your own grandmother lived in Albany Houses and so it was personal for you. It was personal to try and do something different.
I gained faith year after year in the efforts that she and her team undertook and that’s why we kept investing and I’m glad we invested all that money because for those of you who are at Queensbridge Houses last week saw that money is making a real impact in peoples’ lives. You saw all those new roofs, that means roofs that won’t leak anymore, that means there won’t mold, that means that people will be healthier. You go into Iris’ apartment and the other apartments here, you see people getting the quality of living they deserve. That happens because of investment. It doesn’t happen because of rhetoric. It doesn’t happen because of wishes. It happens because of hard work and the investment was there and the leadership was there.
Here at Ocean Bay, as I said, we have an example of something that didn’t exist when we came in but now will be a model that we can use all over the City. And I want to remind people that this development went through so much, the safety problems, Sandy, but it was possible to bring it back with the right plan and you’re seeing it before your very eyes.
Shola believed early on in the concept of RAD, which stands for Rental Assistance Demonstration. She believed this model could be a difference maker, she made it central to the Next Generation NYCHA Plan, and I want to remind you, you can go back and look over the last decades, you’re not going to see a plan that’s as comprehensive and honest about how to turn NYCHA around as the plan that Shola created.
It speaks very bluntly and honestly and realistically to the challenge and to the steps we have to take and RAD was one those steps that Shola believed could make a huge difference and now is being proven right by the example we see before us. We also said we were going to do the right kind of development on NYCHA land, we said we’d make the right kind of investments to speed up repairs, and most importantly that it was necessary to make NYCHA solvent, to make NYCHA financially viable.
Remember, in the first months of our administration, we came to learn that NYCHA was on the brink of bankruptcy and that this organization was literally teetering on the verge of collapse. Again the notion was, that someone had to fix it, someone had to be brave enough to step forward. Shola and her team did that and they made the organization solvent, they took a lot of tough choices, there was certainly opposition, but today we have an organization that is stable in its position to finally move forward into the future.
I want to remind people that the number of things that had to be done here was extraordinary. Put the entire organization on a fiscally stable basis again, come up with entirely new ways to bring in a vast amount of investment, be able to justify to me and the City Council substantial new City investment. The mandate also was to cut repair time substantially because residents had waited too long for repairs on a regular basis.
On Shola’s watch, repair was cut almost 70 percent. The roofs, we came to realize what a central problem that was, we needed a plan for the roofs. You heard last week, 65 roofs done already, 78 now beginning, another 100 plus right behind that, a $1.3 billion investment in fixing roofs alone.
Safety, just like Iris talked about, it was true four years ago, for those of you go back and check your clips in the spring and summer of 2014, there was a safety crisis afflicting a number of NYCHA developments. Just as the administration was beginning, just as Shola was coming into her role, in addition to all the physical challenges and the financial challenges, there had to be a new approach to safety. Shola got together with the NYPD and came up with something that never existed before, a comprehensive plan, there was a surge of officers in the key developments, there was new lighting put in to address one of the central challenges that was afflicting residents and also holding back our officers from being able to do their jobs.
There was a huge investment in youth summer programs, which our police believe in deeply and made a big, big difference. The 15 most dangerous developments got a very concentrated strategy applied to them and it worked. And you will see today, even though we always have challenges, one of the things that we hear from residents all over City is how the safety dynamics have improved greatly.
All of that had to happen simultaneously. Repairs had to be sped, safety had to be achieved, financial solvency, long term plan for reinvestment, all of that had to be done at once and it was. So I want to say thank you to Shola, because it was not an easy mission and it was certainly a thankless mission, but it was a crucial mission and 400,000 people benefited because of the work you did.
We are going to continue that work now with Stan Brezenoff as interim Chair, and of course Vito Mustaciuolo as our General Manager. That work is crucial to everything we believe in in this administration and I want to say the people who will continue the work are exemplary.
Anyone who knows Stan Brezenoff’s career knows he is one of the great public servants in the last generation in this City. What he has done as First Deputy Mayor, the Head of Port Authority, what he has done recently I think outstanding work at Health and Hospitals helping us to stabilize another organization that needed major overhaul, and he did that tremendously well. Stan has an extraordinary track record of success, he has been a valued advisor to me from the beginning of the administration, and he is going to step in as interim Chair and continue this work.
And Vito Mustaciuolo, as I said, anyone who has worked with him over the years, and I have had the pleasure of working with Vito almost a decade, knows how deeply he cares about the lives of residents and how much he wants to make sure everything is done to get them the help they need. So we have a team that will continue the work that has been done.
I will conclude with a few words in Spanish, but just to say, to me the entire mission is about fairness. What happened for very, very many years in this City wasn’t fair. There was an unwillingness at the federal level, at the state level, and at the City level to invest in public housing and to bring to bear the changes needed. It was just left in an unacceptable condition and hundreds of thousands of people suffered. The difference now is that real action is happening, real plans are in place, real progress has been proven, and now there is going to have to be a lot more, but we are committed to it and we know it can be done.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish.]
With that, I want to turn to Shola, I want to thank you for your efforts on the behalf of these residents. Thank you.
NYCHA Chair & Chief Executive Shola Olatoye: Thank you, gracias el jefe. Good morning.
I’m so pleased so many people are interested in RAD so I’m thrilled to have you all here. I want to thank, there are so many people to thank and I certainly want to thank my boss. But I especially want to thank Iris and Ms. Loleatta and all of the resident leaders here at Ocean Bay, but across the city who have welcomed me into their homes, who have been fierce advocates for themselves and their neighbors, who have not pulled any punches but also come in partnership so thank you to each of you and to all of the residents across the city.
Hopefully you all got to see some of the amazing work that is happening here at Ocean Bay Bayside and the team that we have assembled – Susan, Mike, Catholic Charities are some of the best at what they do and it is with that type of partnership that we hope to make this a reality for more and more residents in the New York City Housing Authority so thank you to all of you.
A few words on what is happening here at RAD – this project is already bringing comfort and security to the nearly 4,000 resident who live here and this is something that we believe that we know all residents deserve of the New York City Housing Authority – this is just the first of many NYCHA developments that will be renovated and rehabbed under RAD. As we continue the work today let’s talk about what this program includes. It allows NYCHA to retain 50 percent of its ownership. We are protecting residents’ tenancy rights and keeping their apartments permanently affordable. RAD allows us to leverage private investment to ensure that these apartments and others are available to this generation and the next.
I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for his commitment and openness to this idea but really his support in making this a reality and all of the partners that have made today’s project as well as the others in the pipeline occur.
This is certainly a bittersweet moment. I have taken such pride in serving the one in 14 New Yorkers that we house at NYCHA. And I will depart this role very proud of the team that I have assembled and the steps that we have taken to support our residents. Public housing is vital but the original model is one that doesn’t work anymore and NextGeneration NYCHA has always been about improving that model and making hard decisions to ensure that a uniquely New York version of public housing is here for the future.
When I came to office, when I came to this position, NYCHA was in finical dire straits. You heard the Mayor, there was a $75million deficit. We had three weeks of cash on hand, without I wasn’t even in place but you, and your administration made the commitment to forgive the police payments, to forgive the payment in lieu of taxes. That was an immediate $100million shot to our bottom line and allowed us to pay our bills and keep services on going. We set out on a road to improve the finical standing and in the last four years we’ve had to make some hard decisions. We’ve cut back on central office staff, we’ve had to redirect resources to the front line to improve and support our operations.
These actions have allowed us to balance our budget for three years in a row and counting – this hasn’t happened since the late 1990’s. Operations remain an area for sure where there is so much work to do. Repair times are down by nine days and three years under NextGen. We have introduced new technologies for residents and staff to drive accountability and increased transparency. Yes, we have identified some unacceptable shortcomings in our operations. For residents to be uncertain about possible lead paint hazards in their homes or unable to stay warm on the coldest days of winter. It unnerves me that we have failed here.
It is a sign though of the real struggles that NYCHA faces. In the four years I am proud to say though, that these real issues are just part of the story. It doesn’t make them acceptable, but it is a testament to the dedicated men and women who work at the New York City Housing Authority and continue to drive their efforts to change how things are happening.
To own mistakes, to change long standing policies and face our challenges head on have been the hallmarks of my leadership at the Authority. One of the first challenges we identified is the inability for our residents’ needs to be met in an eight to four setting when we know property management – I see Susan’s head shaking in the back, is a 24 hour business. We don’t have the team or the resources for that and I immediately focus on how we could expand those services, working with our labor partners to update agreements and actually meet this demand.
We are not there yet but we did launch FlexOps, which is a shining moment in the past four years. FlexOps is a break through pilot that allowed us to deploy modified shift schedules to provide the services that our residents deserve. This is how we will truly start to see the changes that residents have been demanding. And the last four years our capital division has stream lined the program. We revised outdated practices, introduced technology, and as we saw last week repairs are on an aggressive timeline. These types of repairs mean getting in front of mold, keeping our buildings secure.
These investments in our buildings are long overdue and this Mayor recognized the need for a strong and continuous infusion of funds in repairs but also in practical investments like peoples’ safety. In 2014, as the Mayor said you might recall 25 percent of the city’s shootings were happening in just 15 of our developments. The Mayor’s action plan for neighborhood safety has in real terms meant life and death – life changes for our residents. With a $140million in safety investments – new doors, cameras, and lights, residents don’t have to live with the constant fear of crime. We have a long way to go but with the leadership of my colleagues, our colleagues at NYPD, crime is down seven percent and continuing to drop throughout the Authority.
This is what change looks like, this is part of what we have been able to achieve in the last four years. Our sustainability agenda will have one of the largest impacts on the Mayor’s goal to cut his challenge to the city to cut the city’s carbon footprint. We have already achieved $167million in energy performance contracts in only three short years. We have identified new ways to improve efficiencies at our buildings and support healthier lives for our residents, something that I know Councilman Donovan Richards have been a huge supporter of and I want to thank him for that.
This has been part of the forward thinking approach that we brought on board as part of NextGen. You can see this most clearly represented in our Sandy program right here at Ocean Bay. Recovery is one step but the real heart of this is about resiliency, it’s evidenced in the aggressive investments here, the largest FEMA grant ever to ensure that residents are protected. The destruction of Sandy as you heard from Ms. Iris is still very fresh and raw for many and we are committed to not letting that have the same impact if another storm like that were to visit this region.
In addition to helping the Mayor achieve his sustainability goals we have been committed to the affordable housing agenda under the leadership of Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen. A truly ambitious goal but under NextGen we outlined a plan to create 10,000 new units of affordable housing. In three years we have 4,300 new units under construction and we’ve preserved approximately 3,900 of existing public housing including those here at Ocean Bay.
I knew when taking this position that creative approaches to affordable housing could be married with successful non-traditional streams of revenue. The RAD transaction includes over $500million of public and private investment for the apartments here. We have an additional $62million en-route to the authority coming for repairs due to our NextGeneration NYCHA Neighborhoods program.
There is so much that happens at NYCHA that many people don’t know. Yes, there are 400,000 residents in public housing but we also administer the country’s largest section eight programs, serving some 200,000 New Yorkers. And in the past two years we have received the highest recognition from HUD, a high performer. This is the first time since the early 2000’s that we received such a recognition.
Beyond housing though, one of the roles I have wanted us to recommit ourselves to is the services that all residents should have access to. We’ve had to change the model, and update it and bring it into the 21st century but we are not only a landlord but we are communities. Our resident economic empowerment and sustainability programs have helped more than 8,300 residents get jobs since the launch of NextGen. We created the Fund for Public Housing, which is our social innovation hub that is investing in people, place, and work. This is changing resident lives in ways beyond housing and I’m so proud to have facilitated such opportunities.
We have a lot challenges at NYCHA. We have not accomplished everything I would have hoped for. And we have fallen short in some areas that are frustrating for me, for our residents, and for our city as a whole. But it is been the greatest honor of my life to serve the 1 in 14 New Yorkers who call NYCHA home. I will forever be grateful for this opportunity. I have given my heart to this agency, I have made tough decisions. But I leave this agency knowing that it is better, than when I found it. And as we work to tackle the next set of challenges, I look forward to supporting Stan and Vito and the rest of the amazing team that remained to support the goals of Next Generation NYCHA. You have to bear with me I’ve got to thank some people, okay.
I want to thank my fellow colleagues in government, Alicia, Maria, Marisa, Eric, Polly, and Greg and many others. I have as evidenced here today – but if you walked on any New York City street and run into a NYCHA worker, I have some of the best, one of the most diverse teams in this city. Vito, David, Edna, Karina, [inaudible], Kelsie, Evette, Jackie, Debra, Kathy, Kerry, Bob, Kelly, [inaudible], Laquisha, Leeroy, Jasmine, Bryan, and Rasmia are just some of the names of the people who have held me up over the course of these last four years. To my amazing family and friends and [inaudible] who have held me up, my priest Father Matt who is here have taken care of my children, I thank you. And last but not least because he has so much patience, my husband Matthew, I thank you, I love you, and Polante, thank you so much.
Mayor: Thank you.
You thanked everyone.
Chair Olatoye: I thanked everyone.
Mayor: It was very good. Thank you so much Shola. And now I want to introduce the Interim Chair for the New York City Housing Authority, Stan Brezenoff.
Interim Chair for NYCHA, Stanley Brezenoff: Thank you, not yet. So if there are needed to be any additional, any evidence, this is going to be a tough act to follow, quite a record of accomplishment. So my first reaction to visiting Ocean Bayside is wow. I’ve been in government a long time and you can tell. I have never seen NYCHA housing, public housing like the things that are going here. I’m really sorry I didn’t bring my wife along. She grew up in public housing in the Bronx with her brothers and sisters. They would give her a real kick to see this. So it’s a testament to NYCHA to Shola’s leadership that – and Alicia who has been deeply involved to that they have found ways to make reinvestment, to reinvigorate new models, new approaches. That’s what’s required out of these decades of disinvestment that start with the federal governments withdrawal. I’m really grateful to Mayor de Blasio for his confidence in me, administrations don’t get to pick the problems that arise or the challenges they face. But they do get to take them on and I’ve been privileged to be a part of the effort and several areas in these years, starting with the legacy inherited by the Mayor and the administration of zero labor contracts coming in the door to some aspects of corrections and lately an area I’ve had some experience in the public hospital system. This has been another such a challenge, this is a – there is a fundamental, moral responsibility that both the Mayor and Shola have talked about and have been firmly and effectively focused on. There is an obligation to provide the people who live in public housing and NYCHA housing with safe, healthy, affordable homes. And as I say we have to confront decades of disinvestment.
In that regard, again relying on my years of direct and indirect with just about all levels of government, I have never known of an administration that’s invested more or done more to reach that fundamental goal of providing safe, habitable effective housing for the people who live in NYCHA housing. I would really be remised if I did not thank and acknowledge the tremendous job that Shola has done over these four years. Big bureaucracies are hard, I’ve done a few. They’re entrenched, they resist a progress, and the problems are so multiple that it’s often easy and understandable that the progress and the successes get lost in the day to day as the existing problems continue to manifest themselves. But some of these things are just the progress, just too big for us to ignore. This was a large essential organization, institution vital for the lives of people that was on the brink of bankruptcy. It no longer is on the brink of bankruptcy. This is partly as a consequence the disinvestment and the age of facilities. It’s very hard to come up with means of reimagining, recreating, remodeling to achieve the goals of the organization. And we see the evidence of one such remodeling of a right in front of it.
One additional thing which I don’t think either the Mayor or Shola mentioned, but after these years of disinvestment from the federal government, I don’t know how Shola did it, but there is actually more money for public housing in the HUD budget. I know that you were a major leader of the national effort to get this, what is it $800 million nationally?
Chair Olatoye: Correct.
Interim Chair Brezenoff: That is, it’s lost in all of what goes on in Washington, not a log of attention has been paid to it. But this is a major breakthrough. I hope it is a foreshadow of things to come, but in it of itself it’s a tremendous accomplishment. As Shola has noted, she’s built a great team. She’s done a great deal. She’s worked in collaboration with Alicia Glen, who has been superb in the deputy mayor’s role overseeing these efforts. So, I want to thank Alicia, and I want to thank Shola for all that she’s done. Thank you Mr. Mayor for trusting me once again, and let’s get on with it.
Mayor: Thank you very, very much. Stan I like your batting average. So I think you’ve proven trustworthy for a long time and thank you. Lastly, I’d like you to hear from the man who represents this district in the City Council. He is also a member of the committee on public housing in the council. He has been a crucial partner in this rad effort here and in ensuring there was a real resident engagement to achieve the kind of outcomes that the residents deserve. So I want to thank him for being very hands on in all of this and very much helping to achieve the changes that you’ve seen with your very eyes today, my pleasure to introduce Councilmember Donavan Richards.
Mayor: Thank you.
Thank you very much, Councilman. We’re going to take questions on NYCHA first and then I’ll take a few questions on some other topics after that as well. So, media questions, I just want to emphasize media questions on NYCHA. Greg?
Question: This is a question I’m going to ask both of you.
Mayor: We can handle it.
Question: [Inaudible] one of the issues that came up in the last year is this lead paint problem and the specific issue I want to ask both you is, do you have any regrets about the way this was handled? And specifically the decision to falsely certify that the lead paint inspections had been performed as they were required to be when you knew that that was not true. So my question to you –
Mayor: I got it, Greg, the first time. You want me first and then her. I got it. I got it.
So, my regret is that people who had been a part of NYCHA for a long time did not share the information they should have because I can say for myself, for Shola, for Alicia, all of us – if we had been given any indication that the inspections were not done the way they were supposed to have been done, that they had stopped during the previous administration we would have acted on it immediately.
I think it’s so evident from the history here of a vast investment in NYCHA and a willingness to actually focus on it including as I mentioned weeks into the new administration ending the payments for police services and returning them back for repairs. Look, you guys can be skeptical but I want to just state common sense facts.
If we had invested non-stop over four years, of course had anyone alerted us to the problem, we would have acted on it. I care deeply about children, I care deeply about their health but also it’s the right thing to do. There’s no question that had we known we would have acted. So the thing I regret is that that information was not available.
And I obviously regret that bluntly those inspections stopped in the previous administration. They shouldn’t have. I remind you, I have said this publicly and I’m going to say it again and it has been documented, Shola immediately alerted HUD to the fact that the inspections had not been done and that they were now going to be done. That’s exactly what she was supposed to do. That to me is the bottom line here that it should never have happened to begin with because those who were part of the NYCHA structure who are no longer here who should have recognized the problem, should have alerted the rest of us and we would have ordered the actions.
That’s where the original sin is. Those people are gone. That mistake will not happen again. The inspections now have happened multiple times. The remediation has happened consistently and will happen every year from this point on.
But the bottom line – and it has been documented again by the central figure at HUD who was the recipient of the outreach – is that Shola duly reported at the point.
And I want to say to put a [inaudible] on all this, I’m sorry, guys, you can try to put things in a certain perspective but I think it’s not right to miss all the things that we just delineated and then determine that the only thing that matters was whether a form was filled out a certain way. I’m sorry, I just don’t buy that reasoning.
There was an effort in every way to do the right thing, to be transparent, to be consistent, and in the end under very adverse circumstances I think what Shola did and everyone else of us was try to do the best we could with what we had been presented.
Chair Olatoye: So, to answer your question directly. I think I regret not knowing sooner and because ultimately the health and safety of our residents is the most important thing as evidenced by the investment over the course of the last four years. I raised my hand, I disclosed and I think more importantly we now have a plan and an infrastructure to ensure that that work happens in a timely and effective way.
I think one of the challenges of any turnaround effort is you find problems. And I love your quote about you don’t get to choose the problems that you find. This certainly was serious and significant and we take that – I take that very seriously. Thankfully New York has led the country in driving down the rates of lead poisoning in our youngest citizens, and we have a tremendous public health system that is – it works with our families. And that is – that type of partnership is critical to ensure that we meet our responsibility and that you know we ensure that our children are safe.
I think it’s important now to allow that work to happen to make sure our residents know that it’s happening and to move forward and to more importantly build on the investment that has already happened to continue to improve what’s happening in people’s homes.
Mayor: Again, Greg, I’m just going – I’m going to step in here and say, she answered the question and I really am – she answered the question. You can keep trying to replay history. We’ve spoken to it. Who else?
Question: Mr. Mayor, the – in retrospect were the vast majority of NYCHA residents going without heat or hot water at some point during this very, very cold winter – do you look back and, Madam Chair, do you look back and say we could have done something a little bit differently to ease their suffering?
Mayor: Well, I want to put that in perspective too. Look, every question is based in a human reality. I know when you ask it and I appreciate the question you’re asking because it’s something that affected human beings and we care about human beings and we care about those human beings. That’s why we’ve been doing all the things we just delineated for four years.
I got to be honest with you that in some previous administrations, the strategic thing they did was they tried to separate as far as they could from NYCHA. Let’s be real about this. They didn’t invest. They didn’t visit. They tried to just – it was don’t ask, don’t tell. Right. Try and keep as much distance as possible. That’s someone else’s problem.
NYCHA is its own entity and so what I think a lot of other leaders in this city historically did was just try and keep hands off. We didn’t do that. We said we’ve got to help NYCHA. But the magnitude of the problem is vast and it’s continued to grow.
What I think is absolutely right is anybody who goes for a single day without heat in cold weather, that’s not fair to them. Now, that happens in private buildings a lot too but it’s not fair to them. It’s not what I want for them.
I do want to be clear, the typical outage was a day or two. That doesn’t make it good but that was the typical outage. It was typically resolved the same day or the next day. There were some that were longer for sure. But it was not because people were not trying to do – move heaven and Earth to fix them each and every time.
And I want to give credit to the people who work at NYCHA – and I’ve been in the boiler plants with them. Shola and I visited one recently in East Harlem. I was out in Woodside, Queens before that.
These folks are battling, you know, a physical plant that goes back decades and decades long past its use and was trying to get the most out of it and somehow they keep it going in the vast majority of cases.
So we’ve go to put that in perspective. We just added over $200 million in the preliminary budget to keep addressing heat issues. Some of that state money we’re still waiting on is for heat issues. That will all help. We’re going to focus it on the developments with the biggest problems.
We’re going to literally parallel what we did on safety. We’re going to focus on where the problem is greatest. But I also want to be honest with people that you know when we recount the amount of need that NYCHA has – there’s a re-estimate coming up. It will blow by $20 billion easily. $20 billion – and so here’s the essential truth and it gets back to what Stan was saying. When NYCHA was created, it was created on the idea that there would be steady federal investment.
And back then there was also state investment. Once that started to evaporate in 1980 and continued on that negative trend, the model started to be undermined. And what Shola said is right – this is a model that tragically was never changed but the situation got worse and worse and worse with every passing year and the cavalry never came.
And this is the honest conversation we’re going to have with the people of this city and we’ve got to come up with additional approaches. I think RAD is a part of the solution, I think the development on the sites is part of the solution, I think continued City investment is part of the solution but this is a much bigger problem that is even being acknowledged.
And until we find a way to put together over $20 billion, we will continue to have these problems and that’s what we have to come to grips with.
Question: This question is for both of you [inaudible] live on Facebook, 70,000 strong.
Mayor: Great, thank you.
Question: And I want to ask you about – you mentioned the mistakes – the mistakes that were made, sorry. And can you talk specifically about what you’ve learned – Stan is sitting right next to you – what you can – what type of advice you’d give him of what you learned mistake-wise that you’ve talked about. And a lot of the residents want an active role in picking the next chair, meeting with the chair. They say one of the mistakes –
Mayor: Let’s get to the question, please.
Question: That is literally what they want [inaudible] –
Mayor: There’s your question, go ahead.
Chair Olatoye: So, there are literally 400,000 residents who live in public housing. I have met with – I’ve been to almost 302 of our 325 developments and met with almost probably half of my staff. So, the notion that I have not met with resident leaders both in their homes, in their community centers, in their faith communities is just false.
Are there people that I disagree with? Absolutely. But you don’t take this job without that being a fact. One of the important things that was literally baked into NextGen was engaging with residents in a different way. So, that meant developing – when we came in there were about –
Chair Olatoye: Okay – well, I’m going to answer my question. I’m going to answer your question.
Chair Olatoye: There were about less than 200 resident associations. We have 325 developments. I’m proud to say we’ve added over 80 new resident associations. These are new and existing leaders that are now emerging leaders in their communities. We’ve created 15 youth councils throughout the city. We’ve launched the new Resident Leadership Academy with CUNY.
So, I think, you know, there are sometimes the loudest voices like to represent and say that they represent the 400,000 residents and you know thankfully, NYCHA is not a monolithic and there are lots of people and lots of opinions and I have had the honor of meeting with and engaging with and disagreeing with a number of them. And hopefully if they don’t feel engaged, they should vote in their next resident association and get engaged.
Mayor: Okay, go ahead, Willy.
Question: [Inaudible] talk about the circumstances and the timing of your departure. Was it your decision to leave? Why now? Were you asked to leave? Are you leaving for a new job? And what is [inaudible] –
Chair Olatoye: I think that was a four-part question. I’m not sure you get all four, Willy. But one – I’d always committed to the Mayor that I would serve the first term and so, for me both completing the work that we’ve been engaged in. I have also been deeply immersed in our conversations with the federal government and this southern district. And I believe that the sort of near completion of those discussions make it a really important pause and really being able to pass on the baton. I’ve delivered a path forward for – that is building on the work that we’ve done thus far.
This was my choice and I think it was really – it was really important to me to leave when I felt that I had done the work that I had been asked to do. I serve at the pleasure of the Mayor and I remembered that daily and even asked him if he wanted me to leave and he asked me to stay.
So, this is an important time for my family, for me personally. And stay tuned for the next chapter.
Chair Olatoye: I’ll let you know.
Question: Can you talk about the conversation with the Southern District coming to a conclusion – are you expecting a federal monitor to be put in to oversee NYCHA –
Mayor: Let me jump in on that –
Question: [Inaudible] decision to leave?
Mayor: I will start – and join on in.
No on the latter. Again this is a conversation that Shola just recounted exactly accurately where I felt she had done a tremendous job and wanted her to continue. And she made a decision and I certainly understand it. The federal situation, I spoke to Secretary Carson a few days ago. I thought it was a very productive conversation.
I think the federal government is looking to come to some resolution here. We are as well. I think the conversations with the Southern District have been productive. But there’s still work to be done to finish them. I don’t want to assume what model will come forward. I don’t think we’re there yet. And we obviously have to figure out how the federal piece interacts with the state piece now which is a new piece of the equation.
But what I do want to report is that I feel the conversations with the federal government are moving in a very productive direction.
Hold on – go ahead, Marcia.
Question: Mr. Mayor, all this comes as the State has appointed an independent monitor because tenants don’t feel that NYCHA can do certain repairs –
Mayor: Now, Marcia, that’s a broad characterization of 400,000 people. So I just disagree on the face but go ahead –
Question: [Inaudible] –
Mayor: Yeah, but again if you’re going to state a fact that’s not a fact I’m going to challenge you.
Question: The situation where the state has appointed a monitor – an independent monitor and an independent contractor. The federal government is also thinking about [inaudible] monitor. Tenants have filed suit –
Unknown: Yes we have –
Question: Are you saying that none of these things has anything to do with your decision to change leadership at NYCHA?
Mayor: Again, I am very, very comfortable that for four years we’ve been doing the things that needed to be done that weren't done in the past and the level of investment is unprecedented and Shola was getting the job done. She made a decision which I fully understand. We are now going to work with the federal government, the state government, obviously having a new interim chair – we’re going to have a search for a new permanent chair.
We’re going to keep moving forward.
Question: What kind of person are you looking for [inaudible]?
Mayor: Sure, I think someone who is strong and brave to take on this mission because it’s a very tough mission. Look, I want to say it’s really easy to say no to public service in the current environment. It’s really, really easy. Shola, I’m sure has had moments where she wondered what she was thinking that day she said yes four years ago.
She tried to do the right thing and she did. She got a lot done for people. But in this environment there’s a lot of very talented people who are like, it’s not worth the trouble. Thank God there’s always some who step forward and I want to thank Stan for being one of those people. I want to thank Vito for being one of those people.
There are always those noble people who will say despite what has become a thoroughly bitter environment, they still want to serve people and they will walk through the fire to help other human beings.
So, I know there are people out there like that who have a lot of history in housing. I know there are people who see even such a tough situation as this as an opportunity to keep creating changes and reforms. We’ll look all over the country. We’ll certainly look here as well but in the meantime, we’ll be in very good hands with Stan. Grace?
Question: Why – on the timing of all of this – why not have the current chairwoman stay until a permanent replacement is found and selected given that this is such a critical time –
Mayor: Again, Grace – Grace. The reality for every human being is whatever it is. I’d like everyone to please respect that we’re having a press conference here. The reality is for each individual what it was. Shola, as she said, committed to give us a whole four years, which is a lot of time and a lot of work. I believe she was doing crucial and important work. But I also understand that at any point someone gets to a point where they say personally and professionally it’s time to make a change. In the meantime though to have someone of caliber like Stan Brezenoff to be the interim chair. All of our colleagues at the federal government and the state government will understand immediately that having someone as Stan’s caliber in will allow all the work to continue, they will be seamless. Stan and Shola already have a good working relationship and they will be seamless together. So it’s just the right moment for Shola and I respect that. Who hasn’t had one, Bridgette?
Question: Mr. Mayor, you’ve been talking about how there has been unprecedented investment yet at the same time NYCHA often gets accused of not spending its money fast enough. For instance Brooklyn City Councilmember Mark Treyger says none of the boilers that needed to be replaced after Superstorm Sandy have been replaced, even though NYCHA got $3 billion from FEMA. What’s holding things up?
Mayor: Yeah, I think it is – look, I was a City Councilmember and I held oversight hearings and I understand it’s very easy to criticize. I want to remind you that on Shola’s watch, NYCHA got the biggest award from FEMA of any organization or city or state in the history of the United States of America. It is another very important fact. Do you remember the number of the grand total?
Chair Olatoye: $3 billion.
Mayor: $3 billion. That’s the largest single award in FEMA history. So again if you really want to objectively look at what happened the last four years, you might ask yourself why did FEMA give $3 billion to NYCHA. They must after immense amount of diligence they must have come to a conclusion that’s something worthy was happening and that is also on Shola’s record. But the reality of abiding by every regulation and putting together all of the capacity needed to do such a thing, and Shola and Vito might want to speak to the specifics but these things are very complex. The goal is to move them as quickly as humanly possible. I am a layman, I get frustrated too when I see something not move. But then when I sit with the experts and they lay out all the steps they had to go through, I usually find that people are consciously trying to do things as quickly as they could. Sometimes regulatory relief is the key, which is why we would like design built authority for everything NYCHA does.
So sometimes there is a structural problem that’s no one’s fault that actually could be solved if we would get some help from either the federal government or the state government. We’re certainly going to look to the federal government to give us as much regulatory relief as possible going forward, the same with the state government. But I just want to emphasize these are massive undertakings and they happen. That’s why we wanted you to see the roofs the other day. That – long before anything was going on with the southern district or with the State of New York that money was put in by the City of New York. The work was put together by NYCHA, the roofs were completed. But unfortunately to a lot of you is a tree a falling in the woods. So we’re going to try and do a better job of incessantly showing you the non-stop work that is happening every day because you can’t have what’s effectively a city of 400,000 people functioning every single day and no one did anything. I mean we’ve got to be honest about how much work happens every single day to keep the place running. And how much of that investment is actually having an impact on people’s lives, which is why we wanted you to be here as well. You want to speak to either one –
Chair Olatoye: I would just add on the Sandy piece, which is you know one of my first trips to Washington was to go and visit with Senator Schumer, who is really should be given a lot of credit for helping us break the log jam frankly with our colleagues at the federal government in those early days of 2014 because the recovery had been a bit stalled. And he quickly was able to cut through the obstacles, the regulatory obstacles that were preventing NYCHA from at least having more environmentally friendly temporary boilers at the Sandy affected sites. That happened very early in our tenure. The FEMA grant occurred because we had to essentially renegotiate the work that had been done under the previous administration. And so now I am pleased to say and I see a number of our Sandy team here. There are 27 projects if not more, and Debra correct me, in full construction. These are everything from that you’ve seen here today, whether that’s you know resiliency measures, apartments, you know other sort of storm protection efforts. You know some of the first back up power generation that’s going to exist within the public housing authority.So it was a lot of work but we sort of had to restart it in 2014. So, and I welcome and I know Councilman Treyger has been deeply involved these discussions so he more than most understands the complexity in engaging 16 different regulatory agencies to deploy $3billion in over 35 developments so stay tuned there’s more work to be done.
Question: For the Chair – did the pending SDNY action influence in anyway your decision to leave?
Chair Olatoye: Absolutely not, it’s in fact the reason why I stayed because I really was important, I probably have been more vocal than I should about it being a real path for the organization to do some of the hard things that as Stan mentioned are structural and I think that the work that is ahead can be eased and supported by the eventual framework that we have been working on.
Question: How would like that framework to look?
Chair Olatoye: Look, I think you know I have been very candid about the things that need to happen. One we need to have to focus on the basic operations of the agency. You have to be able to do that in a way that is financially sustainable. You have to be able to engage many different hands in that. I think we have to be much more aggressive in the development space. And I think we have to let NYCHA be a landlord and that means having some hard truths also with some of our residents. So there are some hard things that have to be done and I think can be done in concert and thoughtfully with our advocate and community partners but there is a path forward and I’ll look forward to seeing the next steps.
Mayor: Go ahead, go ahead.
Question: Question for you and for Stanly Brezenoff – starting with you, this isn’t the first time that Stanley Brezenoff has served in an interim capacity, what makes you keep coming back to him? And for you Mr. Brezenoff, can you give us a sense of your like approach, what will be your approach while you’re serving as interim NYCHA Chair, how you will be applying what you have learned and done in previous government positions and if you will be continuing some of things that Shola Olatoye –
Mayor: So the, I have admired Stan for a long, long time. And anyone who has watched government as closely as I have for decades and decades knows that you know, what he did as First Deputy Mayor is one of the great examples of government leadership we have ever seen and then to continue doing it in other roles in both the public sector and private sector after. You know, some people have just gotten to the mountain top in my view and Stan is one of those people. He’s reached the highest heights of public service and he knows exactly what he is doing.
And when we started the administration we asked him to help us on something thankless which was as you mentioned the labor negotiations to somehow undo a situation where none of our unions were under contract and we had to go from that to getting every union under contract. It had never been done in the history of the city before in that situation. And Stan was an extraordinarily helpful presence in that. And as you mentioned we asked him to get involved with the Board of Corrections and help us deal with us very, very complex and thorny and historic problems in corrections and first some noble reason he was willing to do that and then we asked him to step into a situation in Health + Hospitals where we needed interim leadership in the midst of obviously also a fiscal crisis. And he did that and he did that really, really well. I mean, you know Stan what was your line earlier about retirement, what was your?
Interim Chair Brezenoff: I’m failing at retirement.
Mayor: He’s failing at retirement. Stan Brezenoff is failing at retirement. But he’s you know, just as good as it gets and again this point of who is brave enough to take up the mantle of public service today. Someone is willing to bring all that experience and capacity into the lion’s den, into a very, very thorny situation because he actually wants to help other human beings – I say step right up. Stan.
Interim Chair Brezenoff: So in some ways a hard question to answer in the general without sounding corny but I really do care about this city coupled with a belief that government can make a difference in the lives of people if it’s well done, if it’s well directed, if it’s honestly done and those have been motivating forces from the very first time I took on a government job and that’s partly what’s, it’s a big part of what’s at work when I agree to take on a job or volunteer for it. Caring and believing that it’s possible to make a contribution.
Right now I am in the early transition mode. I’m going to spend a lot of time, pending on Shola’s availability because she is still carrying out all of those responsibilities, spend a lot of time with Shola and others learning, asking questions, and so on. My focus on large agencies of which I have been involved in a fair number actually Shola recited something that’s been a mantra of mine that concludes with leaving places substantially better than you found them. The way you do that is to diagnosis, to analyze, to examine, to identify the priorities, to identify the issues that are most pressing and figure out what is already going on and what else what might need to go on.
And finally there is much that is characteristic of a relay race here except that Shola has been running a marathon for four years and I am going to take a smaller slice of the next round of the race but I am picking up a baton from Shola so a good part of my responsibility is going to figure out how to continue to make things happen and how to make them happen as quickly as possible and it all starts with this transition period.
Mayor: Okay, let’s do a few more on NYCHA and we will do a few on other topics. Juliette?
Question: Yes Mr. Mayor, what is involved and how are you coordinating with this state monitor?
Mayor: Well we still have to sort out some important pieces and Juliette, I want to emphasize, you know again I spoke to Secretary Carson, we’ve obviously been in ongoing dialogue for quite a while now with the US Attorney as well. We have to once and for all figure out how all of these pieces fit together and HUD is the top of the food chain here. The federal government obviously is the, between HUD and the Southern District, are the single most crucial part of the equation. So we have to understand what they are looking to do here with us and how that interrelates with the State piece. We are still continuing to figure out a few pieces about the state executive order because as I mention it is very unusual, never seen anything like it before. But now we have to factor in the federal piece of the equation too. My hope is all of that can be resolved very quickly. I think everyone wants to which is good and collegially and then we have a model for the work we are going to do going forward.
Question: So would there be a settlement in the lieu of a federal monitor?
Mayor: Again I don’t want to conjecture. Settlement by definition is what we are trying to achieve. We want to and you know, we’ve made that very, very clear to the federal government. We want to get together with them and agree on a long term path. We want to be active participants in solving problems and then again bring the state piece into that in whatever way is appropriate.
I think it is going to take probably a few weeks for all of that to sort out but I think it can sort out in just a few weeks’ time. And then we can move forward.
Again what I ask people to keep in mind is all the day to day work on NYCHA continues and must continue – all that work to implement the $3billion in FEMA investment, all the work to fix the roofs and continue to fix the heating systems, all of that is going on while these structural issues are being worked through at the federal and State level. But my hope is in a matter of a few weeks all of that comes together into a single plan. Go ahead, Greg.
Question: Shola, you said something very [inaudible] you said that at one point you asked the Mayor, do you want me to leave? Can you tell me when you did that and why you did that?
Mayor: I’m going to just make it real simple. That is a true statement and I said no and that way many weeks ago. Go ahead.
Question: I’m asking –
Mayor: Again, I’m just, I’m making it simple for you. Go ahead.
Question: Mr. Brezenoff, what hope can you give to the residents, the NYCHA residents whose homes don’t look like Iris’s, whose homes aren’t on the top priority list, you have the boards repaired and the hot water because just talk to many of them who say it has been more than two or three days that it’s been off. So what hope can you give to those residents, some that may be in the room right now of what they should do?
Interim Chair Brezenoff: The hope that the organization is going to be focused and dedicated as it has been to make the best use of available resources to solve these problems. The problems we can’t solve, of course, is the adequacy of resources, but to the degree that resources are available, that they be swiftly and efficiently used to focus on those problems – Shola and the Mayor pointed out the active, aggressive agenda to deal with boilers – I’m not familiar with the numbers, but I think it was 78 already –
Mayor: That was the roofs – the 65 roofs done already, the 78 that are beginning now.
Interim Chair Brezenoff: So, this is – there is no magic button to push here. There is no magic wand I can wave. I can promise the best possible effort to make the best use of existing resources and to push that existing agenda along as fast as possible.
Mayor: Okay, last call on NYCHA and then we’ll take a few other topics. Okay, is that NYCHA? Or – go ahead.
Question: [Inaudible] there’s been a high rate of turnover at the top levels of NYCHA. I looked at your organization chart and with your departure, of the top seven jobs, which is Executive VP and above – when you’re gone, six of those seven will either be vacant or [inaudible] in the last several months. In the top 30-plus jobs – Vice President and above – over 20 have either turned over or are vacant, looking at the last few months. Why is that turnover happening and how can an organization operate that way?
Chair Olatoye: Well, first, I’ll say some of that turnover is good. And the second thing is, this organization has never been about one person, I’ve always said that to my team. And in addition to thinking about how to ensure that lives are – that the resident’s lives are improving, recruiting good people, public servants has been a major part of my work over the last four years. Whether it’s been from the private sector, or identifying people within the organization – the average tenure of NYCHA employees is about 15 years, and I’m proud to say that I have some of those people on my team who were in various parts of the organization, and we identified their talents and promoted them. So, you know, that will be something that I will speak very clearly and candidly with. Stan, as he takes on – and Vito – as he takes the challenges here, but, you know, organizations of this size are always in flux. And I also think the moment in time – four years – particularly for a number of members on my team, it’s a natural point in transition. So, one, I think change is good. Two, I think this is an opportunity for a new group of public servants to take on, let’s call it NextGen 2.0. And it has been my deepest honor to do this job, and I hope – and I know there are others out there who feel the same. So, hopefully there will be some more people who want to take up the mantle.
Mayor: Rich – you’ve got to put your hand out more, Rich. I didn’t see you until then.
Question: This is for the Chairperson – Governor Cuomo has been pretty critical of NYCHA in recent weeks. Do you have any concerns that you’re [inaudible] dragged through the mud during an election year by the Governor? And do you feel that his criticism and any criticism by elected officials in the past couple of months played any role in your decision to step down?
Chair Olatoye: So, one, you know, you don’t do this job and to expect criticism constantly. And frankly, if you don’t, then you’re not doing anything. Secondly, I’m not a politician and, you know, my focus has been always on the residents and how we can move this ocean liner to improve and deliver on results. Look, I think at the end of the day it’s deeds that count more than words and press conferences, and, you know, it’s my hope that this moment of three levels of government talking about what is the future of public housing in New York City is not squandered.
Question: Do you have any responses to the Governor [inaudible] last couple of weeks?
Chair Olatoye: I have no responses to that, but, look, I think it’s ultimately about what’s happening in people’s homes – that’s the most important thing. And we welcome the fact that the State is back at the table after leaving in 1998. And so – thrilled that they’re here, let’s figure out how to deploy these resources in a way that actually means something to residents. And I think all of us would agree that’s the most important thing.
Mayor: Okay, let’s take any other questions – just a few, we’ve been here a long time. Go ahead –
Question: I just wanted to ask Deputy Mayor Glen to weigh in on how she’s going to be working with Stan Brezenoff during this transition. What is the relationship there? And any reflections on the end of Shola’s tenure from you?
Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen: Well, thank you for letting me just also offer my incredible thanks to Shola, who I’ve known for a long time and was part of the team to get her to join. I think she’s an exemplary person and in addition to all the hard work, managed to have a baby and keep going through all of this – not easy for any of us who are working moms. So, I think Shola’s been an extraordinary leader and a terrific role model for other women who want to take on this kind of work. So, thank you, again, Shola. With respect to Stan, we’ve already started to meet. I grew up in New York City, my parents were City workers so I’m well aware of the legend of Stan. My parents actually have worked with him as well, so when the Mayor suggested that we get Stan into the team, I couldn’t have been more thrilled – and having obviously seen his work on other City agencies. We’ve already begun to work. One of the great things about what I’m able to do is be a bridge between what Shola’s done, what Stan will be doing, and, obviously, I’ve worked with Vito for many years also prior in my life to HPD. So, I can tell you that this is the A-team and we’re going to be working hand-in-glove with Stan and with Vito as we put together this next iteration of what we’re going to be doing for NYCHA. So, I’m really excited about working with the team.
Mayor: Okay, any other questions? Yes?
Question: For the Chair – when did you decide when it was time to leave? And when did you tell the Mayor? And for the Mayor, when did you ask Mr. Brezenoff to come forward?
Mayor: Again, these tick-tock things are fascinating to all of you but we just don’t get into a whole lot of that. The bottom line is, again, Shola and I have had a conversation now over months. I believe that despite what was happening in the public atmosphere, she was continuing to do crucial and important work. She came to the point of making a decision personally and professionally – I respect that. Stan is someone, again, we had an extraordinary experience with around Health + Hospitals recently. As that conversation came up recently, he was someone that made a lot of sense for me to turn to, but I’m not going to get into who said what each day to someone else.
Question: Why not?
Mayor: Because I just don’t do that. What else?
Question: But you did that with the Chancellor –
Mayor: Again –
Question: [Inaudible] change the topic?
Question: So, I wanted to talk to you about JCOPE and the decision by that committee to [inaudible] funds against two groups of people who were donors to your campaign [inaudible] raising questions about the nexus between lobbying in your administration and political donations. And they raised questions about whether you [inaudible] solicited money from the NYCLASS people [inaudible] I’m wondering if you can comment about that. And also, [inaudible] meetings your have [inaudible].
Mayor: I’m just going to state broadly what I’ve said before. Everything we did around Campaign for One New York was focused on achieving pre-K for all of our kids and achieving affordable housing for people who needed it. From the very beginning – sought the guidance of the Conflict of Interest Board and followed through on that guidance of the Conflict of Interest Board and followed through on that guidance, sought constant legal guidance, followed through on it. Everything we did was consistent with that guidance. Every decision I make in government and my team makes is on the merits and all of this has been looked at very, very carefully, and what we did was appropriate. So, there’s really nothing new to add.
Question: [Inaudible] personally asked people who were lobbying –
Mayor: Again, I’ve got nothing to add – covered it many, many times. There’s nothing new to add.
Question: But it is new –
Mayor: I don’t think it’s new.
Question: Could you just explain to us – on September 28th, 2015, when you met with James Capalino, who was at the time the biggest City lobbyist, and nine of his clients in the basement of City Hall restaurant, and you told us last night that is has nothing to do with lobbying. How could that possibly be?
Mayor: Look, you can ask in whatever dramatic tone you want, when I am lobbied by a lobbyist, I disclose it. A City lobbyist lobbying me on any matter, I disclose it. I’ve made very clear in recent times I don’t talk to City lobbyists at all about their clients anymore. But I voluntarily disclosed long before that, including going back to when I was Public Advocate. So, everything has been put out there previously and everything’s been handled appropriately, that’s all there is to it.
Question: What did you discuss at that [inaudible]?
Mayor: I don’t remember what we discussed in the meeting, that was years ago. But I know everything was handled appropriately.
Last call, any other questions? Going once – twice – yes?
Question: What are you thoughts are on this Democratic union deal that the Governor has announced to unite the IDC and the mainline Democrats [inaudible] wary of it? Do you think he’s doing [inaudible] running for re-election? What are your thoughts on it?
Mayor: Sure. The timing is rather convenient, that’s obvious. The bottom line is, Democrats should be Democrats and they should always have been Democrats. There should never have been an IDC that broke away from the Democratic party. There should never have been the willingness of the Governor to aid and abet that, it’s just as simple as that. It never could have happened if the Governor had not participated. It’s abhorrent – look at the entire history of this country, look at every State – the notion that a group of Democrats split off and formed their majority with the Republicans, you think that’s normal? It’s not normal, and the election of Donald Trump obviously created a firestorm over it that should have been there previously. But it couldn’t have happened without the Governor, that’s just a fact. And yes, of course it’s about his political needs. He’s changing his tune now. But look, I said the other day I want to see it fully happen. I think Andrea Stewart-Cousins is the rightful leader of the State Senate. I want to see that happen. I want to see the whole thing happen. I want to see the Democratic majority formed, I want her to be the woman in the room now and end the history of just the men in the room. I want to see that Democratic majority sustained. I don’t want to see the IDC go back over to the Republican side at some point. So, to me, it’s, you know, watchfully waiting. I think it’s hopefully a step in the right direction, but I want to see it sustained and I want to see it permanent.
Go ahead –
Question: Last week, the administration released some of the transcripts and video footage and photos from the shooting. One of the pieces that hasn’t been released yet is the moment when police actually arrived at the scene and began to interact with the man who died. Do you think the NYPD should be releasing that? And, if so, when?
Mayor: They should and they will. The process here – I just want to remind you over the last months we had a couple of situations involving the release of body camera footage where there was an adversarial encounter. The same exact process has happened then is happening now. The difference is, this time it’s the Attorney General who is the investigating entity rather than a District Attorney. So, what happened in those body-camera situations was before the NYPD released everything it had from the body cameras, it went to the District Attorney in question and asked for their assent to make that release, because the first question, of course, is if the District Attorney believes something should be held back for the purpose of their prosecution, the NYPD should yield to that.
In each case, after the District Attorney’s had gone through their process and questioned the people they wanted to question, they then said go ahead and make the release. So, a parallel reality is now going on with the Attorney General, that the – as any video is found from additional sources, because there still may be new video that’s found from other cameras as they continue to canvas. And again, these are all public sources, these are not NYPD video cameras – these are from members of the public, stores, or one thing or another. Each piece of video has to be approved by the Attorney General for release. The Attorney General says no, something should not be released for the purpose of the prosecution, it’s held back. But once the Attorney General says yes, it’s clear to go, the NYPD will release it. So, my understanding is there will be additional releases very shortly and then, if anything new is discovered, it’ll go through the exact same process. And this should be the model, and it is already the working model, but, for your anticipation, God forbid we have any future incidents – this is the model that we’re going to live by, going forward.
Question: How did you feel about the fact that the NYPD produced its own video with segments of some of the video from that location?
Mayor: Well, I saw that video and believe it was very appropriate to take the pieces that were relevant and cleared for public distribution and put them out. I mean, you’re talking about a bunch of different video sources, including a bunch of air time where nothing is happening. To pull together the pieces that actually show the pertinent activity, knowing it is cleared for publication by the Attorney General and putting it out, that’s absolutely appropriate. The important thing is that needs to continue with any additional video that’s found.
Question: But that was not raw video, that contained segments of what they choose to put in –
Mayor: To the best of my knowledge, and it’s certainly what I saw, it was the video that was pertinent to what actually happened. I don’t think that’s a question of – I don’t think it was a subjective issue. I think it was the video that showed the individual involved in the moments leading up to the shooting, that’s the pertinent thing that the people needed to see.
Go ahead –
Question: The City Council Speaker today said he’s going to be submitting a proposal to you for Fair Fares – these are half-price MetroCards for about 800,000 New Yorkers. He wants the City to fund this. He is not calling for a millionaire’s tax [inaudible] you’ve called for it to be funded in the past. [Inaudible] probably even seen this proposal –
Mayor: I haven’t seen the proposal, but I certainly can speak to it.
Question: The issue’s been around for a long time. What do you think about the City funding that?
Mayor: I think the best way to fund it is the millionaire’s tax. I’ll state the obvious, I really think – by the way, we just got through the State budget and the immediate issues around the subway action plan. But as is long since been made clear by Joe Lhota and others, that is just the beginning of a much bigger discussion of how do we fund the MTA fully, going forward? I still believe the millionaire’s tax is the best way to do that, and I think that is – some have tried to suggest it wasn’t as politically viable, well, what we just talked about a moment ago – the changes in the State Senate – I certainly think make it a different discussion now. But to me, the big question is, we’ve got to find much more substantial long-term funding mechanisms for the MTA. I think the millionaire’s tax is the best one, but there are several others on the table. I think that’s how you should fund the Fair Fare as well, with one of those bigger funding mechanisms. Right now, I mean, we’re going to be presenting the City budget in a few weeks but the actions in Albany had a very negative impact on the City’s finances. There were a number of areas where we sustained cuts, and obviously the contribution to the Subway Action Plan is very, very substantial. So, in fact, City resources have declined in the last few weeks. So, I understand the City Council wants to achieve something noble, but it’s going to be a very straightforward conversation with them about the actual money we have available and how far it will reach. And I hope to show them that it’s not going to be viable to do that with City resources, that’s something that would have to be done with a new revenue stream.