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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks at Groundbreaking for New York Hotel Trades Council and Hotel Association of New York City Employee Benefit Funds' Health Center

March 19, 2015

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you so much. It is an honor to be here and it’s a joy to be here. This is something special for Brooklyn, for the whole city, but it’s also an example to our nation what’s happening right here today. Peter very kindly talked about the commitment this administration has to working people. What Peter Ward is doing takes the ideas that we’re working on to a whole other level. If you think about people getting the health care they need, exactly when they need it, getting it an entirely affordable manner, in a way that emphasizes preventative care, in a way that emphasizes wellbeing for the whole family – the kind of care that you want to access. I am not a doctor and I am not a psychologist, but I can certainly say if you make health care inviting, and positive, and easy, people will take more advantage of it. If you don’t, unsurprisingly, they won’t get all the care they need, when they need it, and it will get worse and worse for their health, and it will get more and more costly. So what the brilliance is of this model is it fits with every other effort to address the needs of working people, and it fits with every other effort to lower the expenses in their lives, and it does it in one of the most innovative ways in the country. And if we’re going to move forward as a city and a country, we have to – we have to help everyday people afford the cost of living. 

And a lot of us are working – I know Peter’s working every day to improve the wages and benefits of working people. But the other thing we must do is lower the cost in their lives, whether it’s affordable housing or affordable health care. If we do both those things, we change the playing field forever, and that’s the mission of this administration. And we have such a tremendous partner in Peter Ward. Peter comes from this borough, and he is a proud Brooklynite –

Unknown: Yay.

Mayor: – and he has gone far. I just want to say, I just – take a poll here – random poll on how special Brooklyn is. I think – okay we’ve got –


Mayor: Just a poll on every day people – you know, random sample – came out very positive for Brooklyn.


Mayor: Peter is from a neighborhood not far from here, and he grew up without tremendous advantages. And I remember Peter, you told a story very powerfully about what afterschool meant in your life when you were supporting our afterschool plan. And you did so much to help us achieve afterschool for our middle school kids and pre-k for our younger kids. And you talked about the transformative impact it had on you. Peter, from that afterschool program, became a leader, and then more of a leader, and then more of a leader to the point today that he is one of the indispensable labor leaders in this city, but he’s also someone who has a vision of where we need to go to create a more just society. And what you’re seeing today is part of that. This is about literally building the kind of society we should live in, where people have full access to affordable health care. 

So, there is a great story here, but it is not an accidental story. This was hard work, this was vision, this was grit, this was innovation – an incessant desire to build out a good model and then take it farther and farther. That is the kind of leadership that we all should prize. Let’s thank Peter Ward for what he has done.


Now, this center for all the members of Hotel Trades Council – this center – it will be the newest, it may be the most beautiful, and the most innovative of all, but it follows in a tradition innovated by HTC. If you have not been to one of their health centers, you need to go because it will change your understanding of things. I went to the center in Harlem and I literally could not think of health care the same after. It’s like you had seen the future and knew there was someplace better we could get to. Well, as I said, Peter had so much to do with that, but he had a great parter – the CEO of the HTC Employee Benefits Fund, and a man who has done so much to innovate this model, and make it effective, and make it positive, and friendly, and inviting for its patients. Let’s thank Dr. Robert Greenspan.


And, as Peter said, because this model is based on everyone winning, it does change the relationship between labor and management when everyone is driving down cost together and figuring out how to have a healthy workforce together. So we have two industry leaders here who have been real partners in this endeavor, and have done a lot for this city as well, and I want to thank you both – Joe Spinnato, the president of the Hotel Association, and Vijay Dandapani, the chair of the Hotel Association. 


And I most especially want to thank all the members of the Hotel Trades Council who are here today because you’ve done a lot for this city. You’ve done a lot for all the people you represent in the council, but you’ve done a lot for this city and, again, I want to thank all of you. So many of you participated in our efforts to create pre-k, create afterschool, create affordable housing. You’ve been tremendous allies.

I also want to say that this health center is going to be an idea that spreads. And I can say, as an elected official, it’s my job to promote this model and to see what we can do on the city level to emulate this model. And I’m certainly going to turn to our comptroller in that process because we’re looking to save money, aren’t we? I want to thank Comptroller Scott Stringer for being here.


The idea here – imagine – again, I’m going to preach for a moment, Peter. I’m sorry. I’m going to preach. The – when I went in the center at Harlem – again, I, like everyone else, I was used to – you go to your doctor’s office. It takes a while to get an appointment.  You finally show up. The doctor says, okay I need you to go to these tests or I need you to go get this prescription. And then you’re going to figure out – when are you going to get the tests? When are you going to get the prescription in our busy lives, et cetera, et cetera. And so, health care – even if you have a great doctor – health care is constantly deferred a bit, or slowed down a bit, or delayed a bit, and then we all know, with our busy lives, we sometimes don’t pick up that phone to make the doctor appointment or we’re slow to go get that prescription.

This health care center model turns the whole equation on its head. You walk in the door, you get your appointment, and then you can get other appointments with other doctors under the same roof. The pharmacy is in the same facility, which is a simple but brilliant element. You get your prescription on one floor, you go to another floor and it’s filled instantly. And in fact, at this center, you’re going to have one of the largest pharmacies, I think, in any of your centers. And you’re expanding it out. There’s dental – the most elusive of services – dental is here under this roof. It’s extraordinary and it makes people want to be here.

An audacious goal – even with all those services under one roof, the goal of this center is that 85 percent of the patients who walk in the door have gotten everything they need and are out the door within an hour. That is the kind of timeline New Yorkers can relate to. That is the kind of speed we would like to see. And the response from the members, the patients, is overwhelming – the satisfaction. And again, when people believe they’ve gotten great care in a positive environment, guess what? They come back. When they need health care right away, they come back to get the preventative care. They bring their family members, and it creates a healthier society. That’s what’s so powerful here.

We’re going to use this model and see if we can build it out with our city employees as well. It’s a big project. It’ll take a lot of work. But it’s something that we should try, in every way we can, to emulate.


And we have to – as a city, we have to keep driving down health care costs. And I’m very proud of the labor deals we’ve met – we’ve made so far – 76 percent of our workforce under contract – but importantly, in those labor deals, $3.4 billion dollars in health care savings built into those labor deals, and that’s with a conventional health care approach. I think we can do much more if we can, over time, move to a model that’s been innovated here. 

I want to give you one last example because I want you to feel the personal impact of what happens here. I’m going to give you an example of a member – a patient who is with us here today – Amada Sosa. Where are you, Amada?


A proud member of HTC – works as hotel room attendant – originally from the Dominican Republic and has been a member of the union for more than 20 years, even though she looks way too young to have been a member for 20 years.


Amada and her husband adopted a daughter, but they yearned for a larger family. They visited the Harlem Health Center that HTC had innovated and she hoped she could get access to fertility treatments. And, you know what? That’s a very hard thing to get in most of our health system. But here – to her great pleasure and amazement – it was covered by Employee Benefits Fund, and it was the only way she possibly could get this help. Well, now she has a larger family because of her second daughter, Cindy – who you call your miracle baby? Is that true?

Amada Sosa: She calls herself like that.

Mayor: She calls herself a miracle baby, okay.


Cindy – Cindy clearly is a New Yorker. She is already promoting herself. I’m very impressed. So, Amada and her family, and Cindy – Cindy is an actual example of the miracle that happens every day at the HTC health centers. So I hope people really appreciate what a privilege it is for all of us to be here as this new extraordinary facility is built. Just a few words in Spanish and then I want to say my apologies to Peter. I have to leave after my remarks, but I think he knows I am here with great passion and excitement, and it will continue straight through to the day the doors of this place open. 

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

High-quality care at low cost – it’s good in both languages. 

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

We are looking at this model very carefully because I think it offers so much for the people of this city and beyond. With that – just to Peter – to every one gathered here today – my warmest congratulations. This is truly a great day for the members of HTC, but, beyond that, a great day for New York City.

Thank you so much.

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