April 9, 2019
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. Before we begin with a topic that we plan to talk about today, I have very bad news to talk about. And we are now as a city in mourning, once again, for a fallen hero. Christopher Slutman, a 15-year veteran of the FDNY, and a United States Marine died in Afghanistan yesterday while serving his nation. So once again, a New Yorker serving in our military, but also a member of our uniform services giving of himself to protect others and was lost yesterday tragically in Afghanistan. I had the honor of presenting him in the year 2014 with the Fire Chief’s Association Memorial Medal and it was presented because he had rescued an unconscious woman from a burning apartment in the South Bronx. This unquestionably is an example of the measure of this man. Christopher Slutman an American hero, a New York hero, and we mourn his loss today. Our hearts go out to his wife Shannon and his three children. And they will be in our thoughts and prayers today, and we are also today providing all the solidarity and support we can to his colleagues at Ladder 27 in the Bronx who are hurting today, and all the members of the FDNY who are hurting today having lost a family member as well. So, I’ve ordered flags across the city to be lowered to half-mast. And I’d just like us all to observe a moment of silence.
[Moment of silence is observed]
Thank you very much.
We are here in Williamsburg today to deal with a very serious situation. This is the epicenter of a measles outbreak that is very, very troubling and must be dealt with immediately. A message today for all New Yorkers is to take measles seriously and you are going to hear from Dr. Palacio, and Dr. Barbot just how dangerous this disease can be. This outbreak has been spreading; there are almost 300 cases already, overwhelmingly in Brooklyn. And to give you a sense of what troubling development this is, it’s a huge spike we saw only two cases in New York City in 2017. So we have a very serious situation on our hands. We cannot allow this dangerous disease to make a comeback here in New York City. We have to stop it now. Today we are declaring a public health emergency effective immediately. This will mandate vaccines for people living in the affected area. The Department of Health will issue violations and fines to people who remain unvaccinated. The only way to stop this outbreak is to ensure that those who have not been vaccinated get the vaccine. It’s crucial for people to understand the measles vaccine works. It is safe; it is effective, it is time tested.
I want to thank the folks who everyday go out into our communities to reach out to everyday New Yorkers to let them know both about the dangers they face but also how they can protect themselves and their families. Our Health Department employees here behind me, thank you all for the work you do, for the outreach you do, we appreciate you. And we’re going to need your help in these next days to stop this outbreak. I also want to thank members of the Haredi Health Coalition for joining us today for the important work that they do. Now, I want all New Yorkers to hear what I’m saying today, not just as your Mayor, but as a father. When my children were born, when they were young, all I thought about was how to keep them safe. And we have a situation now where children are in danger. We have to take this seriously. Every one of us has to feel responsibility for the situation, because measles is so contagious, can spread so quickly, and the outbreak could in fact especially spread because soon it will be Pesach, there will be school vacation, there will be more and more families together. The last thing we want to see is more family members afflicted by this disease. So we’re taking urgent steps right now to make sure that we can stop this. You’ll hear the details from Doctor’s Palacio, and Barbot.
But I want everyone to understand this is blanket order for the Williamsburg neighborhood, and specifically we’re making clear that unvaccinated students will not be allowed in schools or daycares. The order makes very clear the ability to the Health Department to issue violations. And I want to be clear, it is not our hope or goal to issue a violation, we want to simply solve the problem. We have the ability to issue violations, but whenever people comply promptly we will not have to, we will not have to levy fines.
The goal here is to send a message that people need to act immediately to get vaccinated, and that vaccination is available readily here in the neighborhood and throughout the city. I want to emphasize our public health system stands ready to help any New Yorker who needs the vaccine for themselves or their child. If they have insurance they will be covered, if they don’t have insurance they will only have to pay what they can pay, if they can’t afford anything, it will be given to them for free. So there is no financial reason not to get this vaccine, and there’s plenty of locations that will be available. It should not be hard for people to get what they need to protect themselves and their children. But we are issuing this executive order – this emergency order I should say and it allows us to issue violations and fines whenever needed. As I said yesterday, and I hope this is not come to pass, schools that do not actively participate in actively address this issue and do not exclude unvaccinated children, if they persist in allowing this danger to continue we have the option of closing them for a period of time until this crisis has passed. Again, that is not a tool we want to use, but it is one we will use if we have no choice.
We don’t take any of these steps lightly, this is an unusual action for us to take but it is entirely related to both the danger of this disease and how highly contagious it is. This is a disease that can spread just in a few hours. Once someone is infected it can spread and be visible very quickly and the results can be devastating. For those that live there can be brain damage but it’s also important to understand measles is not a disease to dismiss, measles can be fatal. And this is true for children, but this is also true for other members of our community. Pregnant women can be in danger, folks going through medical treatment such chemotherapy can be in danger, senior citizens can be in danger. This is a broader danger to our community. Anyone who wants to get the vaccine can get it through a simple call to 3-1-1, and they will be connected. And this is a simple action you can take to project your family and your community. We are about to have an important holiday, and a phrase I learned a long time ago is to wish everyone a zisn Pesach, a sweet Passover. But to make sure it is a good holiday we have to ensure that people are protected. So I want all 8.6 million New Yorkers to understand this is all of our business to protect each other and to stop this outbreak. A few words in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that I want to turn to our Deputy Mayor, Dr. Herminia Palacio. She has spent her life in public health and she has seen before what happens when a dangerous disease spreads, and she knows how important it is to address it immediately. I want to thank her for her leadership, Dr. Palacio.
Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio, Health and Human Services: Thank you very much Mr. Mayor. My message today is simple and the actions that you can take as a result of my message is easy. Get the measles vaccine. I want everybody to understand fully as the Mayor has already said measles can be a very serious illness and it can even be fatal. But measles is also preventable. It is preventable. We can eliminate this disease. To keep your family, your neighbors, and your city healthy, I repeat get the measles vaccine. Thank you to so many healthcare providers and community members who have already responded. Since October 8,000 additional vaccinations have been administered in Borough Park and Williamsburg alone, compared to the same period last year. The Health Department has been working tirelessly since this outbreak began. They have partnered with community and religious leaders to get the word out. They have collaborated with healthcare providers to ensure an ample supply of vaccines is available right here in the neighborhood. They are working with yeshivas and daycares to make sure unvaccinated students are excluded. And last week they issued a new blanket commissioner’s order, that is preemptive and spans the duration of the outbreak, putting schools on the fast track for more violations and potential closure if they are not cooperating with the exclusions.
However, despite these efforts we are still seeing the number of cases rise. So today we are going further and taking a bold new step. Today we are declaring a public health emergency to mandate vaccinations. During ongoing case investigation when the department identifies people who are unvaccinated, they will issue violations. These resulting finds will be as much as $1,000 per person. We know that there is a lot of misinformation out there about this virus and about vaccines. And I want to set the record straight. This vaccine is safe. This vaccine not only protects your child, but as you heard from the Mayor, it protects other people’s children. It protects members of the community who are vulnerable to disease and are unable to get vaccinated. Your neighbors and maybe even your loved ones such as infants, pregnant women, cancer patients on chemotherapy and other patients with weak immune systems are protected when you get vaccine. And when you make the decision not to vaccinate your child, please understand you are also making that decision for the people around your child.
We have also received reports that there are people attending so called measles parties – bring children together to purposely get exposed to measles. As a parent I have no doubt that each and every parent is making decisions based out of what they believe is best for their children. But as a doctor, a public health practitioner, and a mom I must warn you that exposing you unvaccinated child to measles is very dangerous and it could even be deadly. We urge everyone to avoid this practice. This is a public health emergency. We have already seen over 280 people infected, including people who have been hospitalized, people who’ve had to be admitted to the intensive care unit due to serious complications. Thank goodness we haven’t seen a death yet.
Please help us keep it that way. If you haven’t already, get the measles vaccine. As the Mayor mentioned the holidays are fast approaching, a time meant for families to come together and we shouldn’t have the threat of spreading more infectious disease happen during these precious holiday time together. Please get the measles vaccine before the holiday season and help us ensure that we all go into Passover and spring break healthy and safe. And I know that there is Spanish media here so I will also say a few words in Spanish.
[Deputy Mayor Palacio speaks in Spanish]
Mayor: Thank you very much Dr. Palacio. I want to turn to our Health Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot and note that she too has spent her entire life in public health but with a particular focus on children. She is a pediatrician by training and understands how important it is to do all we can to protect our kids. Dr. Barbot.
Commissioner Oxiris Barbot, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you Mr. Mayor. Thank you, Dr. Palacio. So as was mentioned we are in the midst of a measles outbreak and since this outbreak began in October we’ve seen 285 cases of measles in New York City. 246 have been in children and nearly all of them have been associated with the Orthodox Jewish community. So far 21 people have been hospitalized and five have ended up in the intensive care unit. And this is the largest outbreak that we have seen in New York City since 1991. Today as Health Commissioner I am declaring a public health emergency due to this measles outbreak. The Health Department is ordering all people in Williamsburg to get vaccinated against measles. Taking this action is necessary to protect public health during this outbreak. People in violation of the order will be identified through investigations of exposures. Our disease detectives will check for vaccination status or immunity when tracing the contacts of a person who have developed the illness. If the Department identifies an adult or a child with measles or an unvaccinated child exposed to measles, the individual or their parents or guardian will get a violation that could be fined $1,000 per instance.
We’ve worked closely with the community, religious leaders, and schools to make sure that vulnerable people are kept safe during this outbreak and to challenge the dangerous misinformation that is being spread by a group of anti-vaxxers. Young children and people who have weakened immune systems cannot get vaccinated so it’s crucial that everyone around them be vaccinated in order to shield them from infection. While the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is the safest and most effective method or preventing measles, it is 97 percent effective, meaning a few people will not be protected even if vaccinated. Non-immune pregnant women are at increased risk of serious complications including loss of pregnancy, premature delivery and hospitalization. I understand that parents may be afraid of getting their children vaccinated but the reality is as a pediatrician who has vaccinated hundreds if not thousands of children, I know that getting vaccinated is far safer than getting the measles. The vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective in preventing the spread of measles for decades and we have evidence to back that up. Before the vaccine was introduced in the 60’s about 500 people would die each year in the United States due to this virus. We are lucky that no one has died so far in this outbreak. But we have seen patients with severe complications who are being admitted to intensive care units and this is preventable. We urge everyone who can get vaccinated to get vaccinated. As Passover is coming up it is important that all New Yorkers get vaccinated, especially if they plan to travel overseas to Europe or Israel or to areas in the US that are experiencing large outbreaks. The best way to protect yourself, your children, your community is to talk to your healthcare provider and get vaccinated. You can call 3-1-1 for a list of facilities that can provide the vaccine at low or no-cost. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Doctor. Alright we are going to take questions about the measles situation here. Marcia.
Question: Mr. Mayor are you doing anything to prevent cross contamination [inaudible] given the fact that the Passover holiday is coming up and it could likely be some travel between [inaudible]?
Mayor: I will let the two doctors speak to it right now. Of course our focus is right here in Brooklyn where we are having an immediate problem. And I think the best thing we can do is stop the outbreak here to make sure it doesn’t spread in either direction but Doctors, do you want to speak to that?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: Sure, I mean that I think that vaccination is in fact critical. We recognize that during the holidays, there is lots of travel that’s why it’s even more important than ever for people to get vaccinated ahead of this travel season.
Mayor: You mean of people coming down from Rockland, for example?
Question: [Inaudible] –
Mayor: Again I would just say – let me just start with an important point. The number one concern is people right here infecting each other. So, I understand your question for sure but I want to put the horse before the cart. We have a problem right here, right now. Before we even worry about the interconnection with Rockland County, we need to make sure people in Brooklyn are protected and that anyone who is unvaccinated gets vaccinated here. We’re certainly going to talk to – have been talking to State health officials and Rockland health officials. We want everyone to do the maximum. But right now we have to solve the problem here.
Commissioner Barbot: The most important thing that we’re doing is ensuring that we maximize the number of people that are getting vaccinated. And since the beginning of this outbreak, we have more than doubled the number of individuals who live in Williamsburg and Borough Park who have been vaccinated. And this really is a result of the partnerships that we have with health care provides, community-based organizations, and faith leaders in the community. But there is still more to be done and the concern is that with Passover and increased travel, we’re going to be putting more people at risk. So, that’s why we’re doing this now.
Question: So, your order – is it just for children under the age of 18 or anybody who lives in Williamsburg no matter how old not vaccinated? And also, does this apply to Borough Park at all because you have a large community there as well?
Mayor: The overwhelming problem is Williamsburg. So, I want people to understand – overwhelmingly this is a challenge we have seen in Brooklyn. There are other boroughs we’ve seen literally no cases so far and it is now much more a Williamsburg problem than a Borough Park problem.
Commissioner Barbot: So, this order is covering individuals who are unvaccinated whether they be children or adults and it covers the following ZIP codes – 11205, 11206, 11211, and 11249.
Question: Mr. Mayor, how are you planning to enforce the order? Is this something where if someone develops measles after the fact they might be cited – how do you identify the people who aren’t complying?
Mayor: Let me start and the two doctors will give you a lot more expertise but I want to just do the common sense point. We are trying to get people vaccinated. Our goal is not to fine anyone, our goal is not to shut down schools, our goal is to get people vaccinated but we’re also trying to help everyone understand there is urgency here. Every hour, every day matters here. So, we have the tools available now because of this emergency order to fine and fine very substantially. But if people would just go and get vaccinated there is no cause for a fine. That’s the message today. Go ahead on the specifics.
Commissioner Barbot: So, within this we are going to be identifying individuals within the context of contact tracing meaning that when someone gets sick we want to identify anybody who has come in contact with them who could potentially be at risk. If in those situations they are found to be exposed and unvaccinated, we will do anything and everything possible to help them get vaccinated within the designated three days because that’s the window within which they can then use that vaccine as protection against the measles vaccine –
Mayor: Measles not – the disease.
Commissioner Barbot: Excuse me, measles disease, yes. There may also be situations where they may need immunoglobulin and we can help them do that. So, again, I want to just emphasize the point that the Mayor made. The point here is not fine people but to make it easy – easier for them to get vaccinated.
Question: You know the number of measles cases has more than doubled since February. Is the Department of Health aware of any particular day or event in which there was a large scale exposure or was it just sort of – been trickling in?
Commissioner Barbot: So, we are not aware of particular events but as Dr. Palacio mentioned we are concerned about families having measles parties. And so, I think it’s important to emphasize the fact that, you know, back in the day people were having parties to expose their kids to chicken pox, to measles, and we live in a different world now. There are many more individuals who are living with chronic disease who are surviving cancer, and so we don’t want children or adults to be unnecessarily exposed to measles because there are serious consequences to that. And the easiest thing to make sure that your children are protected against measles is to get the vaccine.
Question: The Governor said this morning that health-wise what you’re doing makes sense but legally, it’s unclear whether you can compel people to vaccinate their own kids –
Mayor: I have –
Question: Is that argument [inaudible] in any way that he’s –
Mayor: I have not spoken to the Governor, so let me just make clear – meaning I haven’t spoken to him on this issue. Our Law Department has looked into this extensively. We are absolutely certain we have the power to do this. This is a public health emergency. And the reason the City government is empowered in a public health emergency is to save lives. So, we’re going to act resolutely and if anyone is thinking of a legal challenge, we are absolutely comfortable that we will win that legal case.
Question: Just a follow up to that – did you misspeak last night when you said that there’s a debate on this issue as though there’s another side to the vaccine [inaudible] –
Question: Can you clarify –
Mayor: Yeah, I used a word which is a common word but I understand that it might be subject to misinterpretation. There’s a lot of misinformation out there. So, yeah, people are spreading different viewpoints but some of them are clearly false and not backed up by science. So, what you heard from the two doctors is the better way to think about this. The science consistently proves that this vaccine is safe and necessary. There are people who are trying to spread misinformation. That’s true but they’re wrong and even if – I agree with Dr. Palacio maybe their intentions are good but unfortunately they are endangering people’s lives. Juliet?
Question: [Inaudible] people get the information about where to go to get the vaccine –
Mayor: 3-1-1 for one. Are there other sources on the website or –
Commissioner Barbot: Or they can check our website nyc.gov/health.
Question: Mr. Mayor, is there a precedent for this? Has there been a public health emergency declared around measles before in the city or elsewhere around the country? And in terms of enforcing the fines – could you give a little more detail about that as well?
Mayor: So, let’s do that in two sections. On the history of whether we have had to do a public health emergency around measles or if there’s other comparable situations – either one of you want to speak to that?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: So, we have not used a public health emergency to mandate vaccines in recent history. The circumstance of the combination of a large anti-vax movement in combination with a large outbreak has not happened in the way that it has happened right now. So, this is a tool for right now. Public health has many tools to put on the table and we lay them on the table in response to facts on the ground.
Mayor: And I want to emphasize – and everyone, don’t worry we’ll get to all your questions – this numerical comparison is part of what’s driving us. Two cases citywide – I want to confirm that – two cases citywide, 2017. Two years later, already almost 300 cases. That’s got our full attention and we’ve got to deal with this now. I’m –
Mayor: Around vaccination – around measles, certainly. As you heard, in recent memory first time in the case of measles but for – because the measles situation now is very different than it was in the past. On the question of the violations and the fines – what we are saying to people here in Williamsburg is the City government has the ability to issue violations and to implement fines and they’re very substantial fines. We do not want to have to do that. If people will simply cooperate quickly, no one has to pay a fine if they’re doing the right thing. But if folks ignore this order, then they are subject to the fine.
So, this – and I’m asking everyone here in the media to please spread this word very, very clearly – anyone who hears this message and says okay, ‘I hear it, I’m going to get vaccinated,’ we will help them find a place. If they can’t afford it, we’ll make sure it is covered. So there is no reason to not take the very little amount of time needed to get this vaccine to protect your family and your community. We do not want to issue fines. If people ignore our order, we will issue fines. Who else – Rich?
Question: So, just about the measles parties – any idea – how did you hear about this things and any idea how many there have been and how many people may have attended? Is there any sense of that or is this sort of a rumor that you’re trying to pin down?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: So, I will give Dr. Barbot give additional detail but we have certainly had reports of measles parties and as she mentioned this is something that we have seen before in the days before vaccines. But we now have vaccines – it’s a much safer way to protect your children. We have both had direct reports to the Health Department about these measles parties. And as Dr. Barbot mentioned there’s also quite a bit of very aggressive anti-vax campaigns with pop-up phone numbers and conference calls where a lot of misinformation is being handed out. So, I want to make sure that we make no mistake about it – there is a campaign with very intentional efforts to give misinformation and we’re here to correct the record.
Question: What do you – other than this, what are you doing in terms of community outreach to go into those – are you going into synagogues, are you going into community centers to tell people what the right information is and why they should do this [inaudible] –
Mayor: Yeah, I’ll come to you in a second. Let me just start by saying – I want to speak personally. I have a very long standing close relationship with the Orthodox Jewish community. Obviously, I used to represent Borough Park in the City Council. There’s been a very extensive outreach to community leaders, faith leaders, community institutions. This has been going on now over the last weeks. And again, a constructive positive outreach to say we all have a problem, let’s solve it together. And that outreach is going to continue at a high level but also these outreach workers behind us – and we really want to thank them for the work they do – they will go block by block, they will talk to people all over the neighborhood to make sure people are safe.
Question: [Inaudible] person is sick and talking to them about why they’ve come into contact with but what about someone who isn’t showing the systems and hasn’t been vaccinated – how do you go about finding that person?
Commissioner Barbot: So, we are going to focus on individuals who are symptomatic and once they declare themselves, so to speak, then we will interview all the folks they tell us that they’ve come in contact with. So, the reality is that if someone is unvaccinated and they have not come in contact with someone who has had measles, then it’s not as likely that they will develop measles but they are still at risk and we would want those folks to be vaccinated.
Question: [Inaudible] declare themselves as someone who isn’t vaccinated [inaudible] –
Commissioner Barbot: No, I’m sorry, declaring – meaning that they will show symptoms –
Mayor: Someone who has symptoms already, right. Yeah. So, it’s – I want to – it took me some time when I originally learned from the Health Department how they do things years ago to get this concept right. Disease detectives – it’s really important to understand this – parallels what a police detective does. If someone has symptoms they literally will interview them to figure out everywhere they’ve been, everyone they might have come in contact with, and then they go and reach out to that whole network to make sure people are vaccinated because as you heard this spread so quickly, so intensely that you literally need to track down every single person that someone may have come in contact with. And when you think about it, people go to the store, they go to the day care, whatever – they go to the clinic. There’s all sorts of places where they might come in contact with other folks. The disease detectives try and trace that whole trail and reach everyone in it to protect them. Who has not gone – Steve?
Question: If somebody’s been vaccinated and they’re not sure – like they don’t have their records, is there a danger to being vaccinated twice?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: So, no – people can get re-vaccinated if they’re really not sure. For children we have the vaccination records and the registry. For adults who may not remember if way back then they got vaccines, they can go their doctors. They can see if they’re immune and it’s not dangerous to get a second vaccine.
Question: Just quickly – have you three been vaccinated?
Commissioner Barbot: Yes.
Mayor: Long ago. Okay, just clarifying for everyone because I don’t know everyone here – media questions only at this moment. So, if you’re media and you have not yet to ask a question. We’ll keep coming around – media who has not asked a question, way back?
Question: If you could just clarify the nuance between New York City and Rockland County where a judge actually shut that down on Friday and said that they couldn’t do this county-wide state of emergency. Is there a nuance and do you feel convinced that it will last here in New York?
Mayor: Yeah, so, I’ll start and my colleagues can add. So, again, this is an unusual action and it’s because of the sheer extent of the crisis. But this has been thoroughly evaluated by our Law Department and we are absolutely certain this is an appropriate use of our emergency powers. The situation here is very localized. I can’t speak to the Rockland situation. I have not seen the details of that.
Obviously, it was a very broad order. This is a very specific order. This is about one neighborhood and the focus on tracing folks who have been exposed. But when you think about the fact that of the 300 cases – almost 300 cases so far, most have been here and that’s a lot of people and then think about how everyone gets into contact with so many other people. This is very pinpointed, very localized – I think absolutely appropriate. And the faster people heed the warning and act on it, the faster we’ll be able to lift the order.
Question: First an important clarification – so the order applies to everyone living in these ZIP codes regardless of whether they’ve been exposed and so when you talk about tracing the contacts, you’re talking about that as a means of enforcement but the order [inaudible] everyone living in these ZIP codes?
Commissioner Barbot: It applies to everyone.
Question: Okay, and so if you do identify someone who hasn’t been vaccinated using the method you described, will they be forcibly vaccinated or can they [inaudible] pay the fine?
Commissioner Barbot: We will do everything that we can to make it easy for them to be vaccinated, and especially if they’ve been exposed within the previous three days. That will be critical. If they choose not to be vaccinated then they will be fined.
Mayor: Can I just – hold that question. I want you – for everyone’s information – just say again why that three days – because the impact of it – we’re thinking of vaccines to prevent to onset of a disease but the point that Dr. Barbot is also making is even if you just got infected, if you get the vaccine quickly it has an effect. Can you explain that?
Commissioner Barbot: Right, so, generally vaccines are given in order to confer what we call herd immunity to communities meaning that the more people you have vaccinated the less likely it is that one single sick person will then cause an outbreak. When we fall below a critical number of individuals being vaccinated then you lose that protection. Vaccines, in this situation, can also be used as treatments so that if you have been exposed you have a three-day window within which you can be vaccinated to avoid getting an illness that can have serious consequences.
Mayor: So, I want to just emphasize this point and please include just in your coverage that part of why it’s so important to get it fast is to stop the outbreak. But someone may already have been infected and not know it yet. The quicker you get the vaccine the more chance of limiting the damage if you have been infected. Go ahead.
Question: [Inaudible] heard, community leaders are urging people to get vaccinated [inaudible] so what do you find is sort of the source of the resistance here? Where is the tension that there’s this [inaudible]?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: So, I think I can begin and allow Dr. Barbot to expand. There – this is a problem that we’re seeing nationally. We have seen over the last several years an increasing anti-vax campaign. We are certainly seeing it in New York. It is certainly a big contribution to this particular outbreak. There are people actually urging people against vaccines. Again, it is critically important that all community members – and we rely on you, the media, as our partners – to get real information out there, to make sure that people know that vaccines are safe, that they are required, that they are in fact much safer than actually getting disease, that this is not like some little cold thing, that people can get hospitalized, they can get pneumonia, they can get inflammation of the brain. They can die. This is serious. We need to get the right information out.
Mayor: Okay, wait. Doctor, do you have anything to add?
Commissioner Barbot: No, that’s it.
Mayor: Go ahead.
Question: How many measles cases in – last year?
Mayor: 2018? So, it was two in 2017. How many in 2018?
Commissioner Barbot: With this outbreak, 56.
Mayor: Wait, can we clarify – I think the question is comparative. So, we’re kind of –
Commissioner Barbot: This is [inaudible] –
Mayor: No, I want to do a comparative – when we say two in 2017, just for everyone’s benefit, we are saying calendar year 2017. So, now if we split ‘18 and ‘19 – the outbreak crosses both ‘18 and ‘19, so just to break it down here. How many of those cases did we find evidence of in 2018 versus 2019? Do you know that magic number?
Commissioner Barbot: 56 in ‘18.
Mayor: And the remainder in 2019. So, obviously the problem has mounted quickly. Okay, yes?
Question: Has there been any resistance to Health Department officials’ investigations of these cases and do you think that the number of confirmed cases might be smaller than what the actual number of cases are since many people who have gotten this weren’t vaccinated, maybe had religious exemptions to vaccinations [inaudible]?
Commissioner Barbot: So, a couple of things, it is – part of our work that we do is working with communities, trusted voices, so that people feel comfortable disclosing who they have come in contact with because, you know, we’re not looking to “get anybody in trouble,” we’re looking to help them stay healthy and make it easy to become vaccinated. We do know that there are individuals who have gotten the measles infection, who then go to their doctors to get serologic proof that they can back into school.
Mayor: Who has not gone, just want to give a chance to anyone who has not gone, Julia.
Question: Who confident are you that this mandatory vaccination program will work and stop this outbreak?
Mayor: I think it’s a very powerful tool, and I think the message will spread quickly, we’re talking – we’re all humans here. When you hear there’s an emergency order, and it’s a very rare thing, that gets people’s attention. When you hear the problem is overwhelmingly in one neighborhood, that gets people’s attention. Obviously if you hear there could be a violation given and a fine of up to $1,000, that gets people’s attention, so I think this is going to have a very big impact. Anyone who has not gone? Yeah, please.
Question: Someone just emailed me a concern that this is all English-level branding in a community that largely communicates in Yiddish. There are no Hasidic community leaders here, maybe there are, I’m not seeing them. What are you doing to kind of make sure that this message gets out to the community in a tailored way?
Mayor: There’s been, as I said, weeks and weeks of dialogue with community leaders and a lot of work together to reach the community. That’s going to deepen, and absolutely we’re going to get the message out, not only in English but in Yiddish as well, there’s no question about that.
Deputy Mayor Palacio: We have already distributed much material and information packets in multiple languages, in Yiddish as well.
Commissioner Barbot: And we have put ads in the Yiddish newspapers as well, we’ve done mailings to 30,000 households, we’ve done three rounds of robocalls in Yiddish to 30,000 households, and we have put out the offer that any community organization that wants us to meet with them in person to further discuss the benefits of vaccines, we are more than happy to do that because again, the point here is to make sure that we maximize the number of people that have accurate information and feel good about vaccination.
Mayor: Okay, Andrew, go ahead.
Question: Mayor, you mentioned you represented Borough Park—
Question: A lot of experience in the Orthodox community. Have you and other elected officials been too tolerant of religious custom at the expense of public health?
Mayor: Can’t speak to other elected officials, I can say that we try always to respect religious rights, religious customs, but when it comes to public health, we see a problem emerge, we have to deal with it aggressively. Now, I am a firm believer that engaging the community, engaging community leaders and institutions, is the best and fastest way to protect public health. The government can do a lot, but folks at the grassroots have tremendous reach, so we always start that way, but if we don’t feel we’re getting sufficient results, we’ll use the most powerful tools we have and that’s what you see right now. Julia?
Question: Are vaccines required and what’s the circumstance and—
Mayor: When you say required – I mean obviously we’re – the order says people must be vaccinated, but what are you saying?
Question: Barring this, I mean just in general, is vaccine required? Who’s required to get it?
Mayor: So for example, well let’s – I think the issue is, first and foremost, our schools, is sort of – so let’s separate schools and everything else in society just for people’s clarity. Go ahead.
Deputy Mayor Palacio: So yes, vaccinations are required for entering into daycare and schools. That is the main place that we have vaccination requirements. These are state level requirements. So, yes, even in not in the case of an outbreak, in this case we’re mandating vaccines for everyone in the zip codes that Dr. Barbot stated in Williamsburg.
Question: So in the event now that this is an issue, would there be any sort of future consideration of if your child is not – doesn’t have a required vaccination by certain date or time that they would be penalized in some way, or fined?
Commissioner Barbot: So children are excludable from school if they are not up to date on their vaccinations, and so, for example, children are required to have their first dose of measles-mumps-rubella between the ages of 12 months and 15 months. They’re required to get their second dose between the ages of four years and six years of age. During this outbreak, we have added an additional requirement to get young children vaccinated as early as six months. The reality is that we have had children, younger than six months, exposed to the measles and have gotten the infection. So we want to prevent more of those cases.
Question: Do you have any estimates for how many children in Williamsburg still are not vaccinated even after all that increased – I heard it was around 1,800 a couple months ago, is that still the case?
Commissioner Barbot: So we’re aggregating those numbers and we can get back to you on that but that’s generally the ballpark figure.
Question: And why launch this effort now? This outbreak started in October, there’s been a spike in the last month or so in the amount. What took so long to have a press conference?
Mayor: Again, it’s not about the press conference, it’s about the emergency order, so let’s – respectfully, that’s the issue here, the press conference is just a vehicle. Because we were using a whole host of other approaches – the health outreach workers have been all over the community, there have been lots of meetings and engagement with community leaders, there has been some real progress in addressing the issue, but it’s just not working fast enough, and it was time to take a more muscular approach. If we had seen it start to level off, it would have been sufficient, and obviously again, thank God even though there’s been some hospitalizations and some serious ones, no one has died, but we need to keep it that way so it’s time to ramp up now.
Deputy Mayor Palacio: We also saw – just I wanted to add, you know, the Mayor’s correct. We’ve been layering tools, we’ve also seen a recent uptick in cases after Purim. We want to make sure that as we head into another round of holidays where people are travelling and gathering that this a really important time to boost our efforts.
Mayor: Go ahead.
Question: Are you [inaudible] to Purim, you think?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: We have seen an uptick after, yes.
Question: Do you support – there is a bill coming at the state level to remove the religious or non-medical exemption from school vaccination requirements. Would you support that?
Mayor: I’d have to see the bill. I think the bottom line is there are some valid medical reasons and I obviously understand that. But, and we want to always respect religious rights but we are now seeing a set of health dangers that are different than what we’ve seen in the past, and I think that the first concern always has to be public safety. So I agree that we have to tighten up but I can’t speak to the bill until I see it.
Question: Could you tell me those zip codes again?
Commissioner Barbot: Sure, 11205, 11206, 11211, 11249.
Question: And I just wanted to ask about the parties again. What’s the – what do parents think they’re doing by exposing their children to build up – like what is, what’s the history of that. You mentioned that these used to be popular with chicken pox.
Commissioner Barbot: Yeah, you know I can’t speak to what parents are thinking about these parties. What I anticipate though is that they are using it as an opportunity to then be able to provide serologic proof that their children are immune to measles and can get back to school without having to be vaccinated.
Question: What is that? What is serologic?
Commissioner Barbot: It means that they have blood proof that they were exposed and had the illness and now have natural immunity.
Mayor: Right, the danger is, in the meantime something horrible can happen to the child or the other people that the child might infect. Go ahead, on the history, you want to speak to it, Herminia?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: Yeah, I mean these – and the infect - the chicken pox parties in particular used to be very popular before the advent of vaccines. This was a way that parents thought they could get their young children get the disease over with before children were late. We now have a much safer way to do that and I don’t want to lose a point that Dr. Barbot made, which is really critically important and doesn’t get talked about enough. Thankfully, for a lot of medical advances, we have people living longer with severe medical conditions with – who are on chemotherapy, and those people are at risk, right? So that’s a good thing about the medical advance. But it’s a terrible thing in the middle of an outbreak, so I really want everybody to think about when you’re vaccinating, when you’re making the decision not to vaccinate, you are de-facto making the decision for the people around you.
Mayor: That’s right, that’s right. Jeff?
Question: Is there any reason these particular zip codes have had more infection than other zip codes in Borough Park?
Commissioner Barbot: It has to do with the underlying percentage of individuals that are vaccinated.
Mayor: In other words, there just hasn’t been the kind of movement we need to see. Okay, Health Department, I do want to say, just to frame this, overwhelmingly I think there would be agreement in this country that the New York City Department of Health is the gold standard in public health, and this has been true for decades. This agency has been on this now for months, and they call the shots as to what needs to be done, when, and I think what we saw in Borough Park was a lot of progress. There was a lot of engagement with community leaders. There was a lot of follow through, and we saw progress, and the situation leveled off there. We need more help in Williamsburg, we need more ability to reach deeper into the community. So it got to the point and the point of view of these professionals, folks in the Health Department who I think serve us very, very well, that it was time to do something much stronger than we normally do because this uptick, particularly since Purim, indicated that it was time for stronger measures. I do want to emphasize the positive. This can be turned around quickly. There’s a concerted effort, right down to the family level, to get kids vaccinated and adults who need to vaccinated as well. We can turn this around quickly, we can stop this.
Question: [Inaudible] for people who are fined, for example, and, you know, just don’t care or resist, still resist, being vaccinated even after they are fined?
Mayor: So let me make sure I understand the question and the doctors can speak to it but we also may need our Law Department to speak to it if it’s beyond our specific knowledge. You’re saying someone who is informed of the dangers, told there are violations, actually fined, and continues to ignore it all. Do you know the answer?
Commissioner Barbot: So we’ll consider it on a case by case basis and we’ll have to confer with our legal counsel.
Mayor: Okay, yes?
Question: [Inaudible] you know it seems if when you go to public school you have to send in those vaccination records. But it seems private schools, whether religious or not, seem to be more lax about that. Does the current statewide regulations affect private schools the same as public schools? Should these private schools be as stringent when it comes to vaccinations?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: The state regulation applies to all schools, whether a student is attending religious schools, private schools, secular private schools, or public schools. In this instance, in Williamsburg, we have the Department of Health inspectors working very closely with the Yeshivas, actually going in and inspecting records and making sure that children are being appropriately excluded under this order.
Question: Have you been in contact with the UJO and Rabbi Niederman?
Mayor: Go ahead.
Commissioner Barbot: Yes, he has been in partnership with us – really, again, creating opportunities for us to get the message out as widely as possible.
Question: So this is a really basic question, but I wonder if you can explain the methodology of transmission of this disease? How easily is it spread? What often happens? And what are the components of the vaccine that give you an immunity, if there is a simple way to explain it?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: Sure. This happens –
Mayor: Can you explain the origin of life, okay, let’s see. Go ahead.
Deputy Mayor Palacio: This is actually – measles is very, highly contagious disease that can be readily transmitted person to person. The vaccine has what we call a, sort of, very, very, weakened virus that basically tricks your immune system into thinking that you have the type of measles that can cause illness.
Mayor: And then, just talk about what that does, so once it “tricks” the immune system, what happens next?
Commissioner Barbot: Then you develop an immune boost and you’re immune to any further exposure –
Deputy Mayor Palacio: Then when the real virus comes along your body thinks – recognizes it, and you don’t get sick.
Commissioner Barbot: I think the challenge here that is important to note is that from exposure to illness, it’s what we call incubation, can be anywhere from 7 to 21 days, but in terms of your infectious period, you can be infectious four days before you actually develop the rash, and that’s the challenge and that’s why we focus so much on identifying contacts because we want those individuals to be vaccinated when they are infectious, before they transmit to anybody else and the only way to really know, because they may not have any other symptoms, they may have a fever but, you know, you can have a fever for any number of reasons, so that’s why it’s so critical to maximize the number of people that get vaccinated.
Mayor: Richard, you have a follow up?
Question: Just a follow up, I heard like, for instance, a sneeze can just cause that in the – if you’re in an elevator or something. Is that accurate?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: Yeah, you’re basically spraying out measles virus, and as Dr. Barbot said, you may not know –
Mayor: Thank you for your graphic imagery.
Deputy Mayor Palacio: —spraying out measles virus.
Mayor: But let’s soberly answer Richard’s question. So, but yes it’s really – I’m not the doctor, but I’m going to help them to get this out here: you do not need physical contact with someone. You could be in the same enclosed space and a sneeze –
Deputy Mayor Palacio: It’s airborne.
Commissioner Barbot: It’s airborne.
Mayor: Right, an airborne disease.
Commissioner Barbot: And it can last for two hours after the person has left the room.
Mayor: So it’s highly – that’s why, I just want everyone to understand how dangerous this is and how quickly it can spread. Yoav?
Question: I just want to follow up on Julia’s question, just given your longstanding ties to the Orthodox community, I’m wondering about the lack of any leaders from that community here to amplify the message. Did you invite any of them to attend?
Mayor: Yeah, we’ve been talking to leaders, again, for weeks and weeks and I understand everyone makes their own choice about what event to attend, and, you know, you can speak to them about that. But there is now question we have had a respectful, highly communicative, engagement with the community and I want to just say very clearly that, you know, I think everyone is trying hard working together to make a difference here but the bottom line is to recognize that this is something that’s now become even more urgent and we have to take additional steps.
Question: What has been the argument against getting the vaccine? Anti-vaxxers, why do they consider this not a good idea?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: Well I’m not going to go through the list. I think there are a variety of misunderstandings and frank untruths that are being propagated through a variety of channels. So, you know, but – so I think it’s important to focus on what the actual facts are.
Question: Well, do they think it’s like an unhealthy thing to do or that it would harm –
Deputy Mayor Palacio: I cannot speak – you know, honestly, I cannot speak on the part of the anti-vaxxers in any credible way.
Question: Can you give us the latest breakdown of how many of the 285 had zero MMR vaccines, how many had one, and how many were babies? Do you have that list?
Deputy Mayor Palacio: Yes we do.
Mayor: We can get back to you.
Deputy Mayor Palacio: We can get back to you, we have those numbers. I don’t have them in front of me.
Mayor: Go ahead, Gloria?
Question: Other than anti-vaxxer sort of misinformation, I’ve been told that this is against religious law [inaudible]?
Commissioner Barbot: To the contrary, the religious leaders that we have met with have made it clear that there is nothing in Talmudic Law that prohibits vaccination.
Mayor: And again, we have – I want to remind people – we have evidence over the last months of some real progress which is why we saw a turnaround in some communities, which is why we have not seen a spread to other communities including very religious communities. So we have a specific situation here which goes right down to the family level and I think it’s very important to recognize this dynamic where individual families, individual parents are making decisions. It does inter-connect with the anti-vax movement, which is not just in this community, it’s national, and it’s causing a lot of problems and dangers. So it’s a very localized problem. We’ve gotten a lot of cooperation, if you look across the whole city, we need to deepen that and really reach every family here. Let me see is there any other questions on - go back there, yeah? Wait hold on, this one first and then you. Go ahead.
Question: Do you really think that you have vaccine detectives that go into this neighborhood and talk to people –
Mayor: Disease detectives.
Question: Disease detectives. Are you going to be able to get these agents to name names of who they’ve been around so they go out and find them?
Mayor: It – I’m going to say this as a layman and then let the experts speak to it. A lot of people, when they are informed of the fact someone else might get sick and it could be really dangerous are very forthcoming with information. They don’t want to be responsible for accidentally getting someone sick, especially an elderly person, someone who already has a serious disease, a child – maybe there are some people who are hesitant, but I want to state just the obvious, most human beings do not want to cause someone else to get sick.
Commissioner Barbot: And that’s what our team does on a daily basis. They’ve been doing this since the beginning of the outbreak and they are experts at putting people at ease and making them know that, again, we’re not looking to get anybody in trouble, we’re looking to help people stay safe and healthy.
Mayor: Just wanted – to the previous question that was asked and I want to welcome and thank some of the community leaders who have been working very intensely here in Williamsburg to address the problem and several of them are with us here including from ODA, which is a community clinic that provides important healthcare services here in Williamsburg. I want to thank the CEO Joseph Deutsch and the Director David Gottesman who are here with us. Dr. Adler who is here who is a doctor here in the community, Gary Schlesinger, a community leader, so there are community members here, explicitly, who are part of the effort to reach out and address the issues and I want to thank all of them. And again, we’ve been having a number of conversations from other community leaders around Brooklyn who have been part of this as well. Go ahead.
Question: Mayor, could we just go over the numbers here so we all have them accurate? So 285 cases? Okay, and 246 are children?
Mayor: 246, let’s clarify?
Commissioner Barbot: Yes, sorry, hang on just one second.
Mayor: Are you multi-tasking?
Commissioner Barbot: I’m multi-tasking. Thank God for technology –
Mayor: Are you looking at your chart? Okay.
Commissioner Barbot: Sorry. So we’re going to have to get to you on that because my technology is failing me.
Question: [Inaudible] hospitalized, Doctor?
Commissioner Barbot: Yeah, so there have been 21 hospitalized, five have required to be admitted into the Intensive Care Unit.
Question: And 8,000 have been vaccinated within the last –
Commissioner Barbot: Since the beginning of the outbreak which we are characterizing as September 30th.
Question: And we believe that you’re still aggregating the numbers but still 1,800 unvaccinated children in this neighborhood?
Commissioner Barbot: Roughly, I mean I think by this point it’s less than that but we can get back to you with same – with the exact number.
Question: Anything key I’m missing here? Thank you.
Commissioner Barbot: Oh, yes, the one thing I will add is the range of the ages that have been affected, so from one month to 66 years of age.
Question: And can you speak – there is a myth that travels around the community that you may be get the measles from the vaccine, can you talk about how that [inaudible] is the case, that this is not wild strain measles?
Commissioner Barbot: Yeah, it’s, you can’t get the measles from the vaccine.
Question: What should people [inaudible]?
Commissioner Barbot: That makes the case why it’s so important for people around them to get vaccinated, right? So if someone is ill and they can’t be vaccinated, there is very little that can be done. They could potentially get immune globulin but the most important thing is for those around them to get vaccinated.
Question: Should they stay out of certain areas? Should they leave this area?
Commissioner Barbot: They should talk to their doctors to see what’s the best course of action for their medical conditions.
Mayor: Yeah, and again anyone who does not have their own doctor can always reach out via 3-1-1, can get a public hospital, a public clinic, where they can get the advice they need.
Commissioner Barbot: And to confirm, there are 246 children.
Mayor: Julia, you got that?
Question: Sorry, 246, thank you very much.
Mayor: Okay, last call, media questions on the measles situation. Last call, last call. Okay, let’s go to other topics, other topics, yes?
Question: So you ran on increasing government transparency so I’m just a little curious why the City has refused to release the appraisals results of the Podolsky – the records for the Podolsky appraisal?
Mayor: We’re very comfortable releasing that information.
Question: Okay, [inaudible] was told it wasn’t –
Mayor: No, I don’t know who told you that. And, again, I’ve said publically already in the terms of the Comptroller issuing or saying he would issue a subpoena, all he had to do is pick up the phone, ask for information, we’re very comfortable. A tax assessment is night and day from a market rate price, a comparable market price, they are two entirely different concepts.
Question: So, are you saying that your staff will provide us with the actual records?
Mayor: Sure, absolutely. Go ahead.
Question: Mr. Mayor, my reporters have now checked the driving records of 1,300 vehicles parked in NYPD-only parking. [Inaudible] with department placards and [inaudible] 40 percent of those privately-owned vehicles have multiple serious moving violations such as speeding or running a red light – and twice the rate of the general public. So, I’m wondering if you’re concerned about that and what you’re going to do about that?
Mayor: Definitely concerned, and we’re going to follow up on that. Any new information we get that focuses us on whether there’s a problem, we’re going to follow up. This is an administration that, for five years, has been implementing Vision Zero very aggressively, unlike any previous administration. And I think if you look around the country you would see that we have the most aggressive approach. We’ve layered on more and more enforcement every year and we’re going to be very, very aggressive. So, I take that information as something we can work with and we’re going to act on.
Question: But is there any discipline going around in those –
Mayor: Again, this is the first I’m hearing it. We’re going to act on it.
Question: Mr. Mayor, getting back to those [inaudible] are so concerned about. I wonder what’s so special about the 17 buildings that the City is paying top-dollar for, other than the fact that you have a connection to the lawyer –
Mayor: It has nothing to do with the lawyer. This pre-dates all of that. Just, let’s – facts are what matter here, Marcia. This is a policy we announced years ago, that we would use eminent domain to take back buildings from landlords who were part of our homelessness housing program. We were not satisfied with the situation in those buildings. We wanted to stop paying every single year to rent when we could simply take over the building and then have a community-based nonprofit run it. We said this is something we’re going to do on a very large scale – this is only the beginning. These 17 buildings house 2,000 New Yorkers. They’re all going to get affordable housing, they’re going to be run by a community-based nonprofit, and you can expect more like it. So, this is a policy decision that I announced at a press conference in the Bronx about two years ago, if I remember correctly.
Question: But my question to you is this – they were so insistent on getting $173 million [inaudible] why not go and look at other buildings? I’m sure there were other buildings where the owners would be willing to [inaudible] on the prices. I mean, we’re now talking about buying, you know, [inaudible] we’re talking –
Mayor: This – no, I understand.
Question: – in not really great neighborhoods.
Mayor: I wouldn’t say they’re not really great neighborhoods, but I understand the point. We have been now, for years, looking for properties that we could purchase as a city or lease long-term. You would be surprised how difficult that is to do in the real estate market today in New York City. This is something I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in where I said let’s look farther and go deeper at this possibility. These are buildings we already were working with, we were already paying money to rent in. And if you had an opportunity to go and get them and take them, it made all the sense in the world. You’re going to see more like it. So, the bottom-line is – and I’ve said this very publicly – we were prepared to use eminent domain, but we also did a very clinical assessment of what the price would have been under eminent domain based on a lot of history of how judges determine fair-market value. We came to the conclusion that we were not going to get this building – or, these 17 buildings, I should say – for less, but it would take two or three years more, so we would be spending money in the meantime in a situation we did not think was appropriate. And it just made more sense to go and get these buildings other public control.
Question: Are you worried about the appearance [inaudible] buying buildings where [inaudible] lawyer or representatives [inaudible] big donors –
Mayor: No. It has nothing to do with it. Again, this is a policy that was announced years ago and you’re going to see more such purchases.
Question: So why not return [inaudible] $5,000?
Mayor: It just has nothing to do with it.
Go ahead, Andrew.
Question: Mayor, when Beto O’Rourke was considering his presidential run, he said the hurdle he needed to bypass was convincing his kids he could win. And once he was able to do that, he got into the race. You mentioned that you’re having family discussions before making an announcement. I wonder if that’s the standard for you? Convincing family members you could win. And, if not, what’s the nature of the conversations with your family?
Mayor: Although you would always be welcome at the family dinner table, I’m not going to offer you insight into family private discussions. They are family discussions.
Question: I wanted to understand how this is going to work if you come down to [inaudible] you have 30 people – you have maybe 10 or 12 people are always 60 years – does that mean they have, let’s say –
Mayor: I’m sorry, what topic, sir? Help me out.
Mayor: Okay, we’ve left measles behind and we can – are you a media member? I just wanted to ask.
Question: I’m not a media member –
Mayor: Okay, we will talk to you. I will happily meet with you right after, but let me do this first. Go ahead.
Question: Real quick – the State in the recent budget, they gave a two-percent property tax everywhere except for the City, and, at the same time, there’s been a Property Tax Commission. I believe when you first ran, equity and property taxes –
Mayor: No, the Commission was started last year.
Question: What to say to that Commission?
Mayor: The Commission’s been having meetings all over the City and we’ll be coming back in the course of this year with a series of recommendations. They will be acted on then, some by the City Council, some we’ll put before the State Legislature.
Question: So, yesterday in the Daily News, PBA President Pat Lynch had written an op-ed, urging that State Mobility Force to exempt police officers from congestion pricing [inaudible] whatever congestion pricing [inaudible]. You’re a supporter of congestion pricing, you’ve talked eloquently about its benefits for the environment, for congestion, for transit. Where are you on the idea of carve outs for police officers?
Mayor: I think we have to look at all the different ideas that are being put on the table and decide through the panel that’s being put together to study what we want to do. Now, I would reflect and amplify a point that the Governor’s made – when you go down the road of exemptions, you have to be judicious, because if you give too many exemptions of too many different kinds you won’t have the revenue left that is needed to address the crisis. We have a crisis in terms of global warming, we have a crisis in terms of congestion, we have a crisis in terms of the state of the MTA. And this plan, which I think is an exemplary plan – I really want to express my appreciation to the Legislature and the Governor for getting to a plan that works. It has to work for the good of New York City. So, there will be a process to look at different nominations. I’m not going to comment on each one. I’m sure you could raise other ones in the coming months, but there will be a deliberative process. But it will have to have some serious limits.
Question: But that op-ed was written by the guy who represents –
Mayor: I have not seen the op-ed. But, again, I’m not going to comment each – at a time. This is going to be an ongoing process. We’ll look at all of it.
Question: The Brooklyn District Attorney says he’s considering supporting a law the would legalize prostitution. Just wondering, do you support prostitution?
Mayor: No, I’m not comfortable with that. I think the real issue to me right now if beyond whatever else – many reasons that we could all be very, very worries about prostitution and what it does to people, is now the reality of sex trafficking on a massive scale, and it’s a new form of organized crime – or, it’s a more advanced form of organized crime, we should say. So, no, I think we have a very troubling dynamic out there and we need to keep the legal status it has now. We have to also make sure that the women who are victimized are not penalized again, that we help protect them and help them get to a safe situation and a better future. But I think we have a really complex challenge on our hands and an international one now.
Go ahead –
Question: Sorry, I actually want to go back to measles. You said that New York City has not issued an emergency like this before, but has anywhere in the country in recent times ordered mandatory vaccinations for measles that you are aware of?
Mayor: I am not, but if my colleagues are, we’ll get you that answer later in the day.
Unknown: We can follow up with you on that.
Question: [Inaudible] meeting with leaders of Yeshivas. Where did the talks about educational standards stand with Yeshivas and has the City visited all of the –
Mayor: Okay, so, I’m just going to make sure we’re just separating topics. Just for clarity – new topic. You’re saying that the topic that has been discussed in recent months about educational standards for Yeshivas. There’s only two Yeshivas at this point where there is an open question. The both of them, last I heard, were being visited in a matter of days. The invitation has been extended properly. The visit has to go properly. If it does, there’s an opportunity then to come up with a plan to address whatever issues are found, as has been done successfully with other Yeshivas. So, we’ll have an update after those visits – but, so far, so good.
Media questions? Media?
Mayor: What’s your question, my friend?
Mayor: I know there’s a question in there. Go ahead –
Mayor: It’s a very good question, and it’s one that we’ve – I’ve addressed this question in communities all over New York City at town hall meetings. It’s one of the reasons we formed, with the City Council, a Property Tax Commission. We know there is unfairness between different communities. We know there’s a lack of consistency and transparency. We have to come up with a new approach, but I’ve also said publicly many, many times that at the end of those reforms when we finish those reforms and come up with a new system, we basically need to produce the same amount of revenue so it can be done more fairly, it can be done more transparently, more consistently. There should not be these disparities between neighborhoods. But we also must produce the kind of revenue we’re getting now to provide the services that New Yorkers need that they expect at this point.
Question: Back to congestion pricing – given that people will probably reduce usage of their cars or cars will be eliminated, how do you plan on regulating possible increased usage of scooters, motorbikes, you know, other modes of transportation. I was just in Dallas and they have scooters everywhere. I didn’t know if that was something you’re looking at.
Mayor: Well, yeah, absolutely, but with care. God bless Dallas, but we have an entirely different situation. We need to – when we look at the e-bikes, we have an immediate problem, which I’ve talked about before – about the speed levels. There are ways to solve that. There are ways to put physical limits on the speed. There is a way – there is a pathway to legalization, but that would have to be done with the State Legislature. The scooters concern me simply because now we will be mixing yet another element into a lot of places that are very crowded. If we talk about an average bike lane, say, in Manhattan, and there’s bikes, and there’s scooters, and there’s e-bikes and they’re all going at different speeds in a very limited space – that worries me. So, this is something we have to look at very carefully. Safety is the number-one issue here. So, I care deeply about mobility, obviously, but the first concern I have is safety and let’s be systematic and deliberative about how we introduce new approaches into the equation. But we’re going to look at all of it and we’re going to work with that State on all of it.
Question: I just wanted to ask you about the initiative to install air conditioners at all public schools. Since it was announced two years the numbers have shifted quite dramatically, the DOE has added 5,000 additional classrooms that need air conditioning and the capital budget has grown by $284 million. I’m just wondering what accounts for you know such a significant shift in the scope?
Mayor: Sure. It’s – when you make an across the board pledge, a lot of times then in the doing of it new information comes out and it’s a huge school system. We have 1,800 schools so as School Construction Authority got out there, they found more classrooms that needed the air conditioning. Remember schools physically are often in transformation. Different rooms might be a classroom one day, might be something else another day. So it is important and we made an absolute pledge, every single classroom – they found more as they went out there, they also found a lot of schools with really problematic wiring that had to be redone and found some you know challenges they didn’t know about before. We will get the job done and we will get the job done on schedule. And if we have to put more capital money in to accommodate it we will. Steve.
Question: Real quick, last week the state supreme court ruled that the TPP program was unconstitutional, it violated the United States Constitution –
Mayor: I want to be careful because sometimes my brain has so many acronyms in it that I –
Question: The third party transfer –
Mayor: Okay, thank you, yes.
Question: And I’m wondering does the City plan to appeal or what you think will be –
Mayor: I haven’t seen that ruling, we will certainly be talking to the Law Department. I mean look, the program is used in a very limited basis, it requires consent from the local councilmember and it really is meant for situations where a landlord’s been given many, many opportunities to correct serious issues and doesn’t do it. So I think the underlying purpose of the program is correct. We’ve said we want to make some reforms in it. And we will do that but as to the legal situation, I’d need to consult with the Law Department before I could give you an answer.
Question: So Politico reported today that Thrive NYC’s largest program, the Mental Health Service Corps was beset by mismanagement for most of the rollout and rendered ineffective. Do you feel the implementation of Thrive programs is degrading the effort?
Mayor: No, of course not. I have not seen that article and I would say that across the different initiatives what you’ve seen is trailblazing work and issues that did not exist before, have not been tried before, many of which have found, I think immediate impact and success but from the very beginning we said and certainly Chirlane said that you know, some if they were not working as well as we wanted, we would change them, modify them of even cancel them in favor of other efforts and we are very comfortable with that. This is uncharted territory. But I think people should not mistake the fact that uncharted territory means that it’s wrong to forge ahead and try and figure out a solution. Sometimes the best way to figure out a solution is test something, put it out there, see if it works in real life conditions. But very clearly if any initiative is found not be effective enough we will look to either improve it or cancel it and put the resources into something else. Yes.
Question: Last night on NY1 you said that using the eminent domain to transfer cluster apartments into affordable housing didn’t make sense in the case that you were talking about because the landlord wasn’t willing to sell the property for what you guys would have gotten through eminent domain. So my question is do you feel –
Mayor: No, I’m sorry that’s not what I said. Let me – you were close but I want to get – there was of course in any situation if you are contemplating eminent domain, the first thing you do is see if you can get to a negotiated outcome. There’s an ongoing effort to get to a negotiated outcome. We couldn’t get a price better than the one we ultimately decided on. We then said okay what would happen if we went to court and went through an eminent domain proceeding. Consistently we have seen two things, those proceedings take two to three years, and judges make their own judgement about what is fair market value and there’s a pretty clear pattern of it. When we looked at that pattern we felt that the dollar figure would be essentially the same but it would mean a delay of two or three years. We thought common sense dictated, just go ahead and get this done, get this in the public hands, turn it over to community nonprofit, 2,000 New Yorkers will get affordable housing, many of them will leave the shelter system in the process. It just made sense.
Question: So given that, don’t you think that maybe you’re showing your hand a little bit because all of these other buildings that you guys want to transfer into affordable housing, they are going to look at this deal and say the city isn’t willing to use eminent domain because it’s taking too long and –
Mayor: No we are willing to use it if we believe that it’s a better deal to use it. We’ve always known there was a time challenge with eminent domain and we’ve always known that a judge makes the ultimate decision. We don’t get to control it. But we can say clearly, that once we start down the road, we are going to get that building. We don’t get to dictate the price, we don’t get to dictate the timing but we are going to get that building. So that threat is real and it does affect behavior of property owners and you know, they have to think about the equation too in terms of what you know they are trying to achieve. But this is the reality that if we are going to get these properties in hand and provide permanent affordable housing, we have to use eminent domain and if we can come to a negotiated outcome we will.
Question: Are you disappointed by the recent state budget in terms of them not adding additional funding for NYCHA and do you know why the funding from earlier fiscal year still has not been released?
Mayor: So I would say I am much more disappointed by the federal budget. I think President Trump zeroed out money that would have been necessary to make any amount of repairs at NYCHA and took us backwards in terms of federal commitment to public safety, in public housing I should say. You know, that is a much more troubling dynamic. That State was dealing with a real fiscal challenge so I don’t second guess them on that. I do believe fundamentally that all the conditions have been met for the release of the $450 million and I think Albany should proceed to do that.