July 8, 2014
Video is available here: https://youtu.be/aaLlwymTz6U
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Okay. Everybody here? Excellent. Alright. Well, I’m very happy to be here at the Wagner Houses as we start on a major set of initiatives to help residents of public housing, to make their lives better, to make their lives safer. The New York City Housing Authority has 334 housing developments like this all across the city, housing over 400,000 New Yorkers. And developments like Wagner are a bedrock of affordable housing for hardworking New Yorkers and they play a critical role in the city – have for generations. And especially today, as housing affordability is such a crucial concern in this city, our housing authority is more important than ever.
But too often, our housing authority has not gotten the attention or the support that it deserves. And that has been particularly true at the federal level. We’ve suffered from decades now of federal disinvestment in affordable housing, and particularly in public housing. But that means that for all of us here in New York City, we have to redouble our efforts to support the residents of NYCHA, to make sure despite federal neglect that we’re doing the best we can to shore up and strengthen the housing authority.
I came into office with a commitment to improving the experience for NYCHA residents overall, and to improving safety in particular. This has been a priority of this administration. As I’ve said, we take responsibility for NYCHA at City Hall. That’s something that is a hallmark of this administration.
We started by giving NYCHA over $120 million in budgetary relief, both in last year’s budget and now in the new budget for this fiscal that just started. For years and years, NYCHA was paying separately for policing services. We have changed that – and the result has been over $120 million that went back into NYCHA’s coffers so that major repairs and improvements could be made that will improve the everyday life of residents. This was the first step forward.
Today we’re going to talk about a major set of additional investments in NYCHA that will be about improving safety and improving the quality of life for residents. I’m going to focus on some of the developments that need the help the most. These additional investments we’re announcing today in combination with the previous investments will add up to a total of $210 million being devoted in new resources for NYCHA to make life in NYCHA developments better.
Before we get into the details, I want to thank so many of the leaders who are here with us. I’m going to do my best to name everyone and if I miss anyone – especially among our elected official friends – please raise your hands, don’t be shy. But let me first thank the community leaders and the residents of the Wagner Houses, who have done so much through thick and thin to make this a great place to live.
And a particular thank you to the president – the dynamic president – of the Wagner Residents’ Association, Katie Harris.
I want to thank all the members of my administration who are with us today. All of them are playing a crucial role in our efforts to improve the quality of life for residents of the housing authority. Of course, the chair and CEO of NYCHA, Shola Olatoye. The general manager, Cecil House.
The chief of housing for the NYPD, Carlos Gomez.
I want to thank so many members of the administration who have focused on bringing all the pieces of this administration together to focus on the safety needs of NYCHA residents. That effort has been led by my director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, Liz Glazer. I want to thank her for her extraordinary efforts.
And all of the other key players who have been a part of this work. Rose Pierre-Louis, our commissioner for the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence. Bill Chong, commissioner for the Department of Youth and Community Development, which runs all the youth recreation programs.
Marco Carrion, the head of the Community Affairs Unit of the Mayor’s Office. Rachel Noerdlinger, chief of staff to the First Lady who’s been deeply involved. Dean Fuleihan, our budget director – always applaud the budget director.
And Emma Wolfe, our director of intergovernmental affairs. All of them together have been focused on improving life for NYCHA residents.
Let me thank some of the luminaries who are with us. You’re going to hear from the folks standing with me, but let me also thank the borough president of Manhattan, Gale Brewer.
The borough president of the Bronx, Ruben Diaz Jr.
State Senators Gustavo Rivera, Bill Perkins, and Jose Serrano Jr.
Assembly Members Carmen Arroyo, Karim Camara, and Robert Rodriguez.
And Luis Sepulveda. I know Luis is outside. Luis Sepulveda from the Bronx.
Where’s Luis? Luis, I’m doing the x sign for you.
That’s for you. Council members. Obviously, we are in Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s council district.
And council members I see – Council Member Vanessa Gibson, the chair of the Public Safety Committee.
And Ritchie Torres. Is Ritchie Torres here? Chair of the Public Housing Committee.
Have I missed anyone? Inez Dickens. Council Member Inez Dickens.
And Deputy Borough President of Brooklyn Diana Reyna.
Yes. Yes. And – wait, that’s coming up. I have so many acknowledgments left. The district attorney of Manhattan has been a great partner in our crime-fighting efforts – Cy Vance.
Are there any other district attorneys here? Are there any other elected officials I’ve missed?
Jumaane Williams. Where are you Jumaane? Wow. Way in the back. Shy and retiring Jumaane Williams – Jumaane Williams who has done so much to focus on gun violence. And thank you for all your efforts. That’s made a big role in this budget.
So the word today is investment. We are making investments in our public housing – investments that should’ve been made long ago, but we’re making them now. No time like the present. And we believe that the challenges facing public housing need to be addressed aggressively. You know the phrase, he who hesitates is lost? We are not interested in hesitation here. The needs of public housing residents are real, they’re now, they have to be addressed now.
So these investments are going to start to make an impact right now. There’s some pieces that will phase in over months and there’s some that will start to happen literally this week and in the next few weeks – and we’ll go over that.
We’re going to be – right after this press conference – sitting down with Katie Harris and other leaders from the Wagner Houses to hear firsthand from them what they’re experiencing, what they need, what they advise. This is something that Shola has been leading efforts all over the city to meet with public housing residents and leaders and go through our vision, our plans, hear from them what they need, what adjustments we need to make.
One of the most important things we have to do to make public housing better and stronger and safer is deeper engagement with people who live in public housing.
But resources matter too. And today, on top of the $122 million that we put back into NYCHA’s budget that should not have been taken out of NYCHA’s budget for police, we are adding $87 million more in specific programs to reduce violence at NYCHA developments.
The combined allocation now will top $210 million. And all of this is the kind of investment that will have real and immediate impact – the repairs for people’s apartments, particularly the health and safety repairs, and the investments in public safety, starting now. We’re going to focus on – with our public safety investments – on 15 developments that have been particularly challenged, 15 developments that have had some of the toughest trends in terms of violent crime over the last few years – some in particular having experience difficulties in the last few months.
Now these 15 developments – and Wagner is one of them – these 15 developments combined account for nearly 20 percent of all violent crime in all of public housing in New York City. That’s why we’re drilling down and we’re focusing on them. So let me again put that in perspective – 334 housing developments in NYCHA citywide, 334. And yet, 15 of those developments account for almost 20 percent of the violent crime in all of public housing citywide. That’s why you’re going to see a super focused effort on these 15. And we’re bringing in every conceivable type of resource – 10 city agencies, a host of community groups and non-profits and again, tenant leadership – resident leadership as a crucial part of the solution.
What does this mean? Well you’re going to hear from Shola and from Chief Gomez some of the details, but let me give you some of the overview. One of the biggest things we’re going to act on is safety lighting. So there are too many parts of developments that are not in the nighttime hours safe to residents, in part because they’re not well lit. Now we’re already adding a lot of resources in terms of NYPD presence. But as Chief Gomez will tell you, the officers depend on being able to see what’s going on. They know a well-lit environment creates an atmosphere of safety, it makes it harder for those who are doing the wrong thing to go about that. It makes it easier for law-abiding citizens to have a better experience. So safety lighting will be put in – some immediate lighting and we’re moving into permanent lighting with some of the resources we worked together with the City Council on. And what this means for these 15 developments is right now, starting right now, 150 light towers will be put in place for this summer, spread across those 15 developments – 150 light towers to light up the areas that have previously been obscure and problematic, and make it easier for the NYPD to do its job.
We’re also making a huge effort to remove the sidewalk sheds, all that scaffolding that unfortunately made it easier for the criminal element.
Obviously the effort is ongoing to install the previously allocated money – the previously allocated security cameras. That is moving. We have a commitment to put all those cameras – $27 million worth – in 49 developments by the end of this year. Additional cameras will be coming behind that. Of course, most importantly, more cops on the beat in NYCHA. These pieces together will make such a big impact on safety in public housing, and particularly in these 15 target developments.
So one other thing I wanted to mention because it’s very personal to me, which is what we need to do to reach our young people, and how we have to protect them, how we have to give them every opportunity to go on the right path, how we have to discourage the wrong path. It’s all out there around us. Every one of us who’s a parent – and I’m a parent of two teenagers – we know – in particularly modern society and the internet world, etcetera – lots of challenges, lots of negatives out there surrounding our young people. But when we give young people positive alternatives, they take them. By and large. And not every single young person, but the vast majority will choose a positive path.
Here’s the contradiction – for too many years as a society we said to young people, ‘Choose the positive path,’ but then we haven’t made it available to them. We say, ‘Do the right thing, go place safe, do something wholesome and positive,’ but then there’s no place to go. So we’re focused in this plan – I want to give again Liz Glazer a lot of credit for having highlighted this piece in the plan that was put together – we’re focused on more opportunities for young people to have recreation throughout the week, on the weekend, and late into the evening. Young people in these 15 developments need a positive, safe place to go. We’re going to make sure they have that place. And that’s going to make a big difference in their lives.
So this is happening literally right now. It started happening yesterday. This is a right now thing. So 107 community centers at NYCHA developments across the city will remain open until at least 11:00 p.m. during the summer months – at least 11:00 p.m., 107 sites across the city, tens of thousands of young people will have the opportunity to take advantage of them. We’re also expanding summer youth employment to target 850 young people additionally in these 15 developments. For those 850 kids, it’ll be a life-changing experience.
So, so much is going on here that’s going to fundamentally improve safety in NYCHA. You’re going to hear in a moment from the elected officials who have led the way on fighting for our NYCHA residents. You’re going to hear from Chair Olatoye the extraordinary efforts that she and the general manager, Cecil House, have undertaken. You’re going to hear from Chief Gomez. And you’re going to hear a picture coming together of a lot of pieces working in harmony to really uplift the residents of these 15 developments, and particularly to reach our young people. Before I call up Speaker Mark-Viverito and Public Advocate Tish James, let me just say a couple sentences in Spanish, and then the speaker will say them better in her own Spanish.
Hóy estámos anunciándo un plan integrál para reducír la violéncia en los edifícios de viviénda pública. El plan inclúye: más fóndos para aumentár la preséncia policiál, mejóras físicas en los edifícios, y más prográmas educatívos y de empléo.
With that, I want to tell you, we have had a partner in this work. Everything I talked about – that $ 210 million of investments we’re making and the $87 million of it that we’re talking about for the first time today – every part of that required support and buy-in from the City Council, and from the speaker of the City Council. In fact, in many cases, she was the one that said, ‘We need to go father, we need to focus more on the security needs in NYCHA.’ And she pushed us to dig deeper, and she found support from her members and organized support from her members to make sure this was a crucial, crucial priority of the City Council. So if you like what you hear today, a lot of the credit goes to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. It’s an honor to be here in her district, and – hold on –we welcome you with the ceremonial step. Madam Speaker.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito: Buenas tardes a todos y bievenidos. Good afternoon everybody, and welcome everybody. It’s really great to be here amongst friends and family. It’s great to see Ms. Harris and [inaudible] Johnson from the Bronx, part of my district, a leader in public housing as well, and all the members of the administration that the mayor has indicated are here with our public advocate.
So this is a great day for New Yorkers who live in public housing. This is a good day because we’re no longer taking a short-term approach to a vexing challenge. We’re not putting a band-aid on and calling it a day. What we’re doing is tackling a problem head-on with both immediate and long-term solutions. This multi-pronged plan, made up by Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Bratton as well, Director Glazer, NYCHA, and all those involved, is doing a lot of good for New Yorkers. This plan is comprehensive, will engage at the community level, and it’s far-sighted.
We’re going to be doing things like fixing locks, fixing lights, changes that will go a long way towards letting NYCHA residents know that they’re being looked after. We’re going to be keeping community centers open later to give people, especially young people, a place to go who may not have one. We’re going to help find jobs for young people. We’re going to be focusing on domestic violence prevention, and we’re doing – we’re going to be directly engaging with communities at the grassroots level. These are real, tangible steps that are going to do a lot of good for many New Yorkers. And this is not a short term promise from the city, but a commitment for the long haul. And I also really do want to thank my colleagues, particularly those that are here. We have Vanessa Gibson, Ritchie Torres, who has the Public Housing Committee, our Public Safety Committee chair, Vanessa, and Jumaane, who’s been very vocal on these issues. So it’s really been an exciting day.
On a personal note, I am proud to represent the council district with the most public housing in the City of New York. Well over 20,000 units of public housing are in my district, well above 10 percent of the total amount. NYCHA housing is the cornerstone of our affordable housing program in New York City, and all families deserve to live in a safe and nurturing environment. I look forward to working with Mayor de Blasio and the rest of the administration as we keep fighting on behalf of NYCHA residents. This has been a personal commitment of mine since the day I walked in through the door serving as a council member, and we need to do all we can to really improve the lives of all of our NYCHA residents. And some of the leaders you’ve heard from today, that are here today, are really important in that struggle.
[Delivers remarks in Spanish]
Mayor: Wagner loves you. We have a news flash – Wagner loves you.
There’s love all around.
So in many, many years of working shoulder to shoulder Tish James in the City Council and beyond, I can tell you that, literally, rarely a conversation ensues without Tish talking about the needs of public housing residents. She is doing that ever more forcefully as our public advocate, and she is particularly focused on the safety of NYCHA residents in her council district. She represented one of the biggest concentrations of public housing in the country, in fact, so she’s a real expert on this had has been a great partner and ally. Welcome our public advocate, Tish James.
Public Advocate Letitia James: Thank you Mayor Bill de Blasio, thank you President Harris, thank you to my colleagues who are here and to all who have assembled. Over the past month I’ve been meeting with NYCHA residents across the city, visiting them in their developments, and they have expressed to me their concern about the loss of activities for young residents, the closing of community centers. They have expressed to me their overall concerns about public safety. And about the fact that a lot of community centers do not have air conditioning. And so I want to thank the mayor for selecting this wonderful development which has AC.
But a lot of them don’t.
But what they have said consistently is that New York City must remain vigilant in fighting crime, and thankfully Mayor de Blasio and his administration are rolling out a new plan to identify areas where crime is occurring, utilizing police resources to reduce crime, and most importantly identifying new methods to prevent crime. In my conversations with residents, again across the city, they tell one of the most persistent crimes in public housing is domestic violence. With the dedicated domestic violence outreach and civilian teams that will make follow-up visits, we can successfully reduce domestic violence in NYCHA and reduce the shame in reporting that you are victims of domestic violence. And to say to all residents in the City of New York that love should never, ever hurt.
We must also look at the infrastructure of public housing, and map and track where crimes are actually occurring. Using technology is a welcome addition, but a dedicated police force – a dedicated police force, as we once had with Housing Police – adds a sense of comfort and a sense of security.
By fixing building doors and changing keys and increasing lighting, both in and around the perimeters, but also in the hallways all around complexes, we can change the conditions on the ground.
You see criminals are less likely to gain entry to a building if their door is working properly, and they are less likely to commit a crime if the area has the appropriate lighting, because most criminals do not want to engage in wrongdoing in the light. And so we’ve got to bring them out to the light and stop them.
We can build strong neighborhoods if we expand youth employment opportunities and put our young people to work, and increase hours at community centers so that individuals are engaging in constructive activities until the hour of 11 o’clock. Under this new plan, our hours will be extended at community centers and they will stay open until 11:00 p.m. And community centers – I want everyone to know – is not a place for just activity. It’s a place where we can increase literacy rates, a place where we can assist them in homework and academics, introduce them to books and to the world beyond, and introduce them to readers outside of their own community. That’s what community center do. These extra hours will go a long way in developing their young minds. And with 800 youth jobs that will give children an opportunity to make money and have structure over the summer, this is a welcome addition. We will have accountability with satisfaction surveys distributed to residents, and we can make informed decisions on where to focus our resources and determine what is working and what is not. There’s also room for working with local community-based organizations, individuals who have interrupted crime – and I see some of them here in the audience today – individuals who will work hand-in-hand with the police to identify individuals who might be engaging in gang violence. And I want to thank all of those local community-based organizations, those crime-interrupters who are here today and who have been leaders throughout the City of New York.
These are organizations that know the conditions on the ground, friendly faces that are known in the community who will intervene before a problem starts. I want to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio, I believe that working collaboratively with him, as well as with residents and not-for-profits and police and elected officials, we can address the needs of public housing residents and let them know that they are never alone and that this government – the government of Mayor Bill de Blasio and others – we stand with you now and always. Thank you.
Mayor: So, the experience that Shola Olatoye has had as chair of NYCHA over these last months and Cecil has had as general manager has been one of me calling constantly and saying, ‘What can we do more? What can we do faster? What can we do better?’ But it has also been one of two leaders who have stepped up every single time, and have had the rationale for why these investments would make a huge difference. The investments we’ve made in repairs have paid off. We’ve seen many, many more repairs made, particularly on the health and safety issues. So the investments that we make on public safety are going to start to pay off, literally this week. It takes leaders who are committed to making things happen now to turn those ideas into action, and we have them in these two leaders. I’d like to welcome the chair of the Housing Authority, Shola Olatoye.
Shola Olatoye, Chair and CEO, NYCHA: Good afternoon everyone. Thank you Mr. Mayor and thank you everyone for being here today. I must start first by saying that I think the entire city is tremendously saddened by the loss of – the death of firefighter Lieutenant Gordon Ambelas. And we should all keep his family and the FDNY in our prayers and thoughts as we – so heroic – as we acknowledge his heroic sacrifice to our city. So please take a moment and remember that.
But in the midst of this tragedy, we also are recommitting ourselves to work together to address the problems before us. I have to thank so many people here, and I will beg your patience. The mayor has charged all of us to work differently, and I think the folks who are here today represent that shift and change in governance in New York City under the leadership of our mayor, Mayor Bill de Blasio; our speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito; our chairman, Council Member Ritchie Torres; our chairwoman, Ms. Gibson; and a group of people that I’ve spent a ton of time speaking with. In addition to all of the elected officials that are here today, our resident leaders, Ms. Katie Harris, Mr. Johnson from the Bronx, and many other folks who have not only been a key part of our and my learning agenda over these past 100 days or so, but are really a crucial part of the three-part focus that we’re here to talk about today – people, place, and process.
So I want to thank all of you for your leadership, your support in all of the 10 city agencies who literally have been working on this plan over the holiday weekend, every night for the last several days. So I want to thank you for your support and leadership. And I must thank my team at NYCHA. I have 11,215 of them. So I need to thank them, namely my general manager, Mr. Cecil House, my entire executive team, and certainly the staff of the Wagner Houses today, who have so lovingly pulled all of this together on very short notice. We want to thank all of them.
So there’s a lot of talk about community in this new administration, and we’re turning that talk into action to the tune of $210 million with the investments by this mayor and this City Council – and I’m so thrilled to be a part of it.
It’s a great day for NYCHA, but it’s a great day for New York City. NYCHA is more than just a collection of buildings or a particular development. We’re not just Boulevard Houses or Wagner or the Polo Grounds. We are 178,000 homes – but that’s 400,000 people’s apartments. We are over more than 400 community and social centers that make up communities in almost every neighborhood in this city. We are not islands. We are part of New York City. And this investment today and the presence of all of you is further confirmation to that fact.
That’s why this is such a comprehensive initiative, which supports the many pieces involved with preventing and reducing violence. This is about creating safer neighborhoods for all of New York. It’s a smart plan, it’s an aggressive plan that focuses on making life safer for New York families for the long-term and keeps them talking with residents and other stakeholders about how to do so.
So first, at NYCHA we’ve already started this essential work to improve residents’ quality of life. We’re investing more than $27 million to accelerate security system installation, including CCTV cameras at more than 49 developments citywide by the end of this year. Work has already begun at 14 of those developments and the remaining to begin shortly. We’re spending more than $160 million in 2014 to complete construction work that will enable us to remove those sidewalk sheds that the mayor is so focused on, as he should be – obsessed, one might say.
These funds allow us to do even more. The funds that we’re talking about today will allow us to start work literally on Monday in a two-part lighting initiative. As the mayor said, there’s a short-term piece here and there’s a long-term piece here. We are going to rollout more than 150 light towers throughout these 15 targeted developments. And then we’ll begin a design process that will literally allow us to bring light into NYCHA – more than thousands of lights in the exterior perimeter of these 15 developments – pathways, public areas, doors, and playgrounds. We will also, as many have mentioned – more than 107 of our centers that are focused on youth programing ages 5 to 17 will be open until 11:00 p.m. and are more than just a place to go hang out, but as the public advocate said, a place to really dream and think about what’s possible.
So these are just some of the initiatives that we’re highlighting today. Again – people. We’re focused on ensuring that people are safe and my colleague and partner in – I guess I can’t say crime –
– but partner in fighting crime – will talk about the significant investment that the mayor and the police commissioner and Chief Gomez are making in terms of the NYPD. We’re talking about resident engagement with additional community engagement sessions around the vision for what is a safe, connected, and clean NYCHA. We’re talking about the physical improvement by bringing lighting – both immediately and then long-term – and the construction that allows us to deal with the sidewalk sheds. And then we’re talking about process. Liz Glazer is holding all of us accountable to ensure that we have some real goals and metrics to ensure that this public investment is one that keeps our residents, our neighborhoods safe.
So this initiative involves so many people. I thank many of you. And I look forward to working with all of you to ensure that NYCHA is around for another generation. We are a crucial part of this city, and with the mayor and council’s support, we will remain so. So, thank you.
Mayor: So, we obviously want to focus on all of the pieces of the public safety equation – and the lighting and all the other improvements that we’re making, the youth programs, go a long way. But first and foremost, of course, is always cops on the beat. You’re going to hear from Chief Gomez – and I want to thank him because throughout these months, he has been responsive and quick to make adjustments and to respond to the needs of residents. And I’ve heard a lot of compliments, chief, for you and your team for the way you’ve supported residents of public housing. Typically, the chief will go over the numbers. Typically, he has 2,000 or fewer officers citywide. Because of all the moves that have been made in recent weeks, including the actions through the budget process, the decisions made to move personnel around to areas in need in this city, and of course the graduating class from the academy, what is normally a force of 2,000 or less has now had 700 additional officers added. That’s a 33 percent increase in the strength of officers for public housing – and that’s going to make a huge difference.
I’d like to welcome the man who is leading the charge to make all of NYCHA developments safer – and he’s going to particularly focus on these 15 – Chief Gomez.
Carlos Gomez, Chief of Housing, NYPD: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And welcome. Good afternoon to everyone. Before I go into specifics about the police department’s part in this great plan, I think I should mention the 15 developments that we chose, for your information. We worked closely with the Mayor’s Office in choosing these developments. Factors we considered were the crime rates, especially violent crime. And, as the mayor stated earlier, these 15 developments account for nearly 20 percent of the violent crime in all of our developments – and we have 334 of them. So let me read them off here and then I’ll go into specifics as to the police department’s plan.
We have the Red Hook Houses in PSA 1; the Queensbridge Houses in Queens in PSA 9; the Castle Hill Houses in my former working-borough near the Bronx – and good to see some of my friends here; the Tompkins Houses in PSA 3 in Brooklyn; the Bushwick Houses in PSA 3 in Brooklyn; right here, the Wagner Houses in PSA 5; the Van Dyke Houses in PSA 2 in Brooklyn; the Ingersoll Houses, PSA 3, Brooklyn; the Patterson Houses in PSA 7 in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx; the Polo Grounds and the St. Nicholas Houses here in PSA 6 in Manhattan north; the Brownsville Houses in PSA 2 in Brooklyn; the Boulevard Houses, which suffered that terrible tragedy just last month with the two children; and Staten Island – we went to Staten Island – the Stapleton Houses; and back to PSA 7 in the Bronx with the Butler Houses.
So those are the 15 developments that we are mainly going to focus on, but the plan allows for flexibility. Certainly if we see conditions change or crime spikes in other developments, we will certainly attend to them. And as I said, we have 334 developments but, for the most part, these 15 developments are going to get most of our attention for this plan.
A key component in fighting crime is having enough resources to do so. The mayor’s plan that we are announcing here this afternoon certainly accomplishes that plan in that it adds over 700 police officers to my existing strength. The addition of these officers, as the mayor previously stated, increases my staffing by over a third from approximately 2,000 officers to the equivalent of 2,700 police officers.
I thank the mayor personally. It’s an unprecedented amount of resources sent to the housing bureau – and certainly the 400,000 residents of housing also thank you, Mr. Mayor.
This increased staffing is being accomplished in several ways. It’s really four ways. And I’d like to give you details on each of them. The first way is through the police department’s civilianization plan for Fiscal Year 2015, which just commenced on July 1. This plan is basically – we want to hire 200 civilians to replace 200 police officers that are doing desk duties throughout the department. As these hires are conducted throughout Fiscal Year ’15, these officers, identified officers, will then be transferred to the housing bureau until we achieve 200 net officers in an increase. This takes months. We have to hire the civilians. We have to train them. Until that is accomplished, the equivalent of 200 officers per week is being funded with overtime.
These 200 officers will be assigned through my 9 PSA’s, which are Police Service Areas similar to patrol precincts. They will be mostly assigned to these 15 developments that I had just mentioned. They’ll provide a greater visibility. The residents are really going to see more officers out there. There’ll be more omnipresence. They’ll be patrolling the public areas of our developments, as well as conducting interior patrols. It’s going to greatly increase the omnipresence and the sense of security for our residents.
In addition, something that is new – that we’re doing new is – they’ll be doing wellness visits to our residents. And a wellness visit is we’ll be visiting recent crime victims – someone who is the recent victim of a crime involving fraud or a scam, an elderly victim, someone who had an accident – we’re going to knock on their door and see how they’re doing. We believe this will promote and foster good relationships with the residents that we serve.
We’ll also be doing DV visits. Domestic violence has driven our crime in the past. We’ll be visiting those victims to make sure they are safe and receive the proper services, the proper referrals, and hopefully we could prevent future crime from occurring – and this already started on July 1. We already had 200 officers last week assigned and we had positive results – and I’ll go into some stats later on.
A second way in which we’re receiving additional officers into the housing bureau is the Summer All Out initiative, which was announced yesterday or the day before by the Police Commissioner. Basically, 313 officers were identified throughout the department and they had desk jobs, they had inside positions. For a 90-day period of time, 300 officers were transferred to ten patrol precincts and five of my Police Service Areas. I received 96 of those officers in the housing bureau. These officers went to five my PSA’s – PSA’s 1, 2, and 3, which are in Brooklyn, and PSA’s 7 and 8, which are in the Bronx. And we chose these two boroughs because 75 percent of our violence – our gun violence – emanates from these two boroughs.
These officers will be doing evening tours. Again, they’ll be providing high visibility deployment around the developments, especially the 15 developments, if they fall within the PSA’s that they were assigned to. And they came at a really great time – the beginning of the summer. This started this week.
A third way in which we received additional officers in the housing bureau is by the graduation of the 600 recruits last Monday, June 30, I believe. Out of those 600 and change, the housing bureau received 101 of these officers – that’s the most that have been assigned to housing in recent years. These officers will be assigned to two of our four impact zones. They’ll be assigned to an impact zone in PSA 5, which is right here where we sit – not too far away in the Taft, Johnson, Jefferson, and King Developments – and the other officers will be assigned to PSA 7 in the Bronx.
What’s different this year is that these officers will have more supervisors assigned to guide them through the early stages in their career. We’ve identified mentor officers to also guide them and help them in the early months of their career.
And what’s really different is that we’re working together with the community – community is our partner. With the partner-officer program, members of the clergy and local residents will be walking alongside these officers, introducing them to other members of the community, keeping them informed and apprised of any crime issues or other concerns that warrant our attention.
[inaudible] we started an initiative back on May 12, which gives us the equivalent of 320 police officers per week. We’re utilizing impact overtime to fund this initiative. These officers went to Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens – every borough was represented in the deployment. They’ve patrolled such areas as East New York, Brownsville, Williamsburg, Soundview, Motthaven, and the North Bronx. Since this initiative commenced, crime in housing has trended in the right direction. As we – as you sit here today and as I stand here, overall crime, overall felony index crime in the housing bureau is down 2.1 percent. This is the first time since 2009 that crime has been down –
We have a decrease of 8 percent in murders. Our robberies show a decrease. Our grand larcenies show a decrease. Our grand larceny autos show a decrease. Shootings are up this year in housing, but with the addition of these officers as well as the work of the other agencies in this plan, we’re looking to stem, abate that, keep them under control, and certainly we look to reduce them.
Working together with NYCHA and the other agencies, we’re confident we can reduce crime in the near future and also for the long-term.
We’re also providing coverage at these community centers – the 107 community centers – with expanded hours. We’re going to have officers posted there until closing time to ensure a safe environment and a sense of comfort to those residents that take advantage of these extended hours. But thank you very much.
Mayor: Thank you.
Chief Gomez: Thank you.
Mayor: We’re going to take question on-topic first then off-topic. Let me just give you one more fact. These community centers where the youth programs are – the 107 sites – again, will be open until at least 11:00 pm, weeknights and weekends – at least 11:00 pm. This will be the first time in 30 years that these centers will be open until 11:00 pm for our young people – the first time in 30 years.
With that, on-topic. Yes.
Question: Has the NYPD ever done this before? [inaudible]
Chief Gomez: Really not as part of a crime initiative. Certainly we have community affairs officers that do that. But these are – every officer in the housing bureau assigned to this initiative will be doing such visits. And, again, I think it will promote and foster good relationships. We’re not out there just to arrest people and issue summonses. We’re there to offer help, assistance, and we’ll see how you’re doing and if we could help you further.
Chief Gomez: Well we – the PSA commanders on a daily basis give the officers a sheet detailing recent crime victims, where they live, and we send officers there. You know, the training is kind of, you know, common sense. Treat –
Mayor: Let me just jump in. You know, the whole approach, as Chief Gomez mentioned, the whole approach at the academy has changed for this graduating class. So there’s a much greater focus on working with community members, gaining a trustful, positive relationship – which, by the way, not only is about making sure the victims of crime are okay and that we’re there to support them, it’s also about gathering additional information on where there may be problems or where there may be individuals that we need to act on. So the whole training course in the academy was based on developing partnerships – partnerships that will yield intelligence gathering for the NYPD and will help them to do their jobs better. And then, in addition, when they get to the precinct, then they get additional orientation because of this mentor program Chief Gomez mentioned. In the past, the cops who come out of the academy were put into high-need precincts with limited support and mentorship.
This is something Commissioner Bratton has been adamant about, and Deputy Commissioner Tucker, who runs the academy—that we have to provide a lot more leadership and mentorship, we have to make sure that these individuals are assigned, that new cops are assigned with veteran cops and with additional officers, so they really get the right introduction on how to work with the community and be effective. So all that has gone into it.
Mayor: Absolutely. When you look at, and the Chief can contextualize it, but when you look at the fact that these developments, 15 developments, account for about 20 percent of the crime in all of public housing, and that we know that some of the focal point areas around the city, where we have had a challenge with shootings, has been in the areas where there’s high concentrations of public housing. There’s no question in my mind that this is going to have a very big impact very quickly. Do you want to add to NYCHA and the context of overall crime in the city?
Chief Gomez: Well, absolutely, this will help the surrounding communities. Historically, the Housing Bureau has accounted for 20 percent of the shooting incidents in the city, so if we control those and we do something, it will have a positive effect in the surrounding communities.
Mayor: I’ve spoken about this before, as has Commissioner Bratton. I don’t think this has had an impact. We of course continue where appropriate and constitutional to employ stop-and-frisk as a policing tactic, as has always been the case. It’s being used a lot less than in the past, because in the past, as we know, almost 90 percent of those stopped were not guilty of anything. Now, stop-and-frisk is being used much more judiciously, and we see a much higher arrest rate connected to the stops, which means that the stops are actually happening more and more with the bad guys, exactly the way they should be. But what will make a big difference going forward is the amount of personnel we’re applying to the areas of greatest need. There will be a different approach to training. The time energy that has been freed up is not now going into bad and unproductive stops but is going into real policing. If you look at the numbers overall, I know Commissioner Bratton went into great detail yesterday. Thank god, crime is down overall, almost three percent. Thank god, murders are down, compared to last year, and last year was a record year. We have a challenge with some shootings, but as you saw from the Commissioner’s statistics yesterday, when you put that in context, this is still year-to-date, one of the lowest years for shootings we’ve ever had. And you’re already seeing, as Chief Gomez indicated, in the areas where the additional officers have been applied, the shooting numbers are starting to go down. So the real issue here is to apply our resources where the problems are greatest, and to apply them in a strategically effective manner, with what we think is a better strategy and a better kind of training, and we think that’s going to really pay off.
Mayor: Look, I have spoken to a lot of NYCHA residents and citizens all over the city for years on this topic. I think, for a long time, it created a division and a separation between police and community, and it made it harder for police to do their job, it made it harder for communities to work with police the way both sides wanted to. It was a broken policy, and now what I hear, universally. I’ve been in office now over six months, I have talked to countless elected officials, community leaders, clergy. I cannot tell you how many compliments I’ve gotten for the NYPD and the approaches being taken. After the tragic loss of PJ Avito, community leaders in the Boulevard Houses said to me consistently that they were so appreciative of the way the police came to their aid. They thought it was a respectful and an incredibly compassionate approach the police took. And what I think we’re seeing more and more is community residents want to work with police, want to provide information to the police, which is crucial. I always say intelligence gathering is how you stop crime. It’s something we’ve learned over and over again: if the police have the best available information, they’re going to be able to stop crime. More and more residents of this city want to help the police to do that. So I think the legacy was one of there being a division and a pain, obviously in particular for parents and grandparents of young men of color, who saw them singled out, even when so many of them were good kids, law-abiding kids, kids who were trying to get on the right path. Now that that has changed, I think the atmosphere is a much more productive and positive one.
Mayor: So, you heard first about the repair money, that was in the previous budget and in this budget. Then you heard about the reallocation of officers, the civilianization efforts, the efforts coming out of the academy. What’s new today is the lighting effort, 150 light towers that will go in starting this week. So you’re going to have these target 15 developments a much safer, much better-lit environment, and then they’re going to phase in permanent lighting throughout those developments over the coming months. You’re going to see a consistent effort to remove the sidewalk sheds, the scaffolding that has plagued so many developments. I want to give [indistinct] a lot of credit for focusing on this, meaning these sheds, you go around a lot of developments, you see them; they were unfortunately safe havens for criminals, they were places that people could lurk. Community residents had told me over and over again, it made them very uncomfortable that there were these areas that were obscured. Those are coming down, all over the housing authority. That’s going to make for a safer environment. You’re certainly going to see a lot of other actions in terms of the physical plant becoming safer, and the youth programs. This is a new and very, very important piece. The number now, we were able to add to the number even compared to when we announced the budget agreement a few weeks back. We are now at the point of having 107 community centers, again, open to at least 11:00 for the first time in 30 years. That’s going to make a huge difference in the life of these kids.
Mayor: I think I’m going to turn to the Chief, but I will start by saying that I think all of this is anti-gang. I think the presence of the officers, obviously inhibits gang activity. I think giving young people positive alternatives to help pull them away from the gangs is crucial. In all of these pieces – making a better-lit environment so gang members aren’t in a position to do some of the things they might have otherwise – it’s all about helping to reclaim safety for the developments, and gangs are obviously a central challenge. Chief, why don’t you add in?
Chief Gomez: Absolutely. Gang and crew violence, gun violence – they account for almost 50 percent of my shootings this year. We’ll be out there providing visibility and the presence to prevent those shootings, but we also have Operation Crew Cut, of which much has been written about. Just last month there was a gang crew takedown not too far from here, in the Grant and Manhattanville Houses in which 103 gang and crew members, who were responsible for 27 shootings and two murders, were taken off the street. So far this year we’ve also had crew takedowns in the Morris Houses in the Bronx, in the Patterson Houses in the Bronx and the Forest Houses in the Bronx. That’s a tool that we have and we will continue to utilize it.
Mayor: Well with the help of the City Council, we were able to keep these open and then to add the additional hours for the youth program, so this is a big part of our strategy. I think that we’ve got a lot of them, thank God, and this 107 is going to make a big impact. We also a whole separate series of actions being taken by the Parks Department to add additional programming for young people in parks nearby these targeted 15 developments. So we’re going to start with that and see what the impact is and then we’ll make judgments from there.
Question: Mayor the community [inaudible] will you focus on the city or will there also be private organizations and private [inaudible]
Mayor: Well the City of course is providing the resources, but with the Department of Youth and Community Development, our Commissioner Bill Chong, we’re working with non-profits and community groups all over the city. So we work with community leaders and community-based non-profits that know how to serve well in that community and know how to work with kids in the community effectively. So they’ll be the folks running a lot of the programs, and as Chief Gomez said, there will be a police presence also at each one of these sites.
Mayor: I’ll bring up the Chief, but I think the fact is the notion that some people may do the wrong therefore we’re not going to not do the right thing, that doesn’t make sense to me. We need lighting, residents deserve lighting, they deserve to be safe. We’re going to assert that this is the way things are going to be. So the lighting will go up, the police presence will help it intact and strong, if there are any problems, we’re going to replace it.
Chief: As the Mayor said, again, more presence will hopefully deter that. But I’d like to add in many of our developments we have cameras, like this development has [inaudible] cameras, but other developments have CCTV systems in place. And we’ve captured what you just described in these cameras in many instances that I’m aware of, and we’ve identified those responsible for doing the mischief – whether it be graffiti or breaking lights – and we’ll arrest them if we do something.
Mayor: That was over last year’s budget and this year’s, but obviously all of that happened in the last six months. And then the additional $87 million coming out of this budget process, some pieces that were administration priorities, some pieces that were City Council priorities some pieces that were shared - but that is the total impact of these pieces combined.
Question: Will [undocumented workers] all be going to NYCHA or will some of them be going to other [inaudible]
Mayor: To Housing. Yes.
Mayor: I don’t know all the details, I’ll be honest about what happened. What I do know is I’ve talked to a lot of community leaders both in that area and beyond who were very, very appreciative that 100 plus wrongdoers were taken off the street. So this is a difficult thing to do, remember how these things work: you’re going to arrest 100-plus people simultaneously in the early morning hours. It’s a pretty complicated operation. They have to keep mission secrecy, the crucial concern with NYPD. From everything I’ve seen and heard, I think it was handled well and the result is extraordinary. And we try to always listen carefully for ways to be better, of course. And I think for Commissioner Bratton and Chief Gomez, it’s been quintessential to who they are, they’re constantly trying to improve the work they do. But the result in that case was absolutely extraordinary, and I think it was very gratifying to residents.
Mayor: Well, you’re right that there’s an unfortunate history. Again we’d have to be very clear that begins with Washington over 20 or 30 years, abandoning a lot of its commitment to public housing and affordable housing. But that doesn’t allow us to turn away. We have to focus, we have to make this a priority. I think we’re doing this in a very public and consistent fashion, which means accepting responsibility. I for one do not want to run away from the obligation, I want to embrace the obligation, and I know a lot of my colleagues feel the same way. So we’ve been handed a situation that isn’t what it should’ve been. But we owe it to the residents to fix it and with every tool we have to make it better, and we’re going to do it, it’s as simple as that. I think when you make a statement as clearly as we’re making it today, we have to follow through.
Question: Where do you stand on the plan to ban carriage horses in Central Park?
Mayor: We obviously have just finished a very intense session with the City Council in terms of the budget process, a very intense series of actions at the state legislature, and that we’re thrilled with the results we got at the state level first in the budget process. And then in the remainder of legislative session, they started our affordable housing plan. There’s so many other pieces that have been high-priority and have moved aggressively. And now we’re going to turn to a series of other priorities. And certainly I’ve said many, and I’ll say it again, I think we need to ban horse carriages in New York City and we’re going to act accordingly. We’re going to work with our City Council partners, there will be obviously a legislative process, and hearings, and a public process, but it’s something I believe we have to do.
Mayor: I think we need to ban horse carriages in New York City, and we’re going to act accordingly. We’re going to work with our City Council partners. There will be, obviously a legislative process, and hearings, and a public process. But it’s something I believe we have to do.
Mayor: We’re working on the details now with the City Council, but clearly there’s going to be a legislative process. Yes?
Question: There was a story today about the City Hall scheduler scheduling a visit for your son [inaudible] to Columbia. I was wondering if that person scheduled it [inaudible] Dante?
Mayor: You know, I saw the article and I just want to clarify – when you’re mayor of New York City, there’s a set of protocols in place – this has been true for other mayors as well – that revolve around security and logistics. And it’s just not appropriate for me as an individual to start scheduling things and doing things ad-hoc. Everything goes through the scheduling office, they coordinate with NYPD, NYPD coordinates with security in each location, for example in that case, with the Columbia campus security. So this stuff is not done the way I would have done it a few years ago. Everything starts with the assumption that there has to be a very consistent, careful process and security has to come first. So what I do is describe what we’re trying to achieve, and then the professional take over.
Question: [inaudible] thoughts on the [inaudible] the NYPD [inaudible]?
Mayor: I actually do not know the details of that, so let me get the details of that, then I’ll respond.
Question: There’s a story about Uber [inaudible] yellow cabs, and you know, [inaudible]. What do you think about [inaudible]?
Mayor: Again, this is an area that I don’t know all the details of the specific action they’ve taken. Obviously you saw what our chair of the TLC said, and I think she’s got the right perspective. The first question is, has everything been done legally and appropriately? But I think there’s more work that will be done by the TLC in the month ahead, trying to make sense of how to approach the Uber issue in a way that’s fair to all concerned. So right now we’re governed by law, I think there’s more policymaking ahead.
Question: [inaudible] weekend about your plans [inaudible] New York City, through an executive order expand the living wage laws. Can you give us an update of where you are at?
Mayor: Sure, you’ll see additional steps shortly. What we’ve done so far, obviously we’ve ended the city’s legal action related to living wage law and prevailing wage. So the two areas where we disagreed with the previous administration, we pulled back on that, so those efforts have been taken by the City Council could move forward. We moved, in specific instances like Hudson Yards, to achieve additional living wage commitments. Obviously, on other related fronts, we moved the paid sick leave bill. We are acting aggressively, as everyone knows, to try and create a situation at the state level where we can move a minimum wage bill with a local option. All of these pieces go together. There’s going to be steps taken in the coming weeks on the living wage issue, including pieces that we can take on an executive level. So we’ll have more to say on that shortly.
Question: Kind of off topic, but [inaudible] New York [inaudible] projects [inaudible]. Why is that, what was the [inaudible] of selection for those?
Mayor: Let the Chief come up – I’ll just preface by saying again, there’s a couple of different moving parts here. You’ve previously heard from me and from Commissioner Bratton about some of the efforts we’re doing to move resources where they’re needed. Some of that is separate from the Housing Authority. Obviously as we’ve said, with the graduating class, 600-plus – 609 graduates, 101 going to housing. The additional 500 are going [inaudible] to high-need areas, whether they be housing or not, East New York being one of the obvious examples. So I think there’s different types of reinforcement being done, but let me let the Chief speak –
Mayor: Well we can get back to you on that.
Chief Gomez: But we are covering a development in New York, that’s the Boulevard Houses. But also in East New York, you have the Pink and the Cypress Houses, and the Fiorentino. And PSA 2 covers those developments, and they have specific resources, specific officers that solely patrol Pink and Cypress. So again, we have 334 developments. We visit [inaudible] and patrol services bureau, we visit all of them. Also very close by is the Brownsville, our impact zone, where we have Brownsville, Seth Low, Van Dyke. And we have over 90 police officer assigned there, that’s just a few blocks away.
Mayor: Anyone who has not gone yet? Okay we’ve got two, we’ll do two more.
Question: [inaudible] not all of them are [inaudible]. Just wondering if you chose [inaudible] just volume or [inaudible]?
Mayor: We looked at the three-year dynamic, and so in some cases, we saw maybe it’s a little bit better now, but the three-year trend was clear enough that we wanted to prioritize. We obviously in other cases may have had a better three-year trend but saw an uptick recently, so that concerned us. So a lot of different calculation went into it with NYPD, but we think that overall numbers speak volumes, that these 15 developments combined are almost 20 percent of all violent crime in NYCHA. And as Chief Gomez said, if we find in the process of this, that some situations are getting better in certain developments, enough that we can make some movements or we see focal areas, we won’t hesitate to make some moves to reinforce.
Mayor: [inaudible] very broadly, and Chief and Chair Olatoye can jump in. What we’re trying to do with safety takes a lot of different forms: the presence of the police officers, the lighting, the cameras, and obviously locks and safety systems. And then, separate but crucial, all of the pieces that reach young people and community residents. So all these different pieces are moving at once. Resource-wise, we’re trying to focus on where we think we can have the greatest impact right away. For that reason, you’ve seen that cops have moved into place already. You’re going to see more, literally this week. You saw more last week, and it is a whole ongoing effort to move cops into place rapidly. Lighting will be in place starting this week. Youth programs started yesterday. So whereas lots of security systems, some of that takes longer to implement, the pieces that we have focused on first were the ones that we could get up and running immediately. Either one of you?
Chair Olatoye: So when NYCHA considers security enhancements, there are a couple of key components. One is the ability to actually connect with the NYPD so that they’re actually creating like a nerve center within the development that allows us to run wires to the local precinct. Two is layered access, which is sort of the key fob entrance. Three is our doors. There are a series of very heavy doors that prevent people from popping doors. And then fourth are the cameras. And really, what is tremendous about the mayor’s previous investment – and the Council’s previous investment – that allows us to do those kinds of enhancements, what we’re talking about today in terms of what’s new is the lighting and the physical piece to support that. So that is a comprehensive security approach and certainly adding lighting to these particular developments only augments that. Thank you.
Mayor: Thanks everyone.