July 12, 2017
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Well, Wellington, thank you so much. You know your history and you know your literature, and you’re right, Charles Dickens was not impressed when he came to visit this area in 1842. To be fair to Charles Dickens even though he didn’t appreciate the greatness of New York City he was right about the Tale of Two Cities and he was right about the fact that every neighborhood deserves decency.
And we are living out that idea in our time, trying to make sure people in every community can have health and sanitation and decent living conditions. This announcement today is part of that. It’s part of addressing something that’s been a challenge in New York City for a long time and honestly hasn’t been addressed well enough. But we’re going to make that change starting today.
And it’s great to have you Wellington as a partner because this works – as Wellington said, it can’t just be government. Government has a very important role to play but it’s also is about community leaders and community members being part of the solution.
This plan has been worked on for a long time and it’s a big departure from what was done in the past. I want to give special credit and thanks to our Chief Administrative Officer Laura Anglin who led the charge in putting this together. Where are you, Laura?
You’re right there. I’m sorry. You’re next to me.
I was mesmerized by Wellington’s speech, I didn’t see you. I also want to thank our colleagues from all of the agencies that are going to have to [inaudible] has a big piece of this as well. As I mentioned, this is going to be a partnership in many, many ways. We’re working closely with the City Council, and you’ll hear from Council members Chin and Reynoso. I want to also thank Council member Rosie Mendez who has been a strong advocate for these changes.
I want to acknowledge and thank the resident association leaders who are here from Smith and Rutgers and LaGuardia Houses. We’re going to need resident leaders and in other places tenant leaders to be a key part of this as well.
And I want to thank our host today. I want to thank Jenny Tran of the Chinatown Senior Citizen Center and Edgar Pereira of the Chinese-American Planning Council. Everyone is in this together.
Now, I want to just say something about our city at the beginning. We’re very, very proud as New Yorkers and we know there are thousands of wonderful symbols of this city starting with our people. We think of – when you think of New York City we’re proud to think about the Statue of Liberty or Central Park or Coney Island or Harlem or any number of other wonderful places. Unfortunately when you think of New York City you think of some things that aren’t so good and haven’t been so good for a long time. And the image of rats does come to mind. That’s because it’s been a problem for way too long.
I don’t know any New Yorker who likes rats. It doesn’t matter what community you’re in, everyone wants to get rid of rats. I will admit personally to having a certain admiration for Pizza Rat but that’s the only rat I have ever managed to like.
So, think about what it means to everyday life. Rats are incredibly upsetting to people in every way. They’re dangerous. They’re unhealthy. It’s not just an aesthetic thing. It’s something much deeper.
And the problem is that you could be doing everything right but something around you could be causing the rat population to grow. So think about an example of someone who has a small restaurant, a coffee shop, a diner, and they’re doing everything right and they’re keeping everything clean but right next door is an apartment building that leaves the trash out for long periods of time right next to that restaurant. What’s going to happen? That’s going to attract rats.
If you leave trash out for a long time, the rats will show up and then soon they will be in the restaurant too. Or imagine for a moment you are a family living in public housing. And you’re doing everything you can to get by but the problem is the building you’re in is a haven for rights. Why? And this is shocking. I did not know this until we went through this process over the last weeks. Because there are buildings in public housing that have not concrete floors, they have dirt floors to this day.
Think about that. You go into the basement of a public housing building and there’s a dirt floor in some cases which unfortunately makes it really easy for rats to come it.
So, we think about situations like that and say they’re not acceptable and they don’t have to be. These are fixable problems. They never were fixed previously. They were ignored and that is certainly, as Wellington said, that’s a reflection on the Tale of Two Cities. I’m never shocked when I see something in public housing that got ignored for decades or something like the poor diner owner who had to deal with a problem for years and years that wasn’t addressed.
Our job is to change the paradigm. So, we came to the recognition that simply exterminating rats on a regular basis wasn’t enough. It’s good. It’s been helpful. I don’t want us to take away from the excellent efforts that really did reduce the population some but as we really looked at the facts it became clear that our efforts at extermination over years and decades were basically like bailing out a leaky boat. You would get the water out for a while and then it would just come back.
We were not, as a city, solving the problem. This plan today is a change of approach. This plan is about going at the root causes – stopping rats from having a place to live, stopping them from having the food that they want to eat. It’s as simple as that.
If you take away the places that rats can live, we all get to live better. And that’s what we’re here to do. This is a $32 million plan. Nothing of this size has ever been attempted in New York City. We project that this will, in the target areas where we’re starting, reduce the rat population by 70 percent.
We believe that this first wave could be the model for something much bigger. We want to see it work in the places that are toughest in this city. If we do that we can got a lot farther.
We have been working closely with the City Council. They will be our partners in this effort. A number of the steps that we’re going the outline today are starting immediately. Some others will take time to develop. But literally some of the things, for example, you see these Big Belly Trash Cans over there – and at the end of this press conference will go and stand by those to give you a good visual – those are rat proof.
Even Pizza Rat with his amazing initiative and ingenuity could not get into that. There’s literally – I mean they are strong but they cannot pull down that handle. So, that’s a rat proof trash can. You’re going to see those starting to be placed in this neighborhood and other neighborhoods that literally have the biggest rat problems in New York City starting today.
You can clap for that.
So, where are those places? Well, we’re in one of – we’ve identified three areas that have the biggest problems in this city and you’re sitting right in the middle of one of them. East Village, Lower East Side, Chinatown is one focal point; the Grand Concourse area in the Bronx; and Bed-Stuy and Bushwick in Brooklyn. That’s where we’re having the biggest problems in this whole city. So, we’re going at the hardest cases first.
And again, we believe this plan is going to work. And if it works we will then expand outward to other areas that need our help.
You’re going to hear the details in a moment from Commissioner Garcia. But I keep saying it’s as simple as this – take away the food, take away the shelter from rats. Deprive them of place to live, deprive them of the food to eat, you won't’ have as many rats, and that’s what we’re aiming to do.
In addition to those Big Belly Trash Cans, you’re also going to see right away more frequent trash pickups in these target areas, in the parks which have been a focal point problem, and on the streets with the street baskets. Starting immediately, the number of trash pickups will increase.
You’ll see in this plan increased fines for illegal dumping. That doesn’t mean someone who throws a candy wrapper on the ground. That means people who systematically put a lot of stuff into our public trash cans they shouldn’t or leave them by the road. These fines are very serious that are being proposed here. They’re going to make a big difference.
We’re going to change the rules about when larger buildings, that’s ten units or more, can out out their trash. Right now, the rules make no sense. They actually make it easier for rats to find food because the rule allows a building to put out the trash and it sits and it sits and it sits for hours upon hours.
We’re changing the rules to require those larger buildings to put out the trash in the very early morning hours as close to the pickup time as possible to deprive rats of time to go find that source of food.
And I said, we’re going to fix this incredible, unbelievable situation of dirt basements in our public housing buildings. Those will [inaudible] once and for all gone, and that’s a major investment in and of itself of $16 million to eliminate those dirt basements, those dirt floors and modernize all of our public housing buildings in these areas.
So, we’re going forward. Some of these pieces we can do right this minute administratively. Others will require a partnership with the Council to pass laws but as I said there’s a lot of agreement here. In the meantime, there’s still a lot that everyone can do.
So, I want to remind all New Yorkers, we need your help to fight rats. You got to be careful with how you dispose of food. If you leave food out on the street or you don’t close your trash bag or do anything that makes it easier for the rats, that encourages them. You got to be careful about how you put your food waste out.
If you see rats, we need you to call it in because whether it’s these new approaches or traditional extermination, the faster we know the more we can do. So, please, if you see rats in your neighborhood call 3-1-1 and let us know where you saw them.
And our public engagement unit, these good people sitting behind who do great work going out in communities and letting people know about the things we can do to help, they are flyering and they are passing this out today to let New Yorkers know what they can do to address rat problems in their neighborhoods, to report them, and smart practices to help avoid rats coming to your area. That is English. That is Chinese.
So, we’ll be doing them in languages appropriate to each neighborhood.
So, look, in the end, this is not a magic bullet but it is a very big change of approach. We think it’s going to change people’s lives. We think it’s going to make this city healthier. We understand this is one of the big unresolved questions. We will not be getting another visit from Charles Dickens –
But I’d like to believe that visitors who come here over the next few years will see something different here in this neighborhood. They’re going to see a lot fewer rats and a much cleaner and healthier neighborhood. That’s what this plan is about.
Just a few words in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, I want to [inaudible] –
Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, Department of Sanitation: [inaudible] Wellington and the Chinatown Partnership for hosting today’s event, and also for our very long partnership on working through sanitation issues in this neighborhood.
I know for many people who grew up in New York City, you might have dodged a rat or two coming out of a restaurant in the evening, hopefully not with open toed shoes. Somehow I was okay if they were on the subway tracks; I was not so okay when they were on the sidewalks. But this approach is really unique because we’re not just focusing on exterminating the rats, which our colleagues at the Health Department I know will continue to do, but really trying to deploy a broad set of strategies in targeted neighborhoods to eliminate the conditions that allow them to thrive. And if you actually read the book Rats, you will find that this is a challenging endeavor because they are, if nothing else, survivalists.
In these three zones here in Chinatown, and the East Village, and in Bed-Stuy and Bushwick in Brooklyn, and the Grand Concourse section of the Bronx, three communities that have the worst rat infestations in the city, we are doing everything we can to eliminate conditions that are conducive to rats. As the mayor said, the best way to eliminated rats is to deprive them of food. They need about an ounce a day, including garbage generated in homes, in businesses, and litter on New York City streets. We want to take away their four star sidewalk cafes.
To achieve this we are increasing the collection of litter baskets on our street corners and in our parks, and adding additional trucks for residential refuse collection for buildings in these neighborhoods. One of the things that is true is that as the city gets more popular, as parks get more popular, we need to continue to provide more services to make it be a safe and healthy environment.
As the mayor said we are also replacing our standard wire litter baskets with rat resistance models including the smart compacting garbage cans that can provide data also on when they’re full. They talk to us through the cloud. All together we are replacing more than 1,800 open wire baskets on streets and in parks with rat resistant alternatives. And we are relying on the support of groups like the Chinatown Partnership to ensure that we are maximizing the benefits of these new investments. We will work with the City Council to pass legislation requiring large properties to set out their waste the day of collection, rather than up to 16 hours in advance. And we will work to increase fines for those that illegally dump large amounts of garbage creating conditions in which rats thrive.
We will step up enforcement against property owners that for too long have failed to take steps to eliminate rat infestations whether or not that’s allowing borrows on their property, or holes into their basements or on their sidewalks. With partners at the Health Department, Buildings, and HPD we are creating a multi-agency taskforce to inspect buildings with a long history of rat issues and issue violations both rat related and not. So we’re going to bring the whole team together to make sure that they’re doing everything to ensure that there is not a vermin infestation and that things are safe for those residents.
Rats feast on the leftover food that New Yorkers throw away in the trash, but we can prevent them from accessing that food by separating our organic waste and we can also achieve our zero waste goals. DSNY is expanding curbside organic service this year to more than three million New Yorkers and has opened up enrollment to every apartment building in the Bronx and Manhattan, including – we have people who joined from Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village so really big buildings can be a part of this. By the end of next year New York City Organics will serve every single New Yorker in all five boroughs. No one will have an excuse for not putting their food waste in sealed, rat resistant brown bins. We encourage all New Yorkers to separate their organics either to be collected curbside or to be dropped off at one of our over 100 food waste drop-off sites.
This is truly an inter-agency effort; this initiative is a collaboration between Sanitation, the Health Department, the New York Housing Authority, the Parks Department, Buildings, HPD, Small Business Services, and many other agencies. And I also want to particularly call out the business improvement districts who I know have been at the forefront of much of this for many years, are also going to be critical to this effort.
The City is taking an unprecedented step of investing $31.9 million in these zones with the worst infestations to cut the rat population by 70 percent, but our vision cannot succeed if the public does not work with us. Everyone should do their part to properly manage waste and eliminate the food that rats need to survive. At the end of the day, it’s really just about good housekeeping in order to keep the city safe, healthy, and clean.
Mayor: We’re going to take questions on this topic, and then we will be happy to go to other topics. Yes?
Mayor: The Big Belly?
Mayor: Okay, so let’s answer the question, and then we’ll go and demonstrate before we continue. So first on the how many we will have.
Chief Administrative Officer Laura Anglin, First Deputy Mayor’s Office: In the Lower East Side we will have 84 in the parks. In addition in the Chinatown partnership bed there will be an additional 118 that we will be placing around.
Mayor: So, okay, we’re going to do a quick demonstration if the elected officials would join me and Commissioner Garcia and Commissioner Silver.
[Mayor demonstrates how to use the Big Belly Trashcan]
Mayor: Everyone, come on back. Laura’s going to add something here.
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: I just wanted to also mention that in addition to the Big Bellies that I mentioned previously, there also will be an additional 20 that will go into Tompkins Square Park, and those you’ll see deployed immediately.
Mayor: And just clarify immediately.
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: Hopefully starting tomorrow.
Commissioner Garcia: We have them in the garage. We will start deploying them as soon as we get out of here.
Mayor: Literally today, tomorrow you’ll start to put them in place. Okay.
Question: Mr. Mayor, just how many rats are we talking about here that are going to be reduced –
Question: – number of rats you’re planning to eradicate in a year or two years, and then about the technology of the trash can. Is it U.S. made? Has it been used in any other major city in the world?
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: I’ll deal with the rats, and then I’ll turn over to Kathryn. We’re hoping to achieve – our goal is a 70 percent reduction. The question would be how many rats are there, which I don’t think anyone has an answer to. So obviously we’re looking at percentages now. We’ll be tracking it and monitoring with the Department of Health and their Rat Reservoir program.
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: Do you know how many rats there are in New York City? I don’t think we know.
Mayor: Many thousands of rats will be eradicated in the process.
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: I’ll turn to Kathryn for the Big Bellies.
Commissioner Garcia: So the Big Belly technology actually is currently in place in several areas of the city already, both in Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn but also in North Brooklyn. And so this is an expansion of that. One of the things and then the reason we’re moving in this direction is particularly in parks when they were put in place they did see a reduction in rat burrows, which is sort of a sign of where the population is. So they have been in use. They do require a lot of care and servicing, but they have made a big difference in areas where they’ve been put into use.
Question: Are they U.S. made?
Commissioner Garcia: Yes, I believe they are U.S. made.
Mayor: And they compact – just for everyone to sort of visualize – they compact as stuff goes in. They’re compacting regularly – or they compact like once an hour, how does it work?
Commissioner Garcia: So they actually use a sensor to figure out how full the Big Belly is, and then it will push everything down to try and create more room.
Mayor: So this is one of the big differences. In terms of clarifying it is two things. One, it’s fully sealed, which we’ve never had with a trashcan before in this city. Two, it’s actually pressing down the trash to make room for more trash. So that’s going to reduce the problem of trash cans overflowing. That is obviously a classic New York City problem. And then on top of that the additional pickups will mean that we have more chance to stay on top of the situation and make sure there’s always room in the trashcan.
Wellington Chen: Just to answer your question about the numbers. Across the street last summer with Mary Bassett the commissioner and Councilmember Margaret Chin we saw 1,200 rat eradicated through the dry ice method. Highly successful just on that square park across the street where you’re standing – the Columbus Park.
Question: How many?
Mayor: In one park.
Question: You mentioned increased enforcement on rat related violations [inaudible] what those violations would be and what is the proposal [inaudible] illegal dumping and how much?
Commissioner Garcia: I can do the fines first. So the current fine for illegal dumping is $1,500 as the start, as the first level. We would increase that to $5,000, and instead of the next level $10,000 we would go straight to the $20,000 for multiple offenses. In addition, I’m sorry – I’m going to turn over to Health I think to answer the second part of your question.
First Deputy Commissioner Corinne Schiff, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: I think your question was about violations for rats. So the Health Department conducts inspections of properties and looks for signs of rats. For example burrows have been mentioned, and when we see signs of rats we order the property owner to remove those burrows, and then we follow up, and if they haven’t been removed we issue violations.
Question: And then also you talk about reducing the population 70 percent, but this seems to be not really about eradicating the rats but sort of cutting off the food or whatever. Is the idea that they will naturally die because they don’t have enough food or how is that going to ?
Commissioner Garcia: I think what we’re saying is that we will continue the extermination efforts [inaudible] They were already doing an enormous amount of extermination across the city wherever they identified big Rat Reservoirs. This is to try and add another layer to that [inaudible.]
Question: If you can’t count the rats directly, how are you going to create a baseline with which to compare to get to 70 percent reduction? And then were the Mint X garbage bags at all – do they figure into this plan?
Mayor: Let me speak to the first one. They’ll take the second one. What we do have to go by is reports. I’m not the expert, they are, but I’ll say in a world where you don’t have a perfect baseline number – and you can imagine, how on earth, we’re not going to go out and tag each rat or you know call a meeting of the rats or something. It’s an impossibility to literally know the number. But you can judge as with any other quality of life issue by how many calls you get – how many complaints. So one way of looking at this is we will judge by what we believe will be a major reduction in the number of complaints if people actually don’t see rats anymore. But you guys can actually give a more erudite answer.
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: In addition, the Health Department does currently do burrow counts when they go and do their visits through the Rat Reservoir program, so we typically if you see a reduction in rats, you will see a substantial reduction in rat burrows, so that’s an indicator that we’re looking for as well.
Question: Can you say then how many burrows you’ve found at each of these three locations?
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: I don’t know if the Health Department knows that.
Unknown: Do we have that data?
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: We have the data. We can provide that to you.
Question: And a second part, you said this had been a plan – been in the planning stage for a long time. Was it delayed because of the federal investigation that also touched on some use of Mint X, mint scented garbage bags?
Mayor: From my perspective, and everything I know – no.
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: No, we never considered any of that. We look at really this plan as a comprehensive source of eliminating habit and food.
Question: So it’s not delayed because of the federal investigation [inaudible] releasing this earlier?
Mayor: No, we’ve been – again I’m going to give a layman’s answer, and the experts can give you more. You know you’ve heard about the efforts to eradicate the Rat Reservoirs. You’ve heard about the wonderfully named Rat Academy to teach people to do – they’re very proud of that at the Department of Health. There’s been targeted eradication efforts like Wellington just mentioned. All of them were meaningful. I don’t want to take away from any of it. They did produce results. They did not get at the root cause enough. And so the conversation that’s been going on for a while in the administration is how do you get to the root cause? How do you cut off the lifestyle of the New York City rat and make it impossible to live here? So the mandate I gave the team was look under every stone and think of everything, even if it has not been done previously, and I said considering the magnitude of the problem this was worthy of a major investment. This is the plan that was put together under Laura’s leadership with all these agencies, and I can tell immediately it’s a major departure from the past, and it’s the kind of thing that actually could get at root causes. So that’s what was going on. It had nothing to do with any external factors.
Question: So, just as a follow up. Do these cans need bags in them or can you walk us through how they’re emptied and how is the trash collected beyond the receptacle?
Commissioner Garcia: Certainly, so we do like them to have bags. It’s not required. There is a garbage can inside that garbage can that can be removed so it that it can be tipped into a collection truck – either the Parks Department or the Department of Sanitation collection truck, but we do prefer the use of bags because that ends up being neater.
Commissioner Garcia: No, no Mint X.
Question: So a couple of questions, what are you reducing 70 percent? It’s unclear.
Mayor: Again, I’m starting with the common sense point that the coin of the realm is complaints. That’s how we know.
Question: 3-1-1 complaints?
Mayor: We want to reduce the things that are causing the 3-1-1 complaints.
Question: The reason why I asked is because you can’t say you’re going to reduce something by 70 percent if there’s no benchmark for which people [inaudible.]
Mayor: I understand that logic, and I’m saying in a world where you cannot get a perfect benchmark we still have a sense of goal based on what we do know, which is complaints; visible reports; complaints what our inspectors see. We do have a lot of eyes on the situation both from the government and from our partners and from everyday people. That’s what gives us a measure, and that’s what we want to reduce against. But again you guys are more expert, you can fill in the blank.
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: Let me add, it’s really burrow counts.
Question: So what’s your current burrow count?
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: I think we said that the Health Department would provide that. We have that information for these three zones that we’re happy to provide after this event.
Question: And then a follow up, you said reducing fines for illegal dumping –
Mayor: No, increasing. The opposite.
Question: Increasing fines, reducing dumping in general. What – how are the fines being increased actually going to decrease illegal dumping because the problem is not necessarily that the fines are too low it’s that actually catching these people is difficult?
Mayor: Look, I know you’re thinking in part about some of the challenges that are being experienced in Staten Island. There’s different illegal dumping challenges around the city. Some are harder to catch. Others less so. The – I don’t know of any situation where when you increase fines and tell people about it a lot it does not affect behavior, so let’s start with that. I do believe that constant increasing consequence does affect people’s thinking and action, but you’re right we also need a lot of enforcement, and that’s something we intend to focus on, so let’s talk about what kind of enforcement we’ll do.
Commissioner Garcia: Certainly, we will do stakeouts as you know for these types of activities. We’re looking into more use of cameras, but I also encourage the public if you help us catch someone who is illegally dumping you have a right to part of that fine.
Mayor: Would you say that again?
Commissioner Garcia: If you help us catch someone illegally dumping, and they are fined for that, you have a right to a portion of that fine. There’s an affidavit –
Mayor: So what a minute – if the fine goes up that means people could make more money if they successfully report someone who does it?
Commissioner Garcia: Well, I’m not sure exactly.
Commissioner Garcia: We haven’t written the legislation, but the objective here has never been that the city was looking for a revenue source. We really need help from the community about if you see something, say something, and if you see something and say something and we win, we want you to win, too.
Question: Last question – I have to ask, on Staten Island specifically is the city doing anything for rat reduction?
Mayor: I’ll speak to this plan, and then pass to you guys on the broader question – Health or Sanitation. This plan is where three areas of the city we consider to be the biggest challenges. If we see success here, then we’re going to build out. This is costly, let’s be very clear. And it’s costly particularly where the problem is greatest, so as we build out in theory in could be more cost efficient, so we will look at all five boroughs, at other areas that we should move in on. But these communities have such a persistent problem, we want to prove that here we can really turn the ride and then we’re going to expand outward.
Do you want to speak to what we’re doing already on Staten Island?
First Deputy Commissioner Schiff: Sure, we have taken a look at Staten Island. We looked all over the city for signs of rats. I’m happy to report that Staten Island has the lowest rates of rats that we see around the city. We do have one Rat Reservoir in Staten Island and we’re getting ready to graduate that reservoir because we have seen improvements and –
First Deputy Commissioner Schiff: New Brighton.
First Deputy Commissioner Schiff: So a reservoir is an area where we see that rats really thrive because there’s an ecosystem that supports an ongoing generation of rats. We bring intensive resources there to educate people about proper trash management and bring in integrated pest management, and then when we see drops in the rates of rat and we no longer need intensive Health Department support we graduate that rat reservoir, and the reservoir in Staten Island is getting ready to graduate.
Mayor: Yes, Juliet?
Question: Since there’s a human element usually involved in how people throw away their trash, is there any kind of education campaign for like commercial establishments, restaurants, or just people on the street on how to directly go to the trash can or wrap their trash?
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: We do have as part of this plan $250,000 will be allocated to the Health Department for an outreach educational campaign as well as the mayor said these kind people behind us will be working closely with us to get an educational campaign underway.
Question: Questions – why, instead of thinking about why these areas specifically have the higher concentration [inaudible] of rats and is there any common denominator for example poverty or zoning?
First Deputy Commissioner Schiff: In planning for the initiative, we took a hard look at our data, and that’s how we ended up targeting these neighborhoods. These are neighborhoods that have Rat Reservoirs in them, which means that we had already identified them as areas with severe rat infestations. Each neighborhood is a little bit different for why it supports an active rat community, but there are some common denominators. There needs to be access to food, access to water, places to live, so it can correlate to often there’s a lot of park space because rats can live in park areas. So this is why we’re so excited about this initiative because it really means that we’re going to bring all of these agencies together in a very targeted was to address issues around sanitation, bring more resources to the parks, and I think we’re really going to make some great improvements.
Question: So there’s no one common denominator?
First Deputy Commissioner Schiff: There really isn’t, and that’s part of the approach here is to bring case managers to each neighborhood to understand what’s happening in that particular neighborhood that is contributing to the active rat population.
Question: Second question is – are there any specific diseases that we see among [inaudible] that could be linked to those rats?
First Deputy Commissioner Schiff: So as you may know, several months ago we did identify a small cluster of a disease called leptospirosis, which is connected to rats. It’s very, very unusual. That was the first time we had seen that in New York City, and again I think this initiative is exciting because we’ll be better protecting public health.
Question: Mr. Mayor I just wanted to know if you have cost breakdown on how much these cans cost?
Mayor: On the cans specifically?
Mayor: Laura or Kathryn?
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: The Big Bellies costs approximately $7,000 a piece – a piece, and that is with a maintenance contract as well. Since they are very mechanical they need to be checked frequently, so they are very expensive - $7,000 apiece. The steel cans, the other ones we’re putting in to replace all the wire baskets, they are a more reasonable – but still expensive - $623 per piece, per container.
Question: So is that money included in the $33 million?
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: Correct.
Question: And has the contract for these cans already been finalized or?
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: We already have contracts to buy these cans. We may need to go to new vendors because of the magnitude we’re looking at, but we already have some on hand as well. So it will be a mix.
Question: Any thought to containers for let’s say apartment buildings or hotels because right now they put the garbage bags out on the street but sometimes they’re broken or they’re opened by the people who look for plastic bottles and that, you know, portends all other problems. So is there any sort of strategy to address that?
Commissioner Garcia: So there is a wide variety of housing stock in New York City. Some apartment buildings do have containerized collection. Much of NYCHA has containerized collection because they have the space for the containers. The hotels are a different story because those are managed by the private sector, so we look at each property individually – one whether or not they can be containerized, whether or not we can actually service a container at that location, and that’s always balanced with the fact that if we go to containerization I can’t put a plow on it.
Mayor: Could you explain that for us laymen please?
Commissioner Garcia: Containerized trucks do not get – cannot get –
Mayor: You mean you can’t use it for double duty as a snow plow?
Commissioner Garcia: Yeah, so we balance that.
Mayor: I just want to see if I can interpret for the sake of the answer to Juliet. So the hotel issue whether perfect situation or not that’s private haulers, and restaurants typically are too. But in terms of residential we think the answer is we look for every opportunity to do that. It comes with a downside, which is you have to buy more trucks.
Way back. Way, way back?
Question: [Inaudible] containers. Are there any concerns about them being used for [inaudible]?
Commissioner Garcia: We will work very closely with NYPD whenever there are events or there are threats. And they have steel plates that go over that opening because they can’t be removed like the removable litter baskets –
Mayor: So they can be secured?
Commissioner Garcia: They can be secured. And we work closely with NYPD whenever they tell us that’s what needs to happen.
Mayor: Okay, is there anyone else in the back, coming – okay.
Question: Just back to the Mint-X bags for a moment. What is the current status of those? Are they being used? They are marked as being sort of rat repellant, right?
Commissioner Garcia: Sanitation doesn’t have any, so I don’t have any idea.
Commissioner Mitchell Silver, Parks Department: I don’t believe we have, now, an active purchase. We used it as a pilot program. It has somewhat mixed reviews. But other than that we continue to use our regular [inaudible] bags but I don’t believe other than the initial pilot that we’re still using some of the Mint-X bags.
We prefer to use the can, they’re a lot more secure than having the bags. It has a smell that’s supposed to repel rats but our preference is to use both the Big Bellies and have the steel reinforcements.
Question: Does the Health Department recommend using them because I know when they came to my neighborhood [inaudible]?
Unknown: That’s not part of our program.
Question: Yeah, I guess as far as the 4:00 am curbside time for these buildings. Do you anticipate any kind of new burden put on these buildings as far as having staff available at that hour?
Mayor: I anticipate resistance but I want to remind you and my colleagues [inaudible]. So every building over nine units has to have a live-in – live-in is the preferred term?
Unknown: Live-in or available.
Mayor: Live-in or available 24-hour super. So, they’re already legally obligated to have a super who could attend to anything at any hour of the day. But I mean think about it for a minute, of course people will complain about it who have to do the work. I don’t doubt it. But if it helps us to avoid rats, if it helps us to keep things clean and safer for people, I will acknowledge their complaints and keep moving. I mean, this something we have to do make our city cleaner. It’s as simple as that.
Unknown: In addition, I would – how nice would it be to be able to walk around and not see trash all night long sitting on the street –
Mayor: And let’s talk about that comparison. So, Kathryn, talk about how many hours fewer this will typically mean for those huge piles of trash bags being out in front of the building.
Commissioner Garcia: So, they should typically be about a 12-hour reduction in time on the curb –
Mayor: So, that’s – I’m sorry I’ll just interrupt and then you’ll continue – we probably should have said that a little more clearly upfront. We’re taking half-a-day off the time that those vast piles of trash bags will be out in front of larger buildings. So, that’s a quality-of-life improvement unto itself let alone what it’s going to me in terms of reducing rats.
Commissioner Garcia: Right, so currently the rule in the City of New York is you can put out your refuse and recycling starting at 4:00 pm the night before. So, we usually collect starting at 6:00 am and therefore they will have between 4:00 am and when we start collection at 6:00 am. So, you’re talking about a two hour window that it should be on the curb.
Question: Is this only in the targeted zones or is it citywide?
Commissioner Garcia: It’s only in the targeted zones for this proposal so that we can evaluate it.
Mayor: And if it works we want to go farther, obviously.
General Manager Michael Kelly, NYCHA: [Inaudible] we’re starting pretty much [inaudible]. We’re doing the clean-outs and we’re doing the raking in the building and preparing the surface. [Inaudible] we’re going out a little bit later. We hope to have these things in –
Mayor: But how many, was the question.
General Manager Kelly: There’s going to – 11 facilities will get these and there are 70 basements that are being targeted.
Mayor: 70 basements that are dirt?
General Manager Kelly: Yes.
Mayor: In these targeted areas?
General Manager Kelly: Correct. At 11 different sites.
Mayor: At 11 different sites. And this obviously – in this community have some of the oldest public housing in America. So, that’s part of the issue here. Some of these buildings here go back a long, long way which is maybe a little less surprising that they have dirt basements but as a general rule it’s still a shock to all of us that any of them still have dirt basements.
General Manager Kelly: Can I also just that in addition to the basements that we will be fixing we will also be replacing 228 interior compactors at our public housing facilities, 43 exterior compactors, and five bulk crushers. Many of these are over 20 years old and they are not efficiently containing and compressing the trash.
Question: How long will it take to [inaudible]?
General Manager Kelly: So, [inaudible]
Mayor: So, just one real-life thing. You know you’ve seen a lot of baskets around that have that small hole at the top. Same thing – you have to open the door, take the thing out. So, this is not an unheard practice for our Sanitation workers.
Unknown: Yeah, can I just make a point that the capacity of the Big Bellies are far more than just the regular wire baskets. So, the pickups themselves should be more infrequent, right? So, we’re talking about less times a truck needs to go down the street to empty one of those out than a wire basket.
Do you know the difference in capacity, Commissioner?
Commissioner Garcia: We’re not going to that.
Mayor: We’re going to keep – right.
Commissioner Garcia: [Inaudible] one of the challenges this neighborhood and some of the other neighborhoods have had is they are very popular. And there have been a lot of very full baskets, and so we want to make sure that we are ensuring that those also going to [inaudible].
Mayor: So, to square the two points. You will get more trash into these Big Bellies but we’re going to keep the number of pickups at the same level or in some cases increase because we don’t want the trash overflow. One of the problems, we all know it, is you see especially on like a weekend, that you see a lot of people put stuff in a trash can, it overflows, and then again, that’s the four-star cafe for the rat, right, if all the bags with food in them are sitting on the ground the trash can, we’ve defeated the purpose.
So, yes, you’re exactly right, Council member. You can get more in but we need to complement that by keeping the pick up levels very high.
Question: [Inaudible] part of this initiative going to target the train stations, subway stations where many of the rats live and thrive?
Commissioner Garcia: This plan does not. The MTA has been working on that issue. That’s my understanding.
Mayor: It’s not ours. Obviously, we don’t have jurisdiction there. The fact is in the case of the NYCHA buildings, where they are living is right under the ground right under the dirt floor. So, that will be it’s own impact. It has nothing to do with the subway.
In the case of if you say well if a rat came up from a subway they still are looking for something to eat. We want to deprive them of the something to eat. That has a fundamental impact on their reality.
So, we think it will be very deeply felt.
Question: When was the last time you saw a rat in New York City –
Mayor: Oh, I’ve seen many a rat –
I’ve definitely seen – I know I’ve seen plenty this year. You know, I see them in parks. I see them in the subway. Those are the two places I’ve typically, not so much on streets. Over the years, of course, I’ve seen them on streets too.
Mayor: I’m trying to think – I think I did actually in Carl Schurz Park. But I can’t give you an exact date of the siting. Yes?
Question: Couple questions – how did you come up with the 70 percent number and should we expect to see more corpses, and what’s the plan to get rid of them?
Commissioner Garcia: We came up with the number –
Mayor: We want more rat corpses. We don’t want you to see them. So, let’s explain.
Commissioner Garcia: Yes, we came up with a plan by looking at the different pieces because we’ve done some of the different pieces before but we haven’t put it together as a whole plan. So, looking at the burrow counts, looking at using the dry ice which is something that will help us dramatically to be able to kill rats, we were able to basically put it together and add it up to 70 percent.
Question: And the corpse question.
Commissioner Garcia: Pardon me.
Question: The question about the rat corpses.
Commissioner Garcia: Most of the rats, I would assume – I’m not a rats expert – they die in the burrows, I would assume. So I don’t think they go run on the sidewalk and fall down.
Mayor: Hold on. Someone else –
Question: For Commissioner Garcia – how many roughly, wire trash cans are there in the city? And then can some explain the dry ice method of killing rats?
Commissioner Garcia: Sure – and I’m on now right? It’s more than 23,000 wire baskets in the City of New York.
Question: [Inaudible] dry ice –
Commissioner Garcia: Yes. So, dry ice, as you – and the Health Department can expand on this – we just got permission from oversights to put in dry ice. And what it does is when you put it in their burrows it puts them to sleep. And it actually is much less toxic for other wildlife because you don’t want to kill the hawks that eat the rats in the city.
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: And this was something we were doing a few years ago and we were told to stop because dry ice was not deemed a pesticide. And when we started up this working group, we petitioned the State and asked them if we could try to do this again and very quickly they worked with us to get federal approval to do this.
Mayor: So, now I’m fascinated. So, where do you put the dry ice?
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: You have a burrow that has two holes. Usually a burrow has an entrance, exit. So you plug one hole, you put the dry ice right into the burrow and then you plug the other hole and then they go to sleep.
Question: Do other cities do this –
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: Well, Boston was doing it for a while when we were doing it last. Chicago, I believe, and then we were all told to stop. So, now, I don’t know if the other cities will petition [inaudible] but we were pleased that just last week we got approval to start this again.
Mayor: Say it again.
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: They die. They die in their sleep.
Mayor: Yeah, they die in their sleep.
Chief Administrative Officer Anglin: Very, very pleasantly die in their sleep.
Question: Very humane.
Mayor: Yeah, we are kind to rats we just want them to go away. Alright, any other questions on this new policy? Yes.
Question: [Inaudible] what is the population when you say reduce –
Mayor: Right, right. It’s been debated, in fact. They are going to provide some follow-up numbers on the burrow counts. Okay, last call on rats. Rats – once, twice, okay other questions. Yes.
Question: Mr. Mayor, you mentioned that a lot got done in Albany this session. But there are a couple big ticket items I know you favored that did not get done. The first one was body scanners at Rikers, and I’m just curious your reaction to that fact that didn’t go. And what is the solution in the short term to reduce violence.
And then the second was elevator safety. I know there was a proposal your administration had opposed to for a couple years that would have the State take over the safety inspections. I was wondering what your concern was about that.
Mayor: Yeah, you know these jurisdictional matters are always tough when you try and get the two levels of government to agree to a change. So, it never surprises me when it takes a number of attempts. We’re going to keep at it on the elevator safety. I mean we’re doing a lot through our Department of Buildings but I think we can do better with that new vision. So, we’ll go right back at it. They’ll be back in the first week of January and we’ll go back at it again.
On other fronts – I’m sorry the other one was –
Question: The body scanners.
Mayor: The body scanners. So, the body scanners – this, I’m very disappointed. It is such a common sense thing You know, you go into an airport and you go through a scanner and whether we love the experience or not we all understand it. But imagine we know right now on Rikers Island for decades there’s been a problem of weapons being brought in and contraband drugs being brought in, and we know this. We know it’s contributing to the violence. We know it endangers officers and inmates alike.
And we’ve done some other things, which I’ll describe but the body scanners are obviously a part of the solution. Now, I want to be fair we got a lot closer this time and I want to credit Assemblymember David Weprin who is the new chair of the Correction Committee. He was very, very supportive. There were some outstanding concerns that we just could not yet convince the legislatures to resolve but we got close. I am very hopeful we’ll get it done in the next session.
But to me to describe the situation on Rikers, we need to cut off every conceivable source of weapons coming in. We’ve changed visitation policy. I’d like to see great changes. It’s one of the ways we can improve the situation. We’ve put up security cameras throughout the complex to catch anyone who is in the act of passing weapons or contraband. And sadly that can mean inmates or officers alike. And we have a real problem that some officers have done the wrong thing.
There’s been a heightened level of consequence for officers. DOI has been very, very act as you know on Rikers Island. There have been a number of folks who have paid the price for their actions.
So, my view is it’s all of the above. You know, it’s going to take a very concerted effort. But I feel like we have one hand tied behind our back because we don’t have the scanners and I want to get them as quickly as possible.
Okay, way back.
Question: So [inaudible] can you tell us how many –
Mayor: You know your language.
Question: How many people other than those who were paid for by the organizers of the rally you spoke – how many people accompanied you to Germany and about how the City paid –
Mayor: So, there were no expenses from me or for the three staff who went with me. Those were all paid by the sponsor.
Question: Right, so apart from that –
Mayor: Those are the only people who went with me, and then there’s the security. I always have security. And look again, it’s a very fair question. The NYPD always provides some kind of estimate so please ask them for that. But I want to emphasize whether I go some place in New York State or I go someplace overseas, they’re going to be with me 24 hours a day.
And that’s just the reality. I think it’s a little hard for everyday New Yorkers to understand that and I don’t blame them for that. But we’re living in a very complicated world. Everyone understands that and this role, whoever is mayor, is a very prominent role and security is with me all the time.
And so that is a given expense. That is locked in every single day of the year.
Question: [Inaudible] Germany. Can you go in a little bit into how that came about, who invited you, if you reached out to them in advance to solicit going –
Mayor: No, I did not. I was very aware obviously of the G20 but did not have any assumption of going to it and then I got an invitation from the – as you know there’s a governing coalition in Germany, the Social Democratic Party is a part of that. That’s how the invitation came in.
It was two weeks or two-and-a-half weeks ago. And it was clear from the beginning that all – for me and for staff – that expenses would be paid. I was not at all sure if it was something I could do because at that point we were still in the Albany session. As everyone remembers we did not know if that would be resolved. We didn’t know if we were going to get the things resolved in the Albany session. We didn’t know if we were about to have to deal with a new reality without mayoral control of education, etcetera.
So, I wasn’t able to answer for quite a while. Then when the Albany situation got resolved, you know, I thought this was a very special opportunity and at a point that we would have thought would be a very quiet time of the year in the days after July 4th. So, that’s what led to me accepting the invitation.
Question: Yesterday [inaudible] meeting in Brooklyn, a hearing in Brooklyn had to be cancelled –
Mayor: Say it again, I’m sorry.
Question: Yesterday, a hearing on the Bedford Union Armory project had to be cancelled because of protests. At this point the [inaudible] local members are against it. What are you doing, what is your administration doing, what are you going to do to see that project through? Because it’s part of the larger mission of affordable housing.
Mayor: Look, it’s a very important project and I understand the frustrations in the community. Crown Heights – I live very near to Crown Heights, I’ve spent Crown Heights. The neighborhood has changed a lot. There’s a lot of fear of displacement. I fully understand that.
But I want to remind people of the origins of this concept for this development. It was the Armory. And a lot of people said in Crown Heights when they saw the Park Slope Armory get done which is an amazing recreation center for the community, they said why is that not happening in our community too. And so literally this is a fulfillment of, I think, a vision of equality to say Crown Heights a world-class recreation center too.
But there were additional things people wanted. They wanted space for community organizations. That’s part of the plan. And obviously this administration’s number one goal in any development is affordable housing. And there’s a lot of affordable housing in this plan which wasn’t possible in Park Slope. There was no space to add additional housing. It is possible in Crown Heights.
I think the opposition is based on real concern that we’re seeing all over this city about the potential for displacement, rising costs. I think we have to do a better job of explaining to people what the benefits are for the community, and we’re going to continue to push the developer to make the project as good as it can be for the community.
And look I work very closely with the Borough President and the Council Member. Those are ongoing discussions. I respect their position but I also believe that if that project continues to evolve that they’ll keep an open mind.
So, ultimately it’s something that could do a lot of good for the community. Right now that armory is doing no good for the community and I’d like to see it be something good.
Mayor: Again, that’s an ongoing discussion. I don’t have an specific idea but it’s an ongoing discussion.
Question: [Inaudible] mentioned that the NYPD would [inaudible] releasing some sort of cost estimate [inaudible] –
Mayor: I’m not an expert on what they do but that’s who has the number.
Question: Do you think it should be released to the public? Nicole Malliotakis is among those who have said that [inaudible] security goes with, that’s a figure that the public and taxpayers should be entitled to.
Mayor: I want to say when it’s security related I respect the protocols of the NYPD. So, that’s something that they have – I want whatever’s been done in the past to be done here. I’m just not an expert on what they release and what they don’t. But whatever’s been done in the past in terms of released information should be done here as well. That’s all I can tell you. Marcia –
Question: Mr. Mayor I have two question on two unrelated topics. The first [inaudible] I think that you’re very much aware [inaudible] constituents –
Mayor: From the unions, Marcia. I want to be clear about that.
Question: I can tell you there are social media pages [inaudible] inundated with just regular people who were very upset that you [inaudible]. So, my question [inaudible] what do you say to critics? Number one. And number two – did you ever give any thought to not going given the fact that a police officer had been –
Mayor: I gave real thought to the most important thing which is when the services were going to be. And if the services at one point, you know, you may be aware of this, there was a lot of consideration in the family as to when they wanted to do it. At one point it looked like they were going to do it this last weekend. Clearly, I was going to stay. That was absolutely clear.
Then they decided to delay it. And that’s literally when I decided to go. The fact is, you know, I think everyone understands that there is an incredibly sad moment for all of us who do this work, I know Commissioner O’Neill feels the same way, to go to the hospital when one of these horrible tragedies occur. We went into the officer’s room in the hospital as she was dying. We had to break the news to her daughter, Genesis.
We obviously provided, after that, an update to all of you in the middle of the night as to what was happening. And then the next day, as you know, I went to the 4-6 Precinct which is really an extraordinary place and spent time with the officers there.
And from my point of view, the next thing that was going to happen, of course, would be the services. And I wanted to visit the family but as I said it was clear in the first few days there was a lot the family was working through and it was not yet the time to do such a visit but I knew that I could visit them and spend real time with time when things were a little more settled, and then of course to the wake and to the services.
So, that’s what I saw. There was a vigil that at the time I made the decision we did not even know about, had not been fully put together to the best of my understanding. I know the Commissioner did not attend that either.
So, that was the thought process that obviously I had painfully had to share this moment with the family. I feel horrible for them. I feel so bad for this family. And I spent a lot of time with the family in their home. And just unbelieveable pain but also unbelievable strength in that family.
So, I think they are very clear that all of us – me and everyone at City Hall and the entire NYPD – is going to be here for them for the long haul. Those are the things going through my mind.
Question: [Inaudible] has to do with an increase in homeless in the last count. So far in the East Village there has been an influx of people who come in by train and panhandle. They’re called [inaudible] –
Mayor: You are up to date on your phrases.
Question: There’s been a lot of calls to 3-1-1 and 9-1-1. I wonder what are you doing about this problem and in this location where you’re getting people who come in by rail just today and are [inaudible]?
Mayor: Yeah, I have my own views and the Council member may have her views as well on this matter. Tompkins Square is you, right? Yeah.
We all know the history of Tompkins Square Park. A lot of – it’s a wonderful park but it’s also had a lot of challenges over the years. I talked about this on the radio the other day. I am very upset at the notion of any one who in effect gives the impression they are homeless to make money. That’s what I think is going on. And I don’t like it one bit. It’s not illegal unless they do something illegal.
This is something that Commissioner Bratton talked a lot about and now Commissioner O’Neill’s talked a lot about that the NYPD has to be rightfully very discerning about whether a law has been broken. So, for example, if they are obstructing the right of way of people moving about the park, that’s illegal. If they are menacing, that’s illegal. If they are engaged in any overtly criminal activity, of course there will be enforcement.
But I think what happens a lot of times is they hang out, they make money, they don’t quite break any laws, but it’s really a nuisance and it’s really bad for the quality of life. And I don’t understand humanly. I don’t understand why anyone would want to pursue that lifestyle but it is a real issue.
Question: [Inaudible] apparently at night they’re kicked out of the park and they go down the street and they’re causing the neighborhood problems.
Mayor: They are causing the neighborhood problems and the challenge, Marcia, is while abiding by the Constitution we will be as aggressive as we can be. That’s the bottom line, right. We must observe people’s Constitutional rights but that doesn’t mean we can’t be aggressive and creative.
So, again if we see anything that is illegal, the NYPD will be all over it. And we’re certainly going to engage people – look, I’ve said you know a number of times with Home-Stat which has now gotten over 700 people in off the street and kept them in, it’s a high-engagement model. So, we’re going to go and talk to people. And some people, at first it may not be clear if they’re homeless or just, if you will, professionally panhandling. A lot of people won’t even talk and folks who really are homeless, folks often with mental health problems a lot of times they don’t want to divulge anything to the Home-Stat workers and it takes coming back dozens of times or literally hundreds of times to build rapport.
But with folks who are panhandling for a living or because somehow they think it’s fun, we’re still going to try and engage them – let them know it’s not a positive activity and if they want help with something better we’ll certainly help with job training or whatever it might be. We’ll help.
But this one is thorning because as frustrating as it is, and it bothers me to say to say this, that panhandling per se is not illegal.
Do you want to add Council member? You’re good? Okay.
Question: Back to the trip for a moment. On the NYPD money, is it really your stance that you want to just defer to the NYPD on this? I mean this is not about them divulging sort of how they secure the area for your –
Mayor: I want consistency with whatever their practice has been. That’s what I’m saying.
Question: [Inaudible] transparent –
Mayor: I don’t know what their practice has been so I don’t have a baseline.
Question: [Inaudible] several outlets have asked, they’re not releasing –
Mayor: I’m saying – whatever it’s been in the past, it should continue to be. That’s what I’m comfortable with.
Question: And your press secretary has argued vehemently that doing tentative scheduling is just a no-no and there was no way to alert any members of the media that there was this trip that was possible, that is was going to depend on the funeral arrangements. Do you really think that the press corps or news organizations couldn’t handle a little bit of tentative notice so that they could possibly send –
Mayor: You know I appreciate the question. Look, this was, first, as I said there were two things going on. Up until well into – someone help me – June 29th, I think it was, we did not know what was going to happen with mayoral control of education and we were literally preparing to do a new – tragically – a new Board of Education meeting at 9:00 am on that Saturday morning, July 1st. So, that’s – you know my mind was all about mayoral control of education and other issues in the Albany session until the end of the 29th. And then on the 30th we were doing a lot of mop-up on that.
And then went into the holiday weekend and still had not resolved the issue because we hadn’t had any time to focus on it. As we started to make sense of it, you know, right in the middle of all that, this horrible tragedy occurred.
So, again, the immediate question was when will the services be because that was going to frame everything. I think if you take – so I think we had two really abnormal situations happening that affected both focus and clarity. In a normal situation, of course, you could and we will – if we think something is likely but not definite, absolutely there are times when we can give notice and say hey this is for your information.
This one – and I stand by my press secretary 100 percent on this – this one was so gray that we thought that it would just create confusion and again we were focused first and foremost on when would the services. That would was the decisive factor.
Question: [Inaudible] anti-Trump voice. You said it’s important for their – that’s why you accepted the invitation. Is that a role you’re embracing on the international stage or just a one-off?
Mayor: No, I don’t see it doing that. I think it’s different in fact. To be fair to everyone here there were a lot of moving parts to what was going on in Hamburg meaning the whole thing separate from my involvement. This was an amazingly complex situation. Twenty leading nations of the world gathered – the anticipation – and I don’t think anyone was shocked by this statement. When Angela Merkel was planning this summit, she was expecting to welcome Hillary Clinton and was expecting it to be a very productive, high-impact summit.
And I think the City of Hamburg which is – Germany is the second most important country in the west right now. Hamburg is a very, very important city in that country. I think everyone anticipated a different reality. But the city wanted to focus on the things it was doing that we had thought would be consistent with the outcome of the summit and it turned out to be in contrast to the summit. Hamburg’s doing amazing things on renewable energy that we want to learn from. They’re doing wonderful things on early childhood education. There’s a whole host of things – they’re a leading city for welcoming immigrants and refugees. So, that’s what we talked about – those kinds of things and how we can work together on that. That kind of joint effort between mayors around this country and globally is going to be more of the norm, going forward, because no one has the illusion our national government is going to address these issues. I mean, it’s just as simple as that. Our whole view right now of what happens in Washington is stopping bad things from happening. There’s no potential for a positive climate policy, a positive immigration policy, a positive policy to address income inequality – any of that. So, the cities of the world – and, in some cases, States – are going to have to lead the way and we’re all working with each other, and we’re all trying to learn from each other, set goals together, etcetera. 300-plus cities in this country – and we’ve all worked on this at the U.S. Conference of Mayors – have signed onto the Paris Accord, in and of ourselves. That’s actually a really big deal – that’s a lot of the country in terms of population. So, that’s going to be the norm. I don’t anticipate travel going with that, but I do anticipate us working closely, certainly on a staff level, with the cities of the world to keep forwarding these goals. And the message was really – I mean, you’ll notice I very purposefully did not say the name Trump when I was there because I do respect that when our president is overseas, there’s a certain set of conditions. I don’t think our president has exactly set records for protocol and proper discourse, but the rest of us can still recognize some ground rules that are fair. I wanted people to know – and they wanted to hear it, I know this – that the cities of this country and the majority of people in this country do want to act on climate change, do want to be respectful of immigrants, do want to treat the Muslim community with dignity, etcetera – that’s what was important to communicate.
Unknown: Two more –
Question: Mr. Mayor, I have [inaudible]
Mayor: You have 17 separate questions?
Question: Your comments on panhandling, some of the [inaudible] been bothered by your comments. They say that if someone is begging on the streets they’re really being pushed to that and that it’s not easy for them to do that. Could you just respond to that specific criticism?
Mayor: I respect it but I disagree with it. I’m not saying there isn’t immense economic pain out there – this is what I’ve talked about for four years running. I’m saying panhandling is not the way to address it. We are trying with every tool we have to help people get jobs, get affordable housing, get training, and I think folks who are truly in need are more and more receiving the message that there’s a lot of help available to them and I want them to take advantage of that help. And I think there are people who panhandle who are in desperate need and maybe don’t know there’s these other options or don’t know what to do with it. There are people with mental health and substance abuse problems, but there are also people who are doing it purely out of choice. I mean, this is a fact – they somehow think it’s fun or they think it’s a way to make easy money and I resent that, I really do. So, I think what the advocates are trying to say is, what if someone is desperately poor and feels they have no other choice. I respect that but I think the advocates should be working with us to get those folks to help we can actually give them, which is ample.
Mayor: I think because there’s tremendous fear in this city right now and we’ve never seen anything like it. We’ve just never seen the fear of displacement at this level. We’ve never seen the most of living at this level. I think we’ll be talking in the coming days more and more about some of the positive signs – the amount of affordable housing that’s being created, the amount of market housing that’s being created because that’s actually going to start to adjust the situation and relieve some of the pressure. And I do want to say on the re-zonings – and East New York was a great example – the more we talked to people, the more they got that if they wanted to see the creation of more affordable housing and the preservation of affordable housing that the rezoning was the only way to get it done – that not having re-zoning was in many ways much more dangerous, and I always use the example of places like Bed-Stuy – never had a re-zoning – went through a huge amount of displacement. So, I think this is one where we’re going to have to show that help is on the way because it’s going to be more and more tangible. The work we’re doing with the City Council on helping people avoid evictions is going to be felt more and more. There’s a lo of pieces that I think will start to calm some of the concern. But as we address re-zonings, going forward, I’ll be out in communities, as I was in East New Yorker, and talking it through to people and taking the tough questions. I think that’s good. And I think in Crown Heights – again, I respect where the concerns are coming from, but I also know – and we saw this on mandatory inclusionary housing – you know, the don’t-change-anything position is a very easy one to annunciate. Well, I want to see my team and I make the position – do you want a recreation center for your community? Do you want more affordable housing? Do you want all the good things that this can bring? And I think a lot of people will say yes. I learned when I was a Council member what every-day people think versus the loudest voices can be two very different things.
Question: We had a report about the alleged CCRB whistleblower who leaked Pantaleo’s [inaudible]. Your view generally on whistleblowers? Do you think that there should be an investigation into him?
Mayor: I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know about what you’re putting forward. I think there’s ample protections in place for whistleblowers, as there should be. And on the other hand, there are rules for employees who deal with confidential information and there are plenty adjudicative mechanisms to figure out whether someone was a whistle blower or someone who mishandled confidential information, or some combination thereof. I’m not here to judge that but I do notice the city has real, strong protections for whistleblowers. We have to be careful of the difference between the whistleblower and someone who has an axe to grind either personally or politically, which none of us would want to see when it comes to the access of confidential information. So, that’s a balance point.
Question: As you know, a couple of years ago, we did an investigation about how there was an organized group of women who were using their children to panhandle of the streets of the city. And, at the time, you were outraged about it and you called for your Children’s Cabinet to take up the issue. [Inaudible] Cabinet decided not to follow through with any actions because they were worried about penalizing mothers [inaudible]. But I’m wondering if today you’re saying you want to be aggressive [inaudible]. Why didn’t your administration take more action when there were children being used for many hours a day on the streets?
Mayor: Well, look, this is not over. I think the Children’s Cabinet was trying to find an across-the-board policy we could implement and I think what it comes down to, Melissa, is it’s going to be case by case. And I wish we had a simpler approach, but the law is a really big part of this. I’ve had this conversation with Zach Carter more times than I can count. When is it the right of someone to freely assemble and when is it endangering a child? That is literally only going to be determined case by case. I as a parent find it reprehensible that anyone would take their child out in the street and subject them to all that or use their child to encourage donations. And again, Melissa, I’m arguing this because we are trying with every tool we’ve got to help people. It’s one thing it we were living in some draconian society that wouldn’t offer any help. And again, I say this with deep respect to my advocate friends. This city is at the highest point of compassion it’s ever been. If you say, I want job training – you’re going to get it. If you say, I have no place to live – we’re going to help you and try to get you to permanent housing too. So, I just don’t understand why someone who has those options would put their child in that situation. I do understand there are people with mental illness challenges who can’t comprehend the dynamic fully and we want to try and address that too. Then there are some people who are just craven – that’s not a shock, it’s sad. But we don't have an across-the-board policy because we can’t find one. We just can’t find – I’ve asked, is there anything that sort of differentiates consistently – and the only answer I’ve gotten from P-D and from Law Department, anything that’s criminal – the second anything is criminal. Obviously, if the child was in visible, physical distress, that would be endangerment of a child, or if anybody was menacing someone for a contribution. You know, those – then we’d bring the P-D in immediately. But I’m glad you’re raising it because it really matters as an issue, but we have not been able to find the solution yet.
Question: Two questions – one to get your response – you put out a statement yesterday about the death of the two toddlers in the Bronx – the status of any investigation by ACS, by the city into their deaths.
Mayor: Yeah, there’s a full investigation going on. It’s horrible, it’s just horrible. And every time I see this I feel, as a father, pain. And I feel particular pain when it’s kids who are that young. And two children at once is rare – it’s horrible. We just don’t know enough yet. I can tell you – you know, I always like to be very careful about confidentiality, but I can say I have no indication so far of anything that a city agency could have done differently, but we need a full investigation to know that for sure.
Question: A woman who works for you, Jessica Ramos, in the press office was live-tweeting her very long commute this morning. It took her two-and-a-half hours to get in to the 7 train. She said people on the train were crying, some of them, because they were afraid they were going to lose their job because they were stuck and having such a horrible commute. I know this is an ongoing issue, but, I mean, these are your constituents who are riding these trains, coming to work exceptionally late, coming home late. What can you do?
Mayor: Grace, I’ll answer it.
Question: I mean, you’re not putting more money –
Mayor: Grace, I really want to say – I mean, people can ask the question the 100th time, it’s not going to change the answer. The State runs the MTA. The State has to step up. Now, I want to say, I think the selection of Joe Lhota, as I’ve said – I’ll say it again – was a very good one, and that’s a pretty ironic statement when someone says that about their opponent for the Office of Mayor. But I think it was the right person for the job. He’s been very responsive to us – you know, a lot of communication with us. I think the immediate review they’re doing is the right thing. And I think the solution, to me – the first-run solution is straightforward – shift resources onto the basics. Like all of you, I was a little surprised to see an op-ed from Rahm Emanuel, but I want to be fair, the content was actually quite justified in the sense of he’s right – that Chicago did was smart. And I think we need to now go back and investigate what we’ve done as an approach, and that starts, of course, with the State. So, I think we have a chance here to say, okay, what we did before didn’t work, we’ve got to do something different. I think Joe Lhota might actually be ready to do that and shift resources within the MTA away from things that are less essential. What we need is the least sexy stuff – the signaling, the electronics, all of the most mundane stuff is what’s going to affect the quality of like of New Yorkers. That’s where all the resources and focus needs to go, and that’s what we’d be pushing for. And I’ve said very clearly, if the MTA does not come up with its own plan, we’ll come up with one and we’ll be very public about it. But I’ll be out there. I’ll be around the City in the subways. I will be speaking up and advocating. I’ve had the conversation with Joe Lhota. I think it’s the put up or shut up time. It’s time for the MTA to give us that new plan, and if it’s the right plan, it could actually start to relieve the pressure.
Question: Is there any [inaudible]
Mayor: [inaudible] because of the subway, they’re usually telling the truth nowadays. Now, there is a way to document it, we all know that. And I know most employers require that, that’s fair. But I do think it’s so clear that there’s a crisis – that employers should be an understanding. And, you know, we’ve got to see a plan to fix it, that’s the bottom line.
Question: Yesterday, a driver was sentenced – the first on Staten Island to the [inaudible] causing a crash that killed a woman last year. And she’s only sentenced to a $250 fine and no jail time. Do you think that that’s appropriate given that someone died?
Mayor: I think those laws need to be strengthened – I mean, that’s the bottom line to me. Vision Zero is working and there has been real improvement in the laws, and the Council has been great about this real improvement – the strengthening of laws – but I think we have to keep going because that’s how we’ll save lives.
Mayor: Is it me or did [inaudible]?
We are in the process of bringing in a combination of nursing home beds through the Health and Hospitals Corporation available to low-income seniors, and senior affordable housing. And the number of beds that were at the [inaudible] facility was, I think, about 200. They were not all in use towards the end, obviously – but about 200. That’s the number we’ve set that we want to be the replacement value between those senior affordable units and the nursing home seats – or, beds, I should say. And that’s what’s being put together. There are still details being worked through, but we’re confident we will have a plan to achieve that and details will be put forward soon.
Question: Mr. Mayor, there were reports yesterday of anywhere from a couple of thousand to hundreds of NYPD officers turning their backs towards the church yesterday while you were speaking. I just wanted to get your reaction to it and also – do you think that’s attributed to your trip to Germany or do you think something else is going on?
Mayor: I’m not going to get into the underlying causes, I think that was stoked by certain institutions. But the fact is, it’s very sad. We were all supposed to be there to respect the family in their hour of pain, that’s the only thing people should have been think about, not making some kind of political statement. And it was a small number of people, our understanding is it was in the dozens out of thousands of people in attendance. I just think it’s sad.
Question: Last time you were in Chinatown for that town hall meeting, there were [inaudible]
Mayor: I’m not familiar with what you’re saying, I’m sorry. You’re saying –
Question: Last time you were in Chinatown [inaudible] town hall meeting –
Question: There was [inaudible] police officers searched through people’s bags and –
Mayor: I literally have no knowledge about that, so I don’t have a comment.
Question: [Inaudible] reported –
Mayor: They’ve been reported – a lot of things are reported, I’m just not familiar with it, but my press office will follow up.
Mayor: First of all, I have to say I really appreciated Commissioner O’Neill’s remarks. They were very powerful, very much from the heart, and I think it was important for New Yorkers to hear. I think he was speaking in a way that goes far beyond the question of a traditional demonstration. I think he was saying something much more basic, which is people have to show appreciation to the police in many, many ways, and communicate with the police. By the way, all those folks who came the funeral, all those folks who came to the wake, all those folks who went to the station house – they were demonstrating too, if you will. They were demonstrating their appreciation and love for the police. So, I took what he said to mean in all its forms. I also was very struck by the comments of Inspector Rivera, who is the precinct commander, who said sometimes it’s as simple as New Yorkers saying hello to a police officer, but then he said we all have to do better, including the police. And I thought that was very meaningful, that here’s the guy who was the head of the precinct that suffered this loss but he still said we all have to reach each other. And the family, of course, was the most powerful of all, talking about respect for police but also just love in our society. It was incredibly heartfelt. So, I don’t think it’s about, let’s stage a rally. I think it’s about what we do every single day. I also always want to say, I know a lot of folks who protested over time and very few of them were “anti-police.” They wanted change in policies, but had a lot of respect for the police nonetheless. You know, the silent march in 2011 that had such a big impact on stop and frisk – there was thousands and thousands of people. They were anti-police, they wanted to see different policies. They wanted to see the broken use of stop and frisk ended. There are a small number of people who are anti-police and I couldn’t disagree with them more. I find that reprehensible. But I want us to think about our own discourse and how, in the spirit of the funeral yesterday, how we improve that discourse and use words that really reflect the reality. Most people – overwhelming majority want our police to succeed and want to have a closer relationship with them, and I think the police are doing a much better job than even a few years ago at fostering those relationships. So, I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful it was a powerful moment of reflection for the city and something will come from it.
Okay. Thanks, everyone.