October 15, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you. Well, I am so honored to be a part of this. I want to thank Thomas Durels and the team at the Empire State Building, everyone at Empire State Realty Trust. They have been fantastic partners in this endeavor – energetic, willing partners to help us spread the word about the ways that we have to combat domestic violence. And this is really above and beyond the call.
When the Empire State Building lights up to send a message, the whole world sees it. So, I'd like to have a moment to thank Thomas and his whole team for what they're doing today. It means a lot to all of us.
I'm also very pleased that he's joined our purple ensemble here – ties, scarves, you name it. We've got it all.
Before I speak about some of the folks who are going to come after me, and speak to you about how important this issue is, I want to thank all of the advocates who are here. They do incredible work for this city, and it's work that doesn't get enough appreciation, but it helps thousands and thousands of New Yorkers every day, particularly people who are suffering in silence, and should not. So let's thank all these advocates for what they do every day for our city.
Also, someone who does great work on behalf of everyone, and particularly on behalf of women, in the City Council as the chair of the City Council Women's Caucus, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley – thank you so much for being here.
I want speak to you about this issue before I have the great pleasure of introducing two women who are putting a lot of time and energy into this effort. The fact is, we're sending a message today. We're sending a message that we're going to take on domestic violence in all its forms, and it's a topic that has to be discussed openly so we can combat it. We are working in every way, in this city government, to fully acknowledge the truth about this issue – real numbers, real truth, real strategies for addressing the problem. And it's time that we bring this issue to the forefront, because it affects so many people.
Again, the Empire State Building's action will be a clarion call. People will pay attention, people will think, people will act to help their fellow New Yorkers. It's not just the Empire State Building. They're in very good company, because what they're doing tonight will be powerful – but Yankee Stadium is with us, One Bryant Park is with us, One Times Square – they'll all be lit purple, to send a message. And it's a hopeful message, that we can fight this scourge and we can win.
People all over New York City will be wearing purple, in solidarity, in pursuit of action to help others. This morning, volunteers fanned out all over the city – and I want to particularly thank the members of the City Council and their staff that were on the forefront of this effort – handed out fliers all over the city, telling everyone – telling women in particular – what they can do if they are a survivor of domestic violence, if they are fearful of domestic violence, if they know loved ones, friends, who may be in danger. There are things that can be done, and we're spreading the word.
The council planned this effort in conjunction with – really, an extraordinary office, that deserves a lot more credit – the Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence. You're going to hear from the powerhouse commissioner of that office, Rose Pierre-Louis, in just a few minutes.
This office is helping get the word out – the truth about the issue and what can be done – and now it's going more and more to the grassroots where it's needed. I have personal evidence of what's being done at the grassroots, because my daughter Chiara – our daughter Chiara – went this summer, and interned at this office. And so every evening we would hear – Chiara was in Bushwick, Chiara was in East New York, she was in Harlem, she was in the Bronx – and everything she was doing, out at block parties and street festivals and subway stops, to help people know what their rights were, what they could take advantage of, to help them to demystify the issue and help people move forward.
This cannot be minimized as a problem. Last year, the NYPD responded to more than 284,000 reports of domestic violence – 284,000 times, an average of almost 800 per day. Rose and her team are working every day to address this scourge, and they've got three strategies to do it.
One, the outreach I mentioned – since February 1st of this year, the Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence has conducted 698 outreach events. That's an extraordinary record of reaching the grassroots, all over the five boroughs, distributing over 175,000 leaflets telling people what can be done to help.
Two, we're trying to educate people, particularly young people, about what healthy, positive relationships look like. We're trying to counter-program, if you will, against some of the messages they receive from entertainment and from media, that unfortunately send the wrong message. We're trying to help young people teach each other what positive relationships, respectful relationships, look like.
And three, there's a direct service component that's powerful. The Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence operates Family Justice Centers throughout this city. Family Justice Centers are an extraordinary tool. There aren't that many in the nation. The place that has the most of them is New York City. It's a one-stop-shop that offers the legal help, the counseling – anything a survivor of domestic violence needs to move forward.
Since February 1st, there have been 43,000 visits to these centers – people seeking the help they need. All the services are free. All people in need are welcome. And everyone is served regardless of immigration status. That's a very important message to get out. People who go to the Family Justice Centers will be served regardless of immigration status.
The Mayor's Office to Combat Domestic Violence is doing an extraordinary job, but their message – everyone has a role to play in this. Every New Yorker can do something about this issue. Do not be a bystander. Do not be silent. Instead, be an upstander. Don't be a bystander, be an upstander. Stand up, speak out, speak up for people who are in danger in your lives, speak up against domestic violence, speak up against language that denigrates people – and particularly denigrates women – speak up against anything that promotes violence. Offer support to those who are survivors.
If you're an upstander, you need to know two numbers – two numbers where you can call for help, where you can call to find out the facts. 3-1-1 – 3-1-1, always the go-to for anyone who wants to know where they can get help, or how they can help others. Or 1-800-621-HOPE. H-O-P-E. 1-800-621-HOPE. And anybody who needs to go in person to learn the facts, learn what they can do to be helped, learn how they can help others – the Family Justice Centers are there.
This is a profound problem in our city. We are being more honest about it so we can combat it. But silence is the enemy. Anyone who suffers in silence, we can't help. Anyone who knows there's something wrong and isn't reporting it, that keeps us from doing what we know how to do to help people in need. We've got to bring this issue out into the light, and there is a metaphor. The Empire State Building tonight is putting a light on this issue. They're saying it's something we have to talk about, and acknowledge. We need to do that as a whole city, to really make a difference in the lives of thousands and thousands of New Yorkers.
I want to say a few words in Spanish.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, I want to bring forward a woman who's my partner in all things, and the love of my life. She is also the mother of Chiara, and who taught Chiara the values that led her to intern this summer with her whole heart to help women in need. It makes me so proud that my wife helped teach my daughter what was the right thing to do, and now my daughter is making it a central part of her life. And that's what each of has a responsibility to do – help others, to get in the game and help people in need.
With that, I present to you, the First Lady of the City of New York, Chirlane McCray.
First Lady Chirlane McCray: Thank you, Bill. With your fierce passion for helping others, I want you to know that you are a role model for young men all across our city, and especially for Dante, who is an upstander with his young self.
I’m so proud to stand alongside all of you today in the push to help those who have suffered in silence for far too long, the victims of domestic violence. Thank you also to our friends at the Empire State Building. This purple pinnacle shouts the message of our city-wide campaign – domestic violence will not be tolerated in our city.
We all must join together to support victims and commit them to the help they need. And finally, thanks to you, Rose, and her team, for all they’re doing around the city to help victims of domestic violence. Chiara, as you heard, had a fabulous internship this summer and I also gained a new perspective on her work – on the work of the domestic violence outreach workers over the summer. Chiara spent a lot of time working on her team – working with her team – pounding the pavement, and providing her fellow New Yorkers with information that could potentially save their lives. And that’s what she came home and said every night – it’s like, I think I saved a life. Because every time she handed a flyer to someone, or had a few words with somebody, who was, you know, suffering in some way, she could tell that she was helping them move forward and really, almost save their life. So, it was a powerful experience. And, I know that it’s helping her shape her life’s work. She recently decided to change her major to Women and Gender Studies and I know that this summer played a big role in that decision.
I’m proud to note that Rose, Chiara, and everyone here working to stamp out domestic violence has a strong supporter in the organization I chair, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. We have made ending domestic violence one of our priority issues. And this month, the fund is working with our partners in the private sector, including the Empire State Building, to raise awareness around this issue – domestic violence. We are also launching a public service announcement to inspire New Yorkers everywhere to join our cause. And that’s just this month.
The Mayor’s Fund is a long-time supporter of the city’s Family Justice Centers. I had the privilege of speaking at the opening of the Manhattan center back in March, and let me tell you, these are remarkable places. In a single location, victims of abuse can access all the resources they need to break free and start a new life – like legal services, child care, economic empowerment tools, housing help, and more. It’s so much more efficient and effective to have all of these resources under one roof, especially when you’re a woman who may have a couple of children in tow. I can’t emphasize how much of a difference these centers are making.
But as great as the centers are, we still have a long way to go. The number of people suffering from violence in the home has been tragically high. Long-term, meaningful progress requires changing the way people think and it means changing the way people deal with conflict.
As the mayor said, we need every New Yorker to become an upstander – not a bystander, but an upstander – and that includes all of you behind the cameras. Everyone has an opportunity to be an upstander. You can do something. You can say something. You really can make a difference. So, take a stand when you hear someone make a joke or a comment that is denigrating to women, or denigrating to the violence that is taking place in their lives. Lend a non-judgmental ear to those suffering from abuse. And after you’ve heard their story, help them connect to resources that can help them. Together, we can shine a light on a movement whose time has come. And now, we’re going to hear from our commissioner – Commissioner Rose Pierre-Louis.
Commissioner Rose Pierre-Louis: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you, Mayor de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray for your vision and support on the issue of domestic violence. Thank you, Thomas Durels and the entire team at the Empire State Realty Trust for making this event possible. By illuminating one of New York City’s most iconic gems, you are sending an important message to all domestic violence victims that hope is available and that they are not alone.
New York City has been in the forefront in responding to domestic violence and developing innovative models to provide services to domestic violence victims and their children. On NYC Go Purple Day, which is today, every day throughout the year, it is important for New Yorkers to know that we can be upstanders and work together to end domestic violence. New York City is known as the fashion, food, and cultural capital of the world. And today, we can add New York City as the upstander capital of the world, because every man, woman, and child in this city has the right to be free of violence and intimidation in their home. I would be remiss if I did not mention the countless anti-violence advocates – many who are here today – around the city, who’ve been in the trenches for decades working to bring an end to domestic violence. I would like to thank you personally for all that you do, each and every day. Thank you very much.
Mayor: I just want to start by saying, first of all, on this event that we just did, how much this city is mobilized to address domestic violence, how much we are trying to bring this issue out in the light – and I think this action by the Empire State Building is really important on that front. This is the way that people start to talk differently about an issue that needs to be discussed. And I am very proud of the efforts being made to reach people in need – reach women in need, in particular.
On another front I want to say, in light of discussions we held yesterday in Washington, I think it is very striking that in the meetings I had with the FBI director, with the Secretary of Homeland Security, and with the White House counter-terrorism advisor, the topic of Ebola is at the very top of the agenda. Everyone, as always, is vigilant on the topic of terrorism – as I always say, we know we’re the number one target – and that was part of every discussion as well – but Ebola is at least as central to the dialogue right now. I think it’s important that people understand that this is the focus of so much of the federal government – and obviously so much of the city government – in preparing in every way we can in the event that we have this challenge within our borders. Right now, again, another good day – not a single case of Ebola in New York City, but the preparations continue to deepen every day. One of the things we talked about in Washington was the coordination with our healthcare professionals. Because of the very special and direct relationship between New York City Department of Health and the CDC, we are constantly deepening our effort – we’re making sure our medical personnel are ready. And one of the things you saw yesterday is people who represent our medical personnel talking about the extent of the preparations. I wasn’t to emphasize that New York City is at a very high state of readiness, and I think the federal government is very satisfied at the kind of preparations we put in place, but we’ll keep working to perfect them every day. With that, why don’t we see if there’s any on-topic questions related to the domestic violence event, then we’ll take general topics. Anything related to the domestic violence event?
Bystander 1: [inaudible]
Mayor: How you doing? Anything? Going once. Yes? Anyone?
Mayor: You know, I know so many people, first of all, who have suffered from domestic violence – I mean, many many people in the course of my life. In my own family – thank God there wasn’t physical violence, but there certainly was emotional abuse. You know, I think my mother went through a lot of that and I’ve spoken about that before. It’s painful – it’s very painful to see, even more so in the past, how many women suffered without a sense of anywhere to go or anyone that they could talk to for help. But I’ve known many many women who have suffered physical abuse. It’s pervasive. It’s pervasive in our society – the difference now is we’re trying to bring it out in the open. We’re trying to get the actual statistics out about what’s happening so we can combat it. And I want to say – NYPD has been extraordinary. They’re putting a lot more emphasis on addressing domestic violence. They’re improving their approach.
Bystander 2: Good job, Mayor!
Mayor: They’re doing a lot more conversations with survivors to find out how they can support them after. The family justice centers are doing extraordinary work. So we’re improving our approach, but this is a very big problem in this city. On this topic, anything? On this topic – going once.
Question: What do you say to someone who might have the impulse to hit their partner in a moment of anger?
Mayor: It’s absolutely unacceptable. It’s illegal. You know, one of the things that used to happen in the past was that things that were clearly domestic violence were not considered illegal – and that’s part of why you saw these very artificially low numbers. But now, for example, in recent years a law was passed making strangulation – an effort to strangle someone – is – which is unfortunately quite typical in domestic violence dynamics – is illegal. It didn’t used to be illegal, if you could imagine that – that’s illegal. A lot of things that used to be swept under the rug are now being treated as assaults, as they deserve to be treated. So the laws have been improved, the reporting procedures have been improved – we’re encouraging everyone to report – we’re encouraging the NYPD to seek out anyone who might have been a victim to make sure that they can act on their problem. So, it’s really now gone from a culture of this issue being swept under the rug to a culture of reporting and acknowledgement so we can actually address it.
On topic – anything on topic? On topic, going once – twice. Hold on, I need a lozenge – time out. Referee, can I have a time out?
Phil Walzak: Yes.
[Mayor de Blasio eats a lozenge]
Alright – time in. You have something?
Question: Mr. Mayor, another set of revelations about Rachel Noerdlinger – about the parking tickets. What’s your reaction on that?
Mayor: I think it’s very clear in everything I’ve said that I have faith in her work as a public servant. I mean, she’s doing very good work for the city. And, I know a lot of people who have a lot of parking tickets – everyone should pay their parking tickets.
Question: Mr. Mayor, I understand that the police unions are in court today trying to stop the stop-and-frisk ruling. What’s your response to that?
Mayor: My response is that we had to change the broken stop-and-frisk policy – and by the way, it’s not all the unions, let’s be clear about that. I think some of the police unions spoke eloquently over the years about the need to reform that policy because a lot of police officers felt they were being put in unfair situations where it was alienating them from the communities they were serving. Some individual unions have decided to pursue that court strategy – I don’t think it will succeed. I think the courts understand that we’ve acted absolutely appropriately in changing what was a broken policy. We’ve done it legally and appropriately, and I expect us to prevail.
Question: Have any of the stories about Rachel raised any questions in your mind about her judgment?
Mayor: Nope, not at all. Look, we’ve had a very thorough process for looking at everyone that we sought to hire. We turned down plenty of people. This is someone who I think is doing very good and important work for this administration.
Question: Mr. Mayor, is the plunging stock market becoming a concern for you in terms of its fiscal impact [inaudible]?
Mayor: Look, I think we have to acknowledge that the stock market moves constantly up and down. I think anyone who talks to you about the stock market – the first words out of anyone smart – the mouth of anyone smart – is that there’s big cycles that take place and we should not overreact to any one moment. I think there’s sensitivity right now to the twin crises of terrorism and Ebola. This country – and I can say from my meetings yesterday in Washington – I was extremely impressed by the efforts being undertaken by our national security apparatus to address Ebola, both here and overseas. I am hopeful that those efforts will succeed and help to turn back this crisis. On the counter-terrorism front, the same thing – extraordinary efforts have been taken to undermine what our enemies may do to afflict us. There’s an extraordinary level of cooperation right now, for example, between the NYPD and the FBI, the NYPD and Homeland Security. I have to tell you, it was so clear – I mean, the FBI director was particularly clear about the appreciation they feel for the way they are working with the NYPD every hour of every day to share information and work together to make sure that any threat is addressed. So I think over time we will show – as a nation – the ability to grapple with these issues, and I think that will also positively affect the stock market.
Question: Can you talk about testing to get into specialized high schools?
Mayor: Sure. I think the bottom line here is the specialized high schools have, for generations, turned out the leaders of every segment of life in this city – every industry, of government, of the academic world. The specialized high schools are the jewels in the crown of our school system, but they don’t reflect this city – and that’s not appropriate. We need them to be a place for everyone. Now, the standard of quality will remain unchanged. Remember, people who say that the old approach is the right one are staking everything they’ve got on a single standardized test – talk to parents about that. We all know plenty of kids – we know geniuses who didn’t do well on standardized tests. So, we can’t for a moment mistake our desire to see these schools be available to all as the true democratic vision of this city – that everyone has a chance – with the fact that they have been managed, up until now, via a single standardized test that some kids do great on and other kids don’t – but that is not a measure of their intellect. We’re going to create a system – like we are with everything we do with schools – of multiple measures to actually understand who are the kids with the greatest potential – and they come from every zip code, every neighborhood – and that’s what our specialized schools will look like in the future.
Question: [inaudible] law enforcement unions are asking for a re-opener clause if the PBA gets a higher pattern in binding arbitration. Is that something you would consider? Or do you have any thoughts on that request?
Mayor: Look, as with all of what we’ve done with labor so far – you know, we have 62 percent of the work force now under contract – we had zero at the beginning of the year. We’ve – I think – established a very good working model for how to communicate with labor. Any idea is allowable at the table and we’ll offer plenty of ideas back. I don’t get in the habit – you know this – over the last two years – I don’t talk about the details of labor negotiations. But any union is welcome to put an idea on the table and we’ll react. The most important thing is, we figured out how to have a productive dialogue that didn’t exist in the past. And so far, almost two thirds of our work force is under contract and we expect to continue that success.
Walzak: Two more quick ones, guys.
Question: [inaudible] struggling schools, where that plan is?
Mayor: Yes. We’re going to have a lot to say in the coming days on that topic. I’ve said in my platform that the previous approach to struggling schools was inappropriate. It was very focused on closing schools without giving them the supports they needed, leaving a lot of kids in the lurch, a lot of communities in the lurch. What we’re going to have to say will show a plan for actually supporting struggling schools and turning them around – and stay tuned in the coming days for that.
Question: [inaudible] verbal judo program [inaudible] NYPD and how effective you think it will be?
Mayor: Look, Commissioner Bratton believes deeply in it, and I believe deeply in Commissioner Bratton – and that’s the simplest way to say it. I saw yesterday in Washington the incredible respect that Commissioner Bratton generates throughout our national security apparatus. I have said consistently I think he’s the finest police leader in the country. And he believes fundamentally that the retraining will change the nature of the NYPD profoundly. And verbal judo, in effect, means learning how to defuse a crisis first through dialogue before having to resort to physical means. The NYPD always reserves its right to use physical means when necessary, but any time a situation can be defused – and by the way, NYPD officers are already quite effective – many many officers are quite effective at this approach – but I think the goal is to train people to be better and to train every single one of the officers in this approach, because it can be extraordinary in what it can do to defuse a situation for the good of all.
Walzak: Thank you, guys.
Mayor: Thanks, everyone!