July 15, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Hear a sound? Do you hear a sound? Maybe it's like bells? Is that wedding bells ringing, perhaps? Yes, wedding bells are ringing. I made a vow. I made a vow that we will get the Marriage Bureau up and running again. We worked with the City Clerk's Office and we are bringing back the Marriage Bureau for New York City, opening again, as early as Monday. This coming Monday, you and your loved one can book an appointment to get married. And on Friday, the first marriage licenses will be given out. So, weddings are back. Wedding Bureau is back. We're coming back. And love is in the air. And what perfect timing? Just in time for Saturday, which is the 10th anniversary of Marriage Equality. And we are so happy that these events are all coming together to remind us how beautiful love and marriage are. I am someone now – let's see, 1994, that's 27 years ago, 27 years of marriage in my case. And it's the most beautiful institution there is and it's back. So, we have a lot to celebrate in the summer of New York City, having weddings back, having the Marriage Bureau back as one of them. And look, a lot of folks were waiting for this moment. A lot of folks have been waiting to get married. I can't tell you how many people I have talked to that said we were planning on being married, we can't wait to get married. Now it's time. New York City is coming back and weddings are coming back. Thanks, special thanks to City Clerk Michael McSweeney and to Speaker Corey Johnson's office. Everyone got together and said, we just got to get this done. And so starting next week, we're back. I want you to hear about this from someone who really appreciates the power of marriage and Marriage Equality, and he fought for it for years. And I know he's really happy about this good news as well, Council Member Danny Dromm.
Thank you so much, Council Member. And Danny, yes, hope does spring eternal, brother. Don't give up. Don't give up. Love is in the air. And you're right, people – look, New Yorkers who have been waiting a long time to get married, this is a beautiful moment. But we welcome everyone here. You're absolutely right. And it's the summer of New York City, a lot of people are coming here to experience the amazing things that are going to happen this summer, why not get married here while you're at it? Make it even better. Thank you so much, Council Member Danny Dromm.
All right. Now, how come the Marriage Bureau's opening up? Because people got vaccinated, because we did the biggest vaccination effort in history of New York City. Yesterday, you heard the extraordinary study from Yale University confirming the positive impact of this vaccination effort. The life-saving impact. All credit goes to the vaccinators, to the health care heroes, the folks who made it happen, Test and Trace Corps, everyone who was out there making it happen. Because of your efforts and because New Yorkers showed up, now weddings back and so many other wonderful things back. As of today, in the City of New York, 9,672,028 vaccinations have been given. We're closing in on 10 million doses, absolutely amazing. Every single day, thousands and thousands of more people step forward. And we're going to turn things around with the power of vaccination. This is the X-factor. It's working and want to keep bringing it to the people of this city.
Now let's talk about recovery. Recovery for all of us. A recovery for all of us means the City's working for everyone. Recovery for all of us means a focus on the things that we've been doing. Vaccination, of course, number one. Get everyone healthy. Get rid of COVID. Bring back jobs, bring back economic activity, bring back tourists, bring back our schools. We have Summer Rising right now for our kids. Bring back our schools in September full strength. All of these pieces are part of our recovery. But increasingly we see a missing link and that's our subways. A lot of problems right now. And we cannot have a full recovery without the MTA getting stronger. The MTA needs to get it together because right now we're seeing too many problems.
And the answer, I think one of the big answers to these problems is congestion pricing. I want to talk about that today. But let's just review what we've seen in recent weeks. Right when the recovery is coming on with a lot of momentum and people are ready to come back to the subways, the subway is the heartbeat of New York City, we've seen unprecedented problems in our subways. The flooding a few days ago, shocking, painful, troubling. We can't see that in the future. Unacceptable. The trips that have been canceled – in the month of June alone, 10,800 subway trips canceled. What does that mean? It means straphangers wait and wait and wait. It means they can't depend on the subway. If they can't depend on the subway the city doesn't work. The subway is the heartbeat of the city, heartbeat of the entire metropolitan area. We saw images a few days ago, New Yorkers waist deep in water, trying to get home to their families, trying to make sure they could pick up their kids, shocking and unacceptable. It means we got to do things differently.
Now look, congestion pricing has always been part of the solution. We got to an agreement, but it still hasn't happened. And it needs to, it needs to happen urgently. The city is coming back. The economy's coming back. Kids are going back to school in September. You are going to see more and more people ready to come back to subways, but they've got to know that the subways are going to be better. And the pandemic caused a different problem. Lots of people turning back to their cars. We've got to stop that because that's caused congestion on the streets, more pollution, it's bad for the climate. We've seen too many crashes. We've got to get people out of the cars. Again, the solution, get people back to mass transit, to make mass transit better. That means congestion pricing.
So, years ago there was agreement, City, State, State Legislature, everyone agreed. It's now time to move this, it's overdue. I'm going to now offer a vision of how we get this on track and get it moving immediately. And I want to start by thanking the Biden administration. We know we had some real problems with the Trump administration trying to move forward on congestion pricing. I spoke to Pete Buttigieg as soon as he became Transportation Secretary. He was a mayor. He knows how important it is to get people to be able to move around. To his great credit he acted quickly. He streamlined the process for the federal approvals. He made it easier for the State and the MTA to do what they need to do on congestion pricing. Look, the state runs the MTA. It's time for the State to get in gear, get congestion pricing done because we have a federal partner. That's good news.
Now we got to get the pieces to move. I'll go over them. First of all, the Traffic Mobility Review Board, doesn't sound particularly sexy, but it's absolutely crucial to getting this going. This board has not yet met. The MTA is supposed to call the meeting. They haven't called the meeting and this is an urgent need. I'm nominating my Finance Commissioner Sherif Solomon, who's a tremendous public servant, who's worked on the issues related to the MTA for years. Very, very knowledgeable about it, ready to serve, ready to go. I'm nominating him to the board. But I'm nominating him to a board that has never been called together and that the MTA has not done what they need to do to actually activate. So, I'm urging the MTA today, today to ensure that everyone who needs to be named to that board is named and convene a meeting immediately. We can't get to congestion pricing unless this board meets. And it's literally not even constituted yet. So, let's fix that. So, one I'm naming the City representative Sherif Solomon. Two, calling upon the MTA to immediately constitute this board, call the meeting, get it going. Three, the MTA has to expedite the environmental assessment. The Biden administration made it easy. Thank you, President Biden. Thank you, Secretary Pete Buttigeig. Thank you. Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg, who was our Transportation Commissioner, did such an amazing job here. They did the right thing, but now the State and the MTA have to act and expedite that assessment so we can get going. Fourth, set a public goal. Here's what I say. By June, by June, all of the work should be done. And shovels should go in the ground by July next year, by July. Because when you think about it, we have an expedited environmental assessment, we got a board that needs to meet and make decisions, but they're decisions that can be made, contractors in place. So, get all the work done that needs to be done and then get shovels in the ground by July, a year from now so that congestion pricing can happen in 2022. The actual physical work isn't that much to put up the monitors that tell which license plates are coming into the city. That's not that hard. These other pieces need to happen, but they can happen. But we haven't seen action from the MTA. The time for action is now. I want you to hear from someone who has been a very strong advocate for congestion pricing, who has been a true voice for working people and has fought to make sure that working people can actually get to work. And I want to remind everyone if you can't get to work, nothing else works. Especially if you're a working person or a low-income person. She represents neighborhoods in Queens that have been through so much in COVID and she's fighting to make sure the MTA works for the people of her district and this whole city. She is also the chair of the labor committee in the State Senate. State Senator Jessica Ramos.
Thank you so much, Senator. And Senator, you have a strong voice. You are often heard in Albany and New York City, and I love it when you use that strong voice. I appreciate you, and we've got to get this done with urgency. And you are an urgent person. So, I know you're going to help us make a big difference and get the State to act. Thank you. Now I want to hear from a member of the Assembly, everyone. And I know him well, he was a great community advocate before he became an elected official. And I know because he's from my neighborhood and represents some of the very same neighborhoods I represented in the City Council. He is an activist member of the Assembly in the sense that he is always there looking for what needs to be done and pushing the spectrum. He is the chair of the subcommittee on museums and cultural institutions so he knows that whether you're a New Yorker or a visitor, if you can't get around to these great places, it's not New York City and it won't work the same way. And we've got to make our subways work. My pleasure to introduce Assembly Member Robert Carroll.
Thank you so much Assembly Member. I can hear the urgency in your voice and I appreciate it deeply. And we're going to work closely with you. And I agree, all the other entities that need to name members of this board should be doing it like today. Because we need to get going. Thank you so much, Assembly Member. Now, I want you to hear from a Council Member, he is such a well-known voice on these issues. He has been one of the great leaders of this city on transportation issues. He has been a voice for equity and fairness for congestion pricing, both to fund the MTA, but also congestion pricing to stop the horrible pollution that has afflicted so many neighborhoods in the vein of environmental racism. His voice rings very, very true on these issues. My pleasure to introduce the chair of the transportation committee in the City Council. Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. Well, we think he's there. Yes? Council Member. Can you hear us? Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez?
All right, well, we’ll try and get him back? Okay. We'll try and get back in just a moment. I'll tell him about all the nice things I said about him. Okay. Now two advocates, two more people I want to hear from. Extraordinary advocates who represent organizations that have led the way on these issues for a long time. And I know they felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction a few years ago when everyone agreed on congestion pricing and they're feeling real urgency about the need to get it done. First. League of Conservation Voters obviously understands this is about so many elements of what we need to address, including the fact that if we don't get people out of their cars, if we don't turn to mass transit, we will not be able to save this earth. And the league has been a very powerful voice for change, and it has won many victories because of it. It's my very great pleasure to introduce the President of the New York League of Conservation Voters Julie Tighe.
Thank you so much, Julie. And Julie, you get the sound bite of the day already. We cannot drive our way out of the climate crisis. I really appreciate that. Powerfully said and thank you for connecting all the dots there because yeah, this helps us on so many levels, but we've really got to move with urgency. And your support and your organization’s support is going to help us get there. So, thank you so much. Now another wonderful advocacy organization has gotten so much done. The Riders Alliance has been the noble, powerful voice of subway riders. It has been there for them through thick and thin and has regularly been ahead of the curve. And a lot of times it is the Riders Alliance that has successfully lit a fire under various government agencies to get them to move. So, it's very appropriate to have them with us because we need some fire lit right now to get everything moving on congestion pricing. My pleasure to introduce the Executive Director of the Riders Alliance Betsy Plum.
I know you will, Betsy and I thank you for it. And our straphangers are better off because you guys are out there as such a strong voice. Thank you very, very much. Now let's see everyone, if our transportation chair in the City Council, I said really nice things about him. And I mean them because he has been such a fighter for equity in transportation and a believer in the power of congestion pricing. Let's see if he's with us now. Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, can you hear me?
Thank you. Thank you so much, Council Member. Thank you for supporting this effort with urgency as you always do, and we're going to work together to get congestion pricing moving. Thank you very, very much. Everyone before I turn to another couple of quick updates, just we have some good breaking news here. Very pertinent to the topic at hand. Senator Schumer has been providing absolutely extraordinary leadership in the Senate. Moving a powerful progressive agenda, has just said that he will put the infrastructure deal up for a vote in the Senate next week. Now this is a strong, bold gutsy move by Senator Schumer. This is exactly what we need to move the ball to get the infrastructure funding rolling so that we can do more and more to bring back this city. This is tremendously helpful. Let me tell you, this is a city – for so long, has deserved a huge amount more federal support and infrastructure. It was not there for years and years, even decades – what's been much, much too little funding. This finally gives us the possibility of bringing in some of the funding. We need to fix a whole host of things in this city for our future. But that said, we desperately need the congestion pricing effort to move now, because, in terms of the MTA, and providing the funding the MTA needs to keep operating and to fix its problems, congestion pricing is absolutely crucial. We need to move on that with urgency too. So, all of these pieces are going to be necessary as part of the full recovery of New York City.
Okay. Now, that's what we need to do on the big picture, but now let me take you to right now, today. We've got another challenge from mother nature in the summer. We have another heat advisory. It's beginning right now, coming up at 11:00 AM – heat advisory today and expected to go through 8:00 PM tomorrow, Friday. So, I want all New Yorkers to be aware – we’re now, again, in a state of heat advisory. The heat index today could get over 100 degrees, either today or tomorrow. That means, everyone, please take precautions, don't be outside more than you have to, look out for your neighbors, particularly any senior citizens or folks with particular needs. Be careful – be careful with your kids, keep them hydrated. It really makes sense to be very, very cautious when we're in one of these heat advisories. We've got 300 cooling centers open across the five boroughs, extended hours at about 100 of those centers. We've got – we've got some really good questions from the media about are some of these locations pet friendly. We've got a good handful now of pet friendly locations. We're trying to see if we can get some more of those going. And New York City parks, public pools – of course, great refuge. Public pools will have extended hours until 8:00 PM during this heat advisory. So, if you need a place to cool off another great option is your local pool. Anyone looking for information on the heating – excuse me, the cooling centers, or any other way to beat the heat, go to nyc.gov/beattheheat.
Okay, let's go to our indicators. And today, number one, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today's report is 64 patients. Confirmed positivity of 15.71 percent. Hospitalization rate per 100,000 people – 0.30. Number two, new reported cases on a seven-day average – today’s report, 409 cases. Number three, percentage of the people testing positive citywide for COVID-19 – today's report on a seven-day rolling average – 1.43 percent.
Okay. Now, a few words in Spanish, I'm going to go back to congestion pricing here.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, let's turn to our colleagues in the media and please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: We'll now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, we're joined today by Finance Commissioner Sherif Solomon; Emergency Management Commissioner John Scrivani; Office of Labor Relations Commissioner Renee Campion; by Tom Wright, President and CEO of the Regional Plan Association; by Eric Goldstein, the New York City Environment Director of the National Resources Defense Council; by Jaqi Cohen, Campaign Director for the New York Public Interest Research Group Straphangers Campaign; by Alex Matthiessen, the President of the Blue Marble Project; and by Dr. Andrew Wallach, Chief Medical Officer of Ambulatory Care at Test and Trace Corps.
With that, first question today, we'll go to Derick Waller from WABC.
Question: Hi. Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Hey, good morning. How are you doing?
Question: This is Derick with WBC. I wanted to ask about the story everyone's talking about this week, which is crime. I know that yesterday the head of the Time Square Alliance had some pointed words for administration. And then your spokesperson replied, saying that he was being insulting to cops who are, you know, on the street working to get these crime numbers down. Is that kind of language helpful when, obviously, he has some real concerns about shootings in Times Square. How are you going to work together with community groups who obviously have a different opinion?
Mayor: Yeah. Look, we've been working together really closely with organizations in Times Square, with Tom Harris. You're talking about – constantly, I've been in contact with them, our team's been in contact with them – Terry Monahan, a whole lot. I mean, this to me is the point – we've been constantly engaging business improvement districts, Times Square, and many others, making adjustments where people raise concerns. We take them really seriously. That's why we'd like to see a little consistency. If we're working with people constantly and trying to address issues together, it's good for everyone to recognize that. Time Square, we've put a huge number of officers there. Everyone sees it and we'll keep them there as long as we need. And we will address the issues. Again, I have a lot of faith in the ability of the NYPD to do that. And when the NYPD says, we're making a surge of officers to address a problem, I think that should be respected, because it's going to work. Go ahead, Derick.
Question: Just wanted to ask about – I wanted to ask about some of the issues in the Bronx where I think shootings are up something like 73 percent, and you have these gang shootings with the teenagers. I wanted to know, I guess, where are these extra officers going to be this weekend? Do you know exactly? I mean, certainly the Bronx is, I'd imagine, where that's going to happen. And how critical is it that this person who shot this 13-year-old boy be arrested?
Mayor: There’s no question he's going to be arrested. Derek, look the NYPD – I want to give them a full credit here – when we see a horrible tragedy like this, when we see a young life taken who should be with us right now, the NYPD finds the person involved. Literally, there's almost been no examples in recent years where they don't find the person and arrest them and bring them to justice, because the NYPD has improved their approach year after year. They're using technology more than ever. They also have been working really hard to deepen the relationship with the community, because a lot of times it's the information from the community that is crucial. But they find the person involved every single time. They'll find this person for sure. We've got a problem in the Bronx, and the way to address that problem is the same way we've seen things turn around time and time again. This is what CompStat teaches us. This is what precision policing teaches us and neighborhood policing. We're going to send officers where the need is greatest. We're going to work with the community and make the adjustments. You saw last month that the impact of the gang takedowns, which you're going to see more and more gang takedowns, Derick, for sure. The court's, coming back, but we need them to come back more strongly. That’s another thing we need the State to help us on. We need more activity in the courts, more decisions made by the courts, more movement, because it's still not what it needs to be, but at least it's coming back. We’ve seen that make an impact. The gun arrests – highest in 25 years. These are all going to make an impact. So, we're going to keep pounding away, and get this right, and turn this around.
Moderator: As programming note, we're also joined by Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi. Next question goes to Marla Diamond from WCBS 880.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. Just bouncing off of Derick’s question about the Times Square Alliance. What do you say to the business community in Midtown about the concern that violence will keep tourists from coming back? You two seem to have different ideas about, you know, crime in the city and it seems like the concern levels are not the same. Although you say you're communicating with them, it just – it seems that you're not on the same page on this. They see it very differently.
Mayor: Hey, Marla, we see what's happening all over the city. So, again, if someone has an opinion, that's great. Someone wants to, you know, stand up for their particular area or their constituency – and I understand those politics – that's great, but let's talk about what we see happening in New York City. We see businesses opening constantly. We see jobs coming back. We see outdoor dining booming. We see tourism coming back. It's all happening. It's happening, because New Yorkers are fighting back, are showing resiliency and strength. It's happening, because the NYPD is out there. We had two graduating classes lately, one over 800 officers, one over 400 officers. They're out on the streets now, helping to keep us safer. There's no question that there's a surge of activity to address any challenge that comes up. That's what the NYPD does so well, and we're going to keep doing it. And we've done it before the pandemic – we drove down crime six years in a row – we're going to do it again. We're coming out of one of the biggest disruption in the city's history, but we're going to fight this back and overcome it. Go ahead, Marla.
Question: This is the second time in recent days that you've called for speeding up the timeline for congestion pricing, but the MTA CFO, Bob Foran, said that they are not in a position now to really be needing that revenue to keep up the capital program. So, given that this is what the MTA says, the State has sort of been dragging its feet on this. How much pull does the City actually have in moving this thing along?
Mayor: I'm going to offer a quick response and I want to give an opportunity – we have some other very, very important advocates who are joined us for this. And I'll give a couple of them a chance to weigh in here as well. I'll call on – after I answer you, I want to call on Tom Wright, who's the President and CEO of the Regional Plan Association, and Eric Goldstein, who is the New York City Environment Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. The reason everyone is gathered here is that everyone feels tremendous urgency, Marla, that we've got to have congestion pricing. Look, the MTA, on the one hand they cry poverty, and then the other hand they say, oh, well, we can't move it. It doesn't make any sense. They aren't putting enough trips together for straphangers, that's a known fact. They’re saying they're struggling to hire people – well, figure it out. You have to provide bonuses, whatever the hell it is. But to congestion pricing, it is about sustainability. If we do not have a sustainable revenue source for the MTA, we're going to keep having these problems over and over. When you looked at that horrible flooding, that was a symptom of something that's gone unaddressed for decades. I'm calling upon the State, the MTA, own the problem, take the steps needed, get this revenue, help us fix this problem. So, I think when the City speaks up and says, we’ve got to do something for millions of people use the subway every day, I think that does make a big impact. Let me turn first to Tom Wright and then Eric Goldstein, just to jump in.
President and CEO Tom Wright, Regional Plan Association: Thanks Mr. Mayor. And thanks for the opportunity to speak on this. And, again, all your support for congestion pricing. The transit advocate’s sense is that Bob Foran’s words have been I think misconstrued and somewhat taken out of context. And in particular, one of the things to keep in mind with regards to the MTA finances is that they look at this as both kind of – the concerns they have on the operating side and the capital side. In terms of operations, obviously, the dramatic decline in ridership due to COVID and restrictions has created enormous operating stress on the MTA. But, thank God, the federal government came to the rescue with the CARES Act. And so, that we have some time to work through that. But congestion pricing specifically is intended to fund about $15 billion of the $52 billion five-year MTA capital plan that was approved just before COVID hit. That is an outstanding plan we all have – and, just as the Mayor was saying, things like hardening the system against flooding, upgrading the signals, and improving capacity – all that needs to be funded out of the capital plan. I think the MTA is working very hard to maintain momentum and progress on that plan and congestion pricing is a vital component – about 30 percent of the funding necessary for that. So, that's why this is such an urgent issue and needs to move forward. Thanks.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Thank you, Tom. And now, Eric Goldstein. Eric, are you out there?
Director Eric Goldstein, National Resources Defense Council: Yes.
Mayor: There you go. Go ahead, Eric.
Director Goldstein: Thank you, Mr. Mayor, and thank you for your leadership on this issue. The idea of reducing motor vehicle traffic and air pollution in Manhattan and generating funds for the subways and buses has been around for almost 50 years. The technology has significantly improved over those decades, but the need is greater than ever. And while some people have asked if congestion pricing would be regressive, the answer is a clear no, as a study by the Community Service Society and others have been able to debunk that theory – only two percent of the city's outer-borough working poor would be potentially paying a congestion fee as part of a daily commute and 58 percent of the city's working poor rely on public transit. So, it's very clear both from an equity perspective and a mobility perspective, as well as an air pollution perspective, that congestion pricing is a big part of the solution. We want to get the city fully recovered from the pandemic, make the city's economy work for everyone. We need a safe, reliable, and well-funded transit system, and congestion pricing is a necessary ingredient to make that happen. So, we applaud your call for urgency and we and a diverse group of New Yorkers are ready to stand with you to work to make it happen. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead.
Moderator: The next is Andrew Siff from WNBC.
Mayor: Andrew? Andrew?
Question: Yes, I'm here. Can you hear me? Can you all hear me?
Mayor: Yes, we can hear you. Well, how are you doing, brother?
Question: You know I always like to leave you in suspense as to the quality of the audio, because it adds a little spice.
Mayor: I know when you come on – it definitely is one of those suspense moments in each morning press conference. I admire that.
Question: Mayor, as we speak just a few minutes from now one of your predecessors, Rudy Giuliani, has told us that what he's going to talk about is your refusal to accept federal funding to bolster the NYPD, and I'm wondering whether that is true, that you and your office have turned down federal funding for NYPD enhancement, and what your response is to criticism from him that you're not doing enough to beef up the police response to the recent shooting spike?
Mayor: Are you familiar with the phrase “liar, liar, pants on fire.” That's a classic I'd like to raise right now. This guy just lies for a living, Andrew. He obviously had his law license suspended. He is a known liar. He's lying again. It's really sad. I have a lot of respect for the Office of Mayor of New York City, and Rudy is just not worthy of the title anymore. The fact is – we'll literally forward you a recent press release from the Biden administration, identifying all the ways that we have been using federal funding to stop crime and the Biden administration lauded our efforts to fund community-based solutions to violence. In fact, they modeled a lot of their proposals on the Cure Violence Movement and the Crisis Management System here in New York City and talked about all the ways we have used recent funding from the federal government to beef up responses to violence. So that's the truth. Rudy is lying.
Now, I would say to you look at the work of the men and women of the NYPD, 35,000 strong, as I said, we just a class over 800 in May, over 400 in June, all on the streets now. The most gun arrests since 1996. Do we need to do more? Of course, and we definitely need help from the federal government cutting off the supply of guns in New York City, and we definitely need help from the state government getting the court system to full strength, which it still is not yet. Commissioner Shea made a great point the other day, he said, Yankee Stadium is full, Citi Field is full. Why are the courts not at full strength? We need that. But in terms of what we have in this city and what we're doing – we're out there fighting every single day with the resources of the NYPD. Go ahead, Andrew.
Question: [Inaudible] that's to do with sort of the transition to whoever becomes the next mayor. The presumption based on the way people are talking is that it's likely to be Eric Adams, but I wonder, does that make you a lame duck now today? Are you still – are you looping in both Eric Adams and Curtis Sliwa? How do you talk to New Yorkers about these next few months as the transition starts to be [inaudible]?
Mayor: First of all, I've said it many times – until the people have spoken in November, nothing's formal. We'll have a very aggressive transition process ready. Everyone knows I have a close relationship with Eric Adams and I've talked to him a number of times and certainly we'll always be ready to compare notes with him, but the fact is the formal transition will be farther down the line, but you know, Andrew, people can say any names they want. As you see right here, right now, there's a lot of work to be done right this minute in New York City. For example, getting congestion pricing going now is urgent for millions and millions of subway riders. I'm going to do that work now, and all the other things that need to be done to fight COVID. Bring back jobs, bring back our schools. That's what I'm going to do to the last hour of December 31st, and then I'm going to hand off to the next mayor to continue that work.
Moderator: Next is Marcia Kramer from WCBS.
Question: Morning, Mr. Mayor. I haven't talked to you in a really long time. How are you doing?
Mayor: Welcome back, Marcia? How have you been?
Question: I've been okay. You know, on a certain level it's been a busy time because you know, what's been going on in the city, but what I would like to talk to you about is the ongoing violence that's going on in the Bronx and the crime, because the Bronx as early, as recently as just over midnight today there was another shooting in the 4-4 Precinct. A 25-year-old was shot in the head and the 4-4 Precinct – the Bronx and the 4-4 Precinct now lead the city in gun violence and shootings, and I wonder Mr. Mayor, because this is now such a big problem, if you've thought about going to the Bronx and talking to people, and if not, why not?
Mayor: I will be spending time in the Bronx in the days ahead for sure, Marcia and I want to, as always, hear the voices of communities and make sure we're doing everything conceivable. What we've done though, in the meantime, of course, is moved resources to where they’re needed in the Bronx keep changing, adjusting strategies, focusing on those gun arrests, focusing on the efforts of the Cure Violence Movement and the Crisis Management System right there in that community where work is being done right now to stop these retaliations. So, I'm very focused on these issues and I definitely will be spending time in the Bronx soon. Go ahead, Marcia.
Question: I guess the thing is this: that you've been dealing with the spike in violence now for over a year and it continues, and I know that that some people argue that this is a national problem, but it's also a problem here in New York, which is really going to hurt our pandemic. And the question I guess, people are asking is since we have a terrific police department that has CompStat and Precision Policing, why have they not been able to get a handle on this? And why have all the solutions that you have proposed not worked?
Mayor: Marcia, respectfully, I think a lot is changing. We went over in great detail just a week or more ago, the specific facts about the month of June that showed, even though we got a lot more work to do, and we said, I said it a bunch of times, Commissioner Shea said it a bunch of times, that things are starting to change. More and more guns are being taken off the streets. We're seeing a change compared to where we were a year ago. But yeah, this is – it's been a perfect storm. It's been a horrendous situation where so much came unglued in our society because of COVID. It is happening in cities all over the country, red states, blue states alike. We’ve got to be honest about what happened here. Our society went through a profound shock. All over this country, mayors and police chiefs are addressing it in a variety of ways. We are going to turn it around and recovery is going to help us turn it around, and recovery is happening. There's no one who doubts recovery is happening. That is going to be a profound piece of the solution. But the NYPD is using all the tools you say, and it is working, and it will work more. There's no question in my mind.
Moderator: The next is Jonah Bromwich from the New York Times.
Question: Hey, Mr. Mayor—
Mayor: Hey, Jonah, how are you doing?
Question: —I wanted to ask – I'm good. I wanted to ask for your reaction to a video that I think went viral yesterday, but it was actually from an incident on July 6th, in which police officers target a man who actually not abated his fare, but was said to help someone else do so. They kind of violently confronted him and it ended up that he was tased. Have you seen that video? And if so, what's your reaction to it?
Mayor: Jonah, I'm going to look at that video a little bit later on today. I have not seen it, but I have heard it basically described to me the whole incident and I'm concerned. Look, first of all, I'll state the obvious: fare evasion is not acceptable. Whether you do it yourself, or you help someone else, it's not acceptable, and, you know, from the – what I understand of the NYPD body camera footage, the individual involved was very aggressive, and in some ways, even threatening towards police, that's just not acceptable either. But that said, we're very clear in the training for our officers. The goal is to deescalate. Clearly here we did not end up with a deescalated situation. So, this needs to be looked at carefully to see what can be done differently going forward. Go ahead, Jonah.
Question: I think you just answered my question.
Mayor: All right. Thanks very much.
Moderator: The next is Sonia Rincon from 1010 WINS.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor—
Mayor: Hey, Sonia, how are you doing?
Question: Fine, thank you. How are you?
Question: With regard to congestion pricing, I've talked to residents of Yonkers who tell me they insist on driving to work in the city instead of taking the Metro North, because driving into Manhattan is somehow cheaper, even including the $17 for parking – because taking the Metro North at peak times from Westchester roundtrip plus a MetroCard swipe on the subway in east direction, that can be expensive, close to $30 a day. If driving into the city is going to become the more expensive option for suburban commuters with congestion pricing, would you want to see the MTA make commuter trains more affordable?
Mayor: Looks it's a really fair question, Sonia, and I appreciate it, and I'll, I'll make a statement. I also want to give a chance to Jaqi Cohen from Straphangers Campaign to offer thoughts as well. Sonia, I think the bottom line here is the subways are what make the entire metropolitan area at work, and we got to be clear about this. This is where congestion pricing is necessary to sustain the subways. We see what bad shape they're in. That's got to be turned around. That will benefit everyone. So, I understand if someone says, if you come from outside the city, I can understand why people have some hesitation about congestion pricing. But I'll tell you if we don't do it something much worse will happen, which is the subways corrode, then the entire metropolitan area economy will start to corrode. It's bad for people in Yonkers. That's bad for people everywhere.
In terms of how to make a Metro North or any other element of the MTA affordable – I think, you know, every effort should be made, obviously, to find a way to keep prices low for folks who need it. We very much appreciate that the MTA, you know, even though we all are concerned whenever there might be an increase in fairs, you can get, you know, a monthly MetroCard, you can get a good deal in the scheme of things. It's important that be true for folks in the suburbs as well, obviously, but what can't be lost in this discussion is how if we don't get congestion pricing, then everything else starts to unravel, and I want to give a chance to jump here to the Campaign Director for the New York Public Interest Research Groups, famous and historic and profoundly important straphangers campaign. My pleasure to bring Jaqi Cohen.
Straphangers Campaign Director Jaqi Cohen, New York Public Interest Research Group: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio. I think you nailed it right on the head that it's simply unsustainable to expect that people can just continue to drive in at such great numbers. We desperately need to get our transit system back on track and the issues that plagued our buses, our subways, our commuter rail systems before COVID still exist, right? We still have a woefully inaccessible transit system. Our subways are still operating on 1930s technology, and frankly, fares on commuter rail will only continue to go up if we don't address these critical infrastructure needs. The more that the subway system, the commuter rail system disintegrates essentially the more expensive fares will be in the future. So, we really need – I mean, we needed congestion pricing yesterday. So, we're thankful to have the Mayor be such a forceful champion in support of getting the ball rolling right now because we want to prevent future major fare increases and infrastructure problems on our transit system in the future.
Mayor: Thank you very, very much, Jaqi. And Sonia, you go ahead now. Sonia?
Question: Yes. Thank you. Both Governor Cuomo and Borough President Adams yesterday in their appearance together said there's a climate of lawlessness in the city, as they put it, that there's a sense that anything and everything goes and they said that is a factor in the recent spike in gun violence. Do you think that's fair?
Mayor: I think – no. I don't think that's the reality in New York City. I think the reality in New York City right now is a city is coming back strong, economy coming back, jobs coming back, NYPD is out there doing their job every single day. So much is moving in the right direction. But what I do think is true, Sonia, is we need help from Albany. We need the court system to start moving more aggressively. We need improvements in the laws. One of the things we're pushing is our law to reform the parole system, because right now the state dumps people coming out of prison, in some cases right into homeless shelters in New York City, it doesn't provide any support. So, we definitely need help. So, I would say is that are the things to work on? A 100 percent. Do we need to make sure there are clear consequences if someone does something wrong? Absolutely, and some of that comes back to state law and areas where we need to see improvements in state law, for sure. But overall, the atmosphere of this city, is a city that's recovering rapidly.
Moderator: We have time for two more for today. The next is Henry from Bloomberg.
Question: How are you doing, Mr. Mayor?
Mayor: I'm doing well, Henry, how you feel today?
Question: I'm doing well. Thanks. I've got a question about the Gifted and Talented program. You had a panel of experts look into all the issues of diversity in the school system, and they came back and recommended that you really kind of move towards scrapping Gifted and Talented. That there's no way that segregating children, especially young children, kindergartners, into different tiers of accomplishment at that young age. It's not really a matter of testing, they said, it's a matter of providing education to all the students in these schools, giving all of them an opportunity for enrichment. And you can – you didn't listen to the panel that you put together with all of these experts on the subject, and I'm wondering why, instead of tinkering with the selection process, you didn't really make the progressive move and say these programs once and for all are not progressive, and we're going to open up enrichment programs to all students who are interested in them in every school?
Mayor: Thank you for the question, Henry. And Henry, I don't know honestly how much you were part of all the back and forth, or following it over the last year or more, but it just bears making real clear to you when that report originally came out everyone took very seriously the fact that we had to figure out changes. We tried to figure out what would work and be equitable, and there was not immediately a solution that made sense. A lot of folks in the city do care deeply about having these kinds of options for their kids. We needed to figure out a different approach, and then as we were working on that, of course, the pandemic hit and that became the focus to address the needs of kids and families during the pandemic. That was what we thought about, not the Gifted and Talented, when we re-engaged the issue, we decided some very clear things. One, we were going to end Gifted and Talented as we knew it because to the point you make and the point that the panel made, it was never going to be inclusive enough, and it did not fit our values, and wasn't what we thought was the right way going forward. We still were searching for a solution. So, we decided what we would do is have one more year with some variation of the previous system, and by this coming September, a brand new system would put in place. That new system will reach a lot more people, a lot more kids in a very different way, and that is being perfected now, and we'll be announcing in September. But what you're going to see is not yesterday's Gifted and Talented. That's gone. I said that last year, that's gone forever. Something very, very different is coming to replace it. Go ahead, Henry.
Question: Okay, but when you release these latest – this latest information about Gifted and Talented and who was going to be selected and who was in the lottery, et cetera, there was no information demographically, you didn't take demographic information from the applicants, apparently. So, there's no way to judge who is receiving these Gifted and Talented services, and in terms of their race and ethnic background. And so there's no way for us to really know who's been selected, and again, why not open up enrichment programs school-wide and let anyone who is interested in a foreign language or art or music or STEM to go into those classes and mingle with everybody else in the school and rise to the level that they can rise? I just –
Mayor: Yeah, Henry, directionally I think that's exactly what you're going to see in September. I'm not going to give you the details yet, but directionally, I agree with you. We need something that reaches a lot more kids and gives them opportunity, and it may be exactly, as you say, more that if they have aptitude in a particular area, giving them that opportunity, rather than this small distinct kind of approach that's used now. Something much broader and more inclusive. That's what we're working on right this minute. To your point about the information, look, I'll make sure the team today gets with you. I do think a lot of information is available and it will show that this selection process, even though it was only one time, has ended up creating a lot more equity and a lot more kids were reached who had not been reached previously from communities who have not been reached previously. I will show you those facts. But the most important point is in September an entirely different system, and one that's going to reach a lot more kids and I think be a lot more equitable.
Moderator: Last question for today, it goes to Elizabeth Kim from Gothamist.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Hi Elizabeth, how are you?
Question: I'm good. I have another question about education. The citizens reporting 69 classroom closures due to COVID. Can you explain the policy regulating those closures and also give us a sense of the scale? How many total classrooms are there in the Summer Rising program? Or can you say how many of the 200,000 plus kids are being quarantined?
Mayor: Okay. What I'll do, we have online with us Dr. Dave Chokshi and Dr. Andrew Wallach, who is Chief Medical Officer for Test and Trace at Health + Hospital. So, I'm going to give them both a chance to speak to this because I have not seen the latest numbers, but what we do know, Elizabeth, by the end of the school year, so the last days of June, the very extensive testing approach that we were taking was yielding almost no COVID cases in the schools. We had announced a different approach to testing for Summer Rising. It is not surprising there still be some positive cases. There always were some. There are always some classroom closures, but Summer Rising is occurring at about 800 sites, 800 school sites around the city. It's a huge program with around 200,000 kids in it. So if we have some classroom closures, that's not surprising to me, but in terms of how the process is working, let me see if Dr. Chokshi or Dr. Wallach can speak to that.
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you, sir. We can speak to briefly, and then we'll be happy to follow up with our education colleagues on some more specifics. But what I can tell you is that, you know, just as you said, our classroom quarantine policy was a key part of our layered approach to preventing the spread of COVID-19 in schools. And we've had very low testing rates through the last few months, and that has continued through the summer as well. Looking ahead to the fall, we do think that, you know, based on the CDC guidance and our own local review of the science underpinning it, the testing as well as isolation and quarantine, when it's called for, will continue to be a key part of our approach going forward.
Mayor: Thank you, Dr. Wallach. You want to add anything?
Chief Medical Officer Andrew Wallach, Test & Trace: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Nothing to add.
Mayor: Okay, great. Go ahead, Elizabeth.
Question: That is – my follow-up question to that is the kids who are where the classrooms have been closed. Are they receiving remote instruction then?
Mayor: Elizabeth I'll check on that. There's a very small remote element to Summer Rising. I – that's a great question. If that's being connected to the classroom closures. Again, from what you're saying, I'll check the numbers today, it's a small number of kids, but we clearly want to support them too. We'll get you an update to make sure that we're current with you on what's happening, but look, thank you for the question.
And as we conclude today, everyone, Summer Rising, a reminder to parents out there for the next few days, and I know DOE is putting out information on this today, for the next few days, there's still an opportunity to get your child into Summer Rising. We're hearing amazing feedback, truly amazing feedback, from parents about the experience our kids are having. It is 100 percent free. It is safe. It is full day culture, recreation, academics all together. Any parent who doesn't have something good for their kid to do this summer in the next few days, you still have a chance to sign up for Summer Rising. We want to accommodate your child. We want to give them a great summer. So, take advantage of this unprecedented program and sign up now. Thank you, everybody.