July 27, 2015
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you. Thank you so much, Ellen. Ellen, you have a lot to be proud of. You have led this institution brilliantly now for more than 20 years. And millions upon millions of people come through these doors and it is – and has been for a long time – one of the great icons of this city, and only gets better.
Now, I have to tell you – Ellen, I mentioned this story to you – that Dante came here a few months ago with me and his cousin Tom who had just moved to New York City, and Dante gave Tom a very serious lecture about the fact that the had never been to the Museum of Natural History before. Dante was very upset at the notion of anyone who lives in New York City and has not been to the Museum of Natural History. So in our family, there is a reverence for this wonderful place and what it means for all of us. And we’re proud to be here – and we thank you, also, for the extraordinary leadership that this museum has played in the IDNYC program – one of the most enthusiastic participants.
This is a great day to celebrate what IDNYC has achieved. It is now, by far, the nation’s most ambitious municipal ID program – launched just six months ago, and having extraordinary results already.
There was tremendous energy in the City Council to achieve this program. Speaker Mark-Viverito, who you’ll hear from in a moment, and the Council were not just partners, but really driving the speed with which we got this done. And I have to tell you, this is another example of what can be done if we have the kind of ambition to serve people of this city directly and completely.
You’ll remember the original projections as to how far this effort could reach. Well, it has gone beyond every prediction and is reaching now an extraordinary number of people.
And it’s so important because of all the ways that IDNYC benefit people. Beginning with those who felt left out in our society, who felt unrecognized, disrespected, in fact literally in the shadows of our city – they now have a chance to belong further through IDNYC.
There are so many reasons it helps. It helps recognize all of our people, regardless of gender identity, regardless of immigration status, regardless of economic status. And that is the reason, after six months – just six months – we are pleased to announce today that over 400,000 New Yorkers now have an IDNYC in their hand.
And people are proud of it. People like to show it off. I like to show it off. Anyone up here want to show off their IDNYC? Who’s got it? Reach if you got it.
It is something that makes people proud – and of course, as New Yorkers, we’re always proud to say where we came from. But this is an ID card that does so much for so many people – and that’s why people keep it with them wherever they go. Don’t leave home without it.
Now, one of the great things and part of the reason we’re hear is what this ID card means in terms of the ability of all New Yorkers to actually access the riches of this city, and most especially our cultural institutions.
As a result of this program already, over 30,000 cultural institution memberships have been achieved – just in six months, 30,000 more memberships in our cultural institutions – 6,000 of which are right here at the American Museum of Natural History.
Think about it. It means for so many people who have not felt that they could have access to these institutions, it’s a whole new reality for them and their families – and we are very, very proud of that fact – we hear these wonderful stories of families going to a museum for the very first time, or a concert, or a botanic garden.
We’re also thrilled to say that this excellent program has won a lot of attention around the country – and a lot of our friends all over the nation are working on their own approaches. Now at least 20 other major cities and counties across the nation, including Chicago, Newark, and Hartford, are pursuing similar programs.
There’s a lot to like about what’s happened. A lot of people deserve credit. I want to thank some of the members of my administration who worked so hard not just to start IDNYC, but to keep perfecting it. They’re literally working month by month to make it better all the time. Let’s thank our commissioner of immigrant affairs, Nisha Agarwal.
Our commissioner of cultural affairs, Tom Finkelpearl –
– we’ve got a cheering section here; and our commissioner of veteran affairs, Loree Sutton – General Loree Sutton.
You know, as we all embarked on this journey to achieve this – I know my colleagues in the council feel this deeply – we started to realize just how much it meant to people to have an ID who hadn’t had it.
In modern society, so much depends on having an ID. You literally can’t get into a government building or a hospital or a school without it in many instances. Obviously, you can’t sign a lease without ID, you can’t get a bank account, and you can’t interact properly with law enforcement. We learned in the process of doing this just how much impact it would have, and on so many – so many – so many levels simultaneously. And there’s hundreds of thousands of people for whom this was the first chance to get an ID card. And it also speaks to our values, because it speaks it inclusion and what we as New Yorkers believe in – a society for all.
These cards are held by every kind of New Yorker. I want to give you some examples – people standing with us today. Natasha Lee – 20-years-old, from the beautiful island of Jamaica – used her ID to open her first bank account at Amalgamated Bank, and to cash her first check – congratulations.
Aury Martinez for the first time has an ID that represents her name and her gender – for the very first time – congratulations.
Here’s a story of a great New Yorker right here – Private Luke Gasparre – 91-years-old – 91-years-young, may I say? – World War II veteran. Now, for those of you who are Mets fans, and you’ve been to Citi Field, you may see Luke at his post as an usher. How many years have you been doing it, Luke?
Private Luke Gasparre: 52.
Mayor: 52 years –
– first at Shea Stadium, now at Citi Field. And Luke – obviously he’s proud of being a veteran, he’s showing us that now – but he signed up for the ID on his birthday, and part of why he liked it was because it has a veteran’s designation on it. And this is something General Sutton worked hard to make sure was included, because it’s amazing – there are veterans all over this city who do not have a form of ID that recognizes their service to our nation, and that gives them the maximum opportunity to achieve the benefits they deserve as veterans. So this is an important piece of what’s happening now with IDNYC. More and more we’re going to use it as a tool to get veterans the recognition they deserve, and more and more of the benefits and opportunities they deserve. Let’s thank Luke for all he’s done for this country – and for the Mets.
And finally, Maria Carmen Salvador. You know, as I mentioned, parents are used to – when they get to the door of their school their child goes to – they’re used to having to take out their ID and fill out the book before they can go in. Well, Maria didn’t have an ID, so she didn’t feel she could go into her child’s school. She got the ID, finally. She felt comfortable going into the school, and for the first time she was able to vote in a PTA election at her child’s school. These are little things, but they really add up in people’s lives. And Maria brought her family here to this museum for the very first time, because the ID allowed her to get that membership – we’re going to hear from her in a moment.
These are four stories – four New Yorkers that represents the beauty and the diversity of our city – four out of over 400,000 now who are benefiting.
Just again, to remind you, IDNYC – accepted by all city agencies; recognized by all city agencies, including the NYPD; accepted at dozens of financial institutions – I mentioned Amalgamated Bank, which has been very active with us in making sure that this program reached as many people as possible; free memberships – did I mention they’re free? Free memberships at 33 great cultural institutions in this city; access to all of the city library systems, meaning if you opt in with your IDNYC, you automatically also have a library card at any of the systems, and you can start taking advantage of the resources of those systems; and other benefits that can make a big difference – prescription drug discounts, and other discounts through the partnership of the city’s Big Apple Prescription Program.
And now, it’s easier than ever to get IDNYC. We’ve quadrupled – quadrupled the number of enrollment centers. Every borough has appointments available this week. So if anyone here wants an ID and hasn’t done it yet, or you know anyone who wants one, they can get an appointment literally this week. Call – if you need the information on where to go, call 3-1-1, or visit nyc.gov – visit our website, nyc.gov/IDNYC to find an enrollment center near you and to sign up. And once you have signed up, the card is sent to you within two weeks. It just gets better all the time.
So, there’s a very nice phrase here in my remarks – I’m going to hold this up again as I say it. This is a pocket-sized expression of a big and powerful message – this is a city for everyone. That’s the beauty of IDNYC.
Before I call up the speaker, and my other colleagues in government, just a few sentences in Español –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, I want to thank the speaker and the City Council, again, for the energetic effort that they brought to this. I remember the day in front of the Brooklyn Public Library when we announced the beginning of this, and it has been a great journey together – and it’s happening on a bigger scale than we ever could have imagined. The speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito –
Mayor: Okay. We are going to do on-topic questions first, then off-topic questions. On-topic questions first – IDNYC.
I’m going to give you another chance.
Question: Was the whale a boy or a girl?
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito: Huh?
Question: Was the whale a boy or a girl?
Speaker Mark-Viverito: Ellen, what was – was the whale a boy or a girl?
Speaker Mark-Viverito: It was a girl and it was presented as a boy?
Speaker Mark-Viverito: The bellybutton area, okay.
Mayor: That actually was an on-topic question. Thank you, Marcia.
Question: [inaudible] there were concerns about securing the ID and they said [inaudible]. How’s that going? Have there been any breaches?
Commissioner Nisha Agarwal, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs: So, when we designed the program, we worked very closely with the NYPD’s intelligence unit, and many other experts to design a card that from beginning to end is both protected – in the sense that the card itself has many security features to make it hard to duplicate. The process itself of applying has a number of different protections in it, and we have a very significant program integrity unit on the back end to confirm individuals’ identities, make sure that people who are getting the card are actually those individuals. We have not had any breaches in terms of technology or data. We have not even had any requests for the data from law enforcement. When the program went into effect, the law makes very clear that identities and private information will be protected to the maximum extent of the law, and that remains the case. HRA Commissioner Steve Banks also issued executive orders to ensure that all of the data that is kept safe and confidential. So we’re very proud to say that this is a secure card, both for the applicant and for the program.
Mayor: Stay one more second, just in case – on-topic?
Question: Is there a waiting list for the card? And do you physically have to go to the center to get it or can you get it online?
Commissioner Agarwal: So there isn’t a waiting list for the card. We recommend that people make an appointment. And right now, all appointments are scheduled within the next 90 days. And as was mentioned by the mayor, when you go to apply for your card, it will be mailed to you within two weeks, sometimes even shorter.
Mayor: And some appointments are available [inaudible].
Commissioner Agarwal: And some appointments are available this week in all five boroughs, and so we want to really emphasize that message. Thank you.
Mayor: Go ahead.
Question: [inaudible] follow-up [inaudible] free memberships [inaudible] is that for all time on the card or – ? When can people take advantage of that?
Commissioner Agarwal: Sorry, can you repeat the question?
Mayor: Membership – you mean the cultural membership? For the first year – here, I’ll – stay nearby. It’s for the – when you get your ID card, for the first year you have your ID card, you can sign up for the cultural memberships. The ID card lasts for five years at a stretch. During the first years – correct me if I’m wrong on any of this – you can get a membership at a cultural institution.
Question: Well, that was really my question but I’ll – I’ll follow it up. [inaudible] because this is such a benefit and because so many people have mentioned their access to the the cultural institutions, is there any plan to extend that one-year period [inaudible]?
Mayor: Well, Tom also should get in here.
Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl, Department of Cultural Affairs: So we’re really just six months passed into the first year. We’re talking about year two actively with cultural institutions, with Nisha, and we’ll have something to announce later in the year, but we don’t have something to announce today.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer: You only have to pay a dollar for the institutions anyway.
Mayor: What’s that?
Borough President Brewer: You only pay a dollar for – to come here.
Mayor: Yes, but I think the fact is that many people have found having a membership offers a range of opportunities. Why don’t you describe that? The difference between showing up once versus having a membership.
Commissioner Finkelpearl: So, as the borough president said, some of these institutions are in fact free, or virtually free. But, for example, at BAM Cinemas, you know, you have to pay and you can get a discount with your card – to get, you know, 50 percent off – it depends on the institutions. There are also discounts at the stores if you become a member. So it’s – so even an institution like this, which, you know, is a voluntary contribution – 6,000 people have already decided it’s worth it to become a member for some of those other benefits.
Mayor: And I’m going to add a point, which comes from – directly from my interview with Tom Finkelpearl when he was an applicant for this job – that a lot of people in this city feel a certain trepidation about going into one of the big, famous cultural institutions, and they literally don’t know if it’s for them. And the ID card is a strong statement that, yes, it’s for everyone. And once you have the NYC ID that you can then go and get a membership and be treated like any other member of a cultural institution, and use it multiple times, and bring you family. So it really is a different mindset. And I think I’ve heard this from a lot of folks amongst our cultural institutions – kind of demystifying access to cultural institutions that previously – for some people they felt they were only for the elite, but they were never meant to be only for the elite. On topic –
Question: Mayor, I’ve been talking to a lot of undocumented immigrants, and while many of them are getting their ID, there’s still a lot of them that are – that are afraid. And I was wondering if you could reiterate the invitation to them to lose these fears, and also if you are doing any efforts to convince them that there is no problem in terms of [inaudible]?
Mayor: I’ll start and I’ll pass to you – maybe you’d like to do that in Spanish as well. And Nisha can then talk about additional outreach efforts. Now the whole idea is this is an ID card for everyone. You will not be asked your documentation status. We want to make sure that people are very clear about that. They will not be asked their documentation status. All people who live in the five boroughs are welcome to come get this ID. By the way, the point about the NYPD is very, very important. If you have this ID card, the NYPD understands it, respects it, and they also will not ask your identification – your documentation status.
[Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito speaks in Spanish]
Commissioner Agarwal: And what I’ll add is we have a pretty significant outreach team that at the grassroots level partners with council members’ offices, partners with faith and community institutions to really do outreach to the immigrant community. So when people have questions, or they’re afraid, there’s somebody they can directly speak to about that. We also, with Tom Finkelpearl’s help, are going to be having an artist-in-residence who will start very soon, who’s mission will be to do extended outreach to the undocumented community, and use creative strategies to really reach out to that population.
Mayor: Okay. On-topic. On-topic – yes? Wait – first, no – closer first – closer – did you have one?
Mayor: I’m sorry, are you from – are you a journalist?
Unknown: Yes, I am a journalist, but I have – I have to say something to you, Mr. Mayor. I really appreciate that ID card, because I – I can get a job. So this ID card makes me a person that gets a job [inaudible]. So I want to give thank you to the mayor, because it helps me a lot with [inaudible]. So I really appreciate [inaudible].
Mayor: Thank you. Thank you very much. Alright – thank you.
Speaker Mark-Viverito: Surprise testimonial.
Mayor: Alright – last call. Last call, on topic.
Unknown: [inaudible] – I wanted to say that –
Mayor: Wait – wait – just hold on a second. I just want to be clear, with respect. For any journalists – it’s questions from journalists, but it has to be questions, not statements. So if you’re a journalist, I’d like to get a question.
Mayor: Okay, then thank you. We’ll just – we have to keep it to members of the media just now. But thank you very, very much. Okay, last call – journalists, last call, on topic, going once. Going twice. Off topic. Off topic.
Question: Mr. Mayor, last week Governor Cuomo said [inaudible] increased the city’s share of MTA funding [inaudible]. First of all, are you going to meet that [inaudible]? And second of all, [inaudible]?
Mayor: Well, let’s remember the history very quickly. Last time, we got a formal, timely request from the MTA. It was early on in our budget process and we specifically met that request. At the very end of our budget process – literally the very final days of the executive budget process – suddenly another request appeared out of nowhere. This, too, has come as a surprise, and my simple response is we welcome more information on the financial commitment that the governor is making in terms of where the state will find the resources and how they’re going to commit them, and then we’ll be happy to talk about it once we understand the specific proposal.
Mayor: I’ll – again, I’ll be in a position to respond better when I see the specifics. We literally don’t know where the money is coming from or how it would be paid for or what it means. So, you know, when we see the substance of it, we’ll be in a better position to comment.
Question: Last night, a man who has previously been arrested for – been charged with leaving the scene of two accidents that hurt pedestrians and other folks in the car was in another collision, and this time, a 19-year-old girl was killed and an 18-year-old girl is in the hospital. He’s been charged again. So I was wondering if you could comment on just the nature of, like, multiple charges for the same offense over and over again? And then how do you kind of reconcile with the Vision Zero effort with passengers in vehicles, like the two women that were in the car?
Mayor: I think this is why we have Vision Zero. We have, I think, over the last year-and-a-half, steadily increased the penalties for drivers who have killed people and injured people grievously. We’ve steadily increased the enforcement. This is something where the Council and the mayoralty have work very, very closely to address what’s been a crisis that went unaddressed. I don’t know the specifics of this case, but it’s obviously a tragedy. And the goal here is to make sure that people who should not be on the road are not on the road – and that’s exactly why we’ve taken such an aggressive approach with Vision Zero. I’d be happy to say more when I know the details of the case.
Question: [inaudible] passengers [inaudible] been in accidents before? Like, should people be told maybe check, see if it’s a safe driver that you’re with?
Mayor: Look, I think this is something that’s a challenge particularly parents feel – and I’ve certainly had this conversation with my children – to really be careful who you get in a car with – and that may be because the person is under the influence of a substance or that they’re reckless in other ways. So I do think everyone should be very careful, but the first responsibility we in government have is to create laws and to enforce laws that can as best as possible stop these tragedies from happening – and that’s what we’re trying to do with Vision Zero.
Question: Mr. Mayor, there’s a major infrastructure happening shortly, and it wasn’t on your schedule. Are you planing to be there? And if not, why not?
Mayor: I think, from what I’ve heard of the announcement – I don’t have all the details, but certainly the part about trying to rejuvenate the terminals at our airports – something I think is wonderful – and I put out a statement praising the governor and the vice president for that. My understanding is that they’re doing it in the context of an ABNY event, and, you know, that’s the kind of event that I go to when I’m speaking, but not obviously as an attendee. But it – from that – what I know of it so far, I’m impressed by the announcement.
Question: Does that mean that they did not invite you to [inaudible]?
Mayor: No, it means that an event like that is the kind of event that I go to when I am doing exactly what the governor will be doing – when I have something to announce.
Question: May I ask how you and the speaker are doing in terms of personal and professional relationship? [inaudible]
Mayor: Well, I’ll start and welcome the speaker, of course, to join in. We’ve known each other – did you run in ’03 originally or ’05? ’03.
[inaudible], you know, doesn’t always work. I’ve known the speaker well since she first ran for office and we have been friends and allies ever since. And we obviously have some very, very similar views of the world – and I think that’s part of why we’ve had such a strong partnership over the last year-and-a-half. So we talk all the time and I think I’m very proud to say we’ve gotten a lot done together.
Speaker Mark-Viverito: An effective and effective governance is being able to collaborate and being able to be clear about your positions. And so the mayor and I have a good working relationship – and it’s all always in the best interest of New York City for that to happen. So I look forward to the work ahead on behalf of the City Council.
Question: Following up on that, earlier this summer, you spoke about the difficulties that you’ve had in your relationship with Governor Cuomo. Then last week, we heard the speaker, you know, frustrated with what she was hearing from you. Are there any lessons that you’ve learned from [inaudible]?
Mayor: Have you heard of the concept of apples and oranges? Again, I’ll – I’ll offer my view. The speaker and I have worked shoulder-to-shoulder now for a year-and-a-half, and have agreed on the vast majority of issues. It’s been a respectful, honest relationship. Clearly I respect the City Council. I spent eight years of my life as a member of the City Council. And I understand in all matters before the City Council, they’ll make choices about their own agenda. I think in some of the interpretation of the issues, I’m not sure the relay of the information was as clear as it might have been from the media. I’m just not clear about all the details, but I do know, when I was asked a question the other day – would you go back to the City Council if needed – my answer was yes, meaning I would go to the City Council knowing the City Council makes their own decision, ultimately, about whether to engage any proposal. But I think it’s been a tremendously productive relationship with the speaker and with the Council as a whole. And the situation I referred to with the governor is obviously a very different reality based on different experiences.
Question: Given what happened last week with Uber – this is a two-part question –
Mayor: Do the first part first.
Question: Do you have fears that other corporations may try similar [inaudible]?
Mayor: Okay, stay there, stay there. I am never surprised by any company that thinks they can use their money to achieve their goals. And I am not overawed by it. We made very clear – the speaker has made clear, I’ve made clear – that we have an agreement that gives us the information we didn’t have before, that gives us the study period we need and the limit on growth we need to address this issue. So I think, in the end, the public is very dubious when a large corporation tries to get its way using vast resources. I think that’s something that in democracy a lot of people raise eyebrows about.
Question: The second part of the question is [inaudible] what you, given the chance to negotiate this deal all over again or propose regulations all over again, is there anything that you would have done differently, given how it was widely received as [inaudible] unpleasant for everyone involved – the council members, you, [inaudible]?
Mayor: Unpleasant just sometimes goes with the job. You know, again, I think the administration and the Council were trying in close coordination to address a very complicated issue. I think regardless of the advertising effort and the lobbying effort, we got to an outcome that’s going to allow us to address the issue. And we retain all of our rights as a city government. You want to add?
Speaker Mark-Viverito: I mean, just to touch on the issue that you mentioned, you know, all that – that’s not the way we work here. And all the money that can be thrown around, whatever the intent was, that’s not the way we do public policy in the City Council. And it really wasn’t working with the members either. So it’s unfortunate. And we really are deliberative – we’re going to analyze the issues and arrive at a position that we believe is in the best interests of the city.
Question: Mr. Mayor, on the way here I encountered a number of homeless people. Some people were begging for money for food, others were just eating food out of the trash can. And I’m looking for answers – I’m wondering what’s changed? What do you think has changed to bring more people on the streets of the city? And secondly, is there anyway you can the law so that the city could get more help?
Mayor: Well, first of all, what’s changed right now is it’s summer. And every summer we see this challenge in one form or fashion. And the other thing that’s changed is the economy – and we’ve talked about this, you know, in a lot of settings – the cost of housing and what’s happened to people’s household economics. You know, the reason we have such a huge number of people in shelter – not necessarily the people that you’re seeing – but the reason we have so many people in shelter is because the cost of living skyrocketed in this city and people didn’t have the same economic opportunities they used to. So we’re trying to address that with a lot more permanent affordable housing. We’re trying to address that with a lot of efforts to raise wages and benefits. You know – you know very well the reality of people – even working people – who are in shelter, because they can’t make ends meet. So some of this is about economics. Some of this is about the reality of the summer months – and that’s sadly been true in New York City for many, many years. But another piece of this is about mental health. And we are about to – everyone is aware of the fact that the first lady is going to bring out a plan that’s going to fundamentally reshape how we approach mental health issues in this city amongst all our agencies with a single, coordinated strategy. We’re also going to do a lot more to address some folks who have mental health challenges and literally can’t control themselves – who are a threat to themselves and to others. We’re going to be more aggressive about addressing that. So I think the very vignette you gave – and this refers a lot to what Commissioner Bratton has clarified to the people of this city recently – anyone who might be a danger to themselves or to anyone else, we are going to aggressively address, and we’re going to find a way to address their needs and make sure they’re not on the street. Those who are peacefully sitting on a park bench or even – we’ve all seen in every neighborhood – there’s some people who sit there and, you know, ask for spare change, but don’t bother anyone. They’re not aggressive – that’s within their constitutional rights. But as you also indicate, some people are so hungry, you know, they’re searching for food. Those folks, we try and get to soup kitchens, we try and get to shelter, we try and get to safe havens – and we’re expanding our capacity, with safe havens, for example, to get more and more people in who have chosen to be on the street, but we’re going to try and convince that there’s a better approach that takes them off the street.
Question: [inaudible] people who are hungry?
Question: These are people who [inaudible].
Mayor: I would argue – it’s a very good question – and this is – I’ve asked the same question many times. I think in our democracy, there is a thin line – the question of what constitutes the individual’s right, for example, to sit on that park bench or beg in front of that store. There’s been tremendous consistency that it’s not the place of any local government to tell people they can’t do it – like any other freedom of speech or assembly. That is a very different question from the thing that I think most New Yorkers are concerned about – and I’m very much concerned about as well. Anyone who’s aggressive, anyone of course who’s violent – there, I think we can do a lot more within the law – and that starts with recognizing that mental health is the single biggest challenge when it comes to anyone who’s aggressive or violent. That’s rarely a person who is mentally well – let’s be clear. Well, that’s what we’re about to roll out – some very different approaches that we think will have a much bigger impact.
Okay. Last –
Mayor: Under the laws of our democracy, yes, you can hear from both of us. So I’ll begin and say – [laughs] – what I was trying to say, and I’ll say it again, is the city government, which unites us all, retains all its rights in this situation. By saying there’d be a four-month study period, that means exactly what it says – at the end of that study period, we can resolve issues amicably and create the kind of balance we need. That’s great, but nothing says that the City Council can’t go back and look at that option if they’re dissatisfied with what happens at the end of that process.
Speaker Mark-Viverito: The – the study is going – is in the process of getting started and will be completed in the four months. And we expect Uber to abide by its agreement to provide its data that we’ve been very specific – that we’ve asked for and that will help inform and produce a better study. And so we will continue to have conversations internally as a Council and explore all options. But we can’t figure that all out until we have the studies and evaluation about – one – the issue of congestion is one aspect of it, but the industry as a whole and this rapid growth of it. So we’re looking to get that information and be deliberative about it, and then explore whatever options are then available and needed.
Mayor: Thanks very much.
Speaker Mark-Viverito: All right.