Secondary Navigation

Transcript: De Blasio Administration Announces Overhaul of Workforce Development to Focus on Good-Paying Jobs, Skill-Building, and Strengthening New York City's Economy

November 21, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio: I want to thank President Fernandez for welcoming us, and for giving us a chance to see the really wonderful work that's happening here at Lehman College. I also want to thank Dean William Latimer, whose school we just visited. It was really great to see the New Yorkers who have come here to Lehman to take advantage of the great offerings here, to get the training they need so they can be participants in this economy in a real and meaningful and lasting way. And that's what's happening here, so I say to the president, congratulations to you and the whole team here for the great work you're doing, opening up powerful economic futures for the students who come here, and the folks who come here, seeking an opportunity to build that kind of future for their family. 

I want to talk about, of course, the work of this great task force, the report they put out, the recommendations we're going to act on, but let me frame this for a minute. I want to take you back – some of you were around last year and saw some of the things that we talked about, and I know you know we talked about a tale of two cities, and the fight against income inequality. 

One of the specific issues within that was the reality that so many New Yorkers were struggling just to make ends meet, and were not getting the kind of opportunities they deserved – even within the five boroughs where opportunity existed, so many New Yorkers couldn't access it. So we had a lot of different things going on that were affecting the everyday lives of our people, and the economic realities of our people. Some of them were global trends and changes to our economy. Some of them were much more local. But what was quite striking was even where opportunity existed, so many New Yorkers couldn't reach it. 

We saw it in the healthcare field and we saw it in the technology field. Some of the strongest elements of our economy, some of the parts that are growing so profoundly were unfortunately closed off to a lot of our fellow citizens. And the reason was that people needed a certain kind of training that wasn’t easy to get – and there was a bit of a – a vicious cycle here, because the training opportunities were harder and harder to reach, because of the economic reality. But for a lot of people, getting the access to higher education or getting the access to specialized training was too expensive – it was too difficult to reach, it was too hard to find a program that could provide that kind of help. So, lots of willing, hard-working New Yorkers stuck in a situation where, unless they could get that kind of training, they couldn’t access the newer and stronger elements of our economy. And again, here’s – the good news was we had those newer and stronger elements – you could see it before your very eyes. You’ve seen the growth of the healthcare sector, you’ve seen the growth of the film and TV industry, which has been astounding, and – probably the fastest and most striking of all – the growth of the technology sector here in this city, which is an amazing good news story, but has only just begun in terms of what it could mean for the future of our economy.

But there’s a disconnect – there’s a disconnect, because so many of our people were willing or ready ­– had the work ethic, had the drive, but couldn’t get that bridge to the skills that would get them into these industries and help them thrive for the long term.

What we had a lot of – we’ve talked about this a lot – we had a lot of jobs that didn’t pay a lot – low wages, low benefits. Those were easy to access. And that’s a part of our economy, but it’s not the part of the economy that allows people to grow and to sustain a family. The part of our economy that does that, we were having trouble helping people reach. And for years in New York City, there was an approach to training, an approach to job placement that really didn’t emphasize where the economy was going sufficiently. It really didn’t emphasize the kind of skills that people needed – and the opportunity to have a transcendent experience, like the students I just met were having – where they’re going to get skills here at Lehman that will literally frame the rest of their lives and their economic futures. I talk to a lot of the students about why they were interested in nursing, why they were interested in healthcare, and it was very inspiring to hear how many of them – first words out of their mouth – and they were clearly very sincere – it was about their commitment to helping others. It was about the belief that they could make a difference. There was no question that that was the first motivator. But I also asked them about the economic reality, and they knew that by going into nursing and by going into the broader healthcare field that they could sustain themselves for the long run – they could actually have opportunities to advance in the field, that it was a front door they were going through to many many opportunities that would sustain them throughout their career, would sustain their families.

Those New Yorkers are on a path we can be very proud of, where they’re going to be economically strong – and that’s what we’re here to do. A lot of times in the past, our approach to training and job placement didn’t actually hit that mark, didn’t actually help people get the skills, create a sustainable path. A lot of the efforts were based on either the parts of the economy that weren’t so vibrant growing or were based on short-term placement instead of long-term sustainable progress. And when we aim our resources in the wrong direction – and I want to remind people – this city puts almost half a billion dollars into job-readiness programs – when you aim those resources in the wrong direction, it has a huge ramification, because a lot of people inadvertently get left behind.

So this task force, to their great credit – very impressive group of professionals from a wide range of fields – looked under the hood of this situation, said we, as a city government, have to play a transcendent role here. We have to change the dynamics on the playing field. We have to help people get real and sustainable opportunity. And to the great credit of the task force, they figured out some of the things that we can do differently – and I’m so enthusiastic about the changes that we will make. And I want to emphasize – I’m going to go through some of the details, you’ll hear from others – the changes we’re going to make will take effect immediately.

So, it’s clear – we want all the strength of our economy to reach all New Yorkers. And you can see some very strong things, some powerful things happening right now – you’ve seen what’s happening on Wall Street today, you’ve seen what’s happening with real estate prices. There’s a lot of indications of strength – the question has always been – again, something we constantly talked about last year – will all that economic might, will all that wealth actually be something that people can access from every neighborhood, from every part of this city. That remains our central focus.

And there’s a sobering reality – we’ve got almost a million hard-working New Yorkers – people who work, people who give it their all – who earn less than $20,000 a year. We talked about it a lot last year – a statistic that’s remained very similar – about 46 percent of New Yorkers at or near the poverty level. A lot of people working hard, but not getting the opportunity they deserve. A lot of people trapped in jobs that don’t offer a future – people are taking whatever job they can get, they’re giving it their all, but a lot of jobs just don’t offer a chance at advancement, and will never offer the kind of wages and benefits with which someone could sustain a family.

So the high-wage jobs, the quality jobs, the jobs with good wages and benefits, the jobs with a future, the jobs with a career pathway – that’s what we want to get our people. That’s where we want to – the door we want to open for our people. We don’t want to ever see someone who grew up in the city feel they can’t access those jobs – and that’s what we’re committed to changing.

Let me talk about the leaders of this administration who pulled together this task force. And the task force members, I just want to – a lot of them are here – I want to them for their extraordinary effort – and we ask them to do a lot in a short period of time, and they answered the call. So I want to thank all the members of the task force. Let’s give them a round of applause.

[Applause]

And you’re going to hear about four particularly important initiatives that came out of this – but I want to also give my thanks and credit to the leaders of this administration who really shepherded this effort with the task force – of course, our Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen; President of the Economic Development Corporation Kyle Kimball; our Commissioner of Small Business Services Maria Torres-Springer; and the Executive Director of the Office of Workforce Development Katy Gaul Stigge – I want to thank them all. Also, we’re joined by a number of key allies, elected officials – some you’ll hear from, others I just want to acknowledge now. I want to thank State Senator Gustavo Rivera. I want to thank Assemblymember Jeff Dinowitz, and Councilmember Andy Cohen – all from this part of the Bronx. I also want to thank, from Queens, Assemblymember Nily Rozic, who’s been a key ally in Albany on these issues – I want to thank her for that support.

And now, just a quick review before your hear from others of what these four key outcomes from this task force are.

First, something we call the First Look Policy. The First Look Policy – it is exactly what it says. Starting from this point – and again, implemented immediately – New Yorkers who are in city workforce development programs will go to the front of the line when applying for jobs with firms that we provide business to. It’s a very simple concept – the city of New York is a major major economic presence in and of itself. The city government purchases about $17 billion in goods and services. We have a lot of economic weight of our own. We’re saying, as part of that, that when we have people in our workforce development programs, our training programs, we want them to get the first shot at the jobs with the firms that we do business with.

Second, we’re going to change the workforce programs to focus on quality – and that’s where our resources will go – to quality. We shouldn’t be spending taxpayer dollars to train our fellow New Yorkers for dead-end jobs or low-paying jobs – that’s not fair to anyone, that’s not fair to the taxpayer. So we will be incentivizing efforts that create a pathway to high-end jobs, to highly – high-quality jobs, to jobs that offer a lot of mobility. And that’s going to be another way, as we saw here today, for people – once they get started, once they get that door open – in order to really sustain themselves.

Third, there will be a focus on real skills in all our programs – not, again, just placement or short-term outcomes, but skills that are the basis for a long-term career. So, you think about what would that look like? Well, I mentioned some of the sectors – healthcare – so many great opportunities if someone, for example, gets the kind of training to go nursing, to go into lab work. There’s tremendous opportunities, but you need a certain threshold of training. Let’s talk about the even more obvious – the technology sector. We’ve read about this many times over – this sector is booming and they have to go to California and other parts of the country to bring in the engineers [inaudible] just to do the day-to-day work. You know, we’re doing a lot of things about that, including the investments we’ve made in CUNY in the STEM program. You’re going to see our training programs really focus on the kind of skills – computer coding, for example – that will offer people opportunity in the tech sector.

Somehow in past years, as I mentioned, almost half-a-billion-dollar investment we made in training workforce – somehow, very little of that actually went into skills development – actually, only 7 percent of that half billion dollars in the past went into skills training. We’re going to change that and change it fast. We’re announcing an investment that will grow to $160 million dollars – so over a third of that total – about five times the current spending. And we will, in the process, prepare 30,000 New Yorkers per year for high-skilled jobs – 30,000 of our fellow New Yorkers each year will get training for high-skilled jobs in the industries that are growing.

Fourth, our city agencies will work together, will – they’ll focus on boosting local hiring. We talked about, earlier this year, the tech-talent pipeline – helping New Yorkers find the pathway to high-quality tech jobs. We’re going to expand that now to 6 industries total, with the notion of providing that clear, fast opportunity for people to get to where the jobs are. The example I’d like to offer – and you’re going to hear from her in a moment – Barbara Duran, who is a native of the Dominican Republican, came to this great city, has contributed a lot to this city, and had a real love of helping others, just like some of the New Yorkers I met a few minutes ago. And Barbara is a participant in Lehman’s Medical Assistant Program – takes healthcare workers who have had some exposure to the work, but haven’t had the higher-skill opportunities – gives them real-life opportunities to learn and get experience and get training. Barbara started, therefore, through this training, doing higher and higher level tasks in healthcare – and that’s now put her on a pathway to quality jobs for the future. And part of why it works here is because, again, this program at Lehman works from the perspective of the employer backwards. They think about what employers are looking for, what jobs will be there, where the quality jobs are, and they work backwards to create a training pathway to those jobs. For Barbara, this is going to mean a better life for her family and a sustainable career. And Barbara is the kind of example of what we want to create in this city – we want a city full of people like Barbara Duran, who will have that opportunity to have a bright economic future.

Just a few words in Spanish before I turn to my colleagues –

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

With that, one of the key leaders in this effort, and of the folks who’s really helped to reform the approach to training in this administration – I want to thank her for her great work – is our Commissioner of Small Business Services Maria Springer – excuse me, Maria Torres-Springer.

[Applause]

Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer, Small Business Services: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. As the agency that helps both job seekers and businesses, SBS is uniquely positioned and thrilled to carry out many of the recommendations in the Jobs for New Yorkers report.

Now, in the past, our systems – or Workforce1 centers – have focused on placing New Yorkers in as many jobs as quickly as possible, with the underlying belief that any job is a good job, but we know that we can and that we must do better for New Yorkers. Under your leadership, Mr. Mayor, we have already made great gains. For instance, we already set wage expectations. Any business that receives recruitment services through SBS must be providing full-time job opportunities or paying above $10 dollars an hour. We have also partnered with the Housing Recovery Office to make sure that people who were impacted by the storm have real opportunities to access jobs created through the Hurricane Sandy rebuilding effort. We also launched the New York City Web Development Fellowship that will help out-of-school and out-of-work youth, with no college education, earn web development skills and land a job paying $65,000 dollars or more. And, as we are announcing in this report today, this task force is leading New York City towards what might be the most ambitious transformation of a public workforce system ever seen in a major American city.     

The task force did its work in three pillars – first, building skills that employers seek; second, improving job quality; and third, increasing coordination and collaboration.
On the first goal, one way we are building skills employers seek is through industry partnership. We’ll bring together employers, organized labor, educational institutions, workforce providers, philanthropy and city agencies to make sure that New Yorkers are gaining the skills they need to fill open jobs through six key sectors, as the mayor mentioned. These partnerships will allow us to create real career paths and align training with specific advancement opportunities. The programs that we launched here through the New York Alliance for Careers and Health or NYACH with Lehman College are a perfect example of what we will expand both within healthcare as well as into other sectors. Partnering closely with employers, training providers, 11-99 and others, we learned that among other needs, hospitals only hire nurses with clinical experiences, and that it was difficult to recruit and retain medical assistance. So understanding the stats, NYACH created the transition-to-practice programs to help RNs get the clinical experience they need to get jobs, and the Medical Assistance Program to help train unemployed individuals as medical assistants.
The second pillar is improving job quality. Building on the recently passed paid sick leave legislation and the expanded living wage EO, the city’s Economic Development Corporation will be launching the NYC Good Business Initiative to create a standard that recognizes high-road employers with good businesses practices, which will support, in particular, workers in low-wage industries.
The third pillar will focus on increasing system-wide coordination. The city will align definitions, metrics, and data – and all of this is to ensure that we’re actually functioning as one system – one system that works harder and more effectively for New Yorkers who need our help. And, as the mayor mentioned, we will establish a first-look hiring process. This will be a sea change for New York City. For the first time ever, the administration will ensure that its investments and its spending power results in real and good jobs for New Yorkers.

So I’d like to thank my fellow members of the Jobs for New Yorkers task force for their participation and contributions and expertise throughout the process – and, of course, to our Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and our Mayor Bill de Blasio for such leadership on this important topic. Thank you very much.

Mayor: Thank you.

[Applause]

Throughout the work I’ve done, talking about the need to fight income inequality and change our approach, I’ve always had both a – a colleague and an ally, but also a strong voice pushing us to go deeper and find stronger solutions – and that is our Public Advocate Tish James.

[Public Advocate Letitia James speaks]

Mayor: Representing the work of the task force, one of the leaders of the task force – Tim Johnson – and he’s the senior VP of the Greater New York Hospital Association. I also want to mention, before bringing Tim up, just how extraordinary a partner Greater New York has been in these last few months as we dealt with the immense challenge of Ebola – and something we had never faced before. The Greater New York Hospital Association was a real effective partner with the city of New York in all of our preparations, so I’d like to thank Tim and his colleagues for that, and welcome him to speak – Tim Johnson. 

[Tim Johnson, Senior Vice President, Greater New York Hospital Association, speaks]

Mayor: Finally, I said we have an example in Barbara Duran of what we’re trying to achieve here – and would like to have a whole city of people experiencing the same success that she is. So now, let’s actually hear from Barbara Duran.

[Barbara Duran speaks]

Mayor: So before we take questions, I just want to say – this – this is the task force report  – and it’s an impressive document based on a lot of hard work – and it gives us a clear pathway to how to train people more effectively, how to get them the skills they need to get them into real jobs. So it’s an impressive piece of work. But this is the abstraction – Barbara is the reality, so we want to congratulate you.

Barbara Duran: Thank you.

[Applause]

Barbara Duran: Thank you for the opportunity.

Mayor: Thank you. And thank you for being a great example of something that’s really working – we appreciate it. Let’s take questions on this topic first, then we’ll go to off topic.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: We're going to find a colleague who can speak to the details, but just to emphasize two things – one, I've said this for many years, including when I had the august office of Public Advocate – that the fact that we have $17 billion dollars in purchasing power, and we used it – historically, have used it for so little effect in terms of some of the other things we need to address. It's a real problem. I think this task force, to the great credit, recognized a huge resource that needed to be tapped into, where we could get more good out of the money we're spending – multiple impacts out of the money we're spending. Second, I want to say one of the things we learned – I learned as an individual, I think we learned also as a matter of public policy – getting people that foot in the door is a huge step for most people to have an opportunity to actually be seen, to actually have a chance – a lot of folks who normally don't get that foot in the door. So, literally giving people a chance to get into the running, to get into the pathway for an opportunity, is a big thing in and of itself. Let me have my – whichever colleague would like to speak to this?

I thought it might be Maria, so I've already gotten the step. The step is now ready for you.

Commissioner Springer-Torres: So, with the First Look system, the idea is to use our powers as a purchaser of goods, and also as conveyer of subsidies for the economic development levers that we pull, and it's not to require that employers hire particular people, but it's to require them to engage in this process, which is to have the public workforce system identify and screen individuals, who then they will look at. And how we view this is that this is a – both a service that we are providing employers – delivering qualified candidates to help fill open positions – and also an opportunity we are providing New Yorkers so they can get in front of the line in terms of these opportunities. Now, whether it's every single dollar – we're going to be as aggressive as possible to make sure that we are looking at every opportunity, and every time we find a contract [inaudible], but we will be realistic about it. And so as they are – for example, if we are buying cheese from a farm in Wisconsin, those employees will be in Wisconsin, and so, we have to look and concentrate on companies that are hiring in New York, and then make sure that New Yorkers have opportunity for those positions. 

Question: [inaudible]

Commissioner Springer-Torres: It will be, depending on the needs of that employer, we will find the candidates for those jobs. 

Question: [inaudible]

Commissioner Springer-Torres: What we're – we are requiring them to participate in this program, and we want to also make sure that it has teeth. And so we'll build out the right set of compliance measures to make sure that if there are job opportunities, that they have to be posting with the public workforce system, that they are doing that. 

Question: You talked about the bridge that people weren't able to cross to get these good jobs. And this $22 million dollar building, [inaudible] they're going to get good jobs. [inaudible] talking about investing $160 million dollars [inaudible] when you're talking about people who don't have the money to go this institution, and go to that [inaudible] and get the good jobs.

Mayor: Well, first of all, we gave you a metric. 30,000 people a year will be trained, and obviously, one of the things you're hearing from my colleagues, and from the task force, is that we intent to ensure that that training has an outcome. We're not satisfied with training to nowhere. We're not satisfied with acquisition of skills that don't get you anywhere. We're not satisfied with short term placements. So, by definition, if we're reaching 30,000 people, which is a very, very substantial number of people, and we're going to hold ourselves to a high standard in terms of actual success, we're going to make a real big impact. They can talk to you about – Maria or Katy can talk to you about the exact build-out of the program over the next few years, but I think the fact that we are naming a number of people we intend to serve is the kind of metric that you're looking for, and the question is how many succeed in following through, and these are going to be people who did not have the opportunity to be in a place like this previously.

Question: SBS has been around for years, and there's been a promise of job training for more than a decade. Are you saying the previous administration did it wrong and missed the opportunity for higher-paying jobs? What's being corrected here?

Mayor: Yes.

[Laughter] 

I – I think it's quite clear. The focus now is on skills development for the areas of the economy that are growing. The focus is for – on sustainability, not short-term placement. I mean, I think it's pretty self-evident. Maria, or anyone else, want to comment on the difference from the previous approach?

Commissioner Springer-Torres: The focus in the previous administration was on quantity, versus quality. And we have scarce resources, taxpayer dollars, should [inaudible] on making sure that we are using each of those dollars to put people into jobs that offer family-sustaining wages and real advancement opportunities. It's really as simple as that.

Mayor: On topic. On topic. All right. Going once, going twice – it's always after I say going twice. Going twice – is that a media question. Okay. 

Question: First of all, great news that this is [inaudible] Do you know when this will happen [inaudible]?

Mayor: Maria? Who wants this one? The timing of the information. 

Katy Gaul-Stigge, Executive Director, Office of Workforce Development: Hi. We expect that this will be happening immediately. We're looking for next year, you'll see in the plan – this beautiful implementation plan – a lot of details about the years it will be going. But we understand that doing this right takes time, and only because we want to make sure the training really relates to the employer. If we just committed $160 million dollars, and that was the target, that would be the wrong kind of target. We're talking about quality, and we're talking about when employers need it. So, it's going to take these industry partnerships, and these relationships, to build it correctly. And we're committed to that.

Mayor: On topic, going once, going twice – off topic. Wait, I heard an on topic, after I had gone to off topic. Look at that. You guys are – you guys are timing even later each time. Go ahead.

Question: [inaudible] institution did not prepare people for good jobs, and [inaudible] areas of the economy?

Mayor: Henry, I appreciate your search for truth, but let me – let me clarify. We're not saying no one did important work, by any stretch of the imagination. And by the way, you just heard, you know, some of the work that's been done with great coalitions that form between, you know, the academic sector, business, labor, to try and address some of these issues for a long time. We're talking about the city's policies and the city's investments. So I really want to separate the fact that I think there have been people, who for a long time have been getting closer to the right model, and we're learning – that's why we had the task force, we got a lot of people together who actually had helped figure out the right way to do things – but it had not reached, bluntly, the policy-making approach at City Hall sufficiently. And we've now the benefit of the insight of people who have been doing this work for years, and they came back with a couple of key conclusions, and there's a lot of consensus on this – the focus on quality, the focus on emerging, strengthening industries, the focus on sustainability in the job opportunity. The reality I remember when I was chairman of the General Welfare Committee – for a period of time the Department of Employment, which doesn't exist anymore, used to be under that committee, and HRA had a lot of training programs, and we often reviewed these questions – and what was quite striking was a lot of placements worked for six months, or nine months, or a year, and then the person was back out of work. And a lot of placements were low wage jobs. And I felt this years ago – these folks are a lot more expert than I am – that this is just not good public policy, not a good use of taxpayer dollars, not something that actually sets the person up for the future. I think it's almost an investment question. We're going to invest – we're going to see a real multiplier effect. And that's the focus is on skills that we think actually propel someone forward for a lifetime. Last on topic. Hold on. Now that we've gone all haywire here – one more chance for on topic, that is on topic. On topic, okay.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: On the First Look. Right.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: Well, I think I – again, I'll bring up any colleague who wants to get into the details – but, I think the point is, the point Maria made about teeth is important here. $17 billion dollars – that's a real big economic impact, and it should achieve a lot of things for us. Of course, we want the best goods and services at the best price, so that's what we start with. But we want to also use that economic weight to achieve things that our people need. And, if it means that – think of this on a common sense level, that everyday New Yorkers have a shot at a job with a company that's gaining a lot from its business relationship with the city of New York – that's just common sense,  so, making sure that people get an opportunity for the jobs that exist, that they are at least part of the process, and have an opportunity. In terms of the details –

Commissioner Springer-Torres: So, there are two concepts that will drive how we fully develop and then implement the program. One – as the mayor mentioned – is teeth, so determining what the right set of compliance measures are, and, if need be, penalties to make the system work. But as importantly is the concept of a service orientation. We really view this as working in partnership with employers, and it is our responsibility as the public workforce system, SBS and other agencies who are doing workforce development, to be really good then at identifying and training qualified individuals to help fill those open slots. And so it's – we're not thinking about it as a punitive relationship with employers, but really one that is oriented towards providing a valuable service. We hear all the time from employers that finding the right talent is a big problem – it's systemic across the city. And so this is the way to fill that, and make sure that we are using our levers that we have in terms our contacts to provide opportunity. 

Mayor: I just want to just add to this – Wiley, I'm going to articulate this, then you can. [Laughs] The underlying concept – so, economic growth is good unto itself. Any time jobs are being created, that's a good thing. But our higher calling is to make sure that our own people – people who live in the – the 8.4 million people who live in the five boroughs have the maximum opportunity for the jobs. It's great when someone from out of town gets a job, someone from, you know, the tri-state area, someone from, you know, California comes in to get a tech job – that's still a job that's producing an impact here in the city, building a business, building our economy. That's great, but what's better is when a resident of the five boroughs gets a job, especially if it's a company that the city government is investing in, in effect, by doing a substantial amount of business with them. So, to me, there's a common sense dynamic here. We need to make sure our own people are getting maximum job opportunity. We have something a lot of employers want. I guarantee you they want to do business with the city of New York – there's a lot of competition to do business with the city of New York, because if you knew someone who had $17 billion dollars to spend, you'd like to know them too, and do business with them. So, given that dynamic, we're saying, great, we're going to work together, we're going to do great things – but give our people a chance for a job. Give our people an opportunity, because that's what will really strengthen the city the most. 

On topic. Last call, on topic. Oh. Wow. I'm watching you. Going once, going twice – off topic.

Question: [inaudible] 

Mayor: First let me say, Commissioner Bratton is going to be addressing this issue – I think quite soon – and there's going to be a full investigation, to say the least. So, what I'm going to say is, based on preliminary information – it will take, obviously, some time to do a full and careful investigation – but this is a tragic situation. That's the bottom line. This was a tragedy. A life was lost, and my heart goes out to the family of the young man who was lost. We don't know enough yet, but it does appear to have been an accident. And look, we're going to do a full investigation, and understand what we can learn, and what it tells us going forward. The officer involved has been placed on modified duty, with the removal of the gun and badge. The fact is, you know, this is something that – on a very human level, we lost a life today, and I feel that very humanly, as I'm sure all New Yorkers do – but it does appear to have been a very tragic accident.

Question: [inaudible] what's happening in Ferguson [inaudible]?

Mayor: I think what's happened in Ferguson obviously is a deep concern to all of us as citizens. And we have to see the outcome of the process of the justice system there, but, you know, one of things – there's been a lot of concerns over these weeks about the response in Ferguson – at times, a very heavy handed response, and I think a response that has often exacerbated tensions. Here, we've had protests in New York City many times over what happened in Ferguson, and a number of other concerns. The difference here is that I think it's been made very clear to all citizens that, you know, their right to protest will be protected and respected, that NYPD has done, I think, a fantastic job of working with anyone who wants to express their opinion, to allow them to do so in a constructive manner, while at the same time keeping order and keeping the peace. So, I think we have a very different tradition here – a very positive tradition. So, I expect that that will be the most important factor, that it's clear how we at the city regard the right to protest. It's clear what we're trying to do as a city to change the relationship between police and community, and reform those dynamics. So I think here, people will look at Ferguson and consider as a national issue for sure, and I'm sure some will raise their voices, but I think there'll be a very different response than what you might see on the ground there.

Question: [inaudible] 

Mayor: I will, again, defer to – all details to Commissioner Bratton. I don't know for sure in either case, so let me have him answer those. 

Question: [inaudible] broader [inaudible] the officer involved [inaudible] experienced officer [inaudible]? 

Mayor: Well, I think there's a couple different points in your question, and I think it's a very fair question. Point one, we had in the spring, beginning of the summer, a challenge in public housing. We took a number of steps. We did add additional officers, we added additional lighting, we added recreation programs for young people – we took a series of steps that did help to stabilize the dynamic in a number of developments – not every one, but in a number of them. And I think that is a strategic need – when we see any uptick in crime, to address it, holistically. I think the question of, you know, how we train our officers, how we prepare them for certain responsibilities, that's an ongoing issue the department looks at, to its credit, all the time. Obviously, we're going to be doing a full retraining of our entire force. A number of issues will be addressed there. So, I think we want to learn if there is anything particular from this incident that might tell us other ways to do things, but I think it's premature to conclude, based on the very few facts we have at this point.

Question: There are also reports that the [inaudible] stairway [inaudible] NYCHA –

Mayor: Yeah.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: Oh, yeah, I mean – separate from – again, we don't – there have been reports of that, but again, I've learned in this job, we won't conclude anything until there's been a full investigation, but let's get back to the lighting effort we undertook very systematically in 15 developments that were among the most crime-ridden. I mean, there's a clear correlation, in terms of fighting crime, to having a well-lit environment. It's also something we owe to the people who live in public housing, that they deserved, you know, good quality of living. So, we've invested a lot in additional lighting temporarily, and a lot in permanent lighting that will be coming in in those developments, but there's a lot of other places where – to keep doing that work, part of what we try to achieve by no longer requiring NYCHA to make payments for police service, was to take that very same money and apply it to repairs like lighting. But there is a long way to go. I don't have to tell anyone that there have been decades of disinvestment in NYCHA, and this is an uphill struggle, but clearly, lighting – getting lighting right is part of the solution on many levels, both for quality of life of residents and for safety. 

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: I think when people see a tragedy, of course it pains them, and it reminds us that we have a lot of work to do. But I don't think anyone has minimized how much work we had to do. You know, I think we are trying to undo years – in some cases, decades – of divisions and problems, and it's not an overnight endeavor, it's about being resolute and being consistent. And I think the leadership we have at the NYPD is very devoted to addressing a lot of the problems of the past, to bring police and community together – that's why we're doing the retraining. That's why I think you hear constantly in the message of Commissioner Bratton and his team, that they're focused on a whole series of reforms. That's why, obviously, some of the other things that cause people a lot of pain, like the misuse of stop and frisk, and the broken policy of stop and frisk have been changed so profoundly. This is ongoing work. This is a conversation we're going to be having for a long time, because there's a lot of work to be done. 

Question: Follow-up on that – is there additional concern – I mean, in the wake of what happened with Eric Garner – that another man is dead, you know, perhaps by the work of the police? Is there additional concern [inaudible]?

Mayor: I think every – first of all and most importantly – and I do think the public, of course, like every one of us, feels something in every incident, but I think the public is also discerning that each incident is different. What happened in Ferguson is different than what happened on Staten Island and is different than what happened in Brooklyn – and each of them has their own dynamic. Again, from what little we know so far, this appears to be a tragic mistake. We need to know a lot more, but I don’t think it’s necessarily right to connect all the dots and say, oh, all these things are of the exact same piece. I think it’s right to say we have a lot of work to do. We have to constantly learn in each situation. We have to strive for ever-improved policing, in terms of protecting people, and an ever-improved relationship between police and community.

Question: [inaudible] Van Cortland Park, here in the Bronx. And it’s being filled [inaudible] reservoir [inaudible]. However, the Jerome Park – the Central Park reservoir has a beautiful jogging path around it [inaudible]. Here, across the street, at the Jerome Park reservoir, we have two high fences that keep the people away from the water. The community wanted, for the past 20 years, to have a [inaudible], much like the Central Park reservoir, and [inaudible] jogging path [inaudible]. Why is that not happening? DEP – by the way – DEP had said that they want to lower the inner fence [inaudible], which would definitely make it impossible for residents to get anywhere near the water.

Mayor: Well, I’m going to have to check with DEP. I know Commissioner Lloyd has engaged this issue and the other issues of concern – you’ve raised some of them in the past. I know she’s been working with the elected officials, but I can’t give you an exact answer on the fence, but I’m happy to make sure we do so afterwards.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: Has a what [inaudible]?

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: Hm. And someone’s using that particular phrase? Or is that your editorial comment?

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: All right. First of all, I have immense respect for Chancellor Fariña. I think she’s doing an extraordinary job and I think she’s someone who’s done a lot for education in this city for decades, and now is in a position to really have a transcendent impact – and she’s doing it. Second, as a question of policy and worldview, I’ve said many times, we intend to support all our children, and work with all our children. Obviously, we have a lot of kids in charter schools – we want to make sure they get a good education. [inaudible] a lot of kids in religious schools and we have a close working relationship with religious schools. The vast majority of our kids are in traditional public schools – that’s what’s going to determine the future of our city and that’s where our number one focus is – but we’re going to work with everyone. I think the fact is that there’s been a lot of concern, there’s been a lot of studies – one notably by Stanford University in the last couple years – that point out there’s some real differences in the composition of some charter schools versus the districts in which they exist. Now, the charter movement’s very diverse. Some charter schools, to their credit, not only represent the number of English-language learners and special ed kids in the district in which they are, but they’ll surpass it. Others are noticeably under-representative. Some charter schools have kids who come in in kindergarten, stay all the way through, who happen to have a challenge of being an English-language learner, for example; others seem to retain those kids as well. So I think it really depends on the school. So I think what she was saying is that there’s a concern there that needs to be addressed on a substantive level. I don’t think anyone should see that as a negative, that she’s acknowledging a reality that is something we’re going to have to work on – just like we have to work on a lot of issues in traditional public schools. When I talked about the struggling schools a couple weeks back – I want to be very forthright about acknowledging the schools we think need a lot of work and what we’re going to do about them. I think the same attitude should pervade a – pervade a discussion of charter schools as well. There’s charter schools that have work to do – we should talk about that openly.

Got one more there – 

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: All right – well, let’s – let’s – weren’t you doing this yesterday, too, with the 12-part question? Let’s separate them. I’ll give you both, but let’s do the first one first. On the question of the cameras – first of all, I think it – we have to separate what happened with this very tragic incident from the question of the cameras, because I’m not sure there is any direct relationship. We’re talking about security cameras – I’m not sure that has any bearing on the discussion of this tragedy, but we’ll know a lot more as the investigation proceeds. But on the cameras that are supposed to be part of making NYCHA more secure, I haven’t read the report – I’ve had it summarized to me – but I can say that, you know, yes, strides have been made in terms of the implementation. There was a huge backlog in terms of cameras that had been budgeted but weren’t implemented. Those cameras are being implemented. We’ve said – we told people very publicly we’d have them in by the end of the year – they will be in by the end of the year. And I think we’re going to do a lot better implementing the cameras going forward. And they’re part of a series of things we have to do to create more security in NYCHA – part of is police presence, part of it working closely with tenants and tenant patrols, part of it is cameras, part of it is door security – there’s a whole host of things we have to do – lighting, as I mentioned. But I think the issue raised in the report has been addressed consistently and will continue to be addressed. And we’re going to make sure the implementation of cameras goes more smoothly. 

What's your next question? On a totally unrelated topic, what is – [Laughs]

Question: The president's address last night – how can we make an impact?

Mayor: Impact –

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: Yeah. I thought it was an extraordinary speech. I give the president a lot of credit, because before you even talk about the importance of the policy, I think he articulated real passion, and talked about the history of this country, and who we are, and the fact that every one of us has traveled the same journey in one form or another. You know, I've often talked about my grandfather, because of the time – you'll remember a few years back in Arizona, a law was passed that was a great concern to many of us, where public officials were supposed to constantly check the papers of everyday people walking down the street, to see if they happened to have their paperwork in order – and a lot of us were outraged, and thought that was un-American. And I said to people at the time, my own grandfather, who was olive-skinned and spoke with a very heavy accent, would have been profiled in a heartbeat under a system like that – a hardworking guy who came to this country to pursue the American dream, and succeeded. And I am standing before you today only because he was willing to leave a small town in southern Italy and try and make an economic future for his family. So, I think we have to see the entire immigration debate in a very personal context. Every single one of us, as Americans, in the past we've traveled – I think the president articulated that very, very powerfully. Every one of us has had this experience. For some of us, it is happening right now. For some of us it's a generation or two ago, some of us many generations ago – but it was true of everyone. And almost everyone was discriminated against along the way. Almost everyone was treated as an outsider, and an outcast, and had to overcome it. So, I give him tremendous credit for one, articulating a message and a vision that had to be talked about; two, for acting when it's clear Congress will not. And I think he has every right to do so, because we have to end the madness of a system in which we had 11 or 12 million people amongst us, a key part of our society, going unrecognized, unaddressed – the biggest open secret in American life, not being treated as a matter of policy. At least, to the great credit of the president, he's willing to say, okay, I'm going to do something, and I'll take the responsibility for it – but this is going to make an impact – I think an estimated 5 million people, finally giving them a chance at a better and more normal life, and acknowledging their role amongst us. For New York, it's crucial, because we have half a million people who are undocumented. For many, many people, it means they will finally be able to come out of the shadows, they'll finally be able to know that their families will not be torn apart – they'll be able to have a better and more normal life. They're already contributing to life in this city. They'll finally be treated as positive and productive members of this society. So, I think it's going to be felt deeply here. I think there's a great sense of relief and appreciation today in New York City, because the president acted. 

Thanks, everyone. 

pressoffice@cityhall.nyc.gov

(212) 788-2958