June 15, 2016
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you very much – thank you.
Mayor: Thank you, everyone – and thank you, Michael. I really want to commend you for the work you do here, particularly serving our young people. And the initiatives that we put in place to give young people a lot of positive opportunities make a huge difference in their lives. And Michael your leadership in the team that you work with makes a big, big difference. So, thank you very, very much.
It is a good day, and a day when we have something very tangible to talk about that is happening here at Bushwick Houses – but is happening at a lot of other developments as well. I just want to take you back in time for a moment; you remember just a few months into my mayoralty there was an uptick in violence in some of our developments, and there was tremendous concern. And we talked with residents of the developments, we talked with NYPD, and obviously leaders of NYCHA – and what came out of those discussions was something very fundamental. One of the things that was unfortunately a real part of the problem was the lack of light – that so many of these developments did not have the kind of lighting in place they needed. And residents were profoundly concerned about it. They did not feel safe. When we talked to NYPD it became even clearer. The NYPD was working so hard to keep residents safe, but had one hand tied behind their back because they didn’t have a well-lit area to work in. So, we devoted ourselves immediately to putting in temporary lighting in a number of developments that had the most severe violence problems. But then we said we wanted to solve the problem with permanent lighting. And here at the Bushwick Houses you are seeing the results of that initiative. You can see with your own eyes that it is happening and you can see the difference it will make in the lies of residents here. So, for the first time since the 1980’s, exterior lights at Bushwick Houses have been replaced and updated and made modern so they can actually reach the areas they are supposed to cover and keep people safe and give people that sense of safety and help the NYPD to do its job – 305 new light fixtures – brand new – covering the entire development.
I was walking with our Chair through just the last block and she pointed out that every one of those light poles you see is a brand new fixture – 305 brand new light fixtures. What an impact that is going to make all over the development. And think about it, all over this City, who would want to walk down a street that wasn’t well-lit? Our residents in public housing deserve the same rights as everybody else. So, this is a great example of the changes we can and will make. Now, this is being done here and at 14 other NYCHA developments. These again are the 15 developments total that we identified two years ago as needing particular help to stop violence. And those 15 developments in total house over 62,000 New Yorkers, so this is reaching a lot of people and will make them safer. This is part of a $140 million effort that we call the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety. And we wisely came up with the acronym MAP, and did not use those last two words. So, the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety, but better known as MAP. And it really reflects our values and our beliefs that residents of NYCHA deserve what everyone else in this city deserves.
I want to thank some of our colleagues who are here – you’re going to hear from a few others in a moment – but I want to thank our Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Dr. Herminia Palacio, for being here; and I want to thank Amy Sananman, the Executive Director of MAP who is leading this great initiative and thank her for her great work. We were going to be joined by the Tenant Association President Lohoma Shipman, but unfortunately she had to be at work today, so she couldn’t be here, but we thank her for her leadership; also, I want to thank the Office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance who supported this effort all over the city; and Assemblymember Maritza Davila who has been a key player in our effort as well. We thank them all.
Now, we all know that our Housing Authority is the ultimate example of affordable housing in New York City. And this really should really never be left out of the discussion. Unlike so many other cities in the country we start with a large strong Housing Authority; and one that we are reinforcing all the time – 400,000 people plus live in Housing Authority buildings. That is one of the ways we keep this City affordable for so many people. And that reality has been true for decades and decades, that this is one of the most important elements of affordable housing in the City, but at the same time – okay, who is having a technical problem back there? You got it?
At the same time, our residents have felt decades, not just years, decades of federal disinvestment. So, the quality-of-life that used to exist in Housing Authority buildings when there was many, many more millions of dollars coming in each year from the federal government has obviously had a very negative effect on people’s lives. That’s why we are redoubling our efforts and we’re doing the things that we can do more and better to help bridge that gap and – again, also never take our eye off the fact that the day should come when the federal government does reengage this issue. Maybe that day is not too far in the future, given some of the changes that could occur this year in our nation. But we’re never going to stop fighting that fight, but, at the same time, we’ve had to both stabilize the Housing Authority and make sure that these key safety issues are addressed.
Now – and again think about everyday people’s lives coming home late from work at night, going out shopping – you need to feel safe. And that is about having the lighting that makes you safe, that makes you know that you can see what is happening around you and obviously that law enforcement can see what’s happening around. This lighting will have a big impact and construction will begin as well on top of that soon on additional elements of our security efforts here including new surveillance cameras and layered access control doors. That is a much better system for locking doors and keeping buildings safe, and this is the wave of the future here at NYCHA. That’s the physical part of the changes that we are making, but there’s other things that we have to do. We have to deepen the relationship between police and community in our NYCHA developments. And we know when that relationship deepens people become safer. So, we have deployed two neighborhood coordination officers to the Bushwick Houses. Those officers, obviously, specially trained to implement our neighborhood policing strategy, and we think it is going to make a big difference. And as we talked about at the beginning, we have to be there for our young people. We have to make sure that they have positive options. So, the community center here in Bushwick Houses will be open until 11:00 pm every night from now until September. And it will give kids opportunities for recreation, for sports, but also if they want to do dance, if they want to do computer coding. There is going to be so many different activities day and night – positive ways of engaging our young people and giving them a chance to learn as well.
We want Bushwick to be the best it can be and these are the kinds of changes we need to achieve that – more police presence, new lights, new cameras and doors, more programs for our young people. These are the kinds of things that actually change a community, and we’re going to do this and more in the years ahead.
I’m just going to say a few words in Spanish.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, I now want to turn to our Chair – and I want to tell you, it is a big, big job being the Chair of the Housing Authority and having responsibility for the lives of those 400,000 people. And from the beginning, Shola understood that that was going to take transformation and creativity and strength and she has shown all those attributes throughout the last two plus years and is really helping to put NYCHA on the footing it needs for the future. It is my pleasure to introduce Chair Shola Olatoye.
Chair Shola Olatoye, NYCHA: Thank you so much – thank you so much for that introduction. And I want to thank the center director, Mr. Vaz, for hosting us here this afternoon. Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to Bushwick. I want to thank and acknowledge our colleagues in government; Councilman Antonio Reynoso who has been – as I called him an early adopter to our work of implementing Next Generation NYCHA; our colleagues at the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice; Amy Sananman; and, of course, our colleagues at NYPD led by Chief Secreto. Thank you so much. And many, many other folks who have been a part of this work here at the Housing Authority to really ensure what is very simple – something that the Mayor said – everyone deserves to have a safe, clean, and connected community. And that is the vision of our work – of our ten-year strategic plan Next Generation NYCHA. It is with partners – with our residents and other community partners – and that is why it is so important that we are here today to acknowledge that we heard you; that we heard our residents and we heard the broader community around the issues of how to make people feel safe with the installation of lights, with the soon-to-be installed installation of layered access and additional CCTV cameras here at Bushwick already adding to the 84 cameras that are here and the 44 cameras that are at Bushwick too.
So, as we head into the summer season it is important – especially important for us to double own on the work that MAP has instigated. As the Mayor indicated, Bushwick is one of 15 sites that are the focus. We are outfitting all of these developments with more than $140 million investment with lights, cameras, and other controls. We here at Bushwick, as we just installed 305 lights approximately $4.1 million of city investment, and we will continue to work on securing these buildings in our role as the owner and caretaker of people’s homes.
Since 2014, we have spent about $65 million in installing and upgrading security cameras and layered access control throughout NYCHA adding to our now total of about 13,000 cameras throughout the Housing Authority. And I think as Mr. Vaz and the Mayor as well said, that this does require partnership. It requires outside of the box thinking and approaches, and that is why I am so pleased that we under the leadership of Chief Nelson who is the Vice President for Public Safety at the Housing Authority – we have now convened our public safety advisory committee, which really seeks to bring in, not just residents and NYPD, but members of the District Attorney’s office and other community partners to help us address this issue, which is so clearly one that is all of our concern. So, we are working closely with all these partners. We know that it is important to have programming. We also know it is even more important to connect folks to opportunity, and really at the Mayor’s direction we have continued to expand our pathways to opportunity for NYCHA residents last year, connecting more than 2,5000 residents to permanent employment. So, this is a comprehensive effort to, not only secure our buildings, but also offer and strengthen the pathway to opportunity and that is what we are doing as part of Next Generation NYCHA. So, I want to thank the Mayor for his continued support and all of the partners to help us recognize that vision of a safe, clean, and connected community. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you very much Shola. Before our next speaker I also want to commend Chief Nelson. And it was not long ago I called to congratulate you on your retirement as Chief of Brooklyn North for NYPD, but I am thrilled you are now playing the role you’re playing at NYCHA and it is going to absolutely deepen the close working relationship between NYCHA and NYPD. Thank you.
Now, the man who is responsible for safety in security in all housing developments all over New York City and doing a tremendous job – and I want to congratulate you Chief upfront for really important news this morning of a tremendous victory taking down gang members who were doing so much to harm the lives of public housing residents. I want to commend you, the entire NYPD. It is my pleasure to introduce the Housing Bureau Chief James Secreto.
Housing Bureau Chief James Secreto, NYPD: Good afternoon, everyone. As the Mayor referenced, this morning, there were two takedowns – one in the 1-0-1, Red Fern Houses; and the second one in the 25th Precinct, PSA Six, I believe – Lincoln Houses. Both involve drug crew – gang violence. In coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, our narcotics division, and OCCB – involved in those takedowns.
One of the things that I wanted to talk about this morning, and the Mayor also referenced this, was the MAP development – the Mayor’s Action Plan – and we’re seeing a modicum of success in these developments. There are 15 developments and they accounted for 20 percent of the violence in the city, and that’s why they were selected – and Bushwick being one of them. And when I first took over this position, Bushwick had – I remember it had four shootings versus nine – that was in 2014. Last year, they had two shootings at this time. And now, they have one. Overall, those developments are – they’re up 2.5 percent – eight crimes – but they’re down seven shootings, which is 43 percent, and there are nine of those developments that have zero shootings, which is significant because that wasn’t the case before. In this area – this Bushwick area – there are nine developments, and those developments are 303 Vernon; Bed-Stuy Rehab; Marcy; Sumner; Tompkins; Roosevelt; Borinquen; Bushwick; and Williamsburg. And those developments are collectively down 24 percent.
So, there are some good things happening in this vicinity, in this area. Those takedowns that I referenced are a big part of the strategy in the NYPD right now. You’re seeing them throughout the city, and that’s helping us get a handle on the violence. Overall, in housing, we’re down 15 shootings year-to-date – I think it’s 17 percent. We had 90 last year, we have 75 this year. So we’re making some progress on the violence, and that’s really where we want to start ground zero for the strategy. One thing I left out that the mayor likes me to talk about is that I grew up in public housing – about a mile from here in Albany Houses – so it’s not just a job for me. It’s something I’m passionate about. It’s a soft spot in my heart – housing, and safety, and the residents of housing.
That’s pretty much it. The NCO’s – the mayor referenced the NCO’s, I’m sorry they’re not here. We can’t show them off, but already this morning as I got here some people complimented me on how great they’re doing. It’s a good program. We rolled it out in some 25 precincts initially, and now they’re expanding to others, but it’s a great program, and it seems to be working well over here in Bushwick. And then, recently we had neighborhood stats. I know you’ve heard of CompStat, but neighborhood stat was – in police headquarters we’ve invited all of the stakeholders involved with these map developments: Sanitation, NYCHA, Domestic Violence people, NYPD – and we all strategized and came up with holding people responsible for fixing things that are wrong. That’s a process that has worked so well in the NYPD over 25 years and now we’re using it with these map developments as well. That’s pretty much it.
Mayor: And finally I want you to hear from the Council member who represents this community. And I want you to know Antonio Reynoso has really been a partner in all these efforts, and he’s also pushed us very hard to do more and do it quickly. And I want to also congratulate you, Councilmember, on a successful budget passed yesterday by you and your colleagues. We really, really appreciate your partnership and the focus you put on public housing – Councilmember Reynoso.
[City Councilmember Antonio Reynoso speaks]
Mayor: Thank you very much. And I want to note one more point on the NCO’s, because I think that’s a great example that the Councilman gave. This is neighborhood policing, this is something that has been talked about for decades – never achieved on a continuous basis in this city – and we believe this will be the moment. And that example of NCO’s caring so much about the community they’re serving that they give of themselves and give their own time, particularly to work with young people – this is going to be one of the things that really changes this city, and you’re all seeing the earliest manifestations of this, but it’s going to grow, and grow, and be an entirely different approach to policing. And NYPD has already done an amazing job driving down crime – I predict even more when the NCO program and neighborhood policing fully takes hold.
So, let’s take questions on this announcement today, and NYCHA-related issues, and then we’ll go to off-topic.
You can introduce – please.
Unknown: We have our two NCO’s in the back.
Mayor: Come up so we can applaud you.
I’m going to quiz them for a moment. We’re going to do a mini CompStat here. Tell us each your name.
Mayor: And how long have you been here at Bushwick Houses?
Mayor: Excellent. And do you feel you’ve able to really build relationships with a lot of the residents?
Unknown: 100 percent – yes.
Mayor: Does it make a difference in policing?
Unknown: It does. It makes it a lot easier for us [inaudible].
Mayor: You heard it here first. Thank you both for what you do.
Alright – questions on this topic, and then we’ll broaden out. Yes, Grace?
Question: On the question of the [inaudible]. The first is – was the problem that the lights that existed just didn’t work anymore? Or were there not enough initially – the old lighting system? And secondly, the new lights looks like they don’t have glass on the side, is that right? And I’m wondering if that was a design specifically to prevent them from being cracked or harmed in some way?
Chair Olatoye: We can get you the specific design specs that I think you’ll – and we have our professionals here who can talk to you about that. But I think Bushwick was not unique in that the lighting was dated, it was – there was certainly an issue of repair – and also that the actual mechanics of the lights were either – did not turn on properly, did not have a broad sort of scope, so they weren’t actually lighting much of the actual area, and they also weren’t in areas that were actually being populated or used. So, one of the important things that we’ve done with this effort is working closely with property management staff, residents, and the broader community, and certainly NYPD – where should the new lighting be located? Where are those heavily trafficked areas? Where are those areas where new lights would also support and augment the existing camera location as well? So – and, again, I don't think Bushwick is unique [inaudible]. These are – a lot of the lighting features were original to the development, so the new design has allowed us to take a much more forward design approach. In terms of the specific design specs, we’ll follow up with you offline with that answer.
Mayor: Okay, yes?
Question: Are these lights on permanently? Or do they work [inaudible]?
Question: Okay, does that mean that in the future there won’t be – the department won’t be using to [inaudible] because those are often complained about by residents. I noticed a lot of them walking here, so I’m wondering why [inaudible]?
Mayor: Well, let me just do an overview point, and then turn to the experts. I’ve talked to a lot of NYCHA residents over the years. I would say the greatest complaint is when there is no lighting and the sense of danger that comes with it. So, in 2014, when we recognized that lighting was a crucial strategic part of the problem, yeah, we used that temporary lighting. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better than not having the lighting. The goal of course is to move to the permanent lighting wherever possible. But I would just argue the central point is wherever we think there’s a safety issue that lighting can help to solve – you know, perfect is the enemy of good. I’d still rather have lighting that’s not ideal but can bridge us to when we can do something permanent than no lighting at all.
Housing Bureau Chief James Secreto, NYPD: I was going to say, those lights were never meant to be permanent, and there were generators – gas-powered generators – they’re noisy. But these new lights that are permanent – they’re fairly nice, and they’re bright, so that’s the way we’re going in the future.
Mayor: Okay. On this topic, or NYCHA-related topics. Please?
Question: Mr. Mayor, on NYCHA funding, there was still money from the [inaudible] last State budget that the City was waiting for from the State. What’s the status of that?
Mayor: The $100 million in capital funding that we were hoping was going to be used for the most fundamental repairs needed in our buildings. The last I checked in, we still had not received clarity from the State, and, obviously, you know, we’re on the verge of a whole other legislative year [inaudible] the end.
Do you have an update?
Chair Olatoye: We’re working closely with our colleagues at DASNY –
Mayor: Tell them what DASNY is.
Chair Olatoye: DASNY – the Dormitory State of New York.
Mayor: Dormitory Authority.
Chair Olatoye: Dormitory Authority – thank you – Dormitory Authority – and the Department for Homes and Community Renewal, who are actually the receiving entities of these dollars and will actually be doing the work. All we – what NYCHA’s role has been has been to help provide them information, help them – actually give them access to the sites. We continue to be that partner at the table, but we are still waiting –
Mayor: To your point – I’m sorry – to your point, it’s frustrating. We have – I mean, you go through so many NYCHA buildings – they desperately need repairs. The City has put money is well beyond what’s been done in the past. The federal government is so absent when it comes to the big capital repairs. And, you know, the State duly voted $100 million in last year’s budget – that goes back to April of 2015 – and we haven’t seen a dime yet. So, we really need movement on that because people are suffering and they need the help.
Question: [Inaudible] what’s the hold up?
Chair Olatoye: I think we are – you know, there is a process that the State is trying to work through. And what are – what I’ve focused my team on is making sure that we are a responsive partner in providing the information that they need in order to move forward – and that’s really all I can say.
Mayor: Okay. On this topic or anything NYCHA?
Going once, going twice – okay, open to any and all. Take it away. Yes?
Question: I’d like to ask about mayoral control [inaudible] the legislature in Albany is going to decide something or nothing on this, this week. Do you think that the Senate Republicans have been suffering political damage from the way that they have negotiated on mayoral control? And do you feel that you have the support of the governor in your push for the extension?
Mayor: On the first question, I’m not going to attempt an analysis. I would say it this way – there has been an extraordinary outpouring of support for a clean extension of mayoral control, and a multi-year extension. We’ve seen it from editorial boards. We’ve seen it from an extraordinary cross section of the business community. We’ve seen it from Democrats and Republicans alike. I think the message has been received loud and clear in Albany that an extraordinary consensus exists in this city – that we need mayoral control to keep fixing our schools. I commend the Governor for reiterating the three-year timeframe. I commend the Assembly for having voted, once again, for the three-year timeframe. They did it originally through the budget. They did it again recently. And Speaker Heastie has been very, very clear, to his great credit – that it’s time to put all the politics aside and decide this issue, and focus on our kids, and do a clean extension of mayoral control. So, my answer would be, I think the message has been received loud and clear in Albany. And now, it’s time for them to decide.
Question: Are you, or the Department of Education, having any discussions or contingency plans if it’s not extended?
Mayor: There’s not a specific discussion underway. Obviously, we went through this last year, so we were able to do a little bit of thinking about what it would look like if it weren’t extended and we understand some of the first steps we would have to take if that were the case. I want to remind everyone if mayoral control is not extended, you go back to a system – and, again, I say this with purity of definition – was characterized – a system that was characterized by chaos and corruption. That’s what happened in the previous system. And that’s what’s at stake here. But I want to believe that, as often happens in Albany, those final hours of the legislative session – extraordinary things can happen, and that we can get to an acceptable place.
Question: Mr. Mayor, I wonder how you feel about the decision by the City Council to defund the Simon Wiesenthal Center, seeing [inaudible] to police and to corrections officers?
Mayor: I haven’t really looked at that. That was a decision the City Council made and I don’t know the program well. Obviously, I know Simon Wiesenthal’s work historically, but I don’t know that program well, and that was something the Council decided to do.
Question: [inaudible] decided because they said that there connections to the corruption investigations. Do you think that that was prudent decision by the Council?
Mayor: I don’t critique how they make choices about their spending.
Question: [Inaudible] there are some advocates who have said there should actually be a roll back this year [inaudible] is negative. Do you have an opinion on this? Do you – calling for a rollback?
Mayor: I’ve said that we’ve set a clear standard and we’re going to live by it – that, unlike in the past – I’ll be very straightforward about this – in the past, the playing field was not level, and the facts, and the concerns of tenants were not weighed sufficiently. It’s just a plain fact, because when we appointed a new Rent Guidelines Board in 2014, and they looked at the facts, it became clear to them that there were many instances in which landlords were claiming a lot of charges that just weren’t fully accurate and tenants were getting increases they didn’t deserve. And so, under out administration, we have a very clear message, a very clear approach for the Rent Guidelines Board – look at all the facts, and let the facts guide the decision. In the last couple of years, for example, the cost of energy has done way down – that’s a big expense for landlords and, in fact, has been steadily decreasing, so it made no sense to increase tenants’ rents of the landlords’ costs were decreasing. I will leave it to the Rent Guidelines Board to look at the nuance of what you’re asking, but what I care about is that all the facts are taken into account and that it’s a level playing field. I think this Rent Guidelines Board is doing a very good job with that.
Question: [Inaudible] your administration told members of the media that Deputy Mayor Shorris had no knowledge of anything that – the deal that was happening in 2015 – he only found about it in February 2016. Two memos that were sent from DCAS and Deputy Mayor Shorris in 2015, showed that they were updating him on progress [inaudible] lifting of that deed restriction. Why did you administration say he didn’t know anything about it?
Mayor: I’m very comfortable that our statements have been consistent and are accurate. There’s a whole investigation underway and those results will be published soon. But the bottom line is, the most important thing I want to stand by is my statements about Allure – that that company did not tell us the truth, and I think we have further evidence of that fact in the Attorney General’s action. Now, we see a pattern of that company not telling government the truth about its intentions. But, again, everything will be put together in a formal report and that will be coming out.
Mayor: Again, I believe our statements are accurate.
Question: The question has two similar parts, but it’s about your directions to your campaign on fundraising. Let’s just take the 2017 reelection campaign. When money comes in what protocol do you tell your people in terms of notifying you about a donation, are you notified every time a mass donation comes in, or how often are you updated about that?
Mayor: No, you know, in the last campaign – I have to get the exact count, but thousands and thousands of donations – I will admit to you there was a time early in the mayoral campaign when a maximum donation was a very unusual thing in our campaign, so it certainly got attention then. But as my campaign progressed it became a little more typical, and a lot of other donations of all sizes, so no, it was never sort of reviewing specific donations in that way. But the instruction was to look carefully at every donation, and there was a thorough vetting process, and whenever there was a feeling on behalf of the lawyers and others who looked at it that a donation did not make sense to accept it was returned.
Question: That was really my second part, but I’ll ask it a little differently. Are your instructions to your campaign vet this before accepting it, or is it everything comes in, and then we take a look at it if there are flags?
Mayor: It’s – I don’t personally instruct them, the lawyers instruct. But the bottom-line, which I’m certainly aware of, is vet before you deposit. So a check can come in, and you have no idea it’s coming in. It can come in the mail, it can come in at an event, but you have to vet it before depositing and be very careful and make sure that everything is proper.
Question: [inaudible] I wanted to get your personal take on the 421a program and in a related question – at this juncture the governor and Speaker Heastie both said they will not pass a 421a program that does not have the approval of [inaudible] the Building and Construction Trades Council of New York. They have a very specific vision of what they want [inaudible] –
Mayor: Wait, wait, let’s separate them because I want to work on the first one, I’ll give you the second one after. On 412a, the proposal from the Senate obviously included some items we wouldn’t agree with. I want to take this to the core of this – the 421a program needed to be changed, and when we came in with our proposal last year it was to fundamentally change a program that was no longer appropriate. You know, you’ve seen some of the examples of luxury buildings that with no affordable housing they got tax breaks. Our message was that this program must fundamentally change, and it has to stop rewarding luxury buildings, it has to create a lot more affordable housing all over the five boroughs, and it has to be a lot more fair to the tax payer. Even with all the back and forth and the drama, the good news is – that old 421a that was not right for today’s day and age? It’s gone, and it’s not coming back. There was that much to be said so far about this process.
But look – I think it is incumbent on Albany to resolve this issue. It would be ideal to resolve it in the next few days while there’s focus because we need it for affordable housing. I’ve said to you guys – I believe every poll proves this to be accurate – affordable housing is the number one issue on the minds of New Yorkers. They are scared to death about being displaced from their own city. They look to Albany to help them be able to afford their lives in the city. 421a done right, with the reforms we’ve proposed, is one of the best ways to continue to build affordable housing in this city, so Albany has to get it right. Now go on to your second question, I’m sorry.
Mayor: As I said, there are elements of that we don’t agree with because they aren’t consistent with the reforms we proposed?
Mayor: No, I would say the one thing that’s better than nothing was getting rid of the old 421a. It would be a travesty to have continued that because, again, it wasted taxpayer dollars on subsidies to luxury buildings that didn’t create enough affordability. At least that negative has been addressed. I think we played a constructive role in that. It’s time for a positive. It’s time to reform 421a and get it back into action. The housing market is slowing. There is a lot of evidence out there that the housing market is slowing. We’re not going to be able to create the kind of affordable housing we need in this city if we don’t have a tax credit program that’s appropriate, that really focuses on affordability. So Albany has a couple of days to get it right. That’s the ideal, but as you indicated there is an additional methodology through the previous MOU from last year – and it still could be settled even after this Friday – and the most important thing is that this thing gets resolved as quickly as possible, so we can get back to the work of creating affordable housing.
Mayor: I’m honestly – I’m going to be straight up here, I’m not going to go into the details because that is a negotiation. If it ends up being a negotiation that MOU process, those players have to work it through. We’re going to keep pushing the same pillars I’ve talked about – not rewarding the big luxury buildings, more bang for the buck for tax payers, more affordable housing. So if those entities have to work it out my message to them is work it out and soon, so we can create affordable housing. I gave you enough, go ahead.
Question: Mayor, the DDC Commissioner gave a contract to a [inaudible] publisher who featured him in Time Magazine even though [inaudible] said his report was subpar. Have you examined that situation? Do you believe everything was done properly?
Mayor: I have not examined it. I have no reason to doubt what was done, but I haven’t examined it. I have full faith in the commissioner.
Question: The New York City film and TV workers are calling on you to avoid the shutdown of Eastern Effects Studio. What’s your take on that?
Mayor: We want to help them. We said this last week when we did the ambassadors event with some of our leading cultural figures in this city. We want to help Eastern Effects, and we’re very willing to. Our folks are engaged with them, and there’s time. I certainly understand their sense of urgency, but there’s time because the actions – from what I understand – would negatively affect them are some distance in the future. So we’re going to work with them very hard to find a solution.
Question: [inaudible] site that are available, why not –
Mayor: Again, sometimes people have trouble taking yes for an answer. We want to help them. There is time to work it out. We certainly want to see their business continue to thrive. I think ultimately we’ll work it out with them.
Question: Mayor, I have a question on national politics if you don’t mind. What do you make of the Washington Post being the latest outlet to –
Mayor: Wait, wait, wait, slow that down. You’re such a New Yorker. What did you say?
Question: What do you make of the Washington Post being the latest of several outlets banned by Donald Trump?
Mayor: It’s ludicrous. It’s ludicrous. I don’t always get along with the New York Post, but they get to sit right there like everyone else, and, you know, I think it’s crazy. It’s crazy to say that some can sit at a press conference and some can’t. That’s a really slippery slope. I’ve said to you guys before, I come from a family of journalists – one of whom just retired, my oldest brother – you know, they’re supposed to be critique or a check and balance dynamic with the media and people in public office. It’s as old as the Republic itself. When – of all people – a presidential candidate starts saying one of the most prestigious media outlets in the country can’t come to the press conference – I don’t know quite why Donald Trump is trying so hard to invalidate himself each day, but he’s doing a hell of a good job, and that’s the kind of thing that a lot of reasonable people in this country – including a lot of reasonable conservatives – look at something like that, and it really takes them aback, it really makes the uncomfortable because they still believe in a democratic society where the media has an important role to play.
Question: Mayor, there are grumblings in the Republican Party now apparently among the power elite if you will that they want to dump Trump – would you like to see that happen?
Mayor: Look, I think it’s physically impossible. I really do. I’m not going to be a pundit, but it only takes eyes to see the guy won all those primaries and all those votes and has all those delegates. I don’t know how you undo that in a few weeks’ time. I just don’t. And I think it would create a huge backlash because unfortunately the Republican Party has created a very negative dynamic within itself by constantly aiding and abetting an extreme right wing that’s part of that party that I’m sure will not take kindly to Donald Trump being dethroned. So no, I don’t think it’s possible. For the good of the country, should someone like Donald Trump not be the nominee of a major party? Of course he shouldn’t be. He’s not – I think what’s so striking, and this is actually an affirmation of our democracy, he said and did a lot of outrageous and troubling things. His comments about the judge looking at the Trump University issue – who happens to be Mexican-American, and, you know, with great irony born in Indiana – that hit the American people very, very deeply. And it’s so interesting, what is the thing that really grabs people’s attention and grabs their hearts and minds? But that one did because it just cut against all our values, and it almost took some of his other outrageous statements and actions and put them into a clearer perspective. I think a lot of people in this country could put themselves in the shoes of that judge. We all come from someplace, and, you know, the vast majority of Americans are from a background – whether it’s a faith or a national background or ethnic background – that once upon a time was not so popular here in this country, and to see a guy who’s a respected jurist denigrated because he happens to be Mexican-American, I think that hit a very powerful chord and just furthered invalidated it.
Do you want to add? You look ready to add. If you don’t, you don’t have to.
Councilmember Antonio Reynoso: I’m going to move away from national politics and talk about Bushwick politics. Lohoma Shipman who’s the Tenant Association president just walked in.
Mayor: Oh, she’s here? Very good. Come on up.
Councilmember Reynoso: I want to give her an opportunity to come up.
We’ve also been joined by a representative from Lydia Velazquez’s office and our Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna.
Ms. Shipman I think there’s a seat for you at the front?
Mayor: We welcome you. We said nice things about you when you weren’t here, Ms. Shipman.
Because I’m going to be consistent with my values I’m calling on the New York Post. Go ahead. I don’t think I’m going to like the question, but I’m still calling on the New York Post.
Question: Campaign finance records show you received your 2013 campaign receipts of donations from people affiliated with Broadway Stages. Some of those people – a handful of them – said they didn’t know anything about making donations. What kind of vetting went into those donations?
Mayor: I can let people who know a lot more about the specifics of the vetting process explain it, but I can say this much – we’re certainly looking at those donations, and we’ll review them. Typically, you know, we look, of course, to make sure the forms are present and appropriate, and that all the basic legalities are met. We don’t take donations from companies. We don’t take donations from LLCs. There’s just a checklist of things you go through, but anytime an issue is raised about a donation after the fact we’re happy to go back and look at it.
Question: Is it logistically difficult – I mean there’s so much money coming into a campaign – is it logistically difficult to have staff go through each one as they come in?
Mayor: There’s a lot of volume, but this is what I’d say – I think we do a thorough job of identifying anything that on its face does not belong. Example – a corporate donation need to go back immediately or anything over the limit. Sometimes there are things that are gray, and we might miss, and if someone brings it to our attention, again, we’re happy to review it and then judge accordingly.
Okay everyone, thank you very much.