December 12, 2019
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Rabbi Niederman, as always you speak powerfully, you speak from the heart, you speak for the people of this community and I want everyone to understand how much pain there is right now, here in Williamsburg. This horrible act of senseless violence, this act of terrorism, anti-Semitic hate has come right home here, to this neighborhood in Brooklyn and to our city. It happened across the river but to the folks I saw when I came in here, out on the street, upstairs when we met, everyone felt like it happened right here because their loved ones were taken from them. If it happened in isolation, it would still be horrible. It is not, however, happening in isolation. There’s a larger danger and it is growing. And we have to be aware of it and we have to confront it.
Rabbi, thank you for your leadership because people need you right now too. And you are showing them so much heart, so much love. To everyone standing here with me, to all the community leaders – thank you. Thank you for being there for your community and for being strong. To all my colleagues, let’s be clear what’s happening. This is a great danger and it is growing and we are getting a very clear warning sign. Upstairs, meeting with these community leaders, talked about not only what people in this community are feeling right now, and the pain they are going through, across the community, not only the horrible pain of the families who lost their loved ones, but the specific pain that is being felt by Holocaust survivors alive in this community right now. That they are seeing history repeat itself. There’s a lot of sorrow in this world and a lot of tragedy and every community has had its tragedies. Holocaust stands out in world history as one of the single worst. Imagine if you lived through it and then thought it might happen again. Imagine what that would feel like. That is what people are feeling today in this city. Those who survived it and I have met them and I would say to all of you, if you have not spent time with someone who spent part of their childhood in Auschwitz, or Bergen-Belsen or any of the camps you need to, to understand that history and to understand that we are living with it to this day.
The children of those Holocaust survivors are feeling that fear right now. But even people in the Jewish community whose families did not experience the Holocaust, whose families came here a hundred years ago or more, are living in a deeper fear today. And that fear has been growing, not for just weeks, not for just months but for years now. And it gets worse and worse. And I agree with Rabbi Niederman, that horrific moment in Pittsburgh changed everyone. And if it had ended there, maybe over time people could have healed but it has only gotten worse since then –incident after incident after incident. And now right here, in our broader community, in our metropolitan area. Rabbi said something we need to reflect on. Jewish community has been large and strong in New York City and the metropolitan area for well over a hundred years, this may have been and to my memory is, the single worst attack on the community in that entire time. That should tell us something. That should have us vigilant. We spoke upstairs about the historical road that led to the Holocaust. We talked upstairs about the memories of survivors that so many people behind me are all too familiar with. And the consistent theme, those who stayed silent who should have spoken up, those who minimized the danger who should have assumed the worst and we in leadership have to be the ones who sound the clarion call.
So this is a moment to be really, profoundly concerned but history is not a teacher only of the negative, history teaches us something else. Which is these horrible trends, these horrible gathering storms can be stopped if people stand up and refuse to accept the reality. That is our mission here in New York City. And we have a special responsibility as a city that I truly believe is a beacon to the world and I truly believe has been seen by the Jewish people all over the world as one of the single most embracing, safest places for the Jewish people in their history. We need to be in the vanguard of stopping this hatred, turning the tide. And that is what we will do.
I want to thank my colleagues, the elected officials who are here. You are going to hear from the Borough President in a moment. I also want to thank Assembly member Joe Lentol, Council member Steve Levin for being of such support to this community. From my office, the Executive Director of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, Deborah Lauter and my Deputy Chief of Staff Lincoln Restler, thank you for all you have both been doing to support the community and to end these horrible acts of hate. And from the NYPD, you will hear from Commissioner Shea, but I want to thank Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison, Chief of Intelligence Tom Galati, and the new Assistant Chief for the Counterterrorism Bureau Martine Materasso. We depend on all of you.
As you heard the community is grateful for all you have done. And there will be much more to do going forward. And congratulations Chief Materasso on your new role, vitally important role for this city. And also a thanks to our host Dr. Irwin Shindler, and everyone at Pesach Tikvah, and I do look forward to visiting in happier times. We mourn Moshe Deutsch, we mourn Mindy Ferencz, we mourn Detective Joseph Seals, and Miguel Douglas, all who were lost. Such good people taken from us. And our answer to this tragedy is to affirm we will keep people safe here in Williamsburg, we will keep people safe here in New York City. At any and all cost, we will keep our people safe. We will root out hate, we will not allow it to grow here. And you will see an increase presence from the NYPD throughout the Jewish community. You will see the actions of our Hate Crimes Task Force. You will see the actions of our new intelligence unit focused on extremism, identifying trends and preventing acts of hate. But again, even the greatest police force in the world cannot do it alone. Everyone single one of us must be part of this mission. Faith leaders, community leaders, elected officials of every background can and must join together. And we will gather them together in the coming days in common cause. And a reminder that most essential thing that every New Yorker can do – any information could be priceless, could be decisive, could save a life. If you think you see an indicator of a hate crime about to happen, call 9-1-1, or 8-8-8-NYC-SAFE whether its anti-Semitic or directed at any other community. If you hear someone suggesting an act of hate its already a point where we must act. We cannot hesitate, we cannot explain it away, we cannot hope it might not happen. If we have to act at that exact moment – if you hear it, we need to know it. With that I turn to our Commissioner, and he will talk more about all the police department is doing to protect this community and every community against hate.
Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea: Good morning, everyone. I stand before you as your police commissioner. I bring with me as the Mayor said, Chief Tom Galati, Chief Martine Materasso, Inspector not promoted to Chief yet, Mark Molinari from the Hate Crimes Unit and many others. We come here not because we had to, we come here in solidarity. We come here not as members of your police department but as fellow New Yorkers to express our deepest condolences to the entire Jewish community. To express our commitment to you and to all New Yorkers to continue to root out hate and to not rest until acts such as this cowardly violence are brought to justice. So again condolences to everyone in the Jewish community, whether it’s here in Brooklyn, in Jersey City, in Pittsburgh, in Tel Aviv, all across our nation and world. I will say that what’s important for us to do about this disgusting ideology of anti-Semitism and hate in general is to call it out aggressively, often, in the living rooms, on street corners wherever it is seen and call it out clearly for what it is. I think everyone needs to do that – not the NYPD, not members standing behind me, not the Borough President or the Mayor – everyone, all New Yorkers. It’s critically important that we publically recognize such intolerance. Certainly Jersey City was an act of domestic terrorism. And there is a common theme that I mentioned yesterday, and its ignorance and its hate at its root. But we have to remember of course hateful speech is not in it of itself a crime. It’s repugnant but it’s not a crime. So the challenge for us in law enforcement is to see these things, to learn from them, to study them. And to take steps to prevent words from becoming physical actions – graffiti, assaults, murders, harassment motivated by that hate. And so we’re working with our partners here in Williamsburg, in Crown Heights, in Riverdale, on the Upper East Side, all five boroughs, and elsewhere to make sure that we’re not only keeping people safe but we’re keeping people feeling safe. And that is the difficult task. I think of the – as the rabbi mentioned the victims of this horrendous act yesterday and I think of the impact it has on people in the communities’ throughout New York City and the whole Metropolitan area. People that now don’t feel safe walking to the corner store, walking to service, mothers that worry about picking up their kids at school and you start to feel the reverberation of this impact. And whether its anti-Semitism or other forms of extremism across all motivations our mission here is very clear – to prevent through all legal means available to us any act of violence before it occurs. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Commissioner. I want you to hear from Borough President Eric Adams. He has worked very, very closely with this community and he brings the special perspective of not only leading the borough of Brooklyn and working with all communities’, but also his long service on the NYPD. He understands what we need to do to keep our communities safe. And I thank you, borough president for you leadership. Borough President Eric Adams –
Mayor: Thank you very much, Borough President.
We’re going to – first, Commissioner and I will take questions on the Jersey City attack and the aftermath, and everything we’re doing to follow up on it. We’re then going to give you an update on the horrible tragedy in Morningside Heights and take questions on that, and then I will take questions on other matters. So first, anything related to Jersey City and the follow-up efforts that are being made related to it, please.
Question: Just about the hate crimes – the increase in hate crimes, Commissioner. How many arrests have been made? So, is there an arrest rate when it comes to these hate crimes incidents that have happened in the city?
Commissioner Shea: Yeah, so, off to my right is Inspector Mark Molinari, my former job in Rodney Harrison, Rodney is here, within 10 feet of me, I’m sure, somewhere here, in his current role – this is something that we look at every day. Not only the complaints coming in but the arrests that are being made in general, no just about anti-Semitism, but against any prejudice. I can tell you that they have a high arrest rate, I cannot it quote it to you, it’s a number that fluctuates on a daily basis, but we have a significant amount of arrests in dealing with these incidents of hate that come up.
Mayor: Yeah let me make that – since he’s the expert, but I can speak in more general terms that might be helpful to you. The NYPD consistently finds the perpetrators of these actions – that is the big picture story here. If someone commits an act of hate, particularly a more serious act of hate, they are found, they are prosecuted, and they will pay the price for what they did. So it sometimes is right away, sometimes it may take weeks or months, but overwhelmingly they find the individuals involved and they bring him to justice. We’ll get you the exact numbers.
Question: And just a follow up too, just for the Mayor actually – yesterday, well Commissioner you were saying there’s a 22 percent increase from year to year, so what then do you say to this community that doesn’t just sound like words?
Mayor: No it can’t be just words and I think the conversations I’ve had with the communities, all the communities that have been affected, is two things. First and foremost is physical action. It is police presence, it is prosecutions, it’s showing we will not tolerate by our actions this kind of hatred. And that is, I’ll tell you something, you look around the world, this is the sign of who is serious and who’s not. There are countries around this world, tragically, Western democracies that have done precious little to stop anti-Semitism in their midst, precious little to protect Jewish community locations. Here we make it very physical, very immediate, very urgent, that’s what the community has asked for the most. But then the community has asked for not just idle words, a message of purpose, a call to arms if you will, that we all have to deal with this and we won’t tolerate it because again there’s too much history in centuries of this community’s life in countries around the world, where no one would even would say out loud that the community is under attack and must be protected. Those words actually really do matter – we don’t hear them enough.
So it’s action first, of course, but then the words matter because people have to be reminded how dangerous this is, and everyone has to be reminded we’re all part of solving it. We’re going to do all that – the challenge is the times we’re living in. I’m not using that as an excuse, I’m saying we are grappling with this. Hate is growing around this country, and its being given permission, and social media, which is a blessing in one way – everyone acknowledges that has been enabling reality for those purveying hate. It was a very different reality before social media, we still don’t know how to deal with this enough, we all – none of us. So we’ve got to figure out how to fight back those forces of hate. And even you’re seeing today companies, key social media companies, are coming to grips with the fact that their platforms cannot be treated as neutral pass-throughs – that they actually themselves have responsibility too to weed out hateful messages. So everyone is now trying to deal with a new reality, but we’re going to do it very aggressively. Please, Katie.
Question: So you’ve previously, when speaking about these hate crimes, you’ve really singled out white supremacy as a perpetrator of a lot of these attacks, but Tuesday’s attack on Jersey City were two black suspects. A lot of the other hate crimes, assaults here in Brooklyn have been from black suspects. Does it reevaluate the NYPD’s approach of what they’re looking at or does it change your thinking of maybe the hate is a lot more widespread, and not as singular?
Mayor: I don’t think it’s – that’s a good question but I don’t want to present it as mutually exclusive, so let me try and begin at the beginning. Again, I am going to be blunt as all get-out here because we have to be. In the last hundred years of human history, the greatest danger to the Jewish people has come from right-wing extremism. Fascism, Nazism, white supremacy – the Ku Klux Klan was not just interested in oppressing black people. They didn’t like Jews or Catholics either, and they’re still out there. So let’s call it what it is, and that’s what Pittsburgh was that’s what Poway was. So that’s still the single greatest threat, and it is growing rapidly, and by the way, I believe if you ask the FBI this question and you ask what has been the greatest threat to law enforcement, it has been the right-wing militias and the right-wing extremists in this country. Point one. Point two – any hate, any anti-Semitism, I don’t care if it’s left, right, or center, is unacceptable – I don’t care what the race is, we’re going to attack it all. So that’s why I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive. This incident in Jersey City, we have to look at that and act on everything we learned from that. We have to act on everything we have learned here, especially in Brooklyn, whether it’s a swastika being scrawled or someone being punched or anything. So I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive.
I think we should be clear about where the most profound danger is coming from but we also have to act, I agree with Eric Adams, any indicator of hate has to be acted on. Please, Rich.
Question: So, I’m just wondering if in going after the hate groups, do you expect blowback from the civil liberties groups? Are you having discussions with them? Is there any – it’s always been an impediment to infiltrating, for instance, these groups—
Mayor: I’m going to challenge – I just have to start – quick qualifier and then to the Commissioner. I would disagree with the phrase it’s always been an impediment. I think in a free society that values liberty, that respects privacy, we can very effectively weed out hate and fight crime. We’ve been doing it here in New York City – New York City has done more to fight crime in the last 25 years, than any place while scrupulously protecting liberties and the right to privacy. So I don’t think those are mutually exclusive either. I agree with you if you say does it create certain challenges – but I think this new unit is an example of focusing on the information that is available and looking for the trends without every getting into the territory of violating any civil liberties. Go ahead.
Commissioner Shea: Yeah I think Rich, the same message. I think the way we go about it, the transparency, telling people what we’re doing, I don’t view it – any outside look in at how we’re operating as a negative, I think it’s important that we balance the rights of the public with keeping people safe and outside monitors, and things of that nature that are looking at our processes and policies, I don’t really view as a bad thing. I think the key for the public to be aware of, we have processes in place – when you look at the Handschu Agreement, we will be operating under the law, and we’ll be balancing all of these things.
Question: The Intelligence Bureau had for years tracked groups like this or the two people – folks like the two people who were involved in this. Were they on any radar? Had the NYPD had any prior knowledge or prior interaction with either of the two people who were involved in this incident?
Commissioner Shea: In very broad terms intentionally, remember here we’re dealing about an active investigation that’s being spearheaded in another state and with federal authorities. We’re closely monitoring and coordinating with them. In general terms, with this group, we’re certainly familiar with the group, we don’t have any recent acts of violence with the group in New York City, but we’re closely monitoring with our federal and state partners in Jersey.
Question: Has there been any action in New York related to what happened two days ago, in terms of law enforcement action in New York? Arrests? Raids? Any of that?
Commissioner Shea: We are working closely with our federal partners and peeling back – it’s still preliminary in terms of the investigation, less than two days old at this point. We are working with our partners. Some of this work is taking – I could tell you that Jersey and the federal partners out of state and we will do anything we can to work with them if leads develop within New York State or New York City, but not to this point.
Question: These Jersey shooters were a member of this Hebrew Black Israelite group, that’s considered a hate group, which is active in New York City including in Brooklyn. Have you increased any monitoring or surveillance of that group in New York City?
Commissioner Shea: So what I’ll say is, we – I just said it – we are familiar with the group. They have been around in a small part, I would say, in New York City. Many people are probably familiar with them. We do not have any specific acts of violence that we’ve associated with this group in the recent past. When you talk about what we’re doing with standing up this new unit under the Intelligence Bureau with Tommy Galati who is here – he’s been on TV as recently as this morning, I think a couple times, talking about it. It’s a compilation of bringing together some of the processes that were already in place within the Intelligence Bureau, adding manpower to it, and also bringing in partners – and that’s a key component – all under one roof to really look at groups that deal with hate and to get ahead of any potential further actions that take place. But a key component is the bringing together of other partners and the coordination because as we see in this incident and other incidents it is never really localized. It always has the potential to cross boundaries. So, we welcome the work with our partners, New York State Police, ATF, and others.
Question: In comparison to previous times, how long is this increased presence going to take place in the Jewish community –
Commissioner Shea: I’ll turn it to the Mayor but from my lips to you, we are committed to keeping all New Yorkers safe. You have our commitment that the men and women of the New York City Police Department will be there as long as necessary to keep the Jewish community safe.
Mayor: This is an open-ended situation now. First of all we have a live investigation and we are going to make sure we understand exactly what happened with that attack and if there are any other ramifications for New York City going forward. Today is another day where I can say there are no credible and specific threats against New York City. But until this investigation is absolutely concluded, we’re going to be in a state of high alert and we’re going to assess the broader backdrop with this new unit focused on racially and ethnically motivated extremism of what kind of threats may be emerging over the horizon. So, this presence will be ongoing as we make that assessment. And when we have more information, then we’ll be able to give an update on what adjustments we’ll make.
Question: [Inaudible] about the need to confront anti-Semitism. In the wake of the rise of anti-Seimitic speech and attacks, do you support the federal measures announced yesterday by the president that takes it on a different level which was criticized by some on the left?
Mayor: I have honestly mixed feelings about it. I have not read the exact document but I have mixed feelings. The – anything that confronts anti-Semitism I support but I worry at the same time as an American about the balance we always strike in terms of freedom of speech and freedom of expression particularly on college campuses. So, this one leaves me with some real questions about whether that balance has been struck properly.
Question: Can we hear from Executive Director Lauter on that point – whether or not she agrees with it?
Mayor: Sure, I think she is like me, probably, but if you want to add, feel free.
Executive Director Deborah Lauter, Officer for the Prevention of Hate Crimes: It raises concerns, like the Mayor [inaudible].
Mayor: Go ahead.
Question: [Inaudible] Jewish person some people think of the issue of the last time people identified nationality with the religion there was obviously the years and years of genocide and is that what the issue is for you?
Mayor: Could you clarify?
Question: So, the Holocaust [inaudible] you know identified as Jewish and that, most people believe, led to the Holocaust. Is that what your concern is? Is that – in President Trump saying –
Mayor: I’m sorry, you’re linking it to that. I just couldn’t follow you for a second there. The Holocaust definitionally is the ultimate definition of anti-Semitism but, again, remember the Holocaust grew out of a hatred and an ideology of hatred that also affronted – and we know this – affronted gay people, the LGBT community, affronted a whole range of ethnic and national minorities, affronted people with different ideologies and faiths. I mean there is a very broad, sweeping dangerous ideology. That’s Nazi-ism, that’s fascism, that’s white supremacy, that’s the Klu Klux Klan. They all go in a line and they’re out there right now in countries all over the world in different forms.
So we have to understand exactly what we’re dealing with. But no, the action taken – again, I have not seen all the details of what President Trump did but I think this balance that is the United States of America has to be very carefully observed. I’ll confront anti-Semitism any place, anywhere, but I also believe in freedom of speech. And so we have to figure out what that line is. If someone disagrees with the Israeli government on a given policy, I don’t consider that anti-Semitic. If someone bears hatred in their heart towards the Jewish people, that’s anti-Semitism. So, we have to understand where that line is. Okay, on this Jersey city follow up before we turn over?
Question: [Inaudible] social media accounts [inaudible] –
Mayor: So, as I turn to the Commissioner I’ll say I think the bigger effort has to be made first to convince the social media companies to deepen their responsibility to stop all forms of hate speech. They are unregulated utilities, they must be regulated, and this is a growing conversation we’re having in our nation. They can’t keep claiming to be innocent, to be neutral. They are not. They are making a huge amount of money and they’re making money off of hate speech. Let’s be real blunt about this. This is – if we’re going to confront the dangers we face, we’re going to get to a new level of bluntness because I wish people had been blunt in 1933 and 1938 and 1939, and millions of people might still be alive if that hadn’t happened if people actually had stood up and told the truth.
So – and by the way, starting with the United States government. So, just so anyone – misunderstands my meaning, our government failed to acknowledge the truth. So, right now today those social media companies are profiting in ways we can’t even imagine in part because they have become very convenient platforms for hatred. Time for them to own up to it, step up in the hate. You would never see mainstream media – outlets present here today would never give a platform to that kind of hate speech. I can agree or disagree with any particular outlet or journalist at any given moment but I would say everyone is united by that reality. They wouldn’t give a platform to that kind of hate speech. So, the fact is it’s time for the social media companies to do something and it’s time for the government to step in and create regulation.
And we all have to demand that and call it out for what it is. In the meantime, yes, there are some things law enforcement can do and then there are other things that are harder because of the legitimate liberties we enjoy in this country. Do you want to speak to that?
Commissioner Shea: This is a rabbit hole of a fascinating conversation and we put our hand up to uphold the constitution of the State of the New York and the U. S. Constitution and I understand what comes with that as does Rodney, Tommy, Martin, all members of the NYPD. And we defend that every day. We go out there and we allow people to voice their concerns and protests and I truly believe that’s what makes this city, this country a great place. And we balance and have those discussions with many, particularly on social media and others. They are held to different standards. I think they have a responsibility, quite frankly, though and I think leadership is about making tough, unpopular decisions. I think it’s wrong morally on many levels when you can go onto the internet – it may be protected speech but that doesn’t make it right – and find out how to put bomb-making instructions, how about punch a woman walking down the street and let’s make a game of it. These are things that we’ve seen on the streets of New York City. I think it’s disgusting that it’s available on social media.
Mayor: You know, one other – just one other point about our country and its history. That definition that came out of a Supreme Court ruling decades ago. We believe in freedom of speech, we’ll always defend freedom of speech but you can’t cry fire in a crowded theater – that famous concept. Well, this is the equivalent. If you are putting bomb-making instructions online, that’s not protected speech anymore in today’s day and age, from my point of view. And that’s something we need to act on.
Question: To follow up on that, I mean you talk about regulation but it’s tricky obviously because it’s protecting, you know there’s the First Amendment and freedom of speech. So, if – what kind of regulation should there be? How do you draw the line? What would you specifically propose?
Mayor: I think, look, two points – one, I think these companies need to self-regulate, the social media companies need to self-regulate and I do think that is starting to happen. And by the way their employees are demanding it of them, which I commend. And that is the healthiest version of it, setting legitimate standards for responsible actions within a society where these real concerns are growing all the time. But in terms of overall regulation, look I think this goes way beyond hate speech to a bigger question which won’t go into now but I will only note. You know these companies have played fast and loose with peoples’ data and their privacy, played fast and loose with their role in society. Obviously whether they meant to aid and abet a foreign power trying to interfere with our elections, that’s exactly what happened. There’s a whole host of issues here and the answer is to create valid regulation. When we think about regulating – legitimate regulation that the FCC undertakes or other agencies in terms of news media and communications, there’s a way to strike a balance that still respects our liberties and we have been doing that for decades and decades. Equal time provisions, all sorts of things. There are fair and valid ways to protect peoples’ liberties but also protect against real social dangers. We have to have that conversation and come to that resolution visa vie the social media companies. Okay, let’s see if there is anything else on this and then we are going to other topics, go ahead.
Question: I was just wondering if Ms. Lauter might be able to update us on the operation of her office now that it’s been launched for about three months. And I’m also curious about staffing, how many folks you have managed to bring on [inaudible]?
Mayor: So I will start and Deborah join in. But look, again whatever way you want to report this story, I want to remind you this is a brand new concept. It is an attempt to deal with the long-term problem. It is not go down to the pharmacy, but a drug, take the drug, and cure your disease instantly. This is an effort to get at the root causes, to figure out what kind of changes we need to make in our education curriculum, what kind of dialogue we have to have at community level. It is, if anyone says this office has not achieved instant results, I say talk to me and the City Council, don’t talk to Deborah, it was not built to achieve instant results. It’s built to address the underlying problem which is going to take years. It did not develop in the last few months. It developed over decades and decades. The NYPD deals in some immediate results. There’s other things we can do that can get us immediate change. But this office is trying to change the entire reality of why hate exists in our society to begin with. Deborah?
Executive Director Lauter: Right. So what the Mayor is trying to say is that anti-Semitism and all the other “isms” have not gone away in the last three months. The challenge is extremely – you’ve heard the words grappling. Everyone is frustrated and wants something to happen. So for the past three months I have been on the ground with the communities, basically assessing because if we don’t assess, we can’t address it. I have spent considerable time in this community, working with Rabbi Niederman who has been an amazing, amazing leader for this community. I’ve been telling the communities, educating them about what hate crimes are. There’s basically no one way to address this. Right? You’ve heard this this morning. There’s three pockets through law enforcement and NYPD is doing a fantastic job and this new unit I think is going to be incredibly important for the city. Through community relations – that’s what we are doing here today and Rabbi Niederman has been doing some incredible community outreach in Williamsburg, to start breaking down more stereotypes. What are kids understanding when they see the Hasidic community? Do they understand the other? So that kind of – and the third is education really working, particularly with children. We have been referencing the number of the swastika incidents. It probably comprises over 80 percent of the anti-Semitic incidents in New York today. Kids are not understanding what is the significance of a swastika. So, there’s a lot we can do. My office will be in addition to me, six additional staff. Two are on board now, two probably by the end of the year and then two others as soon as possible. I have spent my time really doing what I believe in a thoughtful job of bringing on staff that are diverse, the understand all the vulnerable communities in the city and we are looking for a holistic approach as the Mayor said. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. Okay we are going to turn now to yesterday’s tragedy in Manhattan. And I want to just speak as a parent before turning to Commissioner Shea to give you an update. I have two children, one of whom finished college in May. So the idea that a college freshman as Barnard was murdered in cold blood is absolutely, not only painful to me as a parent, it’s terrifying to think that that could happen anywhere. It’s unbelievable to me that that could happen here, next to one of our great college campuses. It’s an unacceptable reality. I spoke to the President of Barnard earlier this morning. We are sending mental health professionals to help the students, we are increasing police presence as you will hear from the Commissioner, we have offered whatever help she needs. But it’s horrifying and we have to have, this is another example of a never again mentality. We are not going to allow anything like this to happen going forward and I can just feel the shock of that community and obviously my heart goes out to the parents in particular. Dermot?
Commissioner Shea: So good afternoon. I will tell you that as former police officer, this is why you wake up every day and come to work, so that an incident like last night never happens. And unfortunately it has happened. I ask first and foremost to just consider that notification that her parents, Tessa Majors, an 18-year-old girl, a young woman, college freshman and that notification that her parents received last night and now on their way to New York City, to make preparations for her funeral. It is an absolute tragedy. I am going to introduce Rodney in a second, he will walk you through what we know in this point in time, it’s obviously very preliminary but I can tell you that similar to Mayor de Blasio, I was in discussions last night, not only with the Head of Security for Columbia University as well as conversations last night with the President of Barnard and as recently as this morning, assuring them that we will do everything that we can to keep the students safe. You will see increased deployment in and around Morningside Park as well as Columbia University. And once again, I just offer my condolences to the family at this extremely difficult time and the assurance that those responsible, however many there may be will be brought to justice. Rodney if you want to add?
Chief of Detectives Rodney Harrison, NYPD: So I want to just really quickly echo what the Mayor and Commissioner were saying. This is a despicable crime and I am very confident of the men and women who are conducting the investigation in Manhattan North. But if I could just walk you through the timeline, a little bit before 7:00 we have a 18-year-old woman that attends Barnard University or College. She’s walking through the park at 116th and Morningside where she is engaged by, at this time, unknown amount of perpetrators but we believe it’s in a range of between one to three. During the struggle one of these individuals pulled out a knife and stabbed our victim several times. She was able to stagger her way up to the surface side of Morningside Street where she was observed by one of the school office security guards. He called 9-1-1. We were able to get her to St. Luke’s Hospital where she succumbed to her injuries. So regarding the investigation, it’s still in its preliminary stages but we do have a couple of people that we are questioning at the 2-6 Precinct at this time. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. We do have our Crime Stoppers vehicle out there. If anybody sees something, please notify us, we are going to need the community to help us with this investigation. But once again, like I stated in the beginning part, I’m very confident with the investigators from Manhattan North Homicide, from the 2-6 squad, that we’re going to bring this individual to justice.
Question: Two questions. First, you said before seven, because the sheet it was around 5:30 pm. Could you just clarify the time?
Chief Harrison: Sure, so, I have the incident happening at 18:56 but I’ll double check that for you and – which is a little bit before seven – 6:56 pm is the time we have here.
Question: [Inaudible] said 17, so [inaudible]. But the second question is – crime stat statistics from January 1st through September 30th in that park, major crimes have actually doubled in the park. A lot of residents around the park complained that there was a lot – there were a lot of other crimes within the park. Do think there’s a [inaudible] police in the park and if there was a large enough presence before this happened?
Chief Harrison: So, I’m just going to put my Chief of Patrol hat on real quickly. We have identified the issues in Morningside Park. We did have some strategies in place and now we’re going to increase certain things. If I could just break down what exactly we were doing and what we’re going to do. So, we had our assigned sector cars as well as our neighborhood coordination officers utilizing their off-radio time in going through the park. And that’s on the 2-8 precinct side as well as the 26th Precinct side. Going forward, we’re going to capitalize in making sure all of our resources are plugged into Morningside and that’s including our Strategic Response Groups. We’re going to use different types of logistics like light towers and we’re going to continue to work with the community to see if we can identify who these individuals are. But it’s all hands on deck but we’re going to do a thorough investigation and bring these people to justice.
Question: Any connection between last night’s robbery and the robbery that happened on the 5th. It happened at Riverside Drive and 114th Street. A 19-year-old had his Air Pods stolen.
Chief Harrison: So, once again, Myles, it’s still in the beginning stages. As we go further, we’ll keep everybody updated regarding if there is any connection in any other incidents that might have happened around that park. But right now we don’t see a connection with any of the other incidents.
Question: What’s the status of those teenagers who were brought in last night? Were they – I know there was a blood trail to the Grant Houses. Any connection between that and this?
Chief Harrison: We’re still trying to investigate to find out if there is a connection. But once again we have a couple people at the 26th Precinct that we’re talking to.
Question: What exactly led you guys to believe there might be more than one? Is it just like that she was seen with more than one person or the nature of the injuries that she had?
Chief Harrison: So, there was a 9-1-1 caller, an individual who was able to help us out with the investigation. I don’t want to give out too much information but we believe that there may be anywhere between one to three perpetrators.
Question: Just following up on Katie’s question – we’re reporting that law enforcement sources say this may be connected to a robbery pattern. That’s been a notoriously dangerous place for students for years, if not decades. So, I mean where – and you said the police department was already trying to step up some resources – where was the failure then [inaudible] woman is being robbed and killed before 8:00 pm at night?
Commissioner Shea: So, Rodney, mentioned some of the past crimes involved. You mentioned another. With any incident like this we take a look at everything going on and try to connect the dots. That’s what we do as business as usual. I just want to stress that two different questions have mentioned that park and robberies. As recently as about three weeks ago members of the 2-6 Precinct Detective Squad closed out a pretty significant robbery pattern that kind of parallels this incident here – arrests made, juveniles anywhere from 14 to 16 years of age arrested in that pattern. So, yes, there has been an increase. There has been effective deployment from both the patrol and the detective side. There has been arrests on that prior pattern as well as increased patrols in the area. And I wish it had prevented this one, I truly do.
Commissioner Shea: That will be part of the investigation going forward. But those cases are active in the criminal justice system.
Question: Are the people – two questions, one for the Mayor, one for you – are the people in custody currently being questioned, minors?
Chief Harrison: So, the ones that are being questioned are minors at this time. I don’t have their ages right now. I can get back to you but their guardians are with them as well. So, they are being questioned with their guardians.
Question: [Inaudible] leaders or anything like that?
Mayor: Yeah, I talked to President Sian Beilock earlier and said to her that we want to do whatever will be helpful to Barnard College, to the students, to the faculty. I spent a couple years of my life right on that campus and I understand just a little how much of a shock and a just deep, deep pain people are going through. So I said to her, whatever will be most helpful – we will come over, the Commissioner and I, if that’s what would be helpful to the community. If they prefer to deal with the issues themselves, we want to respect that. We’re sending mental health professionals either way and additional police presence. But as you know when our NYPD officials are answering your questions, they have to exercise discretion. I will just say, you’re getting a very clear signal here that there’s a high level of confidence that these perpetrators will be arrested and will be prosecuted. We can’t say anything finally until it’s done but there’s a high level of confidence.
Question: [Inaudible] effectively to reassure people everything is being done to keep them safe but according to police statistics, the murder rate is up eight percent in this city. So, why is the murder rate highly this year compared to last despite your best efforts?
Mayor: Look, it’s a question we are asking ourselves strategically not just – we feel it emotionally. Every single one of us gets the same reports every morning and they’re not just numbers to us, they are human lives. And this year has been a strange one. Murder went up in the beginning of the year and then went back down then came up again. So, it’s been a very ever-changing pattern. We do know six years of us all being together and then almost 25 years of overall progress, we know the basic strategies make sense. CompStat makes sense. Precision policing makes sense. Neighborhood policing makes sense. Even with this very troubling increase, the number of murders is so much smaller than it was even just a decade ago and that’s a good thing.
But we know we have a problem we must address head on. My argument would be – figure out these patterns, more deployments of our officers at the right places, getting under the skin of the problem in terms of the challenges we’re seeing with gangs with dovetails with what Commissioner Shea is talking about. A different approach, going forward, focusing on young people to keep them away from gangs to begin with – it’s a real preventative action. We have a lot to do. Overall crime is down. The overall strategies have worked for years but we have a new challenge we must confront and we will.
Question: [Inaudible] murder rate up –
Mayor: Again, I think it is – I’ll let the experts speak but it’s not a single thing, obviously. We know we have – we’ve been all open about the fact that we have a gang issue we must deal with and we are dealing with. We have 2,000 more officers on patrol than we had just a few years ago so we know that the additional presence is there and it, when applied in the right places, makes a world of difference. I don’t think there’s one reason. I think we know what the solutions are and we have to effectively pursue them.
Question: Just two questions – the first is on the investigation. Was a weapon recovered and is there any surveillance video?
Chief Harrison: So, once again Myles, it’s still preliminary but there was a knife recovered but we are not sure if this knife was involved with the incident that occurred.
Question: Any surveillance video?
Chief Harrison: We do have tons – I shouldn’t say tons – we do have several cameras out there. We’re looking at them as we speak and we’ll see if we can put the pieces of the puzzle to help out with the investigation.
Question: Commissioner Shea, we learned in sort of your lead up to you becoming commissioner that your wife works at Columbia. Has this ever been an issue for you in the back of your head that Morningside Park may be a dangerous place for your wife to walk through?
Commissioner Shea: Let me just – in its bluntest, most sincere terms, I worry about 8.6 million people. Period. I worry about everyone in New York City and have since January of 2014 when Bill Bratton called me up to the office and said, ‘I’m putting you in charge of CompStat.” It is a tremendous responsibility that we do not take lightly and I know I speak for every man and woman in the New York City Police Department. It’s not about my family, it’s about our family, and I consider that 8.6 million New Yorkers.
Question: Just about Morningside Park – a lot of students that we spoke to up there said they were warned about going to the park, that it isn’t safe, but some people do it anyway. You know, young people don’t think about things that could happen to them but now they’re rethinking it. I know you said that there has been more deployments and you’re going to have more going forward but still there’s a reputation with that park that’s just unsavory. And for people who have lived in the city for a long time who know – think about the Central Park jogger, people think well is this going to start to be a trend, and what would you say to that?
Commissioner Shea: I think the parks of New York City are jewels, I truly do. The parks of New York City are incredibly safe. I grew up in New York City. I remember when the parks of New York City were filled with broken glass, you didn’t need to cut the lawns because there was no grass. Look at where we are today. The crime statistics back it up and then you have an incident like this and it shakes you to your core. We will do everything possible to ensure that if something was missed, we will correct it. I will be in touch with the Parks Department – what can we do differently here. We’ll certainly look at our own shop in terms of deployment, lighting, cameras, anything that we can do to make sure that the parks are as safe as ever in New York City, will be done.
Mayor: And I want to appreciate the question because I think there are people who are feeling that right now but I want to say resolutely, we’re not going back and I – if anyone wants to put forward the idea that somehow we’re going back we have so much evidence to refute that and we will keep refuting it and we will keep showing through action. We are going to drive down crime further. We’ve been doing it for 25 years in the big picture, six years intensely on all of our watch, and we know the strategies that work and we have the number of officers we need and we're going to do it. We've done it over and over again. These guys have done an absolutely amazing job. No one said progress is always going to be perfect and linear, but it's going to continue. But the notion that we're going back – no, anyone who spent time here 20 years ago, 30 years ago like a lot of us up here – no, there's no way on earth we're going back. We're not going to let the city go back. Plus, in many, many ways this city has just changed profoundly and isn't going back.
Okay, last call on this.
Question: I wanted to ask about the victim. From the surveillance video or the 9-1-1 calls, do you have any sense of her path to the park, and in the park, and whether she may have been spotted by her attackers before and targeted, or if she encountered them on the stairs? Anything you can say about what led up to this incident?
Chief Harrison: I wish I could give you more, but, once again, it's a still in the beginning stages and as we get more information we'll definitely share with everybody here.
Commissioner Shea: Ashley, just as a follow-up to that, and I do appreciate it because we're thinking the same way here. I just ask anyone that may have been in that vicinity, not just yesterday, that walks through that park on a daily basis and walks up and down that staircase on a daily basis – what did you see? Does a group normally hang out on that staircase? Did you see anything out of the ordinary? Did you hear anything? They may have nothing to do with it, it may be something important to our investigators, so, no matter how slight the detail, anything out of the ordinary, anything that you may have noticed, please call CrimeStoppers.
Question: Commissioner Shea, do you have any advice for Barnard and Columbia college students, given that it wasn’t that late when the student was walking through the park. Any advice from them as they navigate –
Commissioner Shea: Yeah, I would just reemphasize our sincere condolences to the family. In terms of the other students, the NYPD is ready, willing and able to protect them to keep them safe. That is an extremely vibrant and safe community up north – 110th street there. It's a beautiful place full of restaurants and we will do everything to make sure that not only remains safe, but gets even safer.
Chief Harrison: I also want to add, we have a CrimeStoppers reward, $2,500. Anybody with information that could be instrumental to this investigation will be very helpful.
Mayor: Okay, a few more questions on this then we’re going to go to other topics.
Question: I was just curious from the description and the preliminary findings that you guys have had, this is appears to be a random attack, not someone that this woman knew or people that she knew?
Commissioner Shea: Is that a question?
Question: I’m just asking about the understanding.
Chief Harrison: We don't have that information. And, once again, as investigation continues on, we'll give you everything that we have to help you out with your story. But this is something that – I'm very, very confident with the investigators to make sure we get these individuals.
Question: And I just wanted to clarify, you’re interviewing or questioning two people?
Chief Harrison: So, right now, we have a couple people that were questioning. It’s – right now, it's two people, but I think we’re – I'm almost positive that we're looking at one more person to bring in and question them as well.
Question: Two minors, correct?
Chief Harrison: Two minors with their guardians –
Mayor: Can I just – just a quick – we’re going to take just a couple more on this, but just to reminder, everyone, this horrible tragedy happened less than 24 hours ago and it is the job of my colleagues from the NYPD to not provide information that could undermine the investigation or provide a tip off to someone they're trying to get to. So, your questions are valid and important, but I just want remind you, there's a lot of times this early on when we're going to demure because we're trying to find the individuals involved.
Last call, if there's anything else on this situation. Yeah?
Question: There were reports that there was a group brought in and then they were released. Were there two separate groups that –
Commissioner Shea: That’s not accurate.
Mayor: Yes, okay. Thank you, Freddi for your concern for your fellow human being. Anyone who needs to go and do other things and is sick of standing here, you are given a formal excuse and blessing. And thank you.
Mayor: Okay, everyone ready? Okay, other topics, what do we got?
Question: It’s our understanding that lawyers from the City and lawyers from Newark are on the phone in a conference today regarding the SOTA program. It was my understanding that if things didn't go very well that you were potentially going to – or the City was going to potentially counter-sue over the Newark ordinance. Do you know how negotiations are going? Are you planning that counter-suit?
Mayor: The negotiations over last days, as I understand it – it’s a very broad answer because I don't have all the tick tock for you – but the negotiations over the last few days have been productive. Look, from the beginning there's been an acknowledgement – I’m talking about going back months and months before the most recent actions – there’s been an acknowledgement that homelessness is a regional problem. Everyone is trying to grapple with it. We would do better to grapple with it all together and that's the spirit we bring to these discussions. I'm hopeful. So, I don't want to get ahead of the negotiations. Obviously, we disagree with the ordinance, but we will determine our actions based on how the conversations go.
Question: It’s a question for Commissioner Shea. Today, City Hall announced an expansive new policy on reckless driving by NYPD employees by requiring precinct integrity control officers to annually review not only DMV points against the police officer's record, but also camera issued moving violations before issuing a placard – a parking placard to an NYPD employee. We've documented that cops get a moving violations at about twice the general population rate. So, I'm wondering if you have a comment on the new policy, which may result in hundreds of cops and NYPD employees losing their parking privileges.
Commissioner Shea: I don't know about the – twice the right, I'm not sure where you got that data from. That’s an interesting statistic, if it's true. That would be concerning. We have a process in place for many years on as part of our quality control, if you will, in terms of making sure our officers and employees have the appropriate license, not scofflaws, things of this nature. I think this is a reflection of changing times – new technology, new metrics are available to be monitored. I think it's a good thing. And we have an expectation that, you know, our officers, our employees follow the rules as good citizens, quite frankly.
Question: A lot of them may lose their permits because now we're going to include camera-issued tickets, which never were considered before by the integrity control officer, because they didn't show up on with DMV points.
Mayor: And that is a good thing, that we are going to look at all the facts, all the evidence and there will be consequences. Now, I would caution, the camera tickets go to the owner of the vehicle, and you know well that that is a imperfection there, because we're not always sure who the driver was. But this is true not only for NYPD, but for all city employees. If you're a City employee and you're violating the law, you're going to have a problem. And this is about Vision Zero and keeping us all safe, but it's also about the integrity that City employees should practice. So, I think this is a step forward to create, you know, a real atmosphere of consequences and holding people to a fair standard.
Question: Mr. Mayor, there was a report in ProPublica yesterday that raises a host of questions about consulting work that McKinsey did for the Department of Correction, including allegations that they cherry picked the participants in a violence reduction effort in the jail. Just wanted to see what you thought of it, but also are you going to call for DOI to investigate that?
Mayor: I need to get more information about that situation before I can answer that last piece of the question. The broad strokes are, we, in trying to fundamentally change the Department of Correction, which when I came into office, I've been very open about this, I was shocked by what I found. And I won't politicize my answer, I will only say what happened in the previous 12 years did not address the most fundamental issues within our Department of Correction. When I came in, I expected it to be in a lot better shape than what I found. We had to do some very different things and it was not unusual to ask for outside help and expertise to figure out a way forward. My understanding is a lot of the specific recommendations and approaches that were brought in were helpful, but we're going to certainly look at that situation further and determine if any action is needed.
Question: Do you agree with approaches recommended by McKinsey, such as the use of “aggressive dogs, shotguns?”
Mayor: Again, I have to see the specifics.
Question: I wanted to ask you how you would respond to your critics –
Mayor: I don't have enough time today to respond all my critics.
If we want, we could do an all-day press conference, we can bring in sandwiches.
Question: I’ll rephrase it to be more specific.
Mayor: Yes, could you be more specific?
Question: [Inaudible] you painted the rise on anti-Semitism on white supremacists, on KKK, and people feel that you haven't been so harsh when it comes to anti-Semitism on the left. And also, the most recent attacks in Brooklyn hadn't been done by white supremacists or Trump supporters –
Mayor: No, I never said the word Trump supporters. That's your word.
Question: And number two, under your watch, anti-Semitism has risen –
Mayor: Okay, let's come back down to earth, my friend. What is happening, again – where has the worst actions before two days ago – and I don’t belittle what happened days ago one bit, I think that’s quite evident – where have the worst actions, the worst anti-Semitic attacks happened in the United States of America in recent memory? Pittsburgh, Poway, other parts of the country – and who were the perpetrators? Right? White supremacists. We know this. We know this. So, I think it is dangerous – I think there is a reverse political correctness going on here. Let me name it for what it is. If folks on the right want to play this game with people’s lives, I would say you should be concerned about that.
But stop this. The historic danger to the Jewish people has come from right-wing extremism. That is a fact. That is proven so deeply. Any – I’ll debate anyone, anywhere on that one. What was fascism, Nazi-ism, white supremacy, KKK? All of these entities that have engaged in violent, systematic, premeditated attacks on the Jewish people for decades. So, that rise in the last few years is one part a tragic global phenomenon because we’re seeing it in France, we’re seeing it in other places, we’re seeing it in other places from other forces, too. But some of it is from that historic right-wing movement that we see re-energized in Europe. It is a direct descendant of Nazi-ism. Some of the same people who were a part of Nazi-ism and fascism, created political movements that now have become these modern right-wing, horribly anti-Semitic movements.
So, that’s just fact. So we see something going on all over the world. We see in the United States of America a rise in hate in general directly related to the events of the last few years, unquestionably. Why is there so much more hate speech in America? Why is it different today than it was four or five years ago? I think you can fill in the blank. You can love the president of the United States if that is your choice but you can’t miss the fact that the dialogue changed with the election of 2016 and we’ve got to address it and undo that horrible trend in our civic discourse that’s has gotten more and more hateful.
And then I mentioned social media which goes beyond politics. Social media has become a new part of the problem that we have to address. But no, I think what has happened here in New York City is part of – unfortunately all of those things I have mentioned have been part of fueling it. There is something wrong in terms of our young people’s understanding that we must address unquestionably and we will. But no there is an extraordinary difference between what we have seen in New York City to date and what we saw in Jersey City, what we saw in Poway, what we saw in Pittsburg. And I will tell you just very clearly we are going to go at all of it. I don’t care who the perpetrators are. We are going to go at all of it with equal concern.
Question: In January, I asked you if you would okay a call on city-owned property on Staten Island –
Mayor: You said call – I’m sorry?
Mayor: I don’t know what that means.
Question: [Inaudible] on Staten Island’s deer population.
Mayor: Oh, a cull, a c-a– I’m sorry.
Mayor: However you spell it. Okay.
Question: You said you wouldn’t rule it out. It’s been almost a year now and it’s not really clear where your administration stands. So, I want to know yes or no –
Mayor: No, no, wait, it is clear where we stand. I’m sorry to interrupt. We stand by our policy unless and until we think the policy is not working. The last statistics I’ve seen is it continues to achieve the goal. I’d like it to be more. I’d like it to be faster. Who wouldn’t – but that it continues to achieve the goal of reduced population. I don’t know the next report we’re expected to get but every time we get them we’re going to assess whether things are working. So far we have seen consistent progress.
Question: But yes or no, are you going to [inaudible] –
Mayor: Again, I’ve said it really clearly. We stand by our policy unless and until something causes us to reconsider. I’ve said I won’t take anything off the table. I reiterate I won’t take anything off the table. I don’t know why you want to put it in your words when I’m trying to give it to you in my words. We stand by our current policy but we are not ruling out any approach depending on the results of our current policy. We will get constant updates over time of whether it’s working or not. So far in the scheme of things, it has been working. Okay, back there?
Question: Do you have any updates on when the results of the yeshiva investigation is going to be released? I know the DOE and the City have been working on a letter for the State Education Department. When can expect –
Mayor: Chancellor Carranza and I were together – I’m trying to remember what day it was, but it feels like a few weeks ago and we got this question and he talked about the numbers in the investigation and where we stood. And basically a number of yeshivas have made real progress and have been very cooperative. A number of others are on the path to making progress. There’s a few we’re still concerned about for sure. In terms of the next formal action and the next formal step with the State Education Department, we’ll make sure the DOE updates you because I can’t give you the exact timeline.
Question: Another SOTA question – so, New York City agreed to give addresses of SOTA clients to Newark so that Newark can make sure that they are safe. Now other towns, East Orange, Elizabeth, and Yonkers – they formally asked your administration for the same information. Will you give them the addresses –
Mayor: So since we’re in the middle – good question but since we’re in the middle of litigation still I’m just going to be very broad in my answer and you’ll forgive me because when litigation is ongoing every single word I utter or are Corp Counsel utters matters. We want to work with everyone. Here’s my broad answer. We want to work with everyone. It is a regional problem. Homelessness is unquestionably a regional problem. We need a regional solution. We provide the most support for people in need of any place in the region because we have right to shelter. A lot of other places do not. But we’re going to have an open door to working with everyone. That’s all I can say at this point.
Question: But can you say that it’s important – it’s important for them to have that information or it’s important that there’s some sort of oversight –
Mayor: There’s a – let me say it again broadly. There’s a lot of nuance underneath the question and again with an ongoing litigation. We want a positive outcome. I’m stating the obvious. We want everyone who is homeless that we can get out of shelter into a home. People need that. We want to get that done. We want to work with every other part of the metropolitan area to help everyone in need. We want to make sure people are in decent housing, by definition, but how we do it, let’s wait to see how these conversations go.
Question: [Inaudible] address the criticism?
Mayor: What does that mean?
Question: How do you address the criticism knowing that these families have lived in deplorable conditions and –
Mayor: I would say that if you look at the overall situation and I quoted this the other day – I believe I am remembering – Freddi will stop me if I get my numbers wrong – we did a survey of the folks in the program. Now remember about a third of them are in New York City. We did a survey, we got 500 responses. This is only a two-year-old program. We got 500 responses. Out of 500 responses of people who literally were in those apartments all over precisely 13 said they were having a problem with their apartments –
Question: [Inaudible] 500 –
Mayor: We’ll get you – that’s a good sample. We’ll get you the exact numbers. It’s thousands – single digit thousands but we’ll get you the exact number. But – or single digit thousands families. Do you know the number off hand?
Mayor: We’ll confirm that.
Mayor: Right. So, we’ll get you the exact number but the 500 – that’s 500 families responded – is a very substantial sample. Thirteen indicated a problem. Even in the DOI report, it’s focused on a few specific buildings. So the idea from day one of the program – of course as is true with a recipient here in New York City or any place else is to get them to decent housing. That’s the entire idea. That’s the entire idea of us getting out of clusters as part of our homelessness vision which we have been doing. If that didn't work we want to address it. If it didn’t work in any individual situation, we need to address it. We want to address it. But again, what we need to do is have these constructive conversations with Newark and we have a very open door to working with all the other jurisdictions. Go ahead, Rich.
Question: Mr. Mayor, back to the hate speech and the social media platforms. Among the social media platforms, we know some websites are dedicated to hate speech, but I’m not talking about that, among the popular ones is there a hate speech leader in your mind and you think the people who run that platform ought to step forward and [inaudible] –
Mayor: You mean among the companies?
Mayor: Look, I don’t pretend to have that expertise. I think that the indictment I gave a moment ago, the subversion of our electoral process, the spread of hate speech, making information available about how to commit acts of violence – I mean all of these things, you have to lay at the feet of these companies. Again, I can agree or disagree. I don’t think I’m going to – I look at my old friend Gersh – I don’t think Streetsblog is going to publish a guide to building a bomb, right? You don’t like the auto-industry but you’re not going to tell people how to build a bomb and place it at an automobile factory. So, the fact is, that if online platforms that we all use, and, you know, we originally were told they'd be great harbingers of progress and freedom and we were all going to be able to communicate and our families would stick together and love each other, but now they allow people to learn how to make a bomb or how to hate each other, or they allow, you know, automated mass disinformation to subvert an election. That's not what we signed up for, and you all would not allow that, so why can they allow it? So, it's time to address this head on. And again, I'm impressed and moved by the fact that the employees of these companies are in the vanguard of saying, we didn't sign up for this either. And more and more you're seeing some of the leaders of the companies acknowledging the problem and doing something about it, but not enough and not fast enough. Guess what? This is when the government needs to step in, as with any other industry.
Question: So, the NYPD earlier this week set up these orange barricades at the Staten Island ferry on the St. George side, where homeless people typically go to sleep and congregate and panhandle. They say they put these up because of increment weather, but homeless people I’ve spoken to at the ferry are saying that they set them up there to [inaudible] from staying in the entrance area. Are you concerned that, you know, these barriers may have been set up to prevent homeless –
Mayor: So, I'm not familiar with this specific location or a specific development. I'll always tell you when I'm not familiar with what's being done there. Maybe the Commissioner knows something about it, but –
Commissioner Shea: We can certainly look into it.
Mayor: We’ll have them come back on specifics. I want to make a broader point, which is, I have no specific knowledge of why that action was taken, but to the broader point, everything we've been saying about homelessness lately, and we have more to say soon – we don't want to be a city where if someone is sleeping in a ferry terminal, or in a doorway to a building, or any place else we just, you know, look the other way. We need to engage people and help them come in to Safe Havens and, ultimately, to permanent housing. That's what we've been trying to do more and more. So, we want the maximum amount of engagement to help people in. We do not want business as usual. But as to this specific issue, we'll find out what that's about.
Question: I’m not sure if you're aware of the controversy in Midwood, Brooklyn over this charter school coming –
Question: Okay, so you know it's mostly for minority students. Some community members who oppose said things like, these are urban kids who know how to fight. So, what's your take on the dispute and is the City doing anything to help mediate it?
Mayor: First of all, it's unacceptable to in any way, shape or form trying to exclude children from a school because they look different. And it’s unacceptable to stereotype our children because of their backgrounds. Some of that rhetoric that was used in Midwood was unacceptable, for sure. But I don't want to paint all of Midwood with that brush, that was some individuals. My understanding is, the school is moving forward and we're certainly going to work with them. So, I don't want to stereotype what happened here because I think in some ways it has been portrayed as an indictment of a whole community and that's not fair. But what I know for sure is, anyone who is suggesting those children should not have the right to go that school in that community, I disagree with.
Go ahead, Courtney.
Question: [Inaudible] so, one of the points of criticism is that you're giving all of this money to the landlords upfront, right? So, the landlord can get out of town and isn't held accountable necessarily because the tenant can't withhold the rent to make him or her fix something. So, why not – would you consider continuing the program? The City's still saying I’ll pay a year's worth of rent for you, but instead of writing that big check up front, just write monthly checks like we all do.
Mayor: So, again, I'm only going to speak broadly because of ongoing litigation. I think it's fair to say, a two-year-old program that did achieve something important, getting thousands of people out of shelter and to a home, and there's obviously real concerns that we need to address and will address in what is still a nascent program. We'll look at that issue for sure. I disagree with the concept that there's nothing you can do to hold people accountable when you have an ongoing business relationship with them and when there are local laws, unquestionably, that would require them to provide a safe and appropriate housing. But we're going to look at the whole situation and we're going to have, you know, I hope and believe, a constructive conversation with other governments in the region about the right way to proceed.
Question: There’s an op-ed in Gothamist by current and former homeless outreach workers, who questioned the latest homeless initiative, the 3-1-1 expansion and all that. And they say, even “if outreach worker suddenly had the complete trust of every single street homeless person in the city, we would have nowhere to place them.”
Mayor: That’s just inaccurate. We've been over this – 2,400 people have been brought in, in less than three years and have stayed off the streets. So, clearly – and again, criticism is normal in a democracy. I agree with the Commissioner, oversight is healthy, you know, push and probe, that's great. But why are facts not being recognized when they're actually facts? I've said to you each time, all of you, you know, how those numbers have grown. If we're at 2,400 people against a backdrop of 3,500 to 4,000 people, according to the last hope count on the streets – if 2,200 have come in, in three years in, stayed in, that’s a really, really big story and it's a story of, bluntly, I don't see a lot of reporting on. I think there should be, because it took an immense amount of work to do that and that was the difference. Rather than, you know, I'm sending Yoav to talk to a homeless person 10 times and expecting it to work, I'm sending you a hundred times if that's what it takes, and it has worked. So, it’s a different approach. It has never been attempted at that level. Maybe you could argue the City in New York didn't have the resources in the past to do it on that level, but now we do and we're going to do it and it's working. How do we get 2,400 people in if we didn't have a place for them? Yeah, the facts immediately dispel that argument and we continue to build new modern, safer shelters and Safe Havens. So, folks are right to say, do we need to keep making more options available? Yes. They're wrong to say it's not working because it already did work.
Question: So their point is [inaudible] the majority of the 2,400 or so did go to Safe Havens and the resistance into shelters where there might be room, but the numbers of people who went there, it's just really low.
Mayor: You can't stereotype that. I understand the question and it's a fair question, but I want to argue that – one, again, guys, please, please, please – facts, facts, facts to begin with – if 2,400 people came in, it worked for 2,400 people. That’s a seismic number of people. Unless someone's going to tell me that you have a different way to prove the number of street homeless, the HOPE count is our way. So, we have fewer than 4,000 people on the streets – that’s still 4,000 too many. But if 2,200 came off the street in a concentrated period of time because of a new strategy that had never been tried before and we'd never seen that kind of movement off the street in our history – a 40-year-old crisis – something's working, now we got to keep it working and go farther. If the criticism is, do you need more Safe Havens, you should build more Safe Havens. I agree and we are, absolutely. If the criticism is, there are people who will not go into other types of shelter, absolutely true, which is why we've been creating Safe Havens. It is not true that you can't get anyone to go into shelter and we have plenty of evidence of that too, especially as we improve safety in the shelters. And something that the NYPD deserves credit on, also hasn't gotten a lot of reporting is, that unlike the previous 35 years of the homeless crisis, the NYPD came in now and has for years now been supervising the last few years, shelter security and training shelter staff. That has changed the security dynamic and shelters and homeless people are seeing that. So, more to do if the critic say you have to do more, I say you are right critics. But if the critics are saying, well, you can't possibly get people off the streets, then how do they explain the 2,400 who have come off the streets?
Question: I was wondering – Police Commissioner Shea, back on the deer situation on Staten Island. It's my understanding when the City was first trying to figure out how to deal with the population that the NYPD strongly opposed a call or a hunt of some kind, partially because Staten Island is primarily a dense suburban population where even where the deer are, there are families and homes where they roam. And I'm just curious, do you think it would be prudent to have a controlled hunt in an area like Staten Island?
Commissioner Shea: I think any decisions that are made, I think the Mayor have covered it earlier, we’ll do collaboratively with all the agencies and come up with an appropriate solution.
Mayor: So, I want to add on that. I appreciate the question. It's one of the strong concerns here, which is, you know, again, there's legal concerns, there's humane concerns and there is that public safety concern about all those people in close proximity to where the deer are and that any weapon used could endanger people inadvertently. Those are all very real concerns. But again, I'm going to say it real clearly, we have a policy to reduce the number of deer. That policy has not changed over the last few years. It continues to show some progress. I want to see more progress. If it ever stops showing progress, we're going to assess other options, everything's on the table. But until other notification, until you hear us change our policy, our policy stands.
Question: There’s a national problem with veterans. One, high incidence of suicides amongst veterans, and amongst veterans who are homeless it's even a higher rate. Is there anything being done with the veterans administration or with your Office of Veterans Services?
Mayor: Absolutely. One of the mandates that we created in creating, not an office but a Department of Veterans Services was to focus on mental health and obviously suicide. And the fact that Thrive is available and that you can call 888-NYC-WELL is part of the answer, but a lot of it is very intensive outreach through veterans organizations to the grassroots to try and identify anyone's having a problem to engage their family members, to get mental health support to veterans. Colonel Hendon, who's taken over the office now, is going to deepen that effort. It's a very, very serious problem – you’re absolutely right – nationally, and we take it seriously here, but the answer is to make mental health services readily available. That's not been true for veterans through the V.A. a lot of the time. One of the things that General Lori Sutton said, to her credit, when she joined us a few years ago is, having come out of the U.S. Army, it was way too difficult to get mental health services. And I, you know, I haven't been – I have tried to be blunt about this fact, because I saw it in my own life. My dad had PTSD, no one called it that back then. He was suffering all the time. His life spiraled downward. It didn't matter how many decorations he had as a war hero. It did not matter how much he had served his country, his country did not serve him when it came to his mental health needs. And that's happening still to this day. We're a country that is not being honest about mental health, which is why Thrive is important to just change the entire discussion. So, we’ve got a de-stigmatize. We've got to make mental healthcare available and we’ve got to begin with those who have served us.
Thank you, everyone.