Secondary Navigation

Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability

September 28, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. I use a simple formula that I like to remind people, vaccination equals recovery, recovery equals vaccination. We have seen just amazing, amazing progress when it comes to vaccination in the city. It’s fueling recovery, you go around the city, you feel the energy, you see the jobs coming back, why? Because of vaccination and what worked was a combination of incentives and mandates. The $100 incentive, huge impact, the workforce mandates for public employees, the Key to NYC, dining, entertainment, fitness, all of them helped get more people vaccinated that increased health and safety and recovery. We can see it day by day. It's working. There's a new analysis out by Patch based on city data that really puts an exclamation point on it. They looked at what has happened with vaccinations since the first mandates were announced on July 21st. So, just about two months ago. Average vaccinations per day have gone up 45 percent, 45 percent since the mandates were put in place, and that has meant over 1.3 million more doses of the vaccine, huge impact, life-saving impact. And it's amazing what we're seeing overall. We now have over 70 percent of all New Yorkers, all New Yorkers, over 70 percent have had at least one dose, over 82 percent of adults, at least one dose. These are staggering numbers.  

So, many parts of the country wish they had the numbers we have because we've been just incessantly focused on vaccination, pushing it, pushing it, pushing it. We've gotten help from public sector, private sector, community organizations, the faith community. One example from the faith community, and I want to correct something I said inaccurately before, because I've been given some information, turned out to be wrong, but I want to take responsibility here, I had the wrong information about the Jehovah's Witnesses community, and in fact we're really happy to say the Jehovah's Witness leadership has been very, very adamant supporting vaccination. In fact, here's a figure from the about 5,000 people who work in the offices of Jehovah's Witnesses houses of worship around the state, 99 percent are vaccinated.  

So, thank you for the leadership, that's tremendously helpful, and we see this across the whole city people stepping up. And the vaccine mandates, they not only work, they are winning in court, time after time, there's been court challenges, state court, federal court, Key to NYC was challenged, the challenge against the education vaccination mandate, every single time the City of New York wins because we have a simple, simple argument. We're protecting the health and wellbeing of our employees, of our kids, of people who go to all these institutions as clients, as customers, and once again, yesterday, a federal – a panel of federal judges' court of appeals judges immediately confirmed that the New York City Department of Education vaccine mandate is absolutely legal and justifiable. That means that all the court challenges are now exhausted, and the Department of Education vaccine mandate will go into effect.  

So, what we've done now is readjusted the timing because we had the delay in court, we’re giving all of our employees up until Friday at five o'clock. If you're a Department of Education employee, you have until Friday at 5:00 pm to at least get that first dose, the vast, vast of majority have done it already, and we thank them. But for anyone who has not gotten a dose by Friday at 5:00 pm, after all the encouragement, all the support, all the incentives, we're going to then assume you're not coming to work Monday morning as a vaccinated employee, and we will immediately find a substitute. And then those folks will go on leave without pay, who chose not to get vaccinated. So, by Monday morning, 100 percent of the staff of the adults in our public schools will be vaccinated, at least one dose. And that's going to make a much healthier environment for everyone, particularly for our kids. Also, the health care worker vaccine mandate began yesterday, very happy to report we're seeing great results, particularly in our public health system, which has been heroic throughout this whole struggle against COVID and so far, pretty good also with our voluntary and private hospitals. I want you to hear an update from someone who's been leading the way throughout the COVID crisis, our own Dr. Mitch Katz of Health + Hospitals. 

President and CEO Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: Thank you so much, sir. You're absolutely right that we've had a tremendous success at Health - Hospitals. All our hospitals are fully operational at this time. We have among our nurses, we're over 95 percent of our nurses are fully vaccinated, and I have talked as well today, both personally, with several of the hospitals and the private sector, as well as greater New York, and happy to tell you that all of the hospitals in New York City are fully operational and doing well. Thank you, sir. 

Mayor: Thank you so much. Really, really appreciate everything you've done, Mitch and your team has done to keep things moving forward, and also your employees answered the call and have gotten vaccinated in huge numbers. That's fantastic. Now I want you to hear from someone who has been a leader throughout the COVID crisis, but even beyond that has been a leader for health care equity, for ensuring that all New Yorkers get the access to health care they deserve, and he's someone who understands how powerful these mandates have been in terms of getting people the vaccinations and making sure we're all healthier. Great pleasure to bring to you the chair of the State Assembly Health Committee, Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried 


Assembly member, I want to thank you, and I think you'll appreciate, and I would love you just for a moment to reflect on the conversations you've had with your constituents in your district. I've heard from so many people, you know, we expected a lot of criticism, a lot of folks saying they wouldn't abide by the mandates, but I got to tell you so many people have come up to me and said, thank you, and they believe in them, and they want to see them for everyone's health and safety. What are you hearing on the ground?’ 


Mayor: Amen. Well, I’ve got to tell you, one of the things I like to say – and you you've been in public office a substantial number of years, my friend. One of the things I think you'll agree with, that we have 82 percent of New York's adults now – over 82 percent have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine. And I like to say, when else have you seen 82 percent of New Yorkers agree on anything? So, here's the one time it happened. Here's the one time it happened. Thank you so much for all you're doing to help keep us safe and your great work in Albany. Thank you.

So, the fight against COVID, it caused us, of course, to have to innovate in so many ways. The vaccine mandates, we innovated that. The incentives, we innovated that. The Test and Trace Corps., all of the door-to-door efforts to get people vaccinated, the mobile and buses – innovation was required to fight this crisis. We also had to innovate in other ways. Some things that we never would imagine before became important to try and then they worked in the context of COVID. Obviously, Open Streets – great example. Open Restaurants, having the restaurants outdoors – outdoor dining has been a huge positive for New York City. It wasn't something we did the same way before COVID, but we needed to save over 100,000 jobs, we needed to give people hope it worked. It's now permanent. Open Streets, permanent. These are things that wouldn't have done – been done in the past, but they really, really work and we're go and do new things, going forward, and that's part of what our recovery for all of us looks like – something that takes us forward.

So, here's something else that's going to take us forward. We have a jewel in New York Harbor. We have a place that's magical, that all New Yorkers should experience. It's going to be a big part of our future, Governors Island. But Governors Island, for a long time, it wasn't accessible to New Yorkers. And then, since it's become accessible, it's not for the whole year, it's only certain times a year. We're going to change that. Starting this fall, we're going to be opening up Governors Island year-round. It's an amazing place. It's a great place to go and get a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. It's part of our history. So, we are going to have now rather than a very limited schedule, historically, from May to October, it's going to be year-round that people can go and enjoy everything on Governors Island. Beginning on November 1st, Governors Island will be open seven days a week from 7:00 AM to 6:15 PM. And to match this new schedule, we're expanding NYC Ferry service to reach Governors Island daily, year-round, so New Yorkers can really, really enjoy this special place. That’ll begin this year when our Coney Island route is inaugurated as part of NYC Ferry – at the same time, we'll do this very to Governors Island. And I want to emphasize, Governors Island, it’s a great place to visit, it's a great place to spend time, but it's also a huge part of our future, because that's where our new climate center is going to be. The Center for Climate Solutions that we're creating on Governors Island is literally going to become the global capital for fighting climate change. We have incredible interest from universities and a variety of other partners to come in and be a part of this project. We'll be talking a lot about it later on this year. But Governors Island, where modern New York City began, is going to be the place where we helped to save New York City and all the cities of the world by coming up with the solutions to climate change we need.

So, very exciting stuff happening on Governors Island. And someone who has really helped us profoundly to lay the groundwork for all of these changes – she represents Governors Island. She advocated aggressively, as she always does, for new ferry service for her district and for everyone. And she's been a big believer in the power of this new climate center. My great pleasure introduced City Council Member Margaret Chin.


Mayor: Excellent. Thank you, Council Member. You're a big reason why all this was possible. Thank you for your leadership. And now, I want to turn to one of your colleagues at the State level who has been in, in the best sense of the word, obsessed with getting ferry service to be more consistent to Governors Island – more use. And he's also been a big fighter for more equitable access to park land for all. So, I know this is a day that he will be celebrating. My pleasure to introduce State Senator Brian Kavanagh.


Mayor: Thank you so much, Senator. It is very exciting, and I know you'll be out there year-round, getting your exercise, and enjoying the beauty of that place. Thank you.

Everyone, again, we're innovating. We're going to do a whole lot of new things as part of our recovery. And we've talked a lot about, the recovery depends on so many different pieces – vaccination; obviously, the jobs coming back. It also depends on public safety. A lot of different elements to the public safety equation. Yesterday, I went to Rikers Island to see what's being done to address the real problems there, the real challenges. Met with the leadership, saw some of the facilities that had been the focal points of the problem that needed to be addressed – the intake facilities, the health care facilities, the things that needed to be fixed. I saw some real progress and some things that need to be done and done quickly. And what is good to know is, despite immense challenges in a facility that bluntly is very, very outdated – it was outdated decades ago. Rikers Island, remember, established 85 years ago. We are quite clear about what wrong there and why it to be closed once and for all. I can tell you this from the heart, this is why I fought so hard to get to the point which we finally have reached where we have a plan to close it, close it soon, replace it with smaller, humane, local jails in the boroughs. But, in the meantime, we’ve got such important work to do. And I want to give credit to the folks at Health + Hospitals, Correctional Health, Commissioner Schiraldi, and his team, the many, many uniformed officers who are doing the job every single day and working hard to do it right, the uniformed leadership that's working hard to get things right. Even while some are not doing their job, the vast majority are.

What has happened – and it's good news – is the intake process, which was a serious, serious concern, has now changed profoundly. You were seeing previously some people in that intake process for over a day. Now, the intake time is down to 5.5 hours – that is the average. The longest wait yesterday was 10 hours. Tremendous improvement, quickly, because they opened up new facilities, added personnel. The situation with the health care facilities improved, but we need to do more. The population reduction that's been serious and important already in the last few weeks, working with the State. But it's also important to recognize the overall situation – population at Rikers is down 1,500 since 2019, because we've been working to reduce mass incarceration for eight years and it’s had an overall impact. With the actions we're going to take now, with the State especially, we're going to reduce population a lot more. We're going to get that population under 5,000 soon while bringing back more and more Correction officers. So, a lot to do but these pieces are going to come together. Also, thanks to the Sheriff's Office, that's going to help us with some specific functions, take some of the pressure off Correction officers, just like NYPD is doing. And we're bringing in additional outside help, so we can concentrate the officers we have where we need a most.

We're going to fix the immediate problem, but the bigger problem remains. We need to close Rikers Island once and for all. We need to get to humane, modern jails so we can rehabilitate people. That plan must keep going and it must keep going on schedule. That's the big picture we’ve got to stay focused on.

All right, as we do every day – indicators. And the first one is a great one, the doses administered to-date. We are closing in on 11.5 million, that just keeps growing all the time. It's quite impressive – 11,434,222 doses from the beginning. Number two, the daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today's report – and this is a good one – 115 patients, but confirmed positivity of only 15 percent. So, that is a very good sign. And the very best sign in this category, the hospitalization rate, it’s now down to 1.06 per 100,000. And then, new reported cases on a seven-day average – today's report, 1,323 cases. Nice downward slant there on that graph. Let's keep that going. Vaccination is the key.

And so, let's do a few words in Spanish on vaccination and particularly the vaccination mandate that will take effect in our schools. And, on Monday, the fact that every adult who works in our schools will have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

With that, let's turn to our colleagues in the media. Please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.

Moderator: We will now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, today we're joined by Dave Chokshi, Health Commissioner, Dr. Mitch Katz, President and CEO of New York City Health + Hospitals, Claire Newman, President and CEO of the Trust for Governors Island; James Wong, the Executive Director of NYC Ferry; Marcos Soler, the MOCJ Commissioner; and Vincent Schiraldi, Commissioner of the Department of Correction. And, with that, our first question for today goes to Matt from Patch.

Question: Oh, I didn't actually raise my hand.

Mayor: Okay. Well, you know, I think they thought you wanted to say a question about your own analysis and we appreciate your analysis. It was very important. If you have a question, great. If not, we'll move on.

Question: Okay. Well, you caught me off guard here. Thanks for highlighting the analysis. Maybe a little bit later. Thank you, though.

Mayor: Alright, fine enough. Let’s go.

Moderator: All right, maybe we'll come back to Matt. Next we have James from PIX 11.

Mayor: James, you there?

Question: Good morning to everyone on – yeah, can you hear me?

Mayor: Yes, you're the replacement lead-off hitter, James.

Question: Wow, this is exciting. And I’ve got to also confess, I didn't have my hand up. I am perfectly happy to ask questions.

Mayor: Go ahead.

Question: The first regards hospitals. Can we get – I heard the vaccination figures for nurses and doctors, but do we have more information about other hospital workers? And any reports of short of – personnel shortages at New York City hospitals? I mean, even with those high rates of vaccination, that still translates into maybe a few thousand people not able to work today. Could we get more information from you and maybe from Dr. Katz?

Mayor: I'll start, I'll turn to Dr. Katz. James, very fair question, but I want to emphasize, because this is what we're seeing on the ground – first of all, evolving hour by hour, because a lot of employees, when push came to shove, and it was really about to happen – like so much of human life, people respond to deadlines – at the last minute they're getting vaccinated. And even someone who missed the immediate moment, if they come back and say, okay, okay, I'm ready to get vaccinated – of course, we're going to welcome them back. So, literally, we have evolving information hour by hour. But, again, we got to a point where it's such a high level of vaccination that we had the ability to make adjustments. Even if you're missing a few thousand employees in a system as big as Health + Hospitals, you can compensate for that in a lot of ways. So, very pleased with where we got with both Health + Hospitals and schools, even before we hit the actual moment of the mandate. But, with that, over to Dr. Katz.

President Katz: Yes. Thank you so much, sir. Well, a few additions – remember, not everybody starts work on Monday morning. So, some of the people who haven't yet gotten vaccinated haven't yet started a shift. We have alternative work weeks where people work, say, only on the weekends. So, we're still expecting additional people. And, as you’ve said, Mr. Mayor, people are still streaming in and getting vaccinated. So, vax mandates clearly work. Just to also help our listeners understand, I did bring 500 nurses to Health + Hospitals to deal with the fact that I have about 500 nurses who are not currently at work. So, we anticipated that there would be some loss of staff. We knew that no matter what our efforts, some people were not going to get vaccinated, and we planned appropriately. And talking with my colleagues in the private sector, they did as well. People knew that they would have to come up with additional staff. People are having emergency provision of services by having somebody perform a job that is similar to theirs, but perhaps a little different to fill a need. But it's all working and, certainly, nothing like the horror that we went through in March 2020. Thank you, sir.

Mayor: Thank you very much, Mitch. Go ahead, James.

Question: And again, I appreciate being called on today. That's really great.

Mayor: We're obviously having a little crossed wires today. We're going to fix that, but I'm glad you were the beneficiary. Go ahead.

Question: All right, again, all good. And then for my colleague, Kala Rama, the UFT says one-third of their leadership is worried about school safety and there not being enough safety agents. Now, Kala learned that at New York City schools last week, there were about 1,500 not vaccinated safety agents. What is the plan for school safety, particularly as we look ahead to next Monday?

Mayor: Yeah, James, a similar point to what Mitch said. So, think about the whole week. People come in at different points in the week, different shifts. So, for example, if you've got someone who's not going to be vaccinated and we need to replace their time, you can do that in one way with overtime, someone's willing to do extra time and most people are. Second, we're going to see again, a surge of vaccination. We've seen it every time these deadlines are coming up. The numbers with school safety agents are higher than was reported publicly. So, the vast majority have been vaccinated and that number continues to grow. And then we'll have some backup plans ready if there's any place that needs it. But really, I think between getting more people vaccinated up to the last moment, using some overtime, shifting some agents around to make sure schools have enough, we feel good that we'll be able to cover.

Moderator: Next, we have Derick from ABC.

Question: Hi, good morning. I actually had a similar question. But I guess I'll continue on with that vein. And basically, continuing on with that vein, Commissioner Shea was on NY1 this morning, and he basically said that you know, we can't replace what we don't have. I mean, so isn't it true that you will be short-staffed in some way or another on Monday –as far as schools go?

Mayor: I don't know the quote you're referring to. I can tell you, again, go ahead.

Question: He was talking about the school safety agents saying that 74 percent are vaccinated, and the question was, will they be reassigned to other shifts? And he says, no, if they're not vaccinated, they, you know, won't be getting paid. And so, he said, we won't be able to replace what we don't have. So, if we don't have the people to replace, then they, you know, they're going to go without.

Mayor: Again, respect the quote. I haven't seen the whole context but let's go where you started – 74 percent, let's call that three quarters of all safety agents already vaccinated. There's days more for people to get vaccinated. We guarantee you a substantial number more will get vaccinated in that time. There is overtime which can help us to fill some of those shifts. There's places where if you had a certain number of school safety agents and you have one less, it doesn't stop you from still getting the work done. There's a variety of things that we're going to do. And I think what you're going to find, Derick, is most people, the vast majority of people, even those who say I didn't want to get vaccinated make a different decision when it becomes very, very practical. So, now someone is literally looking at the possibility they won't have a paycheck for a prolonged period of time. They may even lose their job, ultimately. A lot of people are going to look at that and say, “hold up, okay, I'll get vaccinated.” Because the number of people who are philosophically, rabidly antivax are actually quite small. We're just seeing the how – 82 percent of New York City adults already have one dose because the vast, vast majority of folks believe in vaccines, and even a lot of folks who are hesitant, ultimately get there. So, that number is going to go up and we're going to make the adjustment. But then I think you're going to see people start to come back, when they actually experienced not having a paycheck, a lot of people are going to make a different decision. Go ahead, Derick.

Question: And my next question just has to do with the lawsuit and the appeals court ruling yesterday. First, are you concerned about a possible petition to the Supreme Court? And also, how do you feel about the fact that the court didn't even bother to have a hearing on Wednesday, instead just ruling on the written arguments?

Mayor: I think that is a tremendous show of confidence in what the Department of Education is doing. Here's a federal court of appeals. I mean, this is one of the most prestigious courts anywhere in the country. If they thought there was anything to debate here, they would have had a proceeding to hear both sides. They literally said there is nothing to discuss here. It's obvious that the district court ruling was correct. And the state court ruling before that it's shows how strong our cases the plaintiffs can attempt to go to the full Supreme Court, but I strongly suggest to you after that process involves as I understand going to a single justice and that justice looks at the previous record and decides whether to recommend it to the court. And then the court has to decide to put it on their docket. There's a lot of steps, but when a federal district court and the appeals court have both very quickly said, “no, the New York City Department of Education mandate is legal and appropriate.” I think there's a very, very strong likelihood that we are done here with the court process. And that's why we're definitely moving forward.

Moderator: Next, we have Andrew from NBC.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, I've got a political question for you. I'm wondering your reaction to Jumaane Williams exploring a run for governor. He's telling folks that he's actually forming an exploratory committee this week. What's your response to that? And does this impact your potential gubernatorial plan?

Mayor: So, thank you for the question, Andrew. I respect Jumaane Williams a lot. We have a good long history together, but we also obviously have areas we disagree. So, you know, it doesn't surprise me. He's shown interest in that before.

To the second part of your question, you know, I've made very clear, I intend to stay in public service. I want to serve the people of this city, in this state. I want to continue working on issues that I care about deeply. There is a lot that needs to be fixed in this city and this state. So, you know, I'm going to figure out the best way I can serve going forward, but right now, as you see every single hour, every day, I'm focused on defeating COVID once and for all. We brought our schools back, which was crucial. That's going really well. We're going to get these vaccine mandates to have the impact we need them to have, and turn the corner on COVID, and jumpstart our recovery. That's what I'm focused on. Go ahead, Andrew.

Question: And my second question is on the vaccine mandate related to schools. I apologize if another questioner ask this, because the feed cut out briefly, but some of the teachers are saying, for example, paraprofessionals or food service workers who might have slightly lower vaccination rates, if they're not there next week, then the teachers need to cover for those jobs. And that's especially arduous for them because they're all really overburdened. I'm just wondering specifically with regard to special needs [inaudible] and food service workers, with nutrition such a critical component of public education, how you're planning to tackle that?

Mayor: Thank you, Andrew. So, the whole team and I, the DOE team, and First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan and I went literally job title by job title back on a Friday, and we analyzed where the numbers were and what adjustments we'd have to make. I want to emphasize, you know, the 91 percent right now as the formal number on teachers who have been vaccinated at least one dose. And we had almost a thousand more vaccinations in the last 24 hours for DOE in general, but 91 percent for teachers, 87 percent for all DOE staff. So, it's, there's not a lot of gap there. It's closing constantly. A lot of the people who are getting vaccinated now, are folks in those other job titles, but to your specific question about the paraprofessionals, we looked at that we got to move that number up. That's true, but there's also a lot of substitute paraprofessionals who are vaccinated, who are available, who are ready and willing. So, hopefully, and I believe, you know, for paraprofessionals, they do such important work. And I think a lot of those are folks who really want to keep those jobs. I believe the vast majority who are not yet vaccinated will come in and get vaccinated, but if we need to get substitutes over, we have thousands ready to go. Go ahead, next person.

Moderator: Next, we have Juliet from 1010 WINS.

Question: Hey, Mr. Mayor. Just to continue on this vein, I was wondering if you're going to set a limit that if the Department of Education or a hospital employee doesn't get vaccinated by a particular period of time, or by a certain date, they lose their job.

Mayor: I'll start in our turn, and I'll turn to Dr. Katz. Juliet, look, our goal is to get people vaccinated by the point that they come in for work. So, for all of our DOE employees, we want everyone to come in Monday morning, vaccinate. We're giving them until 5:00 pm on Friday. If they're not, we'll make those substitutions because we need some time to do that. For the folks in the health care system, as Mitch said, some are coming in, you know, some came in yesterday, some are coming in today tomorrow. He'll align it to that. But look, there is definitely a chance to correct for people who think better of the situation, you know, miss their paycheck, miss their opportunity to serve people, miss their colleagues, whatever it is, they can correct. If someone didn't, over a very prolonged period of time, respond, yes, they do run the risk of losing their job. But that's not what we hope to see in the first instance, obviously. Mitch, would you like to speak to that?

President Katz: I completely agree with you, sir. I'm not in any rush to terminate people. I understand that people find this a difficult decision to make in some cases. The fact is people are not getting paid. And I'm not quite sure – you know, New York City is not a cheap place to live – the value of a job where you do not get paid doesn't seem to me very high. So, but as the question implies, at some point, people will need to move on because they're going to need to get a job that pays. But, right now, I'm not interested in terminating people. I'm interested in welcoming them back for vaccination. Thank you.

Mayor: Great quote from Mitch Katz, I want everyone to write it down. “The value of a job for which you don't get paid doesn't seem very high.” That's one for the ages. Go ahead, Juliet.

Question: Okay. On a very different and completely lighter note, the Yankees and Red Sox are vying for the wild card and, of course, may the best team win, but as a Bronx-born for New Yorker, I know what team that is. Your thoughts, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: Wow, provocative. Let's just say this last weekend was eye-opening on the abilities of the New York Yankees. So, I'm going to tip my cap. Giancarlo Stanton figured out how to hit the baseball again. The look, this is going to be right down to the wire and it's actually a five-team race, Juliet. Do not go to sleep on the blue Jays or the Mariners, or even the Oakland Athletics, but it's going to be a very exciting week. As a baseball fan. I'm pumped up and yes, may the better team win, that seems like a nice way to put it together.

Moderator: Next we have Chris from the Daily News.

Mayor: Chris, you there? Chris. Chris.

Moderator: Next we have Marla from CBS 880.

Question:  Good morning, Mayor.

Mayor: Hey Marla, how are you doing?

Question: All right. Your non-answer to Juliette's question was intriguing. Let me move on.

Mayor: I'm trying to be diplomatic. I hope you appreciate it.

Question: I really, and when it comes to the Yankees and Red Sox, that's the way to be diplomatic. But anyway, something with schools, with the schools – something that was brought up yesterday by the teachers union leadership was their frustration that there's no guarantee that schools will be fully staffed once the vaccine mandate goes into effect. Michael Mulgrew cited an example where a substitute may get five calls from five different schools and then, you know, chooses the school where they want to go in the end. So, I have a question about that? I mean, how can you guarantee that there will be substitutes? And obviously substitutes are not a substitute for a teacher in the classroom. So, is there a certain point at which you would say, okay, you're terminated if only to create, you know, bring continuity to the students in that classroom to have, you know, a new teacher in that classroom that is vaccinated?

Mayor: So great question, Marla. The arbitrator in the case involving the UFT, did delineate the scenarios where either a teacher could leave the school system if that's their choice, or where there is a process for termination. So look, I would say, yeah, you're going to have some of that sorting out. We don't wish it for anyone, but if someone really is not willing to live by this approach, then it's time for us to find new people. And there's a huge amount of demand. A lot of those substitutes are people who are absolutely ready, willing, and able to become permanent teachers. Who are very experienced, who are high quality. They're ready. So, the point here is we are going to give folks a chance in the short term but in the long term, anyone who's not ready to be vaccinated, you know, on an ongoing basis, of course they're ultimately going to get replaced. And there's thousands and thousands of great educators who want those jobs. They are incredibly good jobs. A New York City teacher job is totally coveted all over the country. So, we're going to be good in the long term. And you're also talking at this point, you know, a few thousand people that we need to replace. So, we know we've got plenty of substitutes. And yeah, if a substitute ends up choosing one school over another, we put another substitute in a school that needs the person. So, I really think we went through much, much worse, Marla, last time around trying to figure out, under much more adverse circumstances, how to cover classrooms. And we did. We feel very confident here. Go ahead, Marla.

Question: And completely off the COVID topic, but have you given any more thought to the gifted and talented program for kindergarteners and what might replace it?

Mayor: A whole lot of thought, thank you for the question. And we've been working on it a lot the last few weeks with the Chancellor and the DOE team. We'll be making an announcement in the next few days on a plan that's going to be very, very different than what you've seen in the past and much more inclusive. But I'll stop there. So, I won't break news too early. But we're going to have a very, very different plan ready in the next few days.

Moderator: Next we have Katie from The City.

Question: Hey. Good morning, Mayor de Blasio. How are you?

Mayor: Good, Katie. How you been?

Question: Can you hear me?

Mayor: Yeah. How you been, Katie?

Question: I wanted to – I'm good. I'm good. I wanted to ask you a question that my colleague Claudia wrote about, the new operator for the Trump or the former Trump golf course up in the Bronx. The person who was awarded that contract is a homeless shelter operator who doesn't have any experience in operating golf courses. So, I'm curious – it's twofold. Do you think that this person can be successful in managing this golf course for the next 13 years? And I know the Trump organization has threatened to continue to fight this in court? So, do you have a comment?


Mayor: Close off your lines there, guys. A little background noise. Okay. Katie, to your question. I think there's been some confusion. I'm happy to clear up the confusion. First of all, to the point about the court case, we feel very, very strongly we're in a strong legal position. The Trump position – Organization is not. We believe we're going to win that one straight forward. But in terms of operating in the golf course, the – no, the organization that I think was described in that article is only working on some of the staffing. It is not the organization that's operating the whole golf course. That's actually an organization, a company called Bobby Jones Links, which is a major golf course operator nationally, over 20 years experience. They are exactly the kind of organization that we were looking for, that has a good track record of running golf courses and can make this one work. And they intend to improve the golf course, ensure that it's affordable. So, we feel very good about that. Go ahead, Katie.

Question: Thanks. And I wanted to ask about a report you released yesterday involving severe weather. You estimate that there's about 100,000 people living in vulnerable basement apartments that could be susceptible to flooding. And the plan is to create an evacuation plan for them. I'm curious, I don't know if you have data on evacuation rates from people living in zone one during hurricanes? From my understanding it's very low. So, what is the City planning to do A, to build up its capacity for evacuation centers? It seems like it would have to increase tenfold. And ensuring that people do evacuate from their homes? Because I know it's a problem. It doesn't seem even in the report, that the City has a plan for what could be a very quick evacuation for people living in these places?

Mayor: It's a great question, but I want to start by saying it's a very different kind of evacuation. I think what we learned here was a primary problem of course, with a rain event, as opposed to a coastal storm is the flooding of the basement, you know, maybe some flooding of the first floor. But what we did not see – here was the worst rainfall in the history of New York City. And with very few exceptions, we did not see houses knocked out, you know, and made uninhabitable for the long term. For example, Sandy, which was you know, a horrible coastal storm hurricane and nor'easter together. You remember well, the thousands and thousands of homes destroyed. So, this is a very different reality. In that case you're evacuating people who cannot go back to a home anytime soon. And then we have to figure out where to house them. This is from what we saw in the worst example ever with Ida, this is a very temporary evacuation. This is to get people out of their basements, just for the period of the rain and until the basements can be cleared. So, we have shelters, we would put them up as we have in the past. We obviously can have hotel rooms for folks who can't go back right away. The key thing here is to identify each and every one of the basement apartments, get people out quickly if we see this kind of danger coming. Have work in advance from the community organizations, going door to door to talk to people, acclimate them to it in a variety of languages. Have the PD and FD drilling and ready to do the evacuation. So, the key will be warning people in advance, getting them in the mindset, getting them ready. And then we see an evacuation, giving the order in the first available moment, sending in PD and FD to support it, and make it work, getting people to those shelters. But again, hopefully for a very limited period of time, unlike what we saw in the past with some of the major coastal storms.

Moderator: Next we have Emily from NY1.

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: Hey Emily. How you doing?

Question: I'm well, thank you. I hope you are too. What will Sheriff's – what will the Sheriff's Office be doing at Rikers Island or at the courts to help out matters there?

Mayor: So, one of the areas where we think they can help is with transportation. There's some very specific roles moving inmates, for example to lawyer meetings or court appearances, whatever it may be, that we think they can take on discreetly. And again, relieve some of the pressure on the Correction officers so they can focus on Rikers itself. So, we're working out that plan. But the goal now is to take separate pieces, the transportation is one piece. The arraignments in court are another piece, that will be in some places the NYPD, the perimeter security is another piece. And cover them with different forces, so the Correction officers can be used where they're needed most. Go ahead, Emily.

Question: And are you considering firing or terminating Correction officers who following the suspension period continue to call off of work, but not be sick or ill?

Mayor: Yeah, obviously. Look, I don't understand it. I saw so many officers yesterday who had fought their way through really tough situations. I saw very determined uniform leadership and I commend them. And they said to me, the vast majority of officers have done the right thing and worked very, very hard. And in fact, had to work those double or triple shifts because their colleagues didn't show up, which is reprehensible. So, first point to anyone who's faking being sick, is suspension. And at that point, you know, they have to come back to work. If they are not, if they choose to resign, that's their choice. But otherwise yeah, there'll be a termination proceeding if people don't do what they have to do. And again, we have a new class of officers coming in. We have a lot of people, we have thousands of applications for the new class. Anyone who's not able to do the job and support their fellow workers, should just move on and we'll get people ready to actually do the job.

Moderator: We have time for one more today. Our last question for today goes to Julia from the New York Post.

Question: Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you?

Mayor: Good morning, Julia. How are you doing?

Question: Good. I know you said yesterday at Rikers, that it, or maybe you said this on NY1 afterward that it wasn't your mission to speak with either rank and file Correction officers or inmates? You know, why wasn't that your mission given that, you know, they make up the mass of people who are on the island every day and who the violence and everything impacts their lives.?

Mayor: Julia, I appreciate the question. The bottom line is this, for a lot of you, I think some of the challenges that Rikers may be new and I respect that. For me, they're not new. I've been dealing with these issues and I remind people when I came into office, there had been months of exposés. And I know the New York Times in particular focused on this in the months before I took office, on the problems that existed at Rikers and had existed for years. I spent a lot of time understanding those problems. I've, over the years, have talked to inmates, have talked to folks who were in Rikers as inmates, have talked to officers. I have a pretty strong understanding of the extent of the problems. And some of what we're seeing now, you know, some of the specific problems like the problem we had in the intake that needed to be solved. That was a newer problem. But overall, if you or anyone else go in there and you see the facilities, you see the problems, those aren't new problems. Those are horrible problems that have existed for years. So, I don't need to be reminded of something I already know. What I know is we have to get off Rikers Island once and for all. So, we'll do every step. We'll make every investment to make it better in the short term. But we shouldn't be there. We need to get off at once and for all. Go ahead, Julia.

Question: And then I'm also wondering why you pushed back your own mandate for vaccinations for DOE employees a week after winning in court? Was the Education Department not ready to implement this?

Mayor: Totally ready. We wanted to align it to the weekend. We got some good feedback that we would be better served getting the point of decision at the end of the week, so that we had the time between Friday 5:00 pm and Monday morning to get all the substitutes in place, any other personnel that we needed to. And that makes a lot of sense. That's just a cleaner way to do it, managerially. Originally, you know, we went with a Monday because it was the beginning of the week, but now we understand that there was a better way to do it, aligning the deadline to a Friday, so that for the Monday we could have all the substitutes in place. So, we just took the moment to do that. But the bottom line, now everyone is, look, these vaccination mandates work, these deadlines work, they get people to move. We talked about this last Friday into Saturday, we saw 7,000 more vaccinations in the Department of Education. People who are on the fence, benefit from these mandates bluntly as a way to make this decision. The proof's in the pudding. Right now, Department of Education, right now, Health + Hospitals, we have the numbers we need to run things well. We're going to actually get thousands of more vaccinations in the days ahead. And it will make it even stronger. So, thank you to everyone who got vaccinated. Thank you for doing the right thing for your family, for your neighborhood, for New York City. And everyone is not yet vaccinated, please, this is the time. Help us move forward, help us end the COVID era once and for all. Thank you, everyone.



Media Contact
(212) 788-2958