October 12, 2021
Video available at: https://youtu.be/FtQzB_c2x08
We are addressing today a new initiative called Brilliant NYC that acknowledges the incredible skills and abilities of so many of our kids who too often saw those skills and abilities overlooked. We're addressing today a new approach that instead of providing support and accelerated learning for the very few, provides it for the many, and really recognizes that so many kids’ gifts haven't been recognized, because there was no venue for them to be seen, and drawn out, and supported. So, we're getting rid of, in the proposal we’ve put forward – that now will go through months of community input – we're getting rid of some of those artificial barriers. One artificial barrier was a test taken by four-year-olds. I think everyone knows by now, I don't believe a single standardized test should determine one's future at any age, but certainly not the age of four. We're getting rid of a lot of the artificial barriers that limited the number of kids who could get accelerated learning, because the previous approach limited that number severely. Typical year, kindergarten – 65,000 kids go into kindergarten, but only 2,500 got gifted and talented programs. We're flipping the script. We're saying, let's reach all 65,000 and see what they have and help them draw it out and help them build their future. By the way, we're doing the same thing with baby bonds, building those savings accounts so kids can one day go to college and pursue their dreams. That's for all 65,000 kindergarten kids. Well, the same approach here when it comes to accelerated learning – let's reach everyone.
The previous approach was not only too dependent on a single standardized test, was not only exclusive and exclusionary, because it only reached 2,500 kids out of 65,000. Unfortunately, along with that went very, very serious racial segregation that just doesn't fit what we believe in in this city. So, Brilliant NYC is a path forward that answers those deep problems and concerns and provides, literally, a polar opposite approach. So many kids have talents, gifts – maybe it's in one subject matter, maybe it's in all. But we're only going to know if we reach everyone, give them the chance, evaluate them work with them, draw them out. This proposal, I believe, is going to find a lot of support out in the communities in New York City, all the parents who know their kids bring something special to the table, but that it wasn't recognized sufficiently under the previous structure. We've seen a lot of support come out already from parents, from elected officials, from education advocates saying this is a better way.
We're going to go out to communities over the next two months. There's going to be community conversations in all 32 school districts. Senior Department of Education leaders will be out there, including our Chancellor. And then, in December, we'll come back with a full and final plan. But what we know is this is the beginning of something very exciting, very positive, really unlocking the potential of our kids. This has a lot to do with what the future of the city will be, because think of all those kids who are overlooked, think of all the kids who were told they didn't have a special talent, when, in fact, they did. Bringing those talents out, what that means for the city and it's very bright future if everyone gets a chance – that's been the underlying concept of Pre-K for All and now 3-K for All, and baby bonds. All of these ideas, they unlock the potential of our kids, let them live their best lives. But that's also the right thing for all of us, building a fair and more equitable city, and a stronger city for everyone when all of those talents are recognized. That's what accelerated learning should be, an effort to reach every child in the way that they need.
And now, I want to bring you the person who put this plan together and took a very complex set of factors in a way I've never seen anyone do previously, brought them together into a strong, workable, coherent plan that could reach every child. Our Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter –
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio. You know, as a lifelong educator and as a mother, I know that every child in our city has gifts and talents that cannot be captured by a single exam or the numeric value of a score. Our babies are so much more than that and it's up to us to disrupt the status quo, so every student in every school, in every neighborhood can fly. Our plan, Brilliant NYC, centers student strengths and gives them the support they need to succeed. And it will bring parents, community leaders, educators, and other stakeholders into the fold and incorporate their ideas and feedback as well.
Under this plan, current students in G&T classes will remain in their program so their education is not disrupted. But, beginning with next year's kindergarten class, all of them will have access to accelerated instruction in their classrooms. Our current G&T model serves 2,500 kindergarten as a year. So, with the expansion of accelerated learning to all 65,000 students, 26 times more students will benefit from this tailored instructional model in it's first year alone. This is a game-changer for families, students in schools, and it will mean the end of determining what four-year-olds are gifted and talented based on their performance during a single test. There's nothing more special than the bonds between educators and their students, and through Brilliant NYC's moment – this moment, we're investing in training all 4,000 kindergarten teachers so they can create rich learning environments in their classrooms, offer project-based and enrichment opportunities for all students, and learn to observe and identify student strengths and use that knowledge to differentiate learning within the classroom. This framework will keep our students together, not separated out by a G&T label. Classrooms will house different instructional levels and tap into students' unique interests. Seven borough wide teams who are experts in accelerated instruction will also work with schools to support implementation and additional teachers will be hired in neighborhoods that historically had little to no G&T programming.
A major part of the plan that I'm most excited for is the engagement side. The most magic happens when everyone has a seat at the table and we're getting out in every community to hear their ideas and feedback on Brilliant NYC. This is a strong plan, but I know with our school communities, opinions, and thoughts, we can make it even better. We'll be in all 32 school districts throughout October and November, and we're starting strong by beginning those district conversations this week. I can't wait to hear directly from parents, students, educators, and all of the other stakeholders on this important topic. No one knows our kids better and together we'll deliver them something absolutely amazing. Brilliant NYC is truly a historic step forward for our schools. I'm a firm believer in all boats rising when more kids have opportunities and this plan will help usher in a new era of equity across our schools and rigorous student-based instruction.
To all the parents out there, we're going directly into your communities to make sure we hear from you and your ideas for how we can support our babies. Please stay tuned for more details and, if you're interested, get ready to help shape this new vision forward for our schools. Thank you. And now, I'll turn it back over to you, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Chancellor. Thank you for all the hard work you and your team have done to bring forward this proposal that's going to make such a huge difference. Now, I want you to hear from someone. He is a member of the City Council. He is a public school parent who's been really active in the schools. And he has also been a leading voice for educational equity, believing that we could do things in new ways that will lead to academic excellence and more fairness at the same time. He is also, I believe, going to be the next Comptroller of the City of New York. Council Member Brad Lander of Brooklyn –
Mayor: Thank you so much, Council Member. Hey, I appreciate you for having really focused on that kind of engagement process. You're right, sometimes it's difficult, but it gets us to a better place. My beloved school district, 15, has done amazing, amazing work. I know you've been a big part of that. And it's proven that that painstaking focused work gets us somewhere for the betterment of all. So, I want to thank you for helping to make that a reality and thank you for supporting this measure, which we know is going to reach so many kids who need it all across this city. Thank you so much.
Now, I want to turn to a national expert on these issues and she has literally dedicated her life to addressing the inequalities that pervade public education and looking for new solutions. She's focused on early childhood education, the need for equity there, something we focused on throughout our effort to build out pre-K, 3-K. She's focused on creating more diverse classrooms. She's focused on college access and addressing the inequalities that pervade that reality – work, which, at times, I'm sure felt lonely, but now more and more people are realizing is the work we have to do to reach every child and get truly equal education for all. My pleasure to introduce, Senior Fellow at the Century Foundation, Halley Potter.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Halley. And thank you for the great work you are doing. And we’ve got a lot of work ahead here in the nation's largest school system to make a new approach work and to engage our parents, but the work you and others have done have helped us to see the way and really gives me a lot of hope about where we can get to. So, thank you so much.
All right. Now, everyone, we talked about the future in terms of our kids. Now, let's talk another part of our recovery, because it has to be a recovery for all of us and that means we have to bring our economy back strong, we have to bring jobs back, and we're seeing some really important developments. It's been a long, tough slog over a year-and-a-half now through the COVID era, and we look forward to leaving it behind. We've had some ups and downs. We got thrown a real curveball with the Delta variant, but this city fought back brilliantly. I want to credit all New Yorkers, everyone went out there and got vaccinated. It has made a huge difference. As you see, COVID is starting to decline again, and more and more things opening up and moving forward.
So, let's talk about some facts now that we've learned that really frame the strength of the recovery and where we're going. First of all, we're looking back now to the end of the summer. We've gotten the research now to tell us where we stand in terms of employment. And what we saw by the end of the summer was six consecutive months of improvement on employment. And over half-a-million jobs recovered since the pandemic began, we still have a ways to go, particularly some parts of our economy are still struggling. But, overall, we're seeing a really steady recovery, over half-a-million jobs back. We're also seeing some really interesting indicators in terms of other parts of our economy, particularly the real estate market. The real estate market is largely back to pre-pandemic levels. That's a very important sign for the future of this city. We know New York City is a value proposition. It's the place to be. People want to be here from all over the country, all over the world. That is being reflected more and more in the market. We're seeing stronger and stronger values. We're seeing that in terms of a typical New York City home as well. Even after everything we've gone through with COVID, the values of homes are now appreciating again. In fact, among the 20 largest cities in America, we saw the least fluctuation in prices, meaning our values held very strong even in the midst of COVID.
We've also seen a lot of signs of investor confidence. We have not seen the kind of price swings that some other major metropolitan areas saw. What we're seeing here is a recognition in the market that New York City has always been a place to be and will be even more in the future, and that's why those values remain so high. I want you to hear from some experts who have been watching these trends, looking to see what's going to happen with our recovery and are really tracing it, because their work is going to help all of us determine how we create the city of the future, coming out of COVID. First, someone who's been featured regularly in a number of media outlets as an expert on commercial real estate, is seen as someone that government agencies turn to for expert advice. He is the Dean of the New York University School of Professional Studies Schack Institute of Real Estate. My pleasure introduced Dr. Sam Chandan.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Dr. Chandan. I want to tell you, really appreciate the way you pulled all those strands together, and, particularly, the focus in this city on fighting COVID and the high levels of vaccination, which is a credit to the people of New York City. We've done everything we could to make it available, but people had to show up, and they did. I think this is such an important point for New Yorkers to recognize, that because people came out, got vaccinated, made the city safer. Because we've taken the challenge head on and are building our Pandemic Response Institute, our City Public Health Corps. for the future, it does send us as a message to business that this is a smarter, safer place to be. You're the first person I've heard put those dots together publicly and I want to thank you for that.
Dr. Sam Chandan: Thank you.
Mayor: Now, everyone, I want you to hear from another leading voice. He is one of the great progressive economists in New York and, in fact, in the whole nation he serves as the Director of Economic and Fiscal Policy at the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School. My pleasure to introduce Dr. James Parrott.
Mayor: Thank you so much, Dr. Parrott. Thank you for – you know, you really are one of the people who watches this city most closely and most insightfully and appreciate that you framed it with all the different pieces of the economy and, yeah, the challenges we still have to address. But your point about the sectors that have been surprisingly strong – film and TV is a great example – and the hope we have for some of the sectors that have been hurting when international travel resumes, you framed it, I think, very, very powerfully there. And we are, again, a place that brings together pieces that no other place does, and that's going to be our strength. So, thank you for always keeping a close eye on New York City and helping us determine the way forward. One more speaker I want you to hear from, and he is looking at things from the ground level, all over the great borough of Queens. He has been incessantly focused on retaining jobs, creating new jobs, and making sure that our wonderful diverse borough of Queens is a place where everyone benefits economically. My pleasure to introduce Borough President Donovan Richards.
Mayor: I love your spirit, Borough President, and you deserve credit and the people of Queens, because as you said, your values rebounded and it is not disconnected from the fact that you are the most vaccinated borough, and something you should be very proud of, and you really led the way on the ground with vaccination efforts. The most vaccinated borough is also the one that's seeing some of the best economic recovery. And as you heard from the economists, that high level of vaccination is one of the things that's going to make Queens and New York City appealing in the future. I only have one quibble with you this morning. Only one quibble. It's JetBlue is soaring in Queens. It's not grounded in Queens. It's soaring in Queens.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards: They were going to leave so we [inaudible] grounded –
Mayor: But they stayed in Queens. And now they're soaring.
Borough President Richards: Yes, they’re soaring, I agree.
Mayor: Okay, I think we ended up in a better place there.
Thank you, my friend.
Borough President Richards: Alright, take care.
Mayor: Take care, now. And since we're talking about the great vaccination successes in Queens, let's go to our indicators and begin with number one, the doses administered to date, and you see this number continue to soar, 11,729,221. This number is going to jump up a lot in a few weeks because now we are increasingly confident that the five- to 11-year-old vaccine will be approved for November. That's going to – you're going to see hundreds of thousands of folks come out, young New Yorkers getting vaccinated, their parents anxiously awaiting that moment. So, this is a great number that's about to grow a lot. Number two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, today's report, 182 patients. But look at this confirmed positivity level, 6.45 percent, extremely low, and that's a great sign. Hospitalization rate per 100,000 New Yorkers, 0.75. That's our most important indicator. That's hugely important. We see something good there. Number three, new reported cases on a seven-day average, today’s report 1,072 cases. So, progress there as well, a lot more to do, but it's always about getting people vaccinated and it's happening. Now, a few words in Spanish, and I want to go back to accelerated learning and Brilliant NYC and the efforts we're going to make to reach more and more kids.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, let's turn to our colleagues in the media and please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: We'll now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, we're joined today by Chancellor Porter, by Dr. Chokshi, by Dr. Katz, and by Francesco Brindisi, Senior Deputy Director for City Revenues, Economics, and Policy at OMB. The first question today, it goes to Jillian from NY1.
Question: Hey, Mayor, can you hear me?
Mayor: Yeah, Jillian. How are you today?
Question: I'm well, thank you. How are you doing?
Mayor: Doing well. Thank you. What's going on?
Question: So, the question for you about the Gifted and Talented announcement that you're making today, there are some parents that are going to be holding rallies this week who are opposed to this kind of a change. And they are sort of arguing that, you know, announcing the plan first and then holding the parent engagement is sort of backwards and that they feel like they won't have real input on what this plan is. I know that you felt parent input was something that was maybe lacking in the SHSAT, you know, discussion. And so, I know it's something important to you, but I mean, why do it this way? And what do you say to that kind of criticism from parents?
Mayor: I appreciate the point, Jillian, but I'd say, you know, to some extent, either way, there's a challenge. If you don't present a plan, people rightfully say, where's the plan to respond to. If you do present a plan, people say, oh, look, there's a plan already. But we mean it, we want to go out and have the engagement. We want to explain the thinking, hear the critique, hear the ideas. A lot of times when you put forward a plan, people show you a way to do it better. We certainly want people to understand that this is a vision to reach all children, not just a very small number. I mean, the more I looked at this issue over time, the notion that only 2,500 kids out of 65,000 will get this support just – it just made no sense to me. So, I think a very healthy dialogue with parents who love that idea, hate the idea, and everyone in between is the best way to get to a good plan. Go ahead, Jillian.
Question: Thanks, and just continuing on that topic, you know, this has obviously been something that's been discussed in the city for a long time. The School Diversity Advisory Group made a very similar suggestion in 2019 that you phase out Gifted and Talented and instead offer sort of a more city-wide accelerated learning. I've asked you in the past about the test for four-year-olds and, you know, a few years back, you were less definitive on whether or not it was a good idea. Obviously, this is something that a lot of public school parents value. So, I'm just kind of curious about the road for you to get to this decision, you know, at the end of your tenure as mayor, how'd you get here?
Mayor: That's a great question, Jillian, and I want to give a lot of credit to Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter who showed me an approach I hadn't seen before, honestly. I mean, I think the beginning of the answer is that when I came into office, I had a whole set of priorities, particularly around education that were far more foundational to me – achieving Pre-K for All, the whole Equity and Excellence agenda, things like having Advanced Placement courses in all high schools, not just some, and that had been the history as you know, some schools had them, others never had them. I wanted every child, every school to have that opportunity. We dealt with some of our toughest schools that needed a lot of help. We dealt with some of the parts of the city that needed more help. That's what the Bronx Plan was. Everything focused on equity, moving resources where they were needed, and then later, of course, the opportunity to get to 3-K for All. So, all of those were foundational to me. And with Gifted and Talented, I had said throughout, show me a solution, and honestly it was hard to find one that worked and reached kids across the board and was practical. The Diversity Advisory Group did great work, but they gave very broad guidelines. It had to be turned into a viable plan. This Chancellor brought me that plan. She took some of the new approaches that we now have with digital learning that we learned through this crisis. She thought about a whole way to conceptualize kindergarten and the years after that. And for the first time I saw something that I thought would work on the ground practically and reach a lot more kids. And that's why we're moving now.
Moderator: The next is Chris from the Daily News.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. Can you hear me?
Mayor: Yes, Chris. Good morning. How are you doing?
Question: Good morning. I'm well. Wanted to follow up on Jillian's question about Gifted and Talented. Eric Adams, his campaign, as you know as the likely next mayor, said as recently as this past weekend, that he wants to keep the Gifted and Talented test and provide more resources and support for lower-income students instead of scrapping it out right. So, taking that into account, is this plan you're laying out today, all for nothing? Or how do you ensure that it's actually making meaningful impact in the long run?
Mayor: Well, we are having a whole engagement process that I think will bring out the voices of New Yorkers and parents. I think that'll be important to everyone in our schools and everyone in public life. I believe we're showing right now, a better way to do things than the single standardized test, even with what we'd done for admissions for the current school year. So, I think it is about providing evidence that this is a better approach. And then, you know, in the future, people will make their own judgements. Which of course is their right. But I think what we need to do right now is have a strong engagement process and keep moving forward a vision of much more equity. And here's what I think, Chris, that when the parents of this city think about all of the kids who never had the opportunity for Gifted and Talented education, but obviously had talents and now recognize there's a way to reach those tens of thousands of kids. You're going to see the will of the majority, the vast majority of public school parents will say, wait a minute, I want a chance for my kids' talents to come out and be addressed. I don't want it to be something that only goes to a very few. And I think that public support is going to matter a lot in the future. Go ahead, Chris.
Question: Thank you. And switching gears a bit, Inspector Howard Redmond, the NYPD inspector in charge of your security detail, has he – has his duties at all been modified since the Department of Investigation referred him to the Manhattan DA for potential criminal proceeding? And if his duties have not been modified, I'm wondering why that is especially considering NYPD officers are placed on desk duty for far less serious accusations than one he's facing?
Mayor: Well, I don't know if I agree with you on that statement. But I can tell you I've spoken to this already. NYPD has looked at the information provided, they don't see a reason for further charges. We have not heard from the Manhattan DA. And so, at this point, it's simply an allegation. He continues to do his work on behalf of the people. He's spent almost 30 years in the service of people. He will continue.
Moderator: The next is Juliet from 1010 WINS.
Question: Yes. Hi, good morning. I wanted to follow up with you again on Gifted and Talented. Can you explain, or do you really think that trying to teach accelerated sections in a general classroom setting can really work? Like, how do you parse out the different learning or a small portion of a class that way?
Mayor: Great question. I'm going to turn to the Chancellor in a second, Juliet. But let me just say this. When I was a kid coming up, we had a different phrase I used to hear in the schools, the public schools I went to. They used to call it tracking. And the idea was very overt. You know, here's a kid that is special and talented. They're going to get a better classroom. And here's the other kids, they don't have as much promise. They're going to get a lesser classroom. And that's what really was going on. That became repugnant to people all over this country. And we moved away from that. But there's still vestiges. And the more I looked at the approach that historically was used in this city, the more I thought this is not the only way to do things. But what I needed to hear was an alternative that worked. The Chancellor’s provided that. It's heavy emphasis on teacher training to help our teachers be ready. As you heard from the Chancellor, sometimes it will mean bringing more teachers into play or team teaching. But there's no question, especially with the new digital tools and with the academic screening that we're doing for all our kids, we can figure out the different levels and speeds different kids need and support them all within the same classroom. I'm saying that as a layman, but I believe it. And my kids went to public school. I believe a teacher properly trained, can do that. Now you can hear from an expert who spent her entire life in the New York City public schools.
Chancellor Porter: So, I agree with the Mayor. I think one of the things that's important to note is that there are only 2,500 students across New York City who've benefited from this. And we know that there are many, many, many more students across the city who have gifts and talents that amazing teachers can tap into. And so, by providing additional training, providing more resources to schools, targeting particular communities that haven't had access to a high level training for teachers in this space on how to differentiate instruction, how to target individual student learning needs. First of all, it's something so many teachers across the city are working through, figuring out how to do. And what we're saying in this moment is we recognize the need to provide additional training and support so we can bring out those gifts early on, but not lean into a single test to determine how to sort kids or place kids. But to create more of a learning experience as opposed to a place in a building.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Juliet.
Question: Okay. And a separate topic on the business interests, the economic interests of the city. I was wondering, given that so many workers have still not returned to their offices, is the City taking a hit on commercial real estate taxes? And also, are you polling like private business to see how many are back? Or, you know, what the readiness level is for people to come back and when?
Mayor: Yeah, let me start. And then I'll turn to Francesco Brindisi, who is our leading voice at Office of Management and Budget on economics and trends, including our revenue picture. So, he can speak to your question, but before he does. Yes Juliet, we're constantly talking to business leaders in different sectors. And what we're seeing is that connection between vaccination levels and the willingness to come back. So, a lot of businesses are planning to bring a number of their workers back starting this month, next month. I've talked to a lot of business leaders. I got to tell you across the board, literally across the board, they want more of their workforce back. They believe it's much more productive. They were waiting to see that the Delta variant was being contained. The trend now is very, very clear in this city and the high vaccination levels have been really, really encouraging to business leaders. So, I am very hopeful based on the information we're getting that we're going to see a number of workers back in just the next few months. In terms of revenue, commercial tax, et cetera, Francesco, what would you like to say?
Senior Deputy Director Francesco Brindisi, Office of Management and Budget: Sindaco, thank you. Can you hear me okay?
Mayor: Yes. And Juliet you'll appreciate, he always calls me sindaco because he's from Rome originally. So, he's carrying the Italian word for mayor. Go ahead, Francesco.
Senior Deputy Director Brindisi: Yeah, so we have adjusted our property tax forecast based on the Department of Finance assessments last year. So far, we don't see anything that out of the ordinary. Vacancy rates are back to where they were on average before the pandemic in Fiscal Year 20. So, we don't see anything out of the ordinary. And the Department of Finance will conduct its annual assessments and publish the new evaluations in January. And so, we will see what the data show.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead.
Moderator: The next is Elizabeth from Gothamist.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Good morning, Elizabeth. How are you?
Question: Good. I’m wondering that with this new differentiated teaching model, whether you and the Chancellor would want to commit to smaller classroom sizes? Which, you know, a lot of education experts have advocated for, for decades. And which the UFT also supports?
Mayor: Well, Elizabeth, do we want to? Yes, we want to. Can we do it responsibly at this moment? No. Look, we – there are areas whereas we did in the last budget, we're going to have a smaller class sizes or more teachers, which achieves the equivalent effect in some of the schools that need it most, particularly in the earliest grades, as we focus on literacy. But as a system-wide reality, we would love it, but that's billions more dollars. And we don't happen to have that right now. But we'll keep focusing. And I’ll have the Chancellor to speak to the literacy point. When it comes to the literacy efforts in those youngest grades, that's what we're going to focus on moving more teachers into place and having the ability to reach kids better.
Chancellor Porter: Yes. We're making significant investments in literacy, you know, to really keep to the commitment that we made to leverage the recovery dollars, to ensure that every student is reading on grade level by third grade. We've also, you know, increased the number of teachers in our early elementary grades. And, you know, from the earlier work of this Mayor and the Department of Education, leveraging universal literacy coaches to also work to build the literacy skills of our early elementary school teachers. And so that commitment remains and the additional support from our literacy coaches, the additional support from additional teachers in the classroom, all support, you know, direct literacy instruction. But also, you know, creating smaller group instruction within classrooms.
Mayor: Go ahead, Elizabeth.
Question: My second question is on flooding and climate change. I've asked you about this before, but there are a growing number of homeowners in Hollis who want to meet with your office to talk about the possibility of buyouts. Because they have been flooded not just years, but for decades. And they feel that there's something about the typology of where they live. It used to be a pond, that might just make this something that engineering cannot fix.
Mayor: Well, it's a fair question, Elizabeth. And certainly, we will arrange that meeting. And I think it's important for our Environmental Protection Department, that's been doing that work in that area, building the new sewer system there, a huge amount of investment went in to educate the community on what they think can be achieved because of those investments. I think you or someone else in the media raised this issue previously and paralleled that to some of the areas in Staten Island after Sandy. But again, we have homes there in Staten Island that were just wiped out and unusable. Here we have homes that I hope with this additional investment can be good for the long term. But it's still a very valid discussion. And we'll have our team meet with community residents and talk through what we think we can do through these new sewer investments. And what it means for the future. And then let's see what makes sense after that.
Moderator: The next is Julia from the Post.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. We discussed the importance and success in controlling COVID for the city's recovery, but I wanted you to turn to another area and that's crime. I'm wondering what the NYPD is doing to dismantle the high-end robbery ring that's been attacking diners leaving restaurants for their jewelry? And how did these and other violent incidents in Manhattan, including the death of the nurse in Times Square impede the city's recovery, especially for tourism and bringing office workers back?
Mayor: Look, Julia, first of all, the NYPD's ability – I'm constantly impressed by the ability to identify the perpetrators when it comes to any of these robbery rings, very high rate of success. We'll get NYPD to talk to you about the specifics. To the horrible, horrible tragedy where we lost a nurse who had done so much to help people during COVID. And that assailant is under arrest and will pay the consequences for that. We are working every day to end those kinds of incidents once and for all. The fact is we've got more work to do unquestionably. But I think the previous reality you heard about from the experts, say that people looking at this city, whether they're investors, folks in real estate, tourists, they look at the whole of New York City. We are pained anytime there's a horrible moment or incident. But they're looking at the whole of New York City and they believe in New York City. And they're coming back to New York City. Go ahead, Julia.
Question: Switching to the topic of Department of Homeless Services. Given that more well-established providers didn't bid on Homeless Services contracts. I'm wondering why you didn't put in place stronger safeguards and watchdog protections? And how much of the $4.6 billion that went to questionable contractors, do you think was either stolen or wasted?
Mayor: I'm not sure that that is the right set of facts, honestly. We have done a lot to weed out bad actors. There's been bad actors for a long time trying to get government contracts. We've stopped a lot of them. We've cut off individuals. We've cut off organizations. We'll continue to. There's more investigations going on. But look, we're always going to work to try and find the good actors and use them for this really important work. We have rightfully a right to shelter law here as the reason why this city doesn't have tens of thousands of people on the streets compared to what we see in some of the West Coast. But we've got to constantly work to find any bad actors, hold them accountable, claw back the money. That's what we intend to do.
Moderator: The next is Mariela from Univision.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor, yes, hi, can you hear me?
Mayor: Hey, how are you doing?
Question: I'm well, how are you, sir?
Mayor: I'm doing very well. Thank you.
Question: Mr. Mayor, can you walk us through, what's been done with those children who have IPs. We are hearing from certain parents, a couple of complaints, you know, the therapist I had did not show, or they had somebody else who was new, who might not be doing the routine the way they were supposed to. As you know, special kids, children, especially those with autism need routines and things not being interrupted. Can you please let us know in the event a school see a shortage of staff, because there are still thousands of unvaccinated teachers or specialists who might be needed. What is the city doing to guarantee those children with special needs that they will not see any interruption under development?
Mayor: That's a great question. I thank you for Mariela. I want the Chancellor to speak to it in a second, but first to say – first of all, if you have any or any member of the media has specific cases where parents are saying to you, they're not getting what they need, we want to hear about that. You can provide the information privately to our team and the Chancellor and her team will follow up. We want to make sure every child gets what they need. By definition, if a teacher who was there for their child has left us, we have to find the right replacement. Now I remind you, 96 percent of our teachers did get vaccinated. A number, we've had thousands of employees get vaccinated even since the deadline. We think you’re going to see more and more folks coming back and that's going to help, but where there needs to be a replacement, we have a lot of quality, vaccinated replacements ready to go, and maybe there'll be a period of adjustment, but they'll do the work to serve the child, unquestionably. Chancellor, you want to add.
Chancellor Porter: No, I agree with you. And definitely we want to hear if their specific communities, schools, and students, and families that are saying that they are concerned about the services, but we are ready to make sure that wherever there was a gap, we started working two weeks before the vaccination mandate went into place to make sure that we had quality staff ready to provide services to our most vulnerable students across the city. And that remains our priority and will continue to be as we move forward.
Question: You know, I feel comfortable after you say that, especially because, you know, the autism children are the ones that were affected the most during the pandemic when it started. Already they had like two months of non – during the summer they had no therapies or anything during that period. So already there's a delay, and as you know, children with special needs, they regress if we don't continue providing those services, so we wanted to get the city on the record When you say to hear from them, how – what will be the best way for them to contact, because sometimes it could be difficult to get through, you know, in the school or what would be the best venue for them to report a situation like that?
Mayor: So, I'll start, Mariela, the Chancellor can in a second say where any parent can reach out of their having a problem. But let me say to you, thank you for bringing this issue forward. Look, the disruption of COVID it harmed the education of kids across the board. We're all clear about that and it was very tough on the emotional reality of our kids as well. But for kids with special needs, families with special needs, they were hit very, very hard. So, this is one of the reasons we wanted everyone back in school. We wanted a safe environment in our school that everyone could depend on. That's what we've got now. The Chancellor said, I said, we’ll bring back every child, no remote, everyone come back so you can get the education and you support need, and we're going to make it a safe environment. We're seeing that now. No schools closed at this moment. Very few classrooms quarantined, very low level of COVID positivity. So, this is how we serve the kids, particularly kids with special needs, and help them move forward. But if you know of any or any journalist knows of a particular family in need, please tell our colleagues here at City Hall, who you work with, and they'll get the information to senior folks at department education. In terms of general public, if a special needs family is having a concern about the support they need, Chancellor, what should they do?
Chancellor Porter: So, first of all, you should always start with your school and your teacher and your principal. And if you don't feel like that is getting what you need, then you can go directly to your superintendent's office. Ketler Louissaint is the Superintendent of District 75. He is phenomenal. Christina Foti is our Deputy Chief Academic Officer for Students with Disabilities. And so, they are two huge advocates to ensure that our most vulnerable students receive the supports and services that they need. And if, you know, it's hard to navigate those spaces, you can also just call 3-1-1 and get directly to those folks.
Mayor: Thank you very much.
Moderator: Two more for today. The next is Andrew Siff from WNBC.
Question: Mayor, good morning. How are you today?
Mayor: Good, Andrew. How have you been?
Question: Pretty well, thank you. So, three weeks from today, New York City voters choose their next mayor. I'm wondering what you think of the idea that both Eric Adams and Curtis Sliwa have been saying in so many words that the city is in rough shape, that the inequality persists, that things are too dangerous, that we need more cops on the subway, and neither of them is running on I'm going to continue the eight fantastic years of Bill de Blasio. What is your response to the tone you've been hearing from both contenders?
Mayor: Andrew, I like your last theme there. Eight fantastic years. Thank you. Thank you for sharing. Look, first of all, Andrew, you have observed the political process for a long time. It is natural for anyone running for office to say, I'm going to be the person that does something even better or different or new, that's the case almost with every candidate, and I respect that. Second of all, we're coming out of a global pandemic. We're coming out of an extraordinarily difficult time. So, in fact, the whole country saw challenges with public safety. We saw them here, it's natural for candidates to say, we're going to have to overcome that, I agree with that. Inequality –I've said it – we made some real progress things like Pre-K for All, you know, helped address inequality, more affordable housing, keeping people from being evicted through right to counsel. There's so many ways that we've addressed inequality, but there's a huge amount of inequality to address. So, we've got more work to do. That's part of why we're talking today about Brilliant NYC and moving away from a system that created inequality towards one that creates more equality. So, I think it's right for candidates to keep striving for something more, and I'm certainly comfortable with that, and I have tremendous faith that Eric Adams will be able to take things to the next level. That's what you would hope for any successor. That's certainly what I believe when it comes to him. Go ahead, Andrew.
Question: That's just following up on that. Mr. Adams said this morning that he reserves the right to essentially reverse your new plan to change gifted and talented, eliminate the old system, and replace it. To that degree, and I know Jillian asked this at the top, is it possible that these next two months of gathering parent input will essentially be going through the motions?
Mayor: No, no. He reserves the right to do anything and everything when it comes to education and so many other topics, that's what any new mayor should do, but we're now changing the trajectory, just like we did last year. I want to remind you everything we've done to try to improve equality in the schools and address inequality and segregation. I mean, when we did Pre-K for All, 3-K for All, we knew that was going to give a huge number of kids opportunity they didn't have before, advanced placement courses for all and schools that never had them. Obviously, there are some other things I would loved to have gotten done, particularly in terms of specialized high schools, but that day is going to come. I truly believe it. Here we have a two-step reality. We already got rid of a test in the admissions process last year for this year.
And by the way, without the test, we were able to do admissions in a better, fairer way. We're now presenting an even bigger vision. I think a lot of people are going to like it. I think a lot of people are going to embrace it. I think any new mayor is gong weigh that. So no, this process I think is going to be very productive, and this plan, it's the best plan I've ever seen. Again, I keep emphasizing, I respect folks who advocate for bigger ideas and bigger changes, but we actually need a plan that would work on the ground and all the pieces to fit practically. This Chancellor gave me that plan. I think when people really think it through, you're going to see a lot of support. And of course, again, any new mayor is going to weigh that.
Moderator: Last question for today, it goes to Erin from Politico.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor, I have a question regarding the DOI report. You said a few times that you've had not violated any written guidance or policy. However, we understand that on May 19th, 2019, the conflicts of interest board sent you a response stating that it was not permitted for your detail to travel at the city expense during your presidential campaign and that your campaign would have to pick up those costs. Obviously, you continued to travel with the city having paid those costs anyway. So, can you explain why you chose not to follow that guidance after it was given to you?
Mayor: Well, first of all, I respect to question, obviously, Erin, but I just don't think that's the way it happened. The work was going to happen anyway, you slice it, and the detail did what they'd done with every mayor down through the ages. The whole notion of security detail is to protect a mayor, protect their family. That has been true for generations in this city. In fact, the high price profile nature of this role has only intensified, and unfortunately the political backdrop, the reality and our society has gotten more divided, sometimes more violent. There's a reason why the NYPD provides that protection across the board. And if someone is out of the city or involved in a political work, they still do, they always have. So, that continued as it was. The question now is what makes sense, and we filed a formal appeal with the Conflict of Interest Board and said, we want to bring up a host of specific concerns, history, examples, facts, that we want them to weigh. And I have a lot of faith that Conflict of Interest Board is a very deliberative body. They will look at those facts. They'll come up with a final determination. I believe that will be a smart, careful process. I've said, I'll follow the law, I'm going to follow through, but we had a right to issue that appeal and for it to be weighed, go ahead, Erin.
Question: Okay, thanks. And then another question on the same topic, you have argued that DOI disregarded, you know, your family's need to for security and the fact that they're getting threats. They are saying that they acknowledged that, and they did consider that, however, that your children were not receiving any kind of meaningful security because the vast majority of the time they did not have security details ,they just had them occasionally when they happen to need transportation. So, can you explain what is the security rationale for specifically having NYPD drive, for instance, Dante to work for a few months every morning, but not having it present when he was doing anything else that was going on in his life.
Mayor: Yeah, Erin, again, it's – let me say, I'm very proud to serve as Mayor of this city, but I was before that and will always be first and foremost, a husband and father, and the safety of my family comes first. And I entrusted that safety to the leading security experts on earth, the NYPD. They said from the beginning, this is what they believe was right. They wanted the most – and you heard it from a Deputy Commissioner John Miller – the most security possible for every member of the family, but with an understandable recognition that for young adults, and as John Miller said the other day, even the secret service grapples with this reality, young adults are going to want some kind of different balance in how their lives are handled then some of the rest of us. The NYPD said, this is what we will do. This is the right way to approach it under these circumstances. Now, the shocking reality is – truly shocking to me – DOI has no expertise on public safety. They didn't go to John Miller or any of the other leaders of the NYPD who had that expertise to ask, what have you done historically? Why do you do that? Help us understand, especially in a changing world, a more violent and divided world, why you do what you do with family members? They didn't even ask the question, so they didn't even understand why the NYPD made the decision to offer the security the way they did, but John Miller laid that out in detail on Thursday. You and your colleagues asked more questions of the NYPD than DOI ever did. So, this is why it's a very disappointing report to me. It just didn't look at the larger reality. And in the end, I'm comfortable. We followed the guidance of the NYPD. We did things appropriately, and that's what we'll keep doing.
Okay, everybody, as we conclude today, just to say this, just going right back to where we started today, lots moving forward in this city, and we're going to be able to reach our children better than ever with the new approach, Brilliant NYC. We're going to be able to bring back our economy in stronger ways and jobs. And it all comes back to the fact that, you, all of you went out and got vaccinated and have given us the opportunity to now really move forward. But we still got some more work to do. We're going to be out there every day, encouraging anyone who's not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated. And again, a very special moment coming up, just in a matter of weeks, when our five to 11-year-olds can get vaccinated. We're getting ready for that right now. I know the Chancellor's excited about that. We're going to reach our youngest New Yorkers and keep them safe as well. Thank you, everyone.