October 21, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. We talk constantly and we need to talk constantly about a recovery for all of us, how we bring this city back strong, and then surpass where we were before the pandemic. If we're going to do that, then we have to deal with the issue that once the pandemic is done, all of our attention is going to go onto the climate crisis, and it needs to. We have to get this right. If we're going to have a future in this city, in this country, in this world, we need to deal with the climate crisis. In January, in the State of the City, I made a commitment. We were going to continue to not only take away pension fund dollars from the fossil fuel industry that has created this crisis, but to move more and more of our resources into renewable energy where we can literally save the world. This will be the difference-maker. I knew we could do it. I believed we could do something great. And now, New York City becomes the first in the nation to commit to net zero emissions in our pension fund investments – net zero emissions by 2040. This is revolutionary and it's an example to cities, states, counties, unions, nations, you name it, how to invest your money in a way that protects the earth. This is a very big deal. And with the money we took away from fossil fuel investments and other funds, we're focusing on the future – the renewable resources, renewable energy we need.
So, we're committing to a $50 billion investment. This is something I said we would do in the State of City. We've achieved it, working with all of our partners in the pension funds – $50 billion in investments in renewable energy by the City of New York, by our pension funds, by 2035. That's really huge. This is a lot of money that will make a big impact, help us move forward. It's the right thing to do for our retirees, because the future is renewable energy. That's where we're going to get the return on our investment. But, more importantly, it's how we save the earth. It's what we have to do for our children, our grandchildren. This is the future of New York City.
I want to thank all of our partners in labor, everyone; all the elected officials, everyone who supported this. But I want to give a special thank you to our Comptroller, who's here with us today. This has been a tremendous partnership to get this done. It is a Herculean move to go from where we were before to getting out of fossil fuels, getting into renewables on a huge scale – $50 billion. Really appreciate all the hard work of our Comptroller and his team over these years to achieve this. My pleasure introduced Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Comptroller Scott Stringer: Well, good morning, Mr. Mayor. And thank you for bringing me here today. This is an incredible announcement that you are very much correct about. This took a long time coming, but you said it would get done, and we work collaboratively to make this happen. And I also want to just shout out the labor trustees, the labor leaders who joined us in this coalition, and as well as 350.org and the leadership nationally of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who I think is going to try to get here soon. But I want to just say that every year the crisis of climate change becomes more stark and immediate. It's immediate for our children, for our planet, for our retirees, as you mentioned. And that's why achieving net zero emissions is an economic health and moral imperative. And we have to act now. And we have to be bold. And, today, I think it's important for people to know we are putting our money where our mouth is. This is not rhetoric. This is real. And we have an achievable goal to double investments in climate change solutions to over $8 billion by 2025 – step one. And then, a total of over $37 billion in climate solution investments by 2035. And I think we both take pride in being the first city in the nation to commit to a net zero emissions plan. I think this is something that will have impact around the world.
We did it with fossil fuel divestment. Remember, Bill, they said it couldn't be done. And we we’re on our way to doing it. And we will finish that up before December. And now, we take this to the next level. So, I want to thank you for your leadership. I want to thank the thought leaders who stood behind us. And I also want to thank the trustees who have always believed that the future of our city is making sure we have a clean and safe environment. And I want to say on behalf of my children, this is a very exciting day for me personally as we move the needle.
Mayor: I’ve got to tell you, Scott, we have known each other a long time and I want to thank you for what you did, your team did. But I also want to note, when you said, they said it couldn't be done, I remember vividly when I first heard how important it was to make sure that we addressed this crisis and that we could do something bold by divesting, I heard all sorts of people say – one, it can't be done. It's too big. It's too many billions of dollars. Where are we going to find the right investments? But I had a conversation the day before we announced – that really amazing day when we announced several years ago, divestment, I had conversation with Al Gore, and I told him what we were going to do, and he was very, very positive and appreciative, but he said something powerful. He said, tell anyone who doubts this, that you guys are doing the right thing for the retirees for the city, because the last thing you want to do is invest in industries that are going to have to leave their assets in the ground. That's the fossil fuel industry. They are the past. The future is renewables. That's where we are focused.
So, I want to turn now – Scott mentioned the great advocates, activists who honestly pushed us and then worked with us to figure out how to do this right. Of course, 350.org has been a visionary organization in seeing what could be, in leading the divestment movement, and understanding that we could do something very different. We had to do something very different. The day we announced originally divestment, Bill McKibben was there, one of the founders of that incredible movement. And today, we have the executive director with us. I want to thank her for all that she has done, for all that everyone at 350.org has done to help move this kind of initiative. We couldn't have gotten here without you. My pleasure introduced May Boeve.
Mayor: Hey, May, thank you so much. And I'm going to raise something here that I think you all have done so well, which to build this movement. When we got to divestment and, obviously, we happened to be the city that is the finance capital of the world, Comptroller Stringer and I reached out around the country, around the world. I talked to fellow mayors in this country and beyond, he talked to comptrollers and treasurers. We said, if New York can do it, you can do it. And we really wanted to help build this movement, because we had proven you could do this the smart and responsible way, but it is necessary – necessary to get money out of fossil fuels, into renewables. I spoke with Mayor Sadiq Khan of London, who is now going to be playing a huge role as a climate leader internationally. He saw what we did. He appreciated it. Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris, who's been a leader on these issues and may in fact be the next president of France, you never know. Big things are happening, big things are changing. But my question to you is, do you see this movement spreading now to mayors, to governors, to different parts of the world, different political leaders? Are they picking up the mantle now and going for it? Yes, divest off fossil fuels and move that money to renewables.
Executive Director May Boeve, 350.org: I think that is happening, but the pace of change is still too slow. That's what we're up against right now. And as my colleague, Bill McKibben, has said – and you mentioned him in your remarks, Mayor – acting slowly on climate change is the same as not acting at all. And so, we need everyone to step up and do more. And that is what the test is. But the good news there is that activists in every corner of the globe, doesn't matter if you are in Johannesburg or in any corner of the globe, you have an activist who's calling on you to do the right thing as a decision-maker. And we know from talking to mayors and talking to activists that it's that combination of people power and willing leadership that is going to get us where we need to go with our climate goals.
Comptroller Stringer: [Inaudible]
Mayor: Please, Comptroller –
Comptroller Stringer: There has never been a conversation I've had with Bill about climate change where he didn't give us three more things to do. So, once we were done with divestment, we were only beginning. And I think, as the Mayor says, this really is a people-driven fight, because it's in the streets, it's on people's minds, people are looking around the world. And I really hope, Mayor de Blasio, that what we did here today, the total body of our work, I do think it will reverberate around the State, and around the country, and nationally. And I think in Glasgow, this is going to be certainly a real talking point about what's possible.
Mayor: Amen. And I appreciate that deeply. And I want to bring one more point out with May and with our Comptroller – the sheer magnitude of the pension funds, not just New York, but the whole country, the whole world, the union pension funds, the local and State pension funds. I want to understand how much impact this could have. To me, when you look at the combined pension funds of the world – trillions, trillions. So, when New York City – one city – says $50 billion on the table right now. So, I'll give you one opportunity here as the expert to talk about the sheer magnitude of this.
Comptroller Stringer: $50 billion is not chump change. And the one thing I'm very proud of – and I want to say this to the naysayers – when the whole issue of divestment came up, were we acting as fiduciaries? Were we actually acting in the best interests of the people we serve, our retirees? And the answer through analysis and research was, yes. Because, as you said, we're not going to leave assets stranded, but we also now look at our returns for our pension fund. We hit nine percent. We doubled our investment. The pension fund is strong and we're also helping to clean our planet. So, you can have good returns, smart investment, but you can also have a real common good and you don't have to rely on the polluters to create retirement security.
Mayor: Yeah. And that's – this is the other piece I think is really important to highlight here. We were told, originally, you can't afford not to be in fossil fuels. And Comptroller, you and your staff were rigorous, right? I remember our first conversations. Of course, your first responsibility is to the retirees and the financial health of the pension funds. But this is what I also want you to speak to here, because I think it's so important – what Al Gore said to me, you know, the fact we've all been sold a bill of goods, because it's a dying industry, fossil fuels. And the hope of the world is renewables and renewables are getting better and better, and, if you want to think in financial terms, more and more profitable. So, can you speak for a minute about that analysis you did, why you became convinced and your team that this was also financially the smart thing to do.
Comptroller Stringer: Look, we were in your office and we agreed. And I remember this, we agreed that we had to fight for change and climate change. The question is, how did we go about it? So, we brought in the experts. We brought in the consultants. We brought in the people who could take a look at our investment fund and look at whether we can in fact do this. And, of course, we could do it, and we have done it, and we're going to finish that divestment before December 31st. Once we showed we can do this, we now have shown the world, we've shown other public pension funds what is possible. And I do think that when you look at the numbers, when you take your fiduciary responsibility very seriously as we did, you can actually make sound investment. And I do think this is the future. Look, it's not only what we divest from. What we're saying today is what we invest in. We've doubled our green investment between the Mayor's Office, our office, and our amazing labor trustees who understand that they are fighting for the future of their members. When you put this coalition together, it's unstoppable. And we have the numbers. We have the coalition. And we have, I think, elected officials who understand the urgency of now. We don't have 30 years anymore. The timeline is eight years at best. And, as Bill McGibbon, says every day we delay as another day that we put our entire planet at risk. And why would we want to do that?
Mayor: Look, thank you very much, Comptroller. This is sobering stuff, because that last statement the Comptroller made is an eye opener. We really need to acknowledge and the United Nations General Assembly, just here in New York a few days ago, really put a point on this – we are running out of time. I don't say that as a statement to make us depressed or hopeless, I say that as a statement of urgency. When we say we're running out of time, that should get us to feel we have to do everything and anything. When we say we're running out of time, it should say let's marshal all our energies towards a common goal and let's realize the extraordinary things we can do. The battle against COVID is a powerful example. It's been a very, very tough time. On the other hand, the global community came together. The global scientific community, health community, governments came together, created vaccines, distributed them in ways never seen before, faster than anything we saw before in history. We need to do that to address the climate crisis and then some. But we actually just got an object lesson in what's possible.
Now, speaking of what's possible, the idea that this nation, rather than being behind the curve, could lead the effort to save this planet. Well, a few years ago, a lot of people were doubters. And a few years ago, the goals were way too low. There was not enough hope. There was not enough ambition. But then, we saw some new voices that help to reset the equation. And a simple idea was put forward and I think it's a beautiful, powerful idea – the Green New Deal. When I heard it, I instantly loved it and believed in it. And we actually instituted major elements of the Green New Deal right here in New York City. But I want to give credit where credit is due, it took vision and it took an incredible sense of what is possible and how to push the spectrum and reset our imaginations. And we got that from a great leader right here from New York City. My pleasure to introduce Congress Member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Thank you so much. Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And thank you to Comptroller. Thank you both for your extraordinary commitment on this issue and on climate. On the way over here, I was telling folks that we have a major climate announcement that is incoming and that it's actually good for once. You know, coming in and having to do a lot of our work in Washington D.C. often means that we see a lot of depressing news, especially with what's going on with ongoing reconciliation and budget negotiations. We're seeing the constant influence of big oil and dark money in lowering our national insight and national aspirations in addressing the climate crisis. And so, that can often get people down and make people feel cynical and, frankly, quite scared about the future for our city, our country, and our world. But today's announcement I think really shows that a lot of the action, and, I would argue the, the bulk of climate action in this country is not happening in Washington. It's happening in New York City and it's happening at state and local levels across the country.
And you had mentioned two years ago when we had rolled out the Green New Deal, one of the exciting things about the impact of introduced introducing the Green New Deal resolution was it's adoption at city, state, and municipal levels across the country. New York City, Austin, Texas, Los Angeles, the State of Maine, as well as many other areas have either brought a Green New Deal resolution to a vote or have passed it outright. And what today's announcement really indicates is a next level in our ability to combat the climate crisis. And that is essentially a full divestment from fossil fuels, from our public pension funds. And in New York City alone, this divestment can amount to over $50 billion. Is that right?
Mayor: $50 billion in investment in renewables.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez: And having that shift divesting from fossil fuels and then investing to renewable energy and climate infrastructure is exactly what we need to be doing in this moment in order to tackle the climate crisis. As the new – as one of the New York City members that sit on the Financial Services Committee, one of the things that I often see firsthand is how a lot of dark money, private equity, and Wall Street interests will offset some of their riskiest investments and least popular investments into public pension funds, which often sets up our public pension funds for crisis. But – and fossil fuels is a major element of that. Offsetting fossil fuel investments are becoming less and less popular by the day and people don't want to invest in them. So, a lot of these groups have been offsetting those investments into public pension funds. By New York City – with New York City divesting our public pension funds so that teachers and City workers can feel confident that their public pensions and that their investments are not contributing towards the climate crisis, but are actually contributing towards climate solutions, we're setting a model for the rest of the world. And so, from here in New York City, to Washington, to across the country, I want us to celebrate this decision. It is a major structural change in our energy investments. And I think we should challenge other cities, states, and countries to do the same, because divesting – using our public investments to divest from the fossil fuel industry is going to be one of the critical tipping points in making sure that we have the structural investments necessary to transition to renewable and clean energy.
Mayor: Congress Member, thank you. And I’ve got to tell you again – first of all, thank you so much for changing people's minds and resetting the entire sense of the possible with the Green New Deal. It is extraordinary. A special thank you, of course, to Senator Markey as well. What you did change the debate in this country permanently. And that's, you know, one of the highest callings I can imagine, to help people see a whole new reality. But I want to emphasize the point about people knowing their money is going someplace good, because decisions are made about people's money without their involvement. And what I've tried to do, what the Comptroller’s tried to do is right that wrong. Now, what we all have to do, including leaders on the national level like you, is help everyone understand they have a say. Union members have a say. Citizens have a say. If your state, or your city, or your county, or your labor union is investing in fossil fuels, then that's not good for you. When you add up the impact of pension funds around the world, it's trillions. It's enough to create the solution. And so, we need your very strong voice, helping people realize what they can achieve. Yeah,
Comptroller Stringer: [Inaudible] say to you that as we struggled through the years to do a divestment and a green investment, there was a sea change with the Green New Deal. And when that came forward, it opened the door for discourse, for discussion. And so, today's a city announcement, but it's really a national announcement that you spearheaded. And I just want to thank you on behalf of everyone in the city. I don't think we would be here today if you did not walk into the Capitol and say, we're going to change this. And I know we both feel that way.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez: Thank you both so much. That's incredibly kind and generous. And I think that as well, you know, we have the U.N. Climate Summit right around the corner, and we have leaders around the world, including President Biden, as well as many other delegates representing the United States. And the thing is, is that, with these – with the way that budget reconciliation is going in Washington, we cannot show up to Glasgow empty handed. We simply cannot. And, right now, dark money interests in Washington are trying to ensure that we do show up empty handed and essentially sacrifice the United States’ leadership role globally in global reductions of climate emissions. We will not allow that to happen. Whether it's finding alternative ways, we will divest and we will transition the United States’ energy infrastructure and our economy to be more just and to be better prepared to transition our energy infrastructure for clean and renewable sources.
Mayor: One more point Congress Member. And you – what you said is so powerful, because there is a lot of money here trying to take us in the wrong direction. I appreciate that you always shine a light on that. But I want to use our example as a bit of a good antidote to that. We're in the financial capital world. There's lots of money. There's lots of power trying to stop these things from happening. But here's what we're saying today, we're committing to net zero emissions in all our investments. We're committing to $50 billion in new renewable investments and divestment from fossil fuels – that happened in the financial capital of the world. Now, those powerful, monied interests didn't like it, but they were powerless to stop it. So, a phrase I like to use, which I think is resonant with a lot of what you believe – I always say, don't let anyone talk you out of your own power. The people of this country have the ability to say to the leaders of their pension funds accountable to them, just stop. And that's more powerful than those monied interests, but we've got to sound the alarm, we've got to call people to the mission. And again, I know you can do that.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez: Yeah, and it’s a – it's not an accident or coincidence whatsoever that this leadership is coming from worker-led pension funds. Worker-led public pension funds are leading the way in structural investments in clean and renewable energy, and it’s not an accident. And I thank you both so much for prioritizing this.
Mayor: Amen. Thank you. Thank you, Congress Member. Thank you, Comptroller. There is some good news in the world, you know. And it means people need to get involved, stay involved, get even more deeply involved. And this brings us to another quick reminder, early voting. Early voting is coming up beginning Saturday, this Saturday, the 23rd, runs through Sunday, the 31st. Election Day, of course, November 2nd. To find your poll site, our lovely Board of Elections – let's hope they get it right this time – to find your poll site, go to findmypollsite.vote.nyc. And that's another thing we have to change is our Board of Elections, but that's a topic for another day. This will decide, obviously, the future of our city, these elections, so many offices up, important issues on the ballot. Please, everyone, get out there and vote. If early voting is easier for you, use it. It's a great resource.
And looking ahead – well, first of all, throughout this month and I'm wearing the purple ribbon today, we are focused on the fight against the scourge of domestic violence. We're focused on how we support people, support the survivors, stop domestic violence before it happens, make people aware, get people help. Very important efforts this month to change the way people think and to fight this horrible problem. And one more note that next week we'll be doing City Hall in your Borough in Manhattan, our fourth borough we've been to. And then in November to Brooklyn, which we're looking forward to greatly. Getting out there and announcing a lot of great things that will help the people of Manhattan, hearing from the people in Manhattan and their leaders. A lot of good stuff coming up next week.
Now to our indicators, as always, first and foremost, and one that I feel great about, the doses administered to date 11,890,187 doses. We're getting on the verge to 12 million doses, unbelievable. Number two, daily number – excuse me – daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19, today's report, 110 patients – confirmed positivity level of 13.04 percent. Hospitalization rate per 100,000, 0.70. And then number three, new reported cases on a seven-day average, today's report, 906 cases. A few words in Spanish. I want to go back to the topic of the day, the number one topic facing the world, the climate crisis and how we fight it.
[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: Good morning. We will now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, we are joined by Dr. Ted Long, Dr. Jay Varma, Chief Democracy Officer Laura Wood, Director of the Mayor's Office of Climate and Sustainability Ben Furnas, and Director of the Mayor's Office of Pensions and Investments John Adler. Our first question today goes to Andrew Siff from WNBC.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. Mayor, not sure if you watched the mayoral debate live or recorded it and then binged it when you got home, but one moment from the debate that I wanted to point your attention to, when Eric Adams said, while he agrees with the mandate for vaccines for municipal workers, he would have renegotiated with the labor unions so you had more of a buy-in and less of a combative tone as you approach the deadline. So, did you catch that moment in the debate and how do you anticipate dealing with, particularly, the police and fire unions over this next week?
Mayor: Didn't watch the debate, and we've had lots of conversations with the labor movement over not just weeks, months about these issues. I understand the realities in the unions, the political realities, each labor leader has to make their own choice how to handle things. We've had very open, honest conversations. This was the way to actually get things done and fight COVID and save lives and help the city recover. So, I'm confident we did the right thing and I do appreciate – I have great, great faith in Eric Adams. I appreciate that he is supporting the plan here, the goal, and that's what matters. Go ahead, Andrew.
Question: The $500 incentive, if it's a mandate, if it's a deadline, and these folks waited so many months to get the vaccine, why should they be entitled to a reward, which is greater than either the no reward that the first responders who got it early got, or the lesser incentives like a single baseball ticket from months ago? Why should you be rewarding folks who held out this long and not just require them to get the vaccine?
Mayor: Well, we are requiring them to get vaccine, and we're saying get vaccinated or you go on leave without pay. And I hope no one ends up on leave without pay, but I think that's a pretty clear line in the sand. Look, it's just about what will work to move us forward. We've changed incentives over time. In the beginning, there weren't incentives then we tried different types of incentives. This is just about getting the job done and I really want to focus on how we keep the city safe, how we save lives, how we move forward. I think this helps us do it.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Juliet from 1010 WINS.
Question: Yes. Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everybody on the call. I actually want to follow up on Andrew's question. Yesterday, 1010 WINS spoke with Oren Barzilay, he's the head of the union for EMTs. And he was saying, let me just get to his question, hold on, give me one –
Mayor: Tread water for a moment, Juliet. It's cool.
Question: Yeah. Okay. Thank you. I had to scroll back up. So, in the conversation with him, he claimed that two of his members died after getting vaccinated. He says his membership is 50 percent vaccinated. He believes many of his members have natural immunity because many were already sick. And he says, why should they be forced now to get the vaccine? So, how do you respond to that mindset?
Mayor: Well, first of all, 189 million Americans have gotten vaccinated. And that's the reason we have a chance to finally put COVID behind us, but we're not done yet. But if you talk about what the vast majority of Americans have seen and concluded, and they've listened to the science, they've listened to their health care leaders, and this is the reason why we're able to move forward. I respect all labor leaders, but I also appreciate when people who are not doctors actually listen to the doctors. And there's been a massive consensus around this country in the health care community and the scientific community about vaccination. So, let's listen to some doctors. Dr. Long and then Dr. Varma, what would you say, just help – let's educate people. If someone says, ‘oh, you know, one, if someone had the disease, therefore they have natural immunity, why should they get vaccinated?’ I know, very strongly, the answer, but I want you to say it to the public. And then two, if in fact, God forbid, someone had gotten vaccinated, got the disease and died, well, that's really a rarity, but if it happened, what does it say about vaccination? So, Dr. Long first then Dr. Varma.
Executive Director Ted Long, NYC Test and Trace Corps.: Sure. Juliet, I appreciate your question. This is something that I talk with my patients about where I practice in the Bronx every week, all the time. What I tell my patients is the bottom line is that 98 percent of the people that have been in the hospital have been unvaccinated compared to only two percent having been vaccinated. And we know from the CDC that if you get vaccinated you now have an 11-fold protection from dying from COVID. And in terms of your risk of potentially dying from anything too many New Yorkers have died of COVID. The vaccine is the answer. 98 percent of the people in the hospitals now [inaudible] we looked at, had been unvaccinated. This is what we need to do to keep our city safe. No question about it. And if everybody does get vaccinated, we can put this dark period behind this once and for all.
Mayor: Thank you. Dr. Varma.
Senior Advisor Jay Varma: Yeah. Thank you very much for the question. This issue about whether prior infection keeps you protected as well as vaccination is one that continues to be hotly debated. So, we absolutely understand why some people would like to say that well, because I already had the virus before I don't need to get vaccinated. Everything we know right now indicates that vaccinations benefit people who haven't been infected and benefit those who have been infected. What we know, based on all of the scientific data that we have right now, is that you can increase the strength and length of your protection against this virus by getting vaccinated. This has now been studied very carefully in a number of different – with a number of different vaccines and a number of different populations. There are certainly some people who retained long-standing protective immunity after prior infection, but the reality is we don't know how to differentiate those people who get that long-term protection and those who don't. And that is why the overwhelming scientific consensus is that regardless of whether you've been infected in the past, the safest thing for you and for your family and colleagues is for you to be vaccinated.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Doctor. Go ahead, Juliet.
Question: Okay. Thank you. So, given that only 50 percent of his membership is vaccinated, and people might not want to get vaccinated, or if they do resist, are you concerned about shortages in ambulance calls and responses if it's some of the membership there or EMTs just aren't going vaccinated [inaudible] –
Mayor: Yeah, Juliet, we've looked at this very carefully, worked with the leaders of each of those agencies who are in every case career members of their agencies. Look at Commissioner Shea, Commissioner Nigro, Commissioner Grayson, for example, other agencies as well. We have people who've been at it their entire life, know their members, know the reality. We've also looked at examples around the country. I talked the other day about the experience San Francisco had. We've looked at the experience the private sector has had, United Airlines and others. We've looked at, of course, what we experienced with the Department of Education and with Health + Hospitals. It comes all to the same conclusion. When you say resolutely, we care about you, we care about your health, we care about your family's health, and we care about the health of the people you serve, it's time to get vaccinated. We gave you every opportunity on a voluntary basis. We gave you an opportunity during the vaccinate-or-test period. It's time now. If you don't want to get vaccinated, you'll be put on unpaid leave. Well, the vast majority of human beings go to work to get paid. And, also, I think for a lot of our first responders, there's a calling. They believe in the work, they care about the work. Those two factors I think are going to cause the vast majority to get vaccinated. If there's any number who don't initially – well, again, some of them I think will get vaccinated after the fact and come back like the 3,500 school employees who have gotten vaccinated since the deadline and now come back – but we have contingency plans in place using overtime and using other capacity to make sure we can keep the service going. And that's what we prepared for, and we feel confident in those plans.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Bob Hennelly from the Chief Leader.
Question: Yes. Thanks for taking the call, Mr. Mayor. Will the impact bargaining you referenced yesterday be the process by which civil liberty protections that are existing law, like religious exemption as well as a medical exemption, because they're on the CDC website. There are rare instances where this [inaudible] for taking the vaccine. Is that the process by which you'll address that impact bargaining?
Mayor: Yeah. Well, first of all, we've said from the beginning in the Commissioner's orders we respect there are valid religious exemptions and medical exemptions. They are rare, Bob. They are rare in the scheme of things. When we saw, you know – obviously our biggest agency is the Department of Education. We saw very few religious exemptions that were valid and approved. We saw more on the medical, but still rare in the scheme of things. Of course, we want to give people an opportunity to put forward those applications if they want to. But we're starting impact bargaining immediately with all unions affected. We had a very successful effort previously, impact bargaining in the previous mandates. We got to a good plan with the UFT that became the pattern for many other models – many other unions. So, that process starts immediately. Go ahead, Bob.
Question: You referenced yesterday, the tragic national number of police officers that have died from COVID. We know that close to 400 New York City civil servants have died from the virus. We also know there is a growing body of medical research that shows a significant percentage of people that survive a bout with COVID have long term consequences of varying severity. As an employer of conscience, which I assume the City is, are you doing anything to track these long term cases to look at the occupational issues they pose because I've spoken with many union members and they say, what they're concerned about is that this disease is – we're still learning so much about it and it is very much like the 9/11 World Trade Center issue in that the symptoms and diseases could be, we still don't really know. Are you tracking this?
Mayor: We're absolutely paying attention to this, and I'm going to have Dr. Long talk about the Centers of Excellence that Health + Hospitals has established for long COVID. And Dr. Varma can talk about this as well. We really want to make sure that if any New Yorker, one of our employees or any New Yorker is suffering long term impact that we're getting them help. We are – you're right, everyone's got to understand more about this disease and what it means. We know differently than what we went through in that horrible moment 20 years ago. We obviously know people who have COVID, we knew it from the beginning, and we're now tracking from the beginning and working with people from the beginning. And hopefully that's going to allow us to make sure people get the care they need. So, we care a lot about that issue. Dr. Long, why don't you talk about what Health + Hospitals is doing and then Dr. Varma, anything else about the latest science on how we address long COVID?
Executive Director Long: Yeah. Bob, I just want to start by saying, I really appreciate your question. Again, thinking about my patients, I've seen my patients suffer through continued difficulty breathing, hair loss, and a lot of mental health consequences from having COVID. That's what long COVID it is. And it is critical that we pay special attention to this, because this is going to be a very, very important part of our recovery from COVID. So, what we're doing through Test and Trace is we have a whole component of our program now called Aftercare, where we've now reached out to hundreds of thousands of prior cases, because we have all of their information in Test and Trace to see if they're still having symptoms. And if they are, we're connecting them, even by a phone call, to whatever services they need, including things like NYC Well which we've talked about before, or our new COVID Centers of Excellence. Which are new primary care oriented centers that have all of the care that we need to be able to deliver to people as part of their long COVID recovery. We screen you for all of the evidence-based symptoms, and then we could even do things like evaluate your breathing through pulmonary function tests, or your heart through an echocardiogram right then and there in that same clinic. So, we're taking this very seriously. And in New York City, we're doing something that others have not been able to do, which is actually proactively reach out to all of our former cases, to see if they're suffering from long COVID so that we can help. And I'm really proud that we're doing that.
Mayor: Thank you, Dr. Varma?
Senior Advisor Varma: Yeah. The only thing I would probably add to what Ted had to say, this is just more about the science issues, is emphasizing that we know that vaccination does not 100 percent protect you against getting reinfected. It is incredibly effective, of course, in severe illness, preventing hospitalizations and deaths. But one other benefit of vaccination that we're starting to learn is that if you are vaccinated and get a breakthrough infection, you appear to be much less likely to get these severe long COVID symptoms that we know many people are suffering from. So, there's many reasons to get vaccinated. But in particular, if you're concerned about the potential long-term effects of this virus, getting vaccinated is yet another reason why it's important.
Mayor: Thank you very much. Go ahead.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Steve Burns from WCBS 880.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you today?
Mayor: Good, Steve. How you doing?
Question: Doing all right. I wanted to bring up a different topic here first and talk about restaurants. I understand yesterday the administration made a ruling on propane heaters for outdoor dining and said they will not be able to be used. Also saw the news about the grants available for natural gas or electric power heaters. But we've heard from a lot of restaurants that say, those just don't provide the same heating power without propane heaters. It could be a very difficult winter for them given that, you know, we didn't see too many high profile issues with them last winter. Why was this decision made to disallow propane heaters?
Mayor: Yeah, Steve. Fair question. Look, I really listened to the Fire Department. They're the experts on health and safety when it comes to propane, they believed even though we did, you're right, we had a good experience last winter. That was also in the context where everything was on an emergency footing. And we were trying to find our way through the worst of the crisis still. Now that we're talking about a long-term approach – outdoor dining has been an amazing success. I want it to be part of the future New York City for years to come, but we now have to make sure it is sustainable. It is safe. It's done the right way. Fire Department feels strongly, and I agree with them, propane needs to be phased out. So, we're giving the restaurants the next month to do that. We are giving financial support. They know that the investment they make for a new solution is going to be a permanent investment because we've said that it will be permanent outdoor dining. So, it's an investment they can rely on. So, it's about safety and it's about sustainability. Go ahead, Steve.
Question: Thank you. And switching to a new topic, I wanted to ask about the 65 officers who the CCRB found should be disciplined, recommend discipline involved in the George Floyd protest last year. I know those cases are likely going to stretch past your term at City Hall, but as far as you can make the announcement now would you promise that those officers would be held to the discipline matrix?
Mayor: Oh, absolutely. First of all, I want to see those proceedings move as quickly as possible for it looks – we need speedy justice in every place. And I am concerned anytime justice is delayed. I'm particularly concerned just to make the parallel, our court system is still not functioning. I keep calling this out. It's ludicrous how few trials are happening in our court system. It's hurting all of us. It's hurting public safety. And Commissioner Shea said it the other day. The CCRB process, the police disciplinary process, is moving now aggressively. Why aren't the courts moving? But we have a lot of catching up to do at the same time, because of all the time lost to COVID. I want to see all cases resolved as quickly as humanly possible. The discipline matrix is in full effect. It revolutionizes police discipline, it's public, it's clear, it's binding, and there's an MOU between police and CCRB that makes it binding. The new administration of course, will assess everything, but every new administration unless they act differently, the previous rules remain in effect. And I would like to believe the new administration will see the real virtue of the discipline matrix and build upon it in their own way.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Ari from NY1.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. Can you hear me okay?
Mayor: Yeah, Ari. How are you doing today?
Question: I'm doing all right. How are you?
Mayor: Good. Thank you.
Question: I had a couple of questions on the news of the day with the divestment and the investment. I'm just curious if you could just detail a little more what the climate solutions are that the $50 billion fund will be investing in? You know, you talked about net zero emissions in investments. What does it mean to have a net zero investment? Does that mean certain carbon capture technologies we're talking about? So, if you could just detail, you know, what the fund directors tend to invest in?
Mayor: Ari, I appreciate that question very, very much, because this is literally about our survival as human beings. And I've got two of my colleagues here who are very happy right now that you asked that question. Ben Furnas is Director of the Mayor's Office of Climate and Sustainability, John Adler Director of the Mayor's Office of Pensions and Investments. I want to shout them both out. Ben has been of the architects of literally, not only USA leading, but world-leading efforts this city is undertaken to fight climate change. John has been a great innovator of pension strategies that are socially conscious, that are progressive and that help working people and help save the climate. So, I want to thank them both for extraordinary service. How you do $50 billion in renewable investments? How you do net zero investments? Ben, you start, then John.
Director Ben Furnas, Mayor’s Office of Climate and Sustainability: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And hi, Ari. Good morning. You know, this is really about investing in the types of technologies and industries that are going to build a safer future of tomorrow. So, this is everything from clean and renewable energy as the Mayor mentioned, energy efficiency, new technologies to help us reduce emissions. And when we talk about a carbon neutral portfolio, what we're really talking about is we look across all of our investments, it means we're doing a lot less to contribute to climate change than we are to stopping climate change. You know, when I think about this, you know, there are a lot of workers, I count myself among them who are, have retirement dates in the 2040s and the 2050s and the 2060s. And literally planning and fighting for a safer world, a safer climate in those decades, in the 2040s and the 2050s and the 2060s, that is our retirement planning. Fighting climate change is retirement planning for us. John, have any more to add?
Director John Adler, Mayor’s Office of Pensions and Investments: Yeah, I'll just add a couple of points in terms of this specific question about what constitutes climate change solutions, it's really any investment that helps achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Accord. So, it could be carbon capture if those technologies are developed, but you know, certainly renewables, energy efficiency, pollution control. Also, electric vehicles and electric vehicle infrastructure, right? We're going to need a lot more charging stations to help create the conditions by which there's widespread adoption of electric vehicles. So, those are the types of investments that we'll be making more of as we seek to achieve this goal of $50 billion in climate solutions by 2035.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead. Ari. Ari, can you hear us? Ari? Ari?
Question: Oh, mic is on now. Thank you. I wanted to go back to some questions that I've asked in the past about investing in sustainable energy versus investing in resiliency? You know, you've suggested that these kinds of investments get at the root of the problem because it tackles a reliance on fossil fuels. But the latest UN Climate Report has said that climate effects are locked in, global temperature will continue to rise for at least three decades under any emissions scenario that we have access to right now. Which to some high-risk, some risks of pretty serious climate collapse. I'm curious what your thoughts are about what the City can be doing more to invest directly in resiliency? Since as a Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez noted the federal government is not doing a ton and we have a risk of showing up to the next UN Summit empty handed in terms of a federal plan? So, can we really afford to wait for the federal government to make big investments and overhauls in our city’s resiliency and adapting the city? How can the City create its own revenue streams to make these large investments that will prevent a worsening health, housing, and homelessness crisis caused by increased flooding and heat?
Mayor: Okay. Very powerful question, Ari. I appreciate it. Very big, big question. I'm going to start and then give Ben and John an opportunity to weigh in. This is what I'd say, first of all, job one is stop the climate crisis. I do believe there is a prioritization here. I hear you loud and clear, practically we're facing huge resiliency challenges. How do we weigh that against going at the root cause? I say, notwithstanding that some of these effects will be felt no matter what, we've got to go at the root cause because it's literally about survival. And we are different in New York City. We can do incredibly bold things on a huge scale, and then it pushes everyone else to do them. So, we are supposed to be a leader. That's who we are as New Yorkers. We've got to be as bold as we possibly can to set the model. And it's not unimportant we are the biggest city in the United States of America and it is not unimportant we are the finance capital of the world. We need to set the model and then get everyone else to follow, because that will stop the worst effects going forward that really would cost us much, much more in terms of resiliency. Second, we are in the middle of a $20 billion resiliency plan. It is having a really profound, positive impact. We've got a lot more coming on that. And we need to keep investing on a city level. The kind of resiliency we need for the long term requires federal support. And I'm not giving up on that. It's been a strange patch in Washington, but I believe there's more and more of a consensus. I believe even the debate around President Biden's vision has proven there's more of a national consensus about investment than we've had in a long time. So, I truly believe there will be a lot of federal money and that's what will be crucial to us. But in the meantime, we're already doing the investments. There's a major, major initiative to protect Lower Manhattan. We did the Rockaway Boardwalk, 5.5 miles to protect the Rockaways, major investments in Staten Island, investments in Red Hook, Brooklyn. That's all going to continue. The City needs to put real money in. But to take it to the, really, to the next level, the futuristic level, requires federal help. Anything Ben or John, you'd like to add?
Director Furnas: Only to say that, you know, I think it's critical that we're doing both of these things at once. So, being as aggressive as we can to shift away from fossil fuels and reduce our emissions to mitigate the worst consequences of climate change while preparing our city for the 21st century. And federal partnership is going to be critical in that.
Mayor: John, you want to add?
Director Adler: Nope, I'm good.
Mayor: Thanks man. Okay, thank you. Go ahead.
Moderator: Our next question goes to Michael Gartland with the Daily News.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. How you doing?
Mayor: Good, Michael. How you been?
Question: I'm doing well. So, I have a question. This is for the Congresswoman, but you know, if anybody else wants to chime in –
Mayor: The Congresswoman – actually, Michael, she had to move on to, I think she had a finance committee hearing or something like that. So, she had to move on, but you go ahead on whatever else you want to ask.
Question: Alright, well, I'll put this to all you guys then. She alluded to that dark money, dark money interests that are pushing against the kind of shift you guys are talking about today. And I was wondering if someone on the call could, you know, in layman's terms, just explain how that works? You know, how is that working exactly? How are they pushing back? What are, you know, I mean, I get, there's a lot of money to lose here. But can you kind of, someone break that down for us, please?
Mayor: I'll give you my interpretation. I don't want to speak for the Congressmember, but I'll give you my interpretation. And John Adler might be interested in saying something on this because he has worked on these issues for so many years in the public sector and in the labor movement. My interpretation of that, Michael, is that there is a tremendous amount of money right now that is not traceable because of the way the laws work, that's going into trying to influence policy. This is the whole problem of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, vast amounts of money trying to prop up the status quo in terms of fossil fuels and endangering the efforts to address the climate crisis. I think Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is exactly right. There's a huge amount of money being spent to try and stop us from divesting from fossil fuels and moving to renewables. But it is also true that unfortunately the laws make that very easy. And a lot of I think companies are using their vast financial power to try and keep the status quo in place. And our job is to fight against that. And the good news is when we made these moves -- and Michael, you know, every good journalist follows the money. I want you to follow the money when it comes to how we just divested from the fossil fuel industry and they couldn't stop us. So, it is a really interesting story about how the politics of this city have changed for the better, that I was able to, the Comptroller is able to, other elected officials, labor say, no, we don't care how much money you have. We're getting out of fossil fuels. We believe there's a better way. There's actually a very good news story there of political change. John, you want to add anything?
Director Adler: I'll just add that, I do want to point out that our divestment, as well as this climate action plan that we, the board approved yesterday are really based on an analysis that the financial returns of the future are not going to be superior by investing in fossil fuels or the technologies of the past, that we are, you know, we are – as fiduciaries of the pension funds that the Controller said and the Mayor said, we have an obligation to generate the best possible risk adjusted returns. And the perspective of us and our expert advisors is that investing in the carbon transition is going to be more fruitful for the pension fund than investing in the, you know, high carbon, high emissions economy that is coming to an end. And so, you know, again, I believe that the interests that have made money for so many years from fossil fuels are fighting the fight to try to continue that economy based on carbon emissions. But I believe that the economy itself is speaking, which is why today renewable energy is much less expensive than coal powered energy. Just as one example. That's all.
Mayor: Thank you, Michael. Go ahead.
Question: All right. I wanted to go back once again to this DOI report. You made some comments yesterday about your brother's travel in New Jersey, and we–
Mayor: His travel with me to New Jersey.
Question: Well, this is a point of contention –
Mayor: It could be a point – Michael, I want to interrupt you just for one second. I was there. I'm telling you live on camera. I was there but go ahead.
Question: All right. I hear you. So, when I asked DOI about this, the statement they provided said that what you said yesterday didn't align with sworn testimony, and at one point they cited specifically was that they said that under oath, you testified, that there may have been occasions when your brother was driven by the detail without you being present due to a “last minute change”. I was wondering, I mean, could you address that? Did you kind of say this under oath, and then afterwards come to different conclusion?
Mayor: Michael there's no – it's not mutually exclusive, and I'm really fascinated by this topic. I'm telling you, I went to Palmyra, New Jersey with my brother, period. Period. Did it. Done. I said – I don't know about everything else that happened because I don't, but I know what I did going to Palmyra, New Jersey. I was there. So, it's as simple as that.
Moderator: We have time for two more questions today. The next question goes to Dana from the New York Times.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor, regarding your announcement today, I was curious if you could tell us how much in fossil fuel investments the city's pension funds currently hold.
Mayor: I'm going to turn to John Adler, and I think – if you will forgive me, Dana, the question is really where we started, because that's what we were working from. So, I will – we should answer where we are now. But I think for context, when we took office, when John Adler took over his role, then we moved to start divestment. We've been continuing the divestment presence - or excuse me – process ever since. So, John, why don't you give the, from the beginning to where we stand now and where we're going?
Director Adler: Okay, well when we announced the intention to divest in 2018, we've calculated that our exposure to fossil fuel investments was approximately $5 billion. We are – so here's the thing, we are in the process of selling those securities, but I'm not at liberty to say exactly how much we sold and how much we are intending or still plan to sell because we don't want to move to market, and that's actually a violation of our fiduciary duty. I will point out that it is three of the boards that are divesting from fossil fuels, NYCERS, teachers, and the Board of Education retirement system that police and fire are not. But – and the fossil fuel – the value of the fossil securities is quite volatile as is the price of oil so that the final number, it will – I believe it will be equivalent to that $5 billion or so that we ended up divesting, but we can't know until we've actually completed all those sales.
Question: Thank you. And then just another follow-up, and how exactly are you all defining fossil fuel investments?
Mayor: Excellent question, John, and obviously if Ben wants to add in too, go ahead.
Director Adler: So, we're – the definition is fossil fuel reserve owners, that is companies that own fossil fuel reserves. So, we are not divesting from, you know, other elements of the fossil fuel industry at this time, and each of the boards actually decided on its own list of securities from which the divest, there's a lot of commonality, you know, obviously the large integrated petroleum companies, but, you know, there's a lot of companies out there that where fossil fuels is not their primary business, and some of the boards are divesting from those and some are not. And also, the board's holdings are not exactly the same because they have different rosters of managers may own different securities, but the broad definition is fossil fuel reserves owners.
Mayor: And John, just for us lay people, fossil fuel reserves means the actual fuel, right? That they have reserves means - go ahead.
Director Alder: Yeah, well it's, it's oil, gas, coal, tar sands in – essentially in the ground, that they own those reserves in the ground.
Mayor: So, wrapping it together –
Director Adler: So, it's really the focus – focus on the stranded assets as you've mentioned earlier.
Mayor: Yeah. And I will just tell you, to wrap it together to Dana's question, I think this is the heart of the matter. All of the actual fuel that's poisoned the earth, and I was – I remember vividly, like it was yesterday I was at the Vatican 2015. Pope Francis had called leaders around the world together because he put out a papal encyclical about climate change and the need to fight it. And I heard Professor Jeffrey Sachs at Columbia university say, we need to strand those fossil fuels in the ground. It was a really important moment for me to just think – breakout of the thinking of the past. The idea that we would just leave them there. It was kind of a radical one to me at first, but it's made more and more sense to me with every passing day since. And the [inaudible] I made earlier, when we announced divestment, the conversation I had with a former Vice President Gore about the nonsensical reality of putting public money into an industry that has to be phased out and is losing ground every day and is less and less profitable compared to renewables. So, we do need to strand those assets. So, the point John's making, I just want to put a point on it. Is those companies that hold the oil, the gas, the coal, that is the target, get out of those companies, try and get them out of that business, move everything to renewables.
Moderator: Our last question for today goes to Yehudit from Borough Park 24.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you doing?
Mayor: I’m doing well, Yehudit. How are you?
Question: Good. Thank God. So, the crime rate is very low in Borough Park and other Orthodox Jewish communities, except when people who live outside the neighborhood come in to commit hate crimes and other crimes like they did last Friday afternoon, to steal at gunpoint, more than a million dollars in jewelry from a resident who was parked on 47th street. The perpetrators came out of a car that had temporary New Jersey license plates. So, I'm wondering how can policing be improved to deter people who come in from other communities to commit crimes? And how does precision policing currently differ in communities when most of the crimes come in from other neighborhoods?
Mayor: Great question, Yehudit. Precision policing in fact, would be very much looking for the exact kind of pattern you just described. Two things, if we see robberies, if we see any kind of pattern, more than one occurring, what precision policing dictates is look at the pattern, determine where it might happen next, determine what kind of people might be behind it, what history they might have, and find them, stop them. And it's been very, very successful. And second, the temporary license plates. This is something you've heard Chief Harrison talk about a lot. There's been a huge push by the NYPD to go after temporary license plates that are fraudulent. They're often associated with a variety of crimes, even violent crime. That has been a systematic effort at the NYPD, that's led to many, many arrests, many guns being taken off the streets, many prosecutions. So, that's exactly the kind of thing that would cause the NYPD and the local precinct to focus on that kind of problem. Go ahead, Yehudit.
Question: All right. So, once I asked the question from my own perspective, but I’m now asking it as a mother of a teen who takes the subway in Brooklyn. And considering the 50 percent increase in subway [inaudible] would the Mayor consider deploying a visual array of uniform police officers at the subway stations and in subways to both create a deterrent to crime and also make commuters and parents safer?
Mayor: [Inaudible] officers in the subways in decades, and it's been very effective. Whenever we see any kind of pattern and some of the reporting this week exactly was the kind of thing we can go after we positioned policing, a specific pattern of a specific crime. Often that comes down to a very few people, who are organized, it could be that kind of crime. We can find them, we can disrupt them, we can arrest them, we can prosecute them. So, NYPD will adjust resources whenever necessary in the subways. But in this specific case, I believe it's going to come down to identifying those who are behind this very specific problem. And if we can sort of cut the snake off at the head, find the people behind it and stop them. I think we can solve the problem quickly. And that's what we intend to do.
Everyone, as we conclude today, just finishing where we started. We've all been fighting this battle against COVID the last year and a half. Thank you to all New Yorkers who have been vaccinated and everyone who will get vaccinated. We're turning the corner. It's not over, but we're turning the corner. But then we have to put our highest, best energies into fighting climate change. And what New York City is doing today, is an example of going to the next level. Commitment to invest $50 billion. That is the kind of investment that will help renewable energy become dominant, that will help save the Earth. This is what we need more of. New York City first in the nation to implement these policies and leading the way. Thank you, everybody.