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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Media Availability

November 3, 2021

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. Well, we saw democracy in action yesterday, and I want to offer my congratulations to Mayor-elect Eric Adams. I'm really, really excited about what Eric's going to be doing for New York City, going forward. This is a really good day for our city. Overwhelmingly, the people of this city said Eric Adams is the right choice to lead us into the future. And I can tell you, I know him well. I've known him a long time. I think he's going to be an exceptional mayor. I look forward to helping and supporting in any way over these next weeks as he gets ready. And I think it's going to be an example of a really great handoff. Eric Adams is going to take us to the next level and help bring this recovery forward in our city. It was a good day for New York City.

Congratulations also to Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander, both of whom I think are going to be exceptional in their roles. Congratulations to those elected borough president, City Council members, everyone. This is a chance for a whole new generation of leaders to come forward at a time where our city is ready to not only recover but go beyond where we were before. That's what a recovery for all of us means. And I think New Yorkers made some really great, great choices yesterday.

So, now, getting back to our recovery. The key to recovery is vaccination. We got great news from Washington. Now, we're seeing the approvals of the vaccine for the five- to 11-year-olds. There's one more piece we’re waiting for from the CDC, but it looks quite certain. And so, we're preparing. As soon as we get that final authorization that tomorrow – tomorrow, City-run vaccination sites in New York City will be providing the Pfizer vaccine for five- to 11-year-olds. Tomorrow's going to be a historic day for the city in our fight against COVID as we reach our youngest New Yorkers. So, City-run sites will be ready, up and running, ready to go. Assuming we get that final approval today, they'll be up tomorrow. And then, right behind them will come the other sites around the city.

Also, want to make a major announcement. We're going to have in each of our schools that has kids in that five- to 11-year-old range, we're going to have a day for each school when vaccination is provided at the school building itself. That will start next week and we'll carry it over into the following Monday. So, starting on Monday, November 8th, vaccination in schools, one day per school. We're going to have lots of notice to parents. Of course, the school community's going to reach out to parents to let them know that there will be an opportunity to get their child vaccinated in their own local school. Of course, a lot of parents are going to go faster than that and go to our City-run sites as early as tomorrow. Of course, there are a lot of parents would rather go to their own pediatrician. All choices are good choices, but we want to make it available and easy for parents who prefer just to go to their local school building. So, every school will have one day that's their vaccination day – easy, convenient, free, as always.

Now, reminding everyone a child in that five- to 11-year-old range who's going to be vaccinated either has to have a parent and guardian with them, or we need consent either written or verbal consent from that parent. So, there's going to be a great effort to reach out. Every school community has lots of ways of reaching parents, letting them know this is going to be available. And look, I know – and I've been saying as a parent, I know parents of the city are going to be so energized to get their kids this vaccination, keep them safe. But it's important we do every single thing we can to reach parents, answer their questions, make it easy, make it convenient. Someone who has been fighting for vaccination to be as convenient as possible, grassroots as possible, someone who really understands the concerns of parents, and he has been a big supporter of vaccination efforts in our schools. He is a former teacher himself and he is the Chair of the Education Committee in the City Council. My pleasure to welcome City Council Member Mark Treyger.


Mayor: Thank you, Council Member. And you've really been a strong voice and you've helped us get a lot done for our kids in so many ways. I want to thank you for that. And I know you're going to spread the word and school communities are going to spread the word. This is going to be a great opportunity. You know, every child that gets vaccinated quickly in these next days, that's going to be that much more protection for families and for our city. So, thank you for your leadership.

City Councilman Mark Treyger: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: All right. Now, let's continue talking about our recovery and how we move forward. And I always say, recovery equals safety, safety equals recovery – they go together. We know that the vaccinations have had a huge impact. We know that our vaccination mandate has had a huge impact. 92 percent of our City workforce now vaccinated. We know that these are the things that keep us strong, help us move forward. We also know that for years and years, New York City has been the safest big city in America. And we can say it in two ways now. In terms of COVID, we are one of the safest places in America, because we have one of the highest levels of vaccination. As of today, 86 percent of adults in New York City have had at least one dose of the vaccine. Talk about young people, in that 12- to 17-year-old group, 78 percent-plus already, and that's going to keep growing. So, that's one of the ways we're safe. We're also safe, because we have the finest police force in the United States of America and growing efforts at the community level to keep neighborhoods safe, community-based solutions to violence. They're having a big impact. We’ve got more work to do, always, but we saw progress in the month of October. We want to go over that today.

And strikingly important, in the month of October, 2021, compared to a year ago, last October, comparing these two months – and it says a lot – murder down almost 10 percent; shootings down four percent; shooting victims down 11 percent. Contrast that to what we're seeing nationwide. And it's very sad to say, nationwide, murders up substantially – 16 percent. And major cities across the country, Chicago, LA, Philadelphia, Houston – unfortunately, we're seeing murder rates going up. We're seeing more crime and that impact of COVID still a huge problem in many, many cities. In this city, real change is happening. We've got more to do, for sure, but real change is happening. And it's about precision policing. It's about neighborhood policing. These approaches work, focusing on where the guns are. Amazing – almost 400 gun arrests in the month of October. Gun arrests for the year, almost 4,000 – really striking numbers – a 14 percent increase over last year. I want to just thank all the men and women in the NYPD who have doing this incredibly important and difficult work, but crucial work. Getting these guns off the street, it's having an impact. The gang takedowns – huge number of gang takedowns, having the impact.

Let's look at the city as a whole. We have eight NYPD commands, eight borough commands, and what's striking is a number of them have now brought major crime indicators, most notably shooting – shootings back down to levels at, or near 2019 pre-pandemic. And that's really important. In Brooklyn, 20 percent year-to-date reduction in shootings. This is crucial. There’s a big story in Brooklyn that really bears witness that there have been amazing efforts made, even in the toughest of times, by the NYPD. So now, since May, as we put a new variety of strategies in place, preparing for the summer, Brooklyn South has actually now gotten close to 2019 levels in terms of shootings. Brooklyn North, down substantially from 2020. So, those are really powerful indicators in a borough that often had some of the biggest problems. Manhattan South has returned to 2019 levels. Queens, both south and north have seen a lot of progress the last few months, returning down closer to 2019 levels. Staten Island as well. We've seen in six of the eight borough commands, either reaching back to 2019 levels or substantial improvements compared to 2020. That's extraordinary and we need to thank the men and women of the NYPD for that and all of those doing the great work at the neighborhood level in communities as well, all of our community partners, all the folks out there stopping violence.

There are two places where we got real challenges that we have to keep our focus on. I know the NYPD is. I know the Cure Violence Movement and Crisis Management System are. The Bronx, still a challenge. Lots of resources being poured into address it. Manhattan North, as well. So, those two commands – those two out of the eight continue to be a challenge. The other six, really striking progress. And particularly, as I turn to Chief Harrison, I want to say, Chief, to you and everyone under your command – the fact that there are places in this city you've gotten now back to pre-pandemic 2019 levels, still while dealing with all the challenges that we still have with COVID – that is a great, great achievement. I want to congratulate you and all the men and women who serve under you. And I know you've got more to say about what we saw in the month of October. My pleasure to introduce Chief of Department Rodney Harrison.

Chief of Department Rodney Harrison, NYPD: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. Thank you so much. There's a lot of different ways we can measure safety and the perception of it, especially in this – in this big city. But just take a look at last Sunday, we had the Halloween Day Parade. We had over a thousand participants as well as spectators. There were no issues. And that's just a positive sign that the City's recovering. So, great job by Steve Hughes and the men and women on Manhattan South. But there's some things that we've seen since the start of the summer in June, where we were up over 200 shootings year-to-date. Now, Mr. Mayor, we’re only up 23 shootings compared to last year. And the decrease is due to the great work by the Summer All Out of our officers, the stronger connections with the community, as well as precision policing into our most problematic gangs.

And the Department is seeing positive progress in our decrease in shootings across the city. You talked about Brooklyn being down 20 percent. Queens has turned the corner, they're down three percent as a whole. And Staten Island is down nine percent. In the areas in Brooklyn where we've seen our biggest decreases, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East New York, Flatbush, Canarsie, and Brownsville, Brooklyn. These are areas that we've seen violence in the past and we're putting the appropriate amount of resources to make those communities a lot safer. And as a part of our overall precision policing strategy, we are focusing our attention on specific areas in the city that are causing some of the violence. And even though the Bronx is still struggling, the Bronx is the only borough in the city that has over 1,000 gun arrests year-to-date. That is an increase of 22 percent compared to last year. And to help combat youth-related crimes, the Youth Coordination Officers in a Bronx have made connections with 150 youth for the month of October. These connections with at risk youth are helping to provide the needed services that will pay off dividends going into the future.

Mr. Mayor, I want to talk about neighborhood policing. And it's back on track and it's working. You know, we just take a look at our Build the Block meetings, and, for the past three months, we've had 274 meetings identifying the issues with the community and working together to solve them. And we've seen the attendance numbers getting better and better. If anybody would like to go to a Build the Block meeting, reach out to your local precinct or go on, select find your Build the Block meeting, enter your address, and your sector will come up, your NCO’s will come up – your Neighborhood Coordination Officers will come up, as well as the next meeting for the Build the Block will come up. We need to hear your complaints so we can continue to make this a safe city. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much.

Mayor: Thank you. Thank you so much, Chief. Congratulations, again. We’ve got more to do, but real progress. I want to highlight the last point Chief Harrison made about folks getting involved. We need this now. Neighborhood policing is something that really has worked, but it includes, of course, the idea that we've got to get the public more involved. Safety derives not just from the presence of well-trained police officers, it derives from the community and we need people in the community levels could join those Build the Block meetings, to get involved. The whole idea of having Neighborhood Coordination Officers is to make personal the approach to policing, people know the cops on the beat, and know that they have – every, every New Yorker has information to offer to the police that could be helpful to them as they do their jobs. We want to be able to always connect with police, thank them, hear what they are looking at and how the community can help serve and support their efforts.

You know, this is really, really important. When police and community come together, it works. It works. We saw it for years and years before the pandemic. We're seeing it again now. So, that works. Neighborhood policing works. But I'll tell you what's not working. And this is a profound problem. I've called it out many times, as has Commissioner Shea, but it still hasn't been fixed – our court system. Listen to the latest, because after all the times that we've talked about the problems in the court system, we're still seeing very, very little change. Again, calling upon everyone in the court system, calling upon the State of New York, we need help. We can't achieve the safety that we deserve for all New Yorkers without a functioning court system. It's there for a reason, but we've been missing its presence in so many ways for the last two years, and that's just not acceptable. Compared to 2019, here are the facts – felony trials down 92 percent. Pleas in felony cases down 53 percent. Sentences in felony cases down 55 percent. This makes a profound impact. We can't achieve safety if there are no consequences for people do the wrong thing. And if there's no trials, there's no consequences. So, we’ve got to fix this. It starts with calendaring more appearances. We're calling on the courts. Appearances are way down. Start calendaring more so we can make this city safer. We need that help. We can do this together. We'll support it in any way. I've said to the court system, you need more space, you need help a vaccination, whatever you need, we'll be there. Let's get it done. Let's get it done so we can really move this city forward.

Okay. Let's go to our indicators. And we see continued progress on number-one, doses administered to-date. And I think we're going to see a big jump in the next few days now that we can reach our youngest New Yorkers. We are, literally, almost at 12, 100,000 doses, and that's about to go right up. Number-two, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for suspected COVID-19 – today’s report, 91 patients. Confirmed positivity, 18.28 percent. Hospitalization rate per 100,000 people, 0.52. And then, new reported cases on a seven-day average, further evidence vaccination’s working – today's report, 680 cases. A few words in Spanish on the amazing efforts of the NYPD and folks at the community level to make this city safer.

[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 Chief of Department Rodney Harrison; Dr. Mitch Katz; Dr. Dave Chokshi; Chief Democracy Officer Laura Wood, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea; DSNY Commissioner Ed Grayson; and FDNY Commissioner Dan Nigro. Our first question today goes to James Ford from PIX 11.

Question: And good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call.

Mayor: Good morning, James. It's a beautiful day in New York City. How are you feeling?

Question: I do enjoy when you say that and when I say that, and it is true. And I feel great. How are you, sir?

Mayor: I'm feeling good. It’s the power of positive thinking, my friend.

Question: All right. I like that. We'll dive in. Regarding vaccinations for children five- to 11. When you talk about City vaccination centers being available for the vaccinations, are we talking about Health + Hospital and Gotham Health locations? And the city – by having City locations be available, what does it say about pediatricians’ offices ability to administer vaccines?

Mayor: Yeah. We’re going to – these are great questions. These are questions on the mind of every parent and I really appreciate them, James. Let's let me turn to two very, very happy people right now, because they've been waiting for this moment. First, Dr. Mitch Katz is going to tell you about what's going to happen at our Health + Hospitals facilities. Then, Dr. Chokshi will tell you about Health Department centers, and also what's going to be going on with the pediatricians writ large. Dr. Katz?

President and CEO Mitchell Katz, NYC Health + Hospitals: Yes, you're right, sir. We're very excited at the idea that we're going to be able to vaccinate our youngest New Yorkers. All of the Health + Hospital facilities, starting tomorrow, will be doing vaccination for this group. We're busy training today and preparing all our materials and centers so that children starting tomorrow can get vaccinated. Thank you, sir.  

Mayor: Excellent. Dr. Chokshi?

Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you, sir. And I agree today is a really happy day for so many of us who have been caring deeply about extending the benefit of vaccination to some of our youngest New Yorkers. I know there are a number of parents and pediatricians who are breathing a huge sigh of relief. And so, with respect to the rollout as has been described, we'll be working across City sites, so that includes Health + Hospitals sites, as Dr. Katz mentioned, Health Department sites, and some of our other vaccination clinics. Those will all be ready to vaccinate starting tomorrow. But James, your question is a good one because we know that many parents will want to go to their pediatrician's office to actually get their child vaccinated. And that's what we've been working with, almost 1,500 providers across the city both pediatricians and family doctors, to get them ready, to vaccinate safely, to have these conversations with parents. And we expect that those will start coming online through the end of this week and really ramp up over the next few days. So, that's all terrific news. And the final piece, as the Mayor mentioned, is that we have our school vaccination sites and those will be ready to go next week. So, there's no wrong door here. We just want to get as many kids vaccinated as quickly as we can. 

Mayor: Amen. Go ahead, James.  

Question: Appreciate it. And on behalf of my colleague, Nicole Johnson, Mayor-elect Adams has proposed ramping up plainclothes units, for example, for the anti-crime unit. Do you – and welcome hearing from Chief Harrison as well – believe that the plan will work to drive crime down? Would the anti-crime unit plan change the community-police relationship? 

Mayor: Look, I want to say this. First of all, this is why we have elections. The Mayor-elect made clear his view. People voted for him, he's going to do what he thinks is right. And I respect that entirely. He is someone who spent his life in public safety and his life as a police reformer too. So, I really trust his instincts and his knowledge. I believe that what we did in the last year was the right thing to do. I commend Commissioner Shea. I think it was the right decision for many reasons. It was the right decision in terms of how to better utilize the talents of our officers to get those gun arrests and to get the prosecutions and make them stick. Commissioner Shea has spoken about this. I want to emphasize a lot of what was in that thought process there was, it's one thing to go and make an arrest, it's a very different thing to have a successful prosecution, and we needed a different approach. We needed an approach that also helped to improve the connection between police and community while still getting guns off the street. I think the decision the Commissioner made was the right one. And I think you see it in the huge increase in gun arrests, and more and more gang takedowns and successful prosecutions. So, I think it was good policy, but I also respect that the Mayor-elect has a vision, and I think it's a well-informed vision and I'm sure he will do it in a way that he believes in. And he said he wants to make sure whatever he does is respectful of communities. And I, obviously, take him at his word on that. Chief, do you want to add? 

Chief Harrison: No – just, you know, James, just real quickly, we're up 13 percent in gun arrests compared to last year. The men and women in the NYPD work very hard to protect a city. If the new mayor chooses to go a different direction, we'll support them and go forward with whatever he needs for us to do. But right now, we're still getting a job of getting a lot of guns off the street, a lot of illegal guns off the street.  

Mayor: Thank you. 

Moderator: Our next question goes to Juliet from 1010 Wins. 

Question: Yes. Hi, good morning, Mr. Mayor. Good morning, everybody. Just continuing with crime and criminal justice. Mr. Mayor, why aren't you speaking out more about bail reform? A lot of these crimes people – you know, even with the lack of court cases, a lot of these are misdemeanor assaults, quality of life crimes. People are attacking people or robbing Duane Reades and they're coming back out and doing it again. Why aren't you talking more about that or advocating Albany about that? 

Mayor: Juliet, let me put this in perspective. I appreciate the question. First of all, I will speak about that, but I want it not to be that folks are focused on bail reform only and not acting on the fact that our court system is not functioning. I find this a little strange, honestly, Juliet. There's endless discussion of bail reform, and it's an important topic. There's very little discussion about the lack of a functioning court system. Something's wrong with that picture. So, I would just ask people, please, look at this issue of why our courts are not functioning, please put pressure on the court system to serve all of us and help make our city safer. It's incredibly frustrating for everyone in the criminal justice system if one piece of it's not functioning and things can't happen and there's no accountability, there's no consequences. So, I don't think it's an either-or, I think we got to deal with both.  

As to bail reform, I said from the very beginning that the intention of the law was very good and there were some very good elements to the law, but there are also some things I think need to be changed. Some changes were occurred – were achieved, I'm sorry – some changes were achieved in April, 2020, and that was good. But more changes are needed. That bill needs to be fixed still. That law needs to be fixed. And I've been clear from the beginning, and I will advocate for those changes because we need them. But we've got to do that – and I also, honestly, Juliet, was quite clear that was not happening in the year 2021 in Albany, but I'm hoping it will happen in the year 2022 in Albany. But right now, in the year 2021, the thing we need is for this court system to wake up and serve the people in that city. Go ahead, Juliet. 

Question: Okay. Thank you. On another topic, the vaccination for the five- to 11-year-olds at school, will this take place during school hours and does the parent have to be with them at school at that time? And also, for your health experts there, what are the effects on vaccinations on children? You know, we know some adults have flu-like symptoms or they're very tired or have headaches. So, what do we know about that? 

Mayor: Well, two very different questions. And I'll tell you tomorrow, Juliet, we're going to go into detail on the school's plan, which will start on Monday the 8th. Yes, during school hours. As I said earlier, you got to have either the parent or guardian present, or we need written or phone confirmation of their consent. But we'll go over all those details tomorrow. It won't start until Monday the 8th. In terms of impact on kids and how to think about vaccination and obviously how to think about the safety it provides kids first and foremost, Dr. Chokshi followed by Dr. Katz. 

Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor, and you put it in the right context for the question. I'll start with the bottom line. COVID-19 vaccination for five- to 11-year-olds was strongly recommended by our nation's leading scientists. And this was based on data showing that the Pfizer vaccine is both safe and effective. And that's why beyond the data, you know, we should all listen to whom we consider the foremost experts on this topic – pediatricians, who are parents themselves, who are overwhelmingly urging vaccination. So, the most important effects to focus on are the fact that this brings very significant benefits to our children. If we were to vaccinate every New Yorker aged five to 11, it's estimated that we would prevent over 38,000 cases of COVID-19 just in New York City. And remember that some of these infections also result in hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and long-term effects from COVID-19. So, those are the effects that are most important for us to consider. But with respect to the side effects, of course, I know that this is a concern for parents as well. The most common side effects that were seen in the studies done among children were mild. So, the vaccines were quite well-tolerated – arm pain, some fatigue, some headaches, and body aches, very similar to what we have seen with vaccination in adults. Although the side effects appear to be more mild in children compared to in older age groups. So, those are the things that are most important, but again the bottom line is for us to focus on the fact that the benefits of vaccination are so strong and significantly outweigh any small risks or side effects. 

Mayor: Thank you. Dr. Katz, do you want to add? 

President Katz: I fully agree with Dr. Chokshi. In general, children bounce back much faster than adults do from vaccination. And I think the side effects that we will see will be very minimal and probably, for most kids, just be a little bit of pain in the arm and a few tears during the time of getting the shot. Thank you, sir.  

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead. 

Moderator: Our next question goes to Andrew Siff from WNBC. 

Question: Mayor, can you and your health team clarify what it is that you're waiting for from the CDC? Our best understanding is that once Rochelle Walensky, last night, signed off on the vaccine, and the State's COVID Task Force met last night and approved it, it is now legal today for providers in New York City and New York State to administer the vaccine right now, as long as they have it, and it's also our understanding that because Dr. Chokshi ordered so much of it in advance, there are providers who have it right now. So, can you explain what it is you're still waiting for? 

Mayor: Go ahead, Dr. Chokshi. You have the latest information. 

Commissioner Chokshi: Yes, sir. Thank you. And thanks, Andrew. So, yes, when Dr. Walensky signed off on the CDC authorization that does mean that providers are able to vaccinate. But remember that we have a range of providers, some of whom are more or less familiar with vaccination, particularly in the pediatric context. And that's where the final piece that the Mayor mentioned which is the CDC’s clinical guidance, it's called their Clinical Considerations, is very important because that includes a number of the safety checklists and detailed considerations that many providers will be looking for to make sure that they take every single step that's necessary to ensure safe vaccination of children. We do expect that the CDC will release that expeditiously. We're expecting that sometime today. And once that final piece is released then we'll have all of the information that we need for the full range of providers to get started vaccinating. We've been, of course, working to prepare providers for weeks now. So, these are just the final steps in the interest of making this as safe a process as possible. And as you mentioned, we do have a supply of vaccine. Some of it has already arrived in New York City. And we expect more of it to arrive in the next day or two which will be sufficient to get us through the initial couple of weeks of the vaccination campaign.

Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Andrew.

Question: For municipal workers, what is the status of the 12,000 who have applied for accommodations? Has that list number been changed? And have you seen any ongoing impact to City services with those placed on unpaid leave combined with the other list who are seeking accommodations?

Mayor: Very important question. Thank you. No, we're not seeing any noticeable impact on response times. For first responders, continue to be strong and where we need them to be. We're seeing no disruption of service, firehouses open, everything's moving forward. Sanitation has caught up a lot on what they needed to do. Right now, importantly, Andrew, we've gotten now over 25,000 City workers have gotten vaccinated since the October 20 announcement. So, that's well over a half of the folks that we needed to reach. We originally said was about 45,000 were unvaccinated. Now 25,000 of them, done. We've gotten of that group of people who have asked for accommodations, they're continuing to work while that process goes forward. But as I've said, that's a multi-stage process. They have an initial application, it’s screened, there's an opportunity for people to provide more information. There's an appeals process. That will play out over a number of days, but those folks keep working in the meantime. But what we do know is there's continuing to be people who come forward to get vaccinated. So, since the beginning of the workday on Monday, when everything was in effect, 2,600 City employees have come forward to get vaccinated. So, they're obviously coming out of that group that would have been on leave without pay, maybe even some of them coming out of folks who asked for accommodation. We'll get those facts as we go along. Clearly there's consistent movement towards more and more vaccinations. Whole City workforce, again at 92 percent. That's going to go up.

Moderator: Our next question goes to Courtney from NY1.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. How are you?

Mayor: Good, Courtney. How you been?

Question: I’m good. Thank you. So, sticking on the vaccine issue, do kids starting tomorrow, will they need an appointment or can they just walk right in? And I know you've spoken about this probably last month when you were asked about whether or not you think there should be some sort of mandate for children to attend school? Now that there's the approval for five to 11-year-olds, do you want to reconsider that? Do you think that's something you would do before you leave office?

Mayor: No, I have no plans. I've talked to the Chancellor, I've talked to our health care team. We have no plans to change our approach. We've got to respect the fact that our kids need to be in school. And the school environment is incredibly safe. Look, I'm very, very proud and everyone out there who's been a part of this should be proud. We're over 78 percent vaccination level for our 12 to 17-year-olds. But for the kids who are not vaccinated, you know, we know in many, many cases, that's their parent deciding not to give them consent to be vaccinated. I don't want that child penalized. I want that child to have an opportunity to get an education in-person and all the other support in the school community, same with the five to 11-year-olds. I don't see anything changing that. Obviously, the new administration will take that up and decide where they want to go. But I don't see anything changing it over the next two months. To your question about walk-ins, Dr. Chokshi. You want to speak to that? And Dr. Katz?

Commissioner Chokshi: Certainly sir. I'm happy to start. And the brief answer is that as with our other vaccinations, both appointments and walk-ins will be honored. I do strongly recommend particularly in the initial days, that parents book an appointment because we do expect that some sites will be particularly busy as people come in to get their child vaccinated in the early days. And we want to make that as smooth a process as possible.

Mayor: Dr. Katz?

President Katz: Same for Health + Hospitals. We'll honor walk-ins but because walk-ins can be an unpredictable volume without appointments, people might get stuck waiting. And having a small child with you while you're waiting is not a fun thing. So better to go with an appointment, but we will not turn people away.

Mayor: Dr. Katz as always, your wisdom is abundant. That is not a fun thing. I've been there. Courtney, go ahead.

Question: And then a political question for you, Mr. Mayor now that the mayor’s race is officially over, just wanted to touch base with you on your plans. When you plan to leave for Puerto Rico, what you plan to accomplish there and whether or not you'll make a decision if you're going to run for governor there?

Mayor: That's a lot of stuff. I've said very clearly. I want to continue in public service. There'll be plenty of time to talk about that and what form it will take. And when, you know that that's something we'll talk about going ahead. I do look forward as I have every year to participating in the SOMOS conference. It's a really important event each year. It's actually where most of the leadership of this state get together. And a lot of important work is done there that actually doesn't happen to any place else. So, I'm looking forward to that. Details in terms of schedule pending, but do you look forward to spending time with other colleagues and continuing the work we're doing.

Moderator: Our next question goes to Erin from Politico.

Question: Mr. Mayor, I wanted to ask you about some of the comments Eric Adams made last night and also this morning in some of his television appearances. You know, he's been talking about the dysfunctionality of the City, saying people have been abandoned by the City. You know, and that the City has failed to live up to its covenant, you know, to provide goods and services. I'm just wondering, you know, I know you've said in the past that, you know, candidates say things when they're trying to win an election. He's not trying to win an election anymore. He already won. And it's kind of leveling these serious criticisms of the state of the city under your leadership. So, I'm just wondering how you react to that?

Mayor: Erin, first of all, I'm very, very excited about Eric Adams becoming our mayor. Obviously, people know that I have a close relationship with them. I was very happy to see him become our nominee. I've tried to help him in any way I can. I hear his critique differently. I hear it very much as similar to what I said in 2013, about the tale of two cities. I think he's talking about not just recent years, I think he's talking about decades, even generations of inequality. And the way that government often didn't see the people it was representing or supposed to represent. And didn't distribute resources equally. That's what he's put his whole life into fighting against, those kinds of inequalities. It's what I've put my life into fighting against. So, I think it was a statement of his desire to keep working for fundamental change. And I respect that a lot. Go ahead Erin.

Question: Right. Right. Okay. I mean, just to follow up on that, you know, if he's still talking about the same themes that you were talking about back in 2013, does that mean we haven't solved the tale of two cities and during your administration?

Mayor: Erin, I don't think anybody literally, I don't know a single person who thought we were going to solve all the inequality of society in four years or eight years. Our job was to fundamentally attack them and make a difference. I know for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who have gotten affordable housing, their lives are different. I know the folks who experienced a rent freeze when they needed it, their life was different. For every family that got pre-K or 3K for free, their lives are different and better. All these actions fought inequality. Paid sick leave fought inequality. Keeping Health + Hospitals alive so that people could get quality health care, creating a guaranteed health care structure with NYC Care. All of this create a huge redistribution of wealth to people that needed it, to working people, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. That's how you fight inequality, but does that end inequality? No. Inequality is a profound problem that needs tremendous work, not just locally, but on the State level and the national level, and that work continues. And I have great faith that Eric Adams is going to keep making progress.

Moderator: Our next question goes to Chris from the New York Daily News.

Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor, how are you doing today?

Mayor: Good, Chris. How you been?

Question: I'm good. Wanted to follow up on something, Erin was just talking about and remarks that Eric Adams made at an after party yesterday. While I understand you're saying you interpret his critique as more of a sweeping commentary on failures by the City over the decades. When he was speaking at Zero Bond last night, a night club in Manhattan, he was specifically commenting about the current City budget and how New Yorkers have gotten used to being delivered an inferior product. And that even though there's a $98.7 billion budget, this continues to occur. And he compared it to quote, wasting tax dollars. So, I'm just wondering, do you agree with that characterization of your administration's usage of tax dollars? And if not, can you explain why?

Mayor: Chris, I haven't seen his comments. I'm not going to speak to comments I haven't seen or are just broadly interpreted. Look, his job is to take us to the next level. And I respect that. I think the City government has, and really credit to our City workers and credit to all the leaders here in City Hall and in our agencies. This City government saw the city through the greatest crisis in its history during this pandemic. If you look at what the Department of Health and Health + Hospitals did to save lives and help this city back, I think anyone would feel tremendous respect for what the City has achieved. If you look at the jobs coming back, if you look at the life of the city coming back, outdoor dining, and so many other things that have given people hope, the City government did that. There's so much to appreciate. And what we just talked about here, even in the midst of the toughest crisis in our history, the NYPD recording record levels of gun arrests. There's a lot to respect and appreciate about our City government. There's also a lot that we have to continue to work on. And always try and do better. And I really believe the Mayor-elect will have some powerful new ways of moving us forward. And I respect that. And I appreciate it. Go ahead, Chris.

Question: Thank you, and just wanted to clarify before I get to my next question, I'm not interpreting Mayor-elect’s Eric Adams’ comments, I'm reading verbatim from what he said, but I'll move on. In terms of your future plan and potential run for governor, you still owe the city $320,000 for usage of an NYPD security detail during your presidential campaign, and I'm wondering if you run for governor, will you commit to not using donations to that campaign to cover any debt that you owe for the presidential campaign? 

Mayor: They're totally different concepts, Chris, and more importantly the entire concept of whether money is owed is under appeal right now with the Conflict of Interest Board, and they will make a determination. So, I don't think we can say anything until we see what they ultimately decide. 

Moderator: We have time for two more questions today. Our next question goes to Paul from the Staten Island Advance. 

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

Mayor: Good, Paul, how have you been?  

Question: I’m well, sir, thank you. Regarding the city worker vaccination numbers, you've been saying about 91, 92 percent of workers are vaccinated, but six percent are un-vaccinated. I'm trying to get a sense of how those members square? 

Mayor: So 92 percent are vaccinated, and then we have a group of people, and it's about, let me get the exact number in front of me. I think it is 9,000. Yes, 9,000 are on leave without pay. And remember the total workforce is about 380,000. So, 9,000 right now on leave without pay. Those folks always have the opportunity to correct. They always have the opportunity to say, you know what, on second thought, I'd rather get vaccinated and come back to work. We saw a lot of that, obviously, at the Department of Education for example. We saw, as I mentioned, just since Monday morning, it's, you know, it's Wednesday morning now, since Monday morning, 2,600 more vaccinations from that group that was supposed to go into leave without pay. So, it continues to evolve, but obviously, overwhelmingly, our city workforce has made the decision better to get vaccinated, and so we're moving forward. Go ahead, Paul. 

Question: Thank you for that, sir. And for you and Commissioner Nigro, we're hoping to get a better sense of how the [inaudible] staffing needs are going on at day and how they compare to a normal service in more common times?  

Mayor: Yeah, I'll start and turn to Commissioner. I want to give Commissioner Nigro and his whole team a lot of credit, and there's a reason I chose a guy who has been a lifelong member of the fire department because he really understands the way to make things work even with this challenge, firehouses open, response times, as I said, response times good. And I want to thank all the men and women at the fire department who have shown up who have done the work. It's a challenging dynamic, but they've done it. They've done it well. And we're going to keep moving forward. Commissioner Nigro? 

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro: Sure, I'll start, you know, the fire department of course has EMS and fire. So starting with EMS, they're doing an unbelievable job. They're almost 90 percent vaccinated. I think today's morning report, I saw, we actually had a few more ambulances out than we might've normally had out, our response times are equal to any other time of the year, and we're providing the service that people expect. Our fire officers have over an 85 percent vaccination rate. They're not participating in any sickout, that's actually going on with the firefighters, and we're having no trouble staffing our units with fire officers.

Currently as we speak, now, we have 12 units out of service. Now, there are two third alarms in Brooklyn this morning, and a fifth alarm in Manhattan. This would not be unusual on any other day in any of the year. We have some units understaffed, and I would say the combination of the number of people on leave without pay, who have decided to not comply with the vaccine mandate, and an excessive sick leave rate amongst firefighters has forced us to have some understaffed units a day in and day out. That being said, the members that are working, those members don't have – staffed, our fire units are doing a tremendous job. Our response times are fine, and that fifth alarm was put out expeditiously as was the first third alarm, and members are working hard on the third alarm right now. 

Mayor: Yeah, and Paul remember, we have an unusually large fire department. There's a lot of redundancy. We have standards that provide a lot more manpower per each situation than is true in much of the country. We have great leadership making sure that the resources are where they need to be. So, Commissioner mentioned I think it was 17 units out at a 350, as he said, that's actually fewer units out typically than what we saw even before the pandemic, where on a given day you would have units and training or getting maintenance, and one thing or another. Commissioners team have managed this really well, and people are being served and people being protected in this city. 

Moderator: Our last question for today, it goes to Yehudit from Boro Park 24 News. 

Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, how are you? 

Mayor: I'm doing well. How are you doing today, Yehudit?  

Question: I'm great. I was wondering if the Commissioner Nigro can please explain to us why the Uniform Firefighters Association is denying that there's a sick out and that they're calling in sick, and how many are calling in – have called in sick, yesterday and today? 

Mayor: A very important question, Yehudit, and I'll start only by saying, you know, it's – you can see some things before your very eyes. The Commissioner obviously knows what typical days look like in terms of sick leave, and suddenly we see this increase at the exact moment when the mandate takes effect. It's not mysterious to me obviously, but Commissioner give the facts that will help all New Yorkers understand why it's a very unfair situation that people are staying out sick when they're not really sick, and really being unfair to their fellow firefighters and to all New Yorkers. 

Commissioner Nigro: Sure. You know, the – yeah, the union keeps saying there's no sick out, but I do like math, I always liked math because two and two always equals four, and that's the way things are. So, if on any given day, the fire department has a thousand people out sick, lo and behold today there are 2,200 people out sick. There's no listeria outbreak. There's no outbreak of some mysterious disease. And the numbers started going up nine days ago when the Mandate was announced. So, we had two days ago, 900 people visit the medical office, when an average day is 200. If that's not a sick out, tell me what it is. Of course, the numbers went down a little yesterday. They went down further today. So, we're hoping that members are doing what I said, and that is serving the public and serving their fellow firefighters that are coming to work and stopping this. 

Mayor: Commissioner Nigro your statement is eloquent in its clarity. I thank you. And we like math around here. I agree with you. Go ahead, Yehudit. 

Question: Okay, then also, Mayor de Blasio, you said that New Yorkers should go to neighborhood meetings to be more involved with policing, and of course ideally everybody would be involved with policing, but just realistically, people who work, have large families, probably have the attitude that city agencies who salaries are paid by their taxes should keep them safe without them having to attend meetings at night. I was just wondering how you would respond to that? 

Mayor: Listen, I can really understand that, and I appreciate that. I do think most people think – they have busy lives, they have a lot on their plate, a lot of struggles, every family has a lot of struggles, and they do think, hey, I want as much as possible taken care of for me, and that's fair, and that's understandable. Except, when it comes to policing, to be fair, the more people get involved, the better off we are. It doesn't mean everyone can do it, Yehudit. I appreciate that, and I want to hear Chief Harrison's perspective on this as well, but I'll tell you, it's not saying, oh, you have to, because we know most people are going to be otherwise engaged. It's saying for those who can, who have the time and energy, and that's a lot of New Yorkers who have come forward to get involved in working with their local precincts, it really helps. The police need to understand what's being felt at the community level. They need information to do their jobs. That community involvement makes a difference. Yehudit, it's important to understand, the notion that you could just hire police, send them in, everything's taken care of, that was debunked literally decades ago, and so many good people in American policing understand the true path to safety comes with a connection between the people being served and their guardians. It's not either-or, there has to be that connection. So, for those who do have the time and energy, we need them to be involved, we really do. It has made a world of difference through neighborhood policing. That's the layman's view. Now, let's turn to an expert. Chief? 

Chief Harrison: Yeah, Yehudit, I apologize, I didn't make it seem like you had to go to the meetings, but I do believe there should be a connection. And in order for us to continue to protect the city, having that relationship with your localized police officers, remember this, our neighborhood coordination officers have cell phones, they have email addresses, and working together with the community that they're assigned to protect, honestly is only going to cost access. So, you know, the most important thing that I want to share with you with neighborhood policing is working, it’s back up and running, and our connections with the communities is only going to make this a great city.  

Mayor: Amen. And every time a community resident tells a police officer, hey, I think something unusual is happening there. Hey, I think someone may have a weapon or there may be a problem brewing that needs to be stopped. I've heard these stories over recent months from the Chief. A lot of crime has been stopped. A lot of violence has been stopped because of those tips from neighborhood residents. That communication allows our officers to do the very best job they can. So, it really matters.  

Hey, as we conclude today, everyone, big day – big day today, but really historic day tomorrow as we get ready to vaccinate our five to 11-year-olds. We're really excited about this. Please, everyone, all the parents out there, all the family members, there's going to be a lot of people ready, willing, and able to safely and carefully vaccinate your child. Make sure they're safe. Make sure your whole family is safe. I want to just commend everyone, our health care heroes, our vaccinators, everyone who has done an amazing job keeping the city safe. Parents they've earned your trust by the way they've turned this whole COVID crisis around in the city and made us all safer. Our children are precious to us. Let's get them vaccinated. Let's keep everyone safe. Let's move out of the COVID era once and for all. Thank you, everyone. 



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