December 15, 2021
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good morning, everybody. Well, listen, yesterday, we had really amazing moment here at City Hall and won this city richly needed and deserved, as one of our teams brought home a championship for New York City. NYCFC, New York city Football Club, great championship, the champions of Major League Soccer and we had just a beautiful celebration here. Incredible fans, everyone saying the same thing, NYC is blue, and it was just a beautiful moment. And I got to tell you, you know, after everything we've been through, it meant something especially important because this team, anyone to watch that championship game, they were down and out, it looked like, and they came back and they made it happen. And isn't that the New York City spirit right there? So, something to celebrate.
And something else to celebrate this city keeps lead in the way on the fight against COVID, keeps leading the way for this whole nation when it comes to vaccination. And, you know, we announced on Monday, an amazing fact, 90 percent, 90 percent of New York City adults have had at least one dose of the vaccine, leading the nation and keeping us safe in the face of new challenges. And I want to really put a point on this, the new challenges we're facing they’re profound. I'm watching other countries around the world, countries that have strong healthcare systems, strong economies, and yet they are going through hell right now. Look at Germany, look at Austria, look at the United Kingdom. Lots of problems, lots of challenges and they're starting to turn to shutdowns, to restrictions, and we've got to make sure that does not happen here. And this is why we are so focused on vaccination. We are so focused on aggressive measures to make sure everyone gets vaccinated.
Now, this starts with our youngest New Yorkers and we still have some real work to do, particularly with our five to 11-year-olds. We've now had the vaccine for weeks and weeks, and we're doing better than the rest of the country in terms of vaccinating the youngest New Yorkers, but we haven't reached enough of our children. We need parents to focus on this and one of the new approaches that we have in place is very much aimed at encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated. So, as of yesterday, our Key to NYC strategy was expanded to include five to 11-year-olds. First shot, of course only. And that is, is a message just as we saw originally with Key to NYC, with indoor dining, entertainment, fitness, it encouraged a lot of people to go out and get vaccinated because they wanted to be a part of those things and that's great. We want them to be, but we want it to be safe for everyone who works there, we want it to be safe for everyone who is a customer, want a safe environment. And now we got to protect against Omicron, against the cold weather and the impact that has in spreading COVID against the fact that people are going to gather for holidays. We love that, but we also know that's a time when COVID unfortunately spreads. So, we're taking the, that important step, expanding Key to NYC to reach the youngest New Yorkers. Why? To keep everyone safe and to encourage parents, to get their kids vaccinated.
And then, of course, the private sector vaccine mandate that takes effect on December 27th. This is the boldest action in the nation. It is very, very consistent with what we're dealing with right now because we have new threats, powerful new threats. We have to answer them. We cannot be too late to answer Omicron. This new variant moves fast. We have to move faster. So, the private sector mandate will go into effect on December 27th. Now, over these last days, our City agencies have been out speaking with business leaders and organizations, Small Business Services, Economic Development Corporation, Department of Health, they've all been out in constant dialogue to prepare the new guidance. And in fact, there's been meetings with 76 Business Improvement Districts representing neighborhood businesses around the city with all five Borough Chambers of Commerce with the Asian American Small Business Task Force to name just some of those organizations that have been consulted. We are going to be putting out our guidance and this is- to give you a sense, this is what's going out today. It's straightforward, clear language helping businesses to know exactly how to approach this new strategy and it's so clearly based on what we've done already with the Key to NYC and some people said to me, oh, you know, how are you going know it's going work with the private sector? Well, it already has. Key to NYC has had such a positive impact, thousands and thousands of New York City businesses using it right now. And in a very good way, their businesses are full, they're doing great, and people are safe. So, we're going be getting this information out immediately. You can go to nyc.gov/vaxtowork, vax to work, to get all the details, all the guidance for what will take effect on December 27th.
Now, look, a lot of folks have said, well, what's the approach to compliance enforcement. Look, we, you want a cooperative positive approach. That's what we did with Key to NYC. It worked, we've had extraordinarily high levels of compliance, a lot of dialogue, a lot of education. If we find a problem, we simply ask the business to address it, to fix it and they do overwhelmingly. In a very, very few cases we needed to apply penalties, but very rarely. The goal is not to penalize. The goal is to simply make this work. And of course, you know, we will retain the ability, if a business does not comply, if they refuse to comply, there are penalties and they start at a low level and then they grow, if there still isn't compliance, but that is not the goal. The goal is to simply make it work together. And we have a lot of evidence that’s what's going to happen with the vast, vast majority of businesses. Bottom line is we see all these challenges from COVID coming. We needed a preemptive strike. We are not going to end up in the situation that these other nations are in. We're not going to end up in the situation that some parts of this country are in, even this state where hospitals are overwhelmed, we can't let that happen in New York City. We need these strong measures now, and I fully expect we'll have a very positive experience working with the business community to make it work for everyone.
Now, while we're continuing to fight against COVID, we continue to bring back New York City. We continue a recovery for all of us, and that means building New York City, building it back up creating opportunity, creating new housing and particularly affordable housing, the things that we need, the things we needed before the pandemic, we still need them now and creating the jobs that we need in this city. And so today, a major historic moment later on in the day, then there's a lot of support in the City council for this. We look forward to the approval of the Soho NoHo Neighborhood Plan. And this is a tremendously important moment, not just because of new housing and jobs and the opportunity for local businesses to do better, but also because it says we need affordable housing everywhere in New York City, including in the most privileged communities, we need it everywhere.
We need a lot more of it to keep this a city for all of us. So, this rezoning which opens up Soho and NoHo, very-in recent years, very exclusive area, now have almost a thousand new affordable homes for everyday New Yorkers. This is a big deal and part of why this happened was something we got done in our first term of this administration, Mandatory Inclusionary housing, new law, that guaranteed when developers got the opportunity to develop more, they also had to include affordable housing. That's a big role here, but there's also a lot of smart actions in this rezoning to protect the community, the historical nature of the community to create a balance. Hadn't been rezoning in 50 years in this area, it was time to do something, to bring the community into the 21st century and really make it a community for everyone. The leader in this effort on the ground every day, she did extraordinary work and, and if you know her life and her career, you know that she has a passion for making sure that everyday people working people get fair opportunity. That's animated so much of what she's done. And she is about to leave office as I am. And I want to honor her for just being a tremendous public's servant. My pleasure to introduce Council Member, Margaret Chin.
Mayor: Have to say, Council Member, after all these years of knowing each other, it's been-I think about 30 years, I have never seen a day where you lacked enthusiasm. So, I don't know what you have for breakfast, but it works. It works. And you are going out with a bang with this historic rezoning that's going to make a huge difference and set a model for the rest of the city. And I want you to hear from the other key partner in this process, a Council Member who has really devoted herself to equity and making sure that we have affordable housing in every kind of neighborhood and want to thank her for being a crucial part of the team that made this happen. My pleasure to introduce, Council member Carlina Rivera.
Mayor: Thank you, Council Member, well said, and I particularly was struck by a very elegant sentence that you uttered. You said the underlying mechanisms of affordability are themselves is imperfect. That is a damn true statement. And one of the things we have tried to do altogether in these last eight years, all of us, is start to change those underlying mechanisms as you called it. And that's what mandatory inclusionary housing has been. That's what the decision to make sure affordability's happening in neighborhoods where it wasn't before is. There's a lot of pieces here that we have been changing as part of the fight against income inequality. And we're presenting a lot of evidence this week of how these approaches work. We've changed the approach to the Rent Guidelines Board, we've changed the rent laws in Albany. A lot of things we have to do, but Council Member you're right. There's still a lot of foundational stuff to be done to keep this city affordable, keep it a city for everyone. Thank you for the great work you're doing.
All right. Now, let's go to another topic and thank you again, Council Member. Another topic, which is about our future, a sustainable future, a future where this city can work for everyone. If we're going to have a city that works for everyone. If we're going to have recovery for all of us, we got to have a city that is clean and green and addresses the climate crisis. We got to have a city that addresses our congestion crisis, which has only gotten worse during COVID. We've got to recognize that there's approaches we haven't used, that is time to use. And when it comes to stopping emissions, addressing the climate crisis, making this city healthier, less congested, just look to the water because the water is our future. It was our past. This was one of the great maritime cities of the world for centuries. We need to look to the water again.
Now let me remind everyone, when we think about pollution, emissions transportation is the second biggest sector when it comes to pollution and emissions. It is a big part of the challenge. Big trucks cause congestion. 18 wheelers we need to have fewer and fewer of those in the life of the city. New Yorkers do not like congested streets, do not like trucks spewing pollution to all around their neighborhood. Going back to the water is the key. Some call it the Blue Highway. It's right there. You can see it. And it's not very crowded at this point. There needs to be a lot more activity because we know that so much of what we move around the city could be done on the water. Right now, unfortunately, about 90 percent of the goods that move around New York City are moved by truck and that's not healthy in any sense.
So, it's time to chart a new course. Today I'm announcing that in the recent budget modification, we added $38 million to start us on the path to a more sustainable future, to activate that Blue Highway of our waterways. And to turn to rail delivery more, to turn to delivery by electric vehicles more, smaller vehicles. There's a lot of changes. Our colleagues at the Department of Transportation led by Commissioner Hank Gutman have been really focused on changing the paradigm. We just talked before about changing the paradigm with housing. We got to change the paradigm with transportation as well. And this is the sustainable future for New York City. So, we know we're blessed by all these waterways. And we also know we're not tapping into that blessing. This could be a big solution for our future. The City is investing to make that happen now on a very big scale. There's actually pier facilities, port facilities all over the city that we can tap into. We're going to start that process right now and it'll get built over the future.
And look, we have another model right now in front of us that we innovated in these years. I'm very proud of it, NYC Ferry. This used to be a city with ferries all over the place. Over the years it became very, very few. We've turned that around with NYC Ferry, reaching neighborhoods all over the five boroughs, including a lot of neighborhoods that were transportation deserts. And we're helping people get out of their cars. We're helping people have a better way to get around. And it's exciting because NYC Ferry has only just begun as well. So, I want you to think about the parallel of moving people around and moving goods around. We are just at the beginning of what could be a revolution in how we move things around this city and how we live in this city. I want you to hear from someone who has been a visionary, an early believer in some of our bold policies like Vision Zero, someone who believes we have to find many more transportation alternatives and he's fought for it as Chair of the Committee on Transportation in the City Council. My pleasure introduced Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Council Member. And Council Member, we're doing something else really important in this budget modification that was announced a couple weeks ago, which is we are going to study for the first time, bringing together our subways, our buses and NYC Ferry under a single fare. And this is really amazing because look, we're going to continue to run NYC Ferry. It's something the City created, the City runs. The MTA will run the subways and buses, but there's no reason we can't find a solution that means if you get on a ferry, you can transfer for free to a subway. Or if you get on a subway, you can transfer for free to the ferry. So, we have a $1 million study in this budget to see if we can revolutionize the approach. Imagine – right now everything, the bus, the subway, the ferry, they're all the same fare. What if we made it just one, unified fare and you can move from one to the other, to the other. And encourage people to get out of their cars, encourage people to use the ferries more, get on the water. This is the wave of the future. So, this is going to be an exciting opportunity again, to revolutionize transportation, get back to the water, get people to a cleaner, greener approach. We are going to all be working on this together. Thank you, Council Member. And thank you to all the members of the City Council who have been so supportive of all these new approaches to transportation in this city.
Okay, everyone. Now we got a special moment. And a few weeks back I had the honor of giving the Key to the City to a great Brooklynite, Clive Davis. We had a beautiful ceremony as of part of one of these press conferences. Well, we're going to now honor a great Manhattanite. But she – her impact reaches beyond Manhattan, beyond the five boroughs, beyond the State of New York, truly reaches the whole country. And she's one of the greatest champions for civil rights that the City of New York has ever known. And that's saying a lot, that's saying a lot. But what I also love about her story is she's another example of people who came here from somewhere else and just made this place better. And that is our magic. Some of us as New Yorkers have been here for many generations and some just arrived, but everyone together makes this place better. So, it was back in 1932, that Hazel Dukes was born in Alabama. And Alabama sent New York City a gift in 1955 when she moved here as a young woman. And brought a spirit and an amazing can do attitude to the work of civil rights. And that work is never easy. Many, many challenges along way and even setbacks. But what is striking, if you know Hazel, is her approach, her energy, her focus, it literally never waivers. I've not seen a moment, no matter how tough the circumstance where Hazel Dukes backed down. And she has in this city, been a conscience and a voice for change. But a voice of compassion and kindness. There are some voices of change that are honest, but maybe sometimes also a little severe. Hers is a warm and embracing voice of change. Strong, bold, but one that holds out hope for all of us. And she has been for years, the President of the NAACP of New York State. She is a member of the NAACP National Board.
But beyond what she has done as a leader, on a very personal note for me and for so many others, she was one of the people who helped us coming up. I remember vividly when I first got involved with the campaign of David Dinkins way back in 1989, Hazel was such a pivotal figure then. A lot of us looked up to her. A lot of us learned from her. And she took the time to nurture the next generation and the generation after that and the generation after that. So, it's not just what she has done, which is stunning in and of itself. It's that she has literally brought along a generation of leaders, multiple generation of leaders behind her. And that's a profound contribution to the City of New York. So, she now gets to join a pantheon of very special people who have done extraordinary things for the city. Now I'm going to walk on over and present you with this key, surrounded by some people who know and love you best.
[Mayor de Blasio presents Key to the City]
Hazel Dukes, congratulations. I present you the Key to New York City.
The floor is yours.
Mayor: Absolutely beautiful. And absolutely moving. Everyone, this is someone who epitomizes the very best of New York City. And richly deserves this honor. Let's give Hazel another round of applause.
All right. Thank you everyone. Her fan club came with her. Thank you, fan club.
All right. Well, a lot of good things happening today and now let's go over, as we do every day, our indicators and we got some challenges, but we got always the good news first, which is on vaccination, how far we've come as a city, how far we continue to go, the progress we continue to make. So number one, doses administered to date, 12,867,790. We're going to be at 13 million soon. Absolutely astounding. That's the good news. But on the other indicators, we continue to see challenges again, because Omicron is here, colder weather, all these things that are pumping up COVID that we need to fight back against. So, daily number of people admitted to New York City hospitals for a suspected COVID-19, today's report, 176 patients, confirm positivity level of 36.76 percent. Hospitalization rate per 100,000 people, today’s number is 1.38. And number three, new reported cases on a seven-day average, 3,103 cases, so that's a wakeup call right there is why we're going to keep doubling down on vaccination. Now a few words in Spanish and it's about vaccination. It's about our new vaccine mandate for the private sector.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that let's turn to our colleagues in the media, please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Moderator: We will now begin our Q-and-A. As a reminder, today we're joined by Dr. Dave Chokshi, Health Commissioner, Dr. Mitch Katz, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, Dr. Ted Long, Head of New York City Test and Trace, Georgia Pestana, Corporation Council, Jessica Tisch, DoITT Commissioner, Jonnel Doris, Small Business Services Commissioner, Rachel Loeb, President and CEO of New York City Economic Development Corporation, Vicki Been, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, Hank Gutman, DOT Commissioner, and Meisha Porter, Schools Chancellor. With that, we will go to our first question from Andrew from WNBC.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor, and everyone on the call. Mayor, a few minutes ago, you described your vaccine mandate as the boldest action in the nation, but I wanted to ask you about an aspect of it that may not come across as so bold. If we understand the way this policy is being enacted correctly, as long as a worker has their first shot by December 27th, they can come to the office. But if that's correct, won't folks have just come from large indoor holiday gatherings and that first shot, which they may have gotten the morning of the 27th or the evening of the 26th will offer them very little if any protection. So, how is that a bold action when other New Yorkers need to show full vaccination to go to indoor events starting that day?
Mayor: So Andrew, I appreciate the question. I'll start, I'll turn to Dr. Chokshi. What's bold is getting everyone vaccinated. The fact that we are at 90 percent of adults with at least one dose leads the and it's because we took actions that got people on that pathway to vaccination, and of course, overwhelmingly, people come back for that second dose, get fully vaccinated. We're seeing great response on boosters too. What's bold is reaching the next person, the next person, the next person, and using the tools we have to maximize vaccination and we understand it vaccination isn't an overnight thing, but what is crucial is to reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and that's not happening in much of this country, and that's where the danger is. So, the boldness is making sure are the maximum people –maximum number of people are vaccinated using our tools in a muscular way to make sure that happens. Dr. Chokshi.
Commissioner Dave Chokshi, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor, and you're absolutely right. This is a first in the nation action with respect to the private sector vaccine requirement and it is necessary on the grounds of protecting public health and safety, and I'm grateful to the Mayor for his leadership in taking this step which is particularly necessary with Omicron bearing down upon us. Andrew, to your specific question, if you go nyc.gov/vaxtowork, you will see my Commissioner's Order which lays out some of the details related to this requirement, and it is clearly delineated that that employees will have to become fully vaccinated for one of the mRNA vaccines, that's Moderna or Pfizer. That means both doses within the requisite timeframe or the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. So, as has been the case for all of our employer vaccine mandates over the last several months, the requirement is for full vaccination, but acknowledging that it takes some time to get to that that level of full vaccination. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Andrew.
Question: The next question has to do with the way these new mandates and restrictions are being absorbed by both officials and the public. For example, yesterday at Radio City Music Hall, folks going to the Rockettes, people were told, well, if your kid isn’t vaccinated, we're still going to let them in. We're not going to start enforcing this till December 27th, because we sort of know the city isn't really paying attention to this until December 27th. Again, going back to the idea that this benchmark is bold, are you really giving everybody weeks’ worth of cushion? And if so, what's the point of seeing that it starts December 14th?
Mayor: No, we are not giving that cushion. We always emphasize education, cooperation, helping to make sure that every business knows how to do things, but with indoor entertainment they've been doing already for adults, they've been doing already for older kids. They know how to do it. So there's no question they're sort of getting acclimated or preparing, they're already there. No, of course they have to apply it to five and 11-year-olds. We – look right now, I'll give you the facts, the older kids, Andrew, the 12 to 17-year-olds, we're now over 82 percent vaccinated with that group of kids. That's crucial. That's wonderful. But with younger kids, we're just under 25 percent. That's not enough, it's better than a lot of the country, but it's not enough. So no we mean business here. If you're any of the establishments covered by a Key to NYC, you have to be clear with families if they bring a five to 11-year-old, they got to have at least that first dose to be able to go into a restaurant, to a fitness area, or entertainment. If they don't have the dose, there's a really simple solution, go to one of the many, many, many sites that are giving vaccinations for free. Go get that first vaccination, get that card, come right back. It's not hard, but we've got to encourage everyone to get their kids vaccinated quickly before these challenges we're facing get even more intense with COVID.
Moderator: Next we have of Juliet from 1010 WINS.
Question: Yes, hi. Good morning, Mr. Mayor, everybody here on the call. So my question is, you know, you put up a slide which really wasn't sufficient in explaining what businesses are having to do. So could you or Commissioner Doris just explain what exactly private sector business has to do to comply with this mandate?
Mayor: Okay. So, let me just say again, that this a – I've reviewed it carefully myself. It's a really clear document. It'll be available to all businesses today explaining how to do it. And remember we have a model right now that is working with the Key to NYC. So, we're taking that exact same model. It's already been working on the ground for months for New York City businesses. We're applying it to other businesses. There's in a good way. There's not a lot of mystery when something's already worked and people have proven it can work, but we've laid out the rules that are very clear. Several of our commissioners have been deeply involved in creating these rules and working with the business community, Commissioner Jessie Tisch, Commissioner Jonnel Doris, President of EDC Rachel Loeb. I'm going to do an open call to any of those three, which one of you would like to jump in and start here? I going to call on one if I don't get one. Jonnel, you want to start?
Commissioner Jonnel Doris, Small Business Services: Yeah, sure, sir. So, I think it's important to note that along with the FAQs, we do have specific guidance and also materials that businesses can use in posting and also making a public aware. So,, first there is this need for a plan, businesses should have a plan in place, you know, to make sure that they maintain their work with vaccination records, which we also give guidance on. Also businesses should be ready with these records to present to folks that maybe come in to inspect or city agencies will come to do education as we will do at SBS to support these businesses. And then I think it's important that businesses also know that we have a sign that they can use as an affirmation to place in a visible location to show and demonstrate that their employees are in compliance and they're in compliance with this particular mandate. And then we always say, which is very important, 75,000 business plus businesses have contacted us through our hotline, where if there are specific cases or specific challenges that businesses may have, we are here at SBS to help explain and walk them through some of these criteria. So, it’s 8-8-8-SBS4NYC and its listed on all the materials as well, and businesses can continue to reach out to us for further clarification as needed.
Mayor: Great. You covered some good ground. Let me just see if either Commissioner Tisch or President Loeb want add anything.
Commissioner Jessica Tisch, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications: Sir, I think Jonnel hit it all. Thank you.
Mayor: All right. Okay, go ahead, Juliet.
Question: Thank you. My office has just informed me that the health commissioner in Philadelphia is advising against holiday gatherings of multiple households. Is this something that you're looking at or considering, or does Dr. Choskhi want to weigh in on how you feel about something like that?
Mayor: Well before we turn to Dr. Chokshi, I'll simply say this, first of all, anytime we want to make a formal announcement, we obviously do, so that's not something we've announced. But Dr. Chokshi has provided constantly guidance about the right way to go about gatherings and everything else starting with vaccination and obviously smart use of masks and other tools. So, we are going to be really clear. It's always about vaccination. If people are vaccinated, if people getting those boosters, that is the way to make gatherings work best, and with that I turn to Dr. Chokshi.
Commissioner Chokshi: Thank you so much, sir. And yes, we do want people to stay safe this holiday season. We know particularly after the difficult year that people have gone through and such a challenging holiday season last year, that people will be gathering, you know, over the next few days and weeks, and our emphasis is on making that as safe as it possibly can be. I'll reiterate some of the guidance that we've put out about this. You know, number one, as the Mayor has said, vaccination is very important. When you're gathering with other fully vaccinated people and even more so if everyone who's eligible for a booster has gotten their booster, that makes any gathering more safe. Number two is there are some common sense precautions that we know will help. But my practical guidance is to plan around the most vulnerable family member, whether that's a child younger than five who's not yet eligible for vaccination or a senior in your family or someone with a weakened immune system. You know, those situations may mean that you choose to have a virtual gathering or have events outdoors rather than indoors or use masking and distancing to help make, you know, gatherings safer. The third thing that I'll say is that testing also provides an important layer of safety. We recommend testing both before and after any significant gathering, which leads me to my final point which is that smaller gatherings are of course safer. You know, we do recommend not to participate in larger gatherings if they're at all avoidable, and instead to keep it to a small gathering with family and friends. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead.
Moderator: Next. We have Julia from the New York Post.
Question: Hey, good still morning, Mr. Mayor. I am wondering if you can respond to something – you mentioned that, you know, the City had checked in with the five chambers of commerce. We spoke to Brooklyn Chambers Randy Peers last night, I just wanted to, to tell you what he said and get your reaction. He said he disagrees with people losing their jobs over vaccines. He says it's a bad policy and a mean spirited policy to do around the holiday time. You know, he said people losing jobs and livelihoods over this is just wrong and it's should be challenged. So can you respond to that? And, and do we expect to see people losing their jobs from enforcement from city agencies before the end of the year?
Mayor: Well, let me say to you, Julia, first of all, obviously I have not spoken to Randy to hear the fullness of his view. So, I'll keep my response broad. I’ve known Randy forever and I have a lot of respect for him. We expect this to work the way all the other mandates have worked, and in fact, what we have seen is that mandates cause people to make that decision, yes, I'm going to get vaccinated. It's just happened so consistently now. And again, we talk about the other day, when we started vaccination a year ago, we then got up to the middle of August of this year at about 60 percent of adults who had had at least one dose. When we put the mandates in place, its supercharged our efforts, we're at 90 percent, an amazing figure, 90 percent of all adults with at least one dose. We saw every single time we put mandate in place. It was the decisive factor in getting a lot of people to move. So, I do not expect people to be losing their jobs because we have a body of evidence that shows that people make the decision, when it's really the moment of truth, they make the decision to get vaccinated. And we've got to keep everyone safe, we're up against a new challenge. So, I think it is in fact, a positive spirit to say let's make sure this city doesn't have to shut down again, which would be the worst thing in the world for people, for families, for their livelihoods. And I believe this policy is going to be proven right as all the other mandates have been. Go ahead, Julia.
Question: Thanks, and just related, you know, we've talked a lot about the cities come back and obviously a big part of that is jobs. Why do you think the city's unemployment rate remains so stubbornly high at 9.4 percent, which is double the national average, and double many parts in the state. And what role do the mandates play in keeping it that high?
Mayor: That there's no correlation that I know of at all between the mandates and the unemployment rate. In fact, I'd say it's the other way around, with all due respect, Julia, that because we are safe, because this city leads the nation in terms of levels of vaccination, because everyone knows this is one of the safest places to be, that's helping us to bring back jobs. We put the mandates in place for our restaurants, for example. Our restaurants are booming, the combination of the mandate, so that customers and employees were safe, pus outdoor dining has been a powerful combination to protect that industry and bring back a lot of jobs. Across the board we see tremendous progress, there's no question we will regain those jobs. But what has hindered New York City? Well, one, were the epicenter, we were hit the hardest and that had a particularly painful impact. And two, we are a global city. And so while travel keeps getting disrupted, that undermines tourism, that undermines business travel, that of course has an impact on us more than many other places, but those jobs will come back. There's no question in my mind, and in fact, right before the pandemic, we were at the all-time high in employment ever in New York City history, 4.7 million jobs, our Office of Management and Budget projects that we will reach that number, and surpass that number in the years ahead.
Moderator: Next, we have Emma from the New York Times.
Question: Hi, good morning, Mayor. I wanted to see what you thought of the idea of Eric Adams, having a Deputy Mayor for Public Safety. What do you think of that model? And then do you have concerns about Phil Banks getting that job which we expect since he was investigated by federal officials in a money laundering case.
Mayor: Well, first to the question of the approach, every Mayor literally – Emma, you’ve probably studied this – that every Mayor has had a different approach to how many Deputy Mayors and what they do. We chose a particular alignment, but for example, when I served in the administration of David Dinkins, there was a Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, it's a model that definitely can be effective. It really depends on what each mayor's trying to do in terms of how they structure things. So, certainly – look, Eric Adams knows a lot about public safety from his own extraordinary experience, so I respect that choice. As for Phil Banks, I worked with Phil Banks for a period of time at to beginning of my administration. He's a very capable person. I didn't get to know him as well as I might have, because it was a pretty short period of time. But he's certainly someone that brings a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge, and someone that clearly Eric Adams has a lot of faith in, and that's important choosing leaders that you feel you can work well with. Go ahead, Emma.
Question: And then, yeah, my second question. The announcement yesterday was historic. This is the first female Police Commissioner, the third Black Police Commissioner, which made us wonder why didn't you appoint a Black person or a woman as Police Commissioner in your eight years?
Mayor: Well, listen, I don't know the new nominee, Chief Sewell, I don't know her, but I hear great things about her and her work, and I think it's great that that history is going to be made. And I think that's definitely good for the city. Every Mayor at the moment they're in has to choose the people they think will be best to achieve the specific goals. Now, remember, I had a different situation. I had the opportunity to bring back someone who I think has been acknowledged as probably the greatest police leader of the last half-century or more, Bill Bratton. And, to me, he was the perfect choice to achieve the big changes we wanted to. We wanted to create a new model of policing with neighborhood policing. We wanted to end the era stop and frisk. We wanted to really transform the NYPD, but we needed a leader who would be perfect for that mission. And there's no question in my mind, Bill Bratton was the right choice. And then, in doing the work with Bill Bratton, I got to know Jimmy O'Neill, and Dermot Shea, and came to have a lot of faith in their ability to keep playing out that vision. It was, to me, Emma – I hope this – I can say this clearly. Once we perfected and, sort of, detailed the concept of neighborhood policing, it became mission critical to make that work. And the folks who were architects of that, I was very devoted to, because it was such a sea change in policing the city. I believed it would make us a lot safer, and it did for six years, and it will again. But I also believed it would start to transform the relationship between police and community. So, I chose the people who helped build that and I thought could continue to deepen it.
Moderator: Next we have Gersh from Streetsblog.
Question: Hey, Mr. Mayor. Thanks for taking my call. I hope you can he hear me, I'm down [inaudible] –
Mayor: We can hear you loud and clear. You have a strong voice, Gersh.
Question: Well, thank you for that. It's good, these calls are diminishing in number so I'm glad you took me. Hey, listen, I'm just a bit confused about today's announcement about the freight and the blue highway. You said you're allocating money to start us on the path for more sustainable deliveries, but what are the specifics here? Because I think I've heard this language before about starting the process and I'm actually in Red Hook right now with environmental advocates who say that you've never changed the rules to prevent communities of color from being overwhelmed by last-mile distribution centers in neighborhoods like Red Hook. So, perhaps you could address that. And also, Commissioner Gutman, because I'm told he's not going to take questions at the 1:00 PM presser.
Mayor: Yeah. Actually, Commissioner Gutman had to leave, I believe, for an MTA meeting, but Deputy Commissioner – he is on? Oh, I'm sorry. Late breaking news, Hank Gutman is on, so I'll let him speak to in the moment. But Gersh, the bottom line here is to get out of the era of the 18-wheeler, to get away from big trucks, turn back to the water. When you talk about last-mile, to use much smaller vehicles, electric vehicles. We've put money in to build the approach to do the initial work, the studies, the personnel to do it. We've put money in for capital projects to start to build it out, because, again, we have obvious pier facilities publicly-owned already that could be part of this. That's what we are starting. And I think it's going to be the beginning of something very big. Commissioner Gutman, you want to jump in?
Commissioner Hank Gutman, Department of Transportation: Absolutely, Mr. Mayor. And I am at the MTA, because I'm about to go into their board meeting to talk about buses, which we're working on together. But we're quite aware of the situation in Red Hook. We're quite aware of the situation in Sunset Park. I've taken tours with my team. We've met with the advocates. We've met with the local elected officials. And I think we share a common objective here, which is to keep oversized polluting trucks from destroying the quality of life in neighborhoods all around the city, including, in particular, those. Now, the intermodal transportation places to offload from larger vehicles to small green vehicles for the last mile present a challenge. But we have a common objective here to make sure that we minimize as the impact of trucks. And that includes in these communities. And some of them are developments as a matter of right, so there's not a way to prevent them. But we certainly have the ability and intend to use it at the DOT to minimize the traffic impact and to make sure that they are good neighbors. The second thing I would add is, the event this afternoon, Gersh, is all about using our blue highway, which the Mayor talked about earlier today. And the great advantage of the blue highway is – and one of the advantages of these waterfront locations is the goods arrive not by big truck, but by boat. And then you unload them at those distribution centers, into cargo bikes, etcetera. So, I think there's a way here to find the true path. And we're determined to work as hard as we can to make that happen. And we certainly recognize the community interests. That's why we're doing this. But I do have to leave though, I apologize.
Mayor: No problem. Well said, Hank. Thank you. Go ahead, Gersh.
Question: Okay. It's funny, he mentioned bus speeds, because that was my second question. You know, bus speeds, which you promised to improve at the start of your term are not improving. Citywide rush-hour bus speeds are down from 7.9 miles an hour in January 2015, to 7.4 miles per hour now down in the boroughs as well. Clearly, those drops – you know, it's a small number of mile per hour in overall speed, but you vowed to move them in the other direction. Now, obviously, car traffic is a big part of that problem. The lack of NYPD enforcement, which we've documented. Also, the lack of curb management, you know, through loading zones, dynamic pricing, other tools that advocates have been talking about for years. So, perhaps, at long last, eight years in, you could give us a broad overview of why you have failed to improve bus speeds overall, despite a few high-profile successes like 14th Street.
Mayor: Oh Gersh, Gersh, Gersh – ye of little faith. I respect you, and respect your knowledge, and your passion for your subject matter, but I think that's just not the accurate way to portray what's happened here. We have created busways for the first time in the history of city and, yes, 14th Street has been a tremendous success, but there's a lot more than that. The biggest in New York City history, Jamaica and Archer Avenues in Queens, the shape of things to come. More and bigger bus ways, they are nascent. They're going to have a big impact as they grow. Select bus service, which we've deepened is going to have a big impact. But it's impossible to talk about the lasting impact – one, when these things are just starting; two, when the last few years when we've done these things have overlapped with a global pandemic, which very sadly has caused many, many people to turn back to their cars. And we've talked about it. We've documented it. It's not a state secret. We've got to get at people back out of their cars. That's what's going to open up the space for the buses. That's going to change the whole dynamic. And they will. The subways, for example, are getting close to about 60 percent of pre pandemic ridership. That's going to keep growing. We’ve got to defeat COVID one more time to get things a lot more back to normal. But, unquestionably, the focus on buses is going to yield a tremendous amount. And the focus on the water – every time you get an 18-wheeler off the streets, you're opening up space for buses to move more quickly. Every time you get people riding a ferry rather than being in their private vehicle, you're opening up space for buses. Every time we move on important policies like congestion pricing, we reduce a number of cars coming in. It's all connected. And I think you're going to see in next few years those speeds go up and more and more people attracted to mass transit. And that's the fundamental goal.
Moderator: Next we have Steve from WCBS 880.
Question: Hey. Good morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you today?
Mayor: Good, Steve. How have you been?
Question: Doing well. Hope you'll excuse me if I ask two quick logistical questions here for my first question on the private employer mandate. First, I'm looking for any specific penalties you have. I know you said they start low and go higher after the initial education and cooperation type of efforts. Are those penalties financial? Would companies be forced to fire unvaccinated people? And then, on reasonable accommodations, from what I can tell, employers have to go through a checklist to make sure religious accommodation is actually valid. And that's really the only way the City can, you know, do any kind of compliance enforcement on that. So, how do you make sure those accommodations are only given out in cases where they should be?
Mayor: Fair questions, Steve. One, on the penalties, again, we've had the experience with Key to NYC of not needing to use a lot of penalties. But they do start at $1,000 dollars per violation if we need to use them. And we can escalate that intensely if we see a pattern of willful refusal to follow the law. The Commissioner's Order is a very serious thing in the middle of a pandemic. And I actually think the vast majority of businesses took that very, very, very seriously. We did not need to use penalties, but that's what we have in our toolbox if we need to. Reasonable accommodation – again, what we're seeing is, overwhelmingly, the vast majority of people, just get vaccinated and don't even attempt reasonable accommodation. Of some who do, some get approved. Many don't and then get vaccinated. It's been a consistent pattern. We're providing the framework. We will follow up with businesses. We will make sure they understand. We will, you know, obviously, watch if there's any pattern that looks like the process isn't being done in an accurate way. We'll follow up with them. We’ll work to improve it. But I think what needs to be understood here is, the vast majority of businesses want their people vaccinated, customers of those businesses want people vaccinated, the folks who are on the fence about getting vaccinated get motivated to get vaccinated when it becomes an important choice for themselves and their families economically. It has happened over and over and over again. We have a lot of proof. And there's a reason why 90 percent of New York City adults have had at least one dose. And that's a super, super, super majority of people in the city who believe in this and want it. And I think that's going to also create even more momentum for the last folks who still haven't gotten it. Go ahead, Steve.
Question: Thanks. And just following up on the reasonable accommodation part of it, given that this is something that employers have to certify, and there's really no way for the City to, kind of, double check that, employers, I don't know, will have too much motivation to fight their employees on this, given that this is a City mandate, something they're being forced to do. You know, it just seems a, like this is a very, kind of, gray area for employers to be the ones who determine who gets an accommodation and who doesn't. And this could be, kind of, a way to game the system. So, how do you prevent that?
Mayor: It's a fair question. I'll let our Corporation Counsel join in, in a moment, Georgia Pestana. But look, Steve, I would disagree on the facts on the history with we've had. We did the Key to NYC – restaurants, indoor entertainment, fitness, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of employees – and we did not have a problem with this, and that's been gone for months. In the end, people take the mandate as the signal is time to get vaccinated. Now, to your question, do we have the ability to look into the process if there's a concern? Sure, we do. The Commissioner's Order says that people need to be vaccinated. And the exception is whether there's a valid, reasonable accommodation. If there's any concern that the process may not have been done right or there may not even be a process, of course we have a right to step in and make sure the process is working and make sure there's adjustments. So, I want to be very clear about it. I don't think it's something we're going to have to do a lot, but it's something that's absolutely available to us. And to further clarify, the City's lawyer, our Corporation Counsel, Georgia Pestana.
Corporation Counsel Georgia Pestana: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I just want point out that, in New York City, employers who have four or more employees already do reasonable accommodation processes for their employees. It's the law that when somebody can't comply with a requirement or needs an accommodation to be able to do their work, they – employers undertake the reasonable accommodation process. So, it's not a foreign concept to the overwhelming number of employers in New York City. And to the Mayor's point, when inspectors go out and look at the paperwork, if they notice that everybody in the workforce has been granted an accommodation – well, that's a flag and a conversation can occur. But – so, there are ways for the City to check and make sure that the process is not being misused.
Mayor: Exactly right. Thank you, Georgia. Go ahead.
Moderator: We have time for two more questions for today. The next goes to Paul from the Staten Island Advance.
Question: Hey, Mr. Mayor. How are you doing? Can you hear me all right?
Mayor: Yeah, Paul. How have you been?
Question: I'm well, sir. Thank you. Regarding that certificate affirming compliance, was that something that existed in previous mandates? And will that be sufficient for inspection?
Mayor: So, I'll turn to, again, Georgia, since we just had her on here. Let's keep her momentum going, because this is a very simple tool that's just going to allow everyone to make clear what's going on. Georgia, do you want to speak to that?
Corporation Counsel Pestana: Under the Key to NYC order, there is already existing a certificate that – or a posting that places their subject to Key to NYC – will post after they fill out the information on the website. This works similarly to that. You go on the website, fill it out, and print it out, and post it. Or, I know that Small Business Services will mail it out if someone prefers to get a hard copy. So, this existed under Key, and it's just being expanded under the new Commissioner's Order. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you. Go ahead, Paul.
Question: Thank you for that. And just – I guess, one follow up for the Counsel. How does this compare to prior mandates and what does the City see as its legal standing?
Mayor: I’ll start and then I'll turn to Georgia. We are very confident of our legal standing, Paul. We have been in court multiple times on multiple mandates – state court, federal court – won every single time. And, by the way, let me just do a shout out to Georgia Pestana. As Corporation Counsel, she has been an extraordinary leader, also a history-maker as the first woman Corporation Counsel in New York City history, and has an extraordinary team. There's a reason they won all those court cases. They were right, legally. But they also are great lawyers. So, with that lead-in, Georgia Pestana –
Corporation Counsel Pestana: You are right, Mayor, that we are great lawyers and that we are right. But we rely on the wonderful work of the Department of Health and the Commissioner of Health. He has the authority to issue these mandates and protect public health. It is an obligation that he takes very seriously. And when there is a feeling or understanding – and based on the science – that it is time for the city to take the next step, he raises it, and we move forward. So, we are confident that he has the authority to issue this mandate and we will defend it if anyone challenges it. Thank you.
Moderator: Our last questions for today go to Michael Garland from the Daily News.
Question: Good morning, Mr. Mayor. How are you doing?
Mayor: I am doing well, Michael. Are you preparing for this joyous holiday season?
Question: I am. I am. It's taken up a lot of energy, actually. But fun, too. I had a question about the vaccination rules regarding businesses. Can you talk a bit more – and your colleagues as well – maybe on how the City's going to enforce this? How frequent will inspections be? And in a similar vein – a similar note, what is this City doing to enforce Governor Hochul’s recent mask mandate, if anything, given this, kind of, window between now and the 27th?
Mayor: Yeah. So, first of all, we have a great enforcement model from Key to NYC. And I – we keep coming back to this, because it's so extraordinarily pertinent, Michael. We applied something – you remember at the time when we did the mandate for restaurants and entertainment, fitness? You know, a lot of people said – oh, how's this going to work? And what's going to happen? And is it going to affect business negatively? Or, are people going to leave the industry? And we found it worked beautifully. All of these parts of our economy are booming. You know, Broadway is full, restaurants are full. It kept everyone safe. That safety encouraged customers to come back and keep coming back. And the vast, vast majority of businesses complied. We went out, we did have – we had education, and then we had enforcement, and we didn't have to do a lot of penalties because we – we saw a problem and we had Department of Health, and a variety of other agencies involved, they would identify the problem to the business, and, overwhelmingly, the businesses fixed them. So, we'll have Department of Health and other agencies out there again with a goal of just problem solving – educating, problem solving. See a problem, fix a problem. Unless there's unwillingness to follow the law, we think we’ll be in the situation where we don't need to apply penalties at all. Now, on the mask mandate from the State government, we take it very seriously. Of course, we are working with businesses as well on that. And our teams are out, and educating, and making sure people follow that as well. The good news, obviously, is, the more people vaccinated, because there's a clear exception in the Governor's order for where everyone's fully vaccinated. And the more people are vaccinated the more freedom they're going to have. But yes, we are out on all those fronts, making sure that all of these approaches come to life. Go ahead, Michael.
Question: So, on the Mayor-elect, going back to Emma's questions, what kind of message will it send if Phil Banks becomes Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, when it comes to rank and file cops, given, you know, his past legal travails?
Mayor: Look, Michael, I understand the question, but I just want to emphasize – first of all, here you have an incoming mayor who deeply understands public safety, who has lived the life of our officers for over 20 years. He served as a member of the police force and is choosing someone who was a long time at the NYPD. I think that – that all follows through pretty fairly. I think – again, I know enough from the time I did work with Phil Banks to say, he's a capable, experienced person. So, I think the bottom line is, I think there's going to be a lot of respect as the Mayor-elect walks in the door, that this is an area he cares about deeply, he knows a lot about, he's choosing people that fit what he learned in his long experience. And I think everyone is going to assume that that's going to help him be effective in taking us to the next level. I thoroughly believe we're handing him a situation with neighborhood policing and with all the other changes we've made that he will be able to continue to make this city safer. We have been and we will be the safest big city of America. And he'll continue to deepen the reforms, because not only was he a police officer, he was a police reformer from the very beginning. So, I just have a lot of confidence that we're going to see some very, very good outcomes for the people in New York City.
And with that, everyone, another day where we have lots of evidence of the strength and resiliency of this city. As we're going into the holidays, my message is clear – want to have a beautiful, wonderful holiday season in the city. It's always the most amazing time of the year. But it's going to be particularly amazing if everyone in the family gets vaccinated. And no better day than today. Thank you, everyone.