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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Visits Ingersoll Community Center

August 8, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio: Good evening everyone. I hope you’re enjoying our alternative press conference location here. It is wonderful to be here at Ingersoll on a beautiful summer evening. It is so exciting, what we’re seeing tonight. Everywhere I went in this center – I’ve been to this center before, I came here actually during the dead of winter. It is nice to be back in the summer but what’s happening here is extraordinary. The energy of the young people, the dance program was absolutely extraordinary, the video games, the skating program – amazing things are happening here. And this is exactly where we want our young people on a summer night, in a safe location where they can thrive, where they can be having a great time and giving children a chance to be together – and a lot of family members are here too. And the great thing about this center is it’s open to all ages, and that encourages everyone to participate.

Now, a month ago I announced plans to help make our housing developments safer, because we knew we had some work to do, and this was an important part of it. Thank you Laurie Cumbo – grand entrance! Grand entrance. Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, that is how to enter a press conference. A lot of progress has been made in the last four weeks, and part of the reason we’ve made progress – there’s been a real sense of urgency, and everyone standing with me here has shared that sense of urgency. There’s been extraordinary teamwork. Everyone knows that we have a lot to do to keep people safe and, in fact, to make our neighborhoods and our developments safer. And these youth programs are a crucial part of it, especially in the summer. I want to thank Councilmember Laurie Cumbo and Borough President Eric Adams, who have been real strong supporters, and have helped us to put together the resources to get this done.

Before I talk about my colleagues who are here, there’s a hero here in my view, because what she does is amazing. She is a hero – Tameeka Ford runs this extraordinary program. And I watched Tameeka go all around her domain here, and I can see she is in charge of every detail in making things happen, and that’s part of why this place is so extraordinary. So thank you, Tameeka, for what you do.

The members of my administration here, I want to thank all of them because they have made it their business in these last four weeks to make a lot happen quickly. Shola Olatoye, the Chair of NYCHA; Bill Chong, the Commissioner for Youth and Community Development; Liz Glazer, the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice; Marco Carrion, the Commissioner of the Community Affairs Unit in the Mayor’s Office; and, of course, Chief Carlos Gomez, the Chief of Housing for the NYPD. And all of the NYPD officers who have been participating here, keeping this center safe, while we’ve expanded these programs. That has been a crucial part of the equation we’ve been planning from the beginning with Chief Gomez, that we knew we were going to add a lot of ability to reach young people, at the same time we were going to add the police to keep them safe. And there’s been an absolute seamless coordination between NYPD, NYCHA, DYCD, etcetera, to make this work.

Now you remember a month ago, we talked about putting programs in place in 15 developments. They were the 15 developments that we determined had the most urgent problems. Between them, they accounted for almost 20 percent of all crime in the Housing Authority. Remind me at this moment – Shola, how many developments you have in total?

Shola Olatoye, Chair of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA): 334.

Mayor: Right, 334. Thank you, Madam Chair. 334 developments, but only 15 accounted for fully 20 percent of all crime in public housing. We targeted those 15 four weeks ago. What’s happened in those 15 developments? Violent crime down 25 percent ­- in the four weeks that we’ve been at this, down 25 percent. Shootings down 67 percent.

Let’s talk about Ingersoll. In the past four weeks, there have been three incidents of violent crime at Ingersoll, compared to nine in the same period last year – that is a 67 percent reduction. There have been zero shooting incidents – zero shooting incidents – in that time frame, compared to two in the same period a year ago. That is what we call a 100 percent decrease. This is part of a series of things we’re doing in these 15 developments: deploying more than 700 additional police officers in these developments and other parts of NYCHA, we are adding security cameras and exterior lighting, and in the 15 that we’ve really focused on in particular, we now have 165 light towers – these are high-illumination towers that are really changing the environment, helping the NYPD to do their job, helping residents to feel safer.

So part of it is additional cops on the beat, part of it is the lighting, part of it is the youth oriented efforts – and the youth oriented efforts make a crucial difference. We more than doubled the number of young people gaining experience through the summer youth employment program. And as we said with these community centers, these recreation programs, we knew we had to reach a lot more kids and we had to reach them longer into the night so that we could really give them a positive alternative, a place they’d be safe. And so in the 105 NYCHA community centers are now open until 11 p.m. every night during July and August now – 11 pm every night. In 32 of those sites that have gyms, they are open until 12:30 am on weekends. These timeframes are the latest that these programs have gone in literally 30 years. Everyone’s heard of midnight basketball. Everyone knows the idea – get young people out in the community at the hours where they need the support the most. For the first time in 30 years this is actually happening here at Ingersoll and in other developments around the city. And what’s happening as a result of that? Huge amount of interest, huge amount of attendance. The attendance here is 100 percent higher than it was last year because there is so much for kids to do and the hours are exactly when kids want to be at these programs. Let me say a couple of words en español and we’ll take questions on this topic and then off-topic.

[Speaks Spanish]

Mayor: We’re very very appreciative for all the efforts that everyone represented here, which are really bearing fruit. I want to say a special thank you to Chief Gomez and all the men and women of the NYPD who have done an extraordinary job making sure every child in these in programs is safe. With that let’s take first on-topic of these community programs and our efforts in NYCHA. 

Question: I'm wondering if you can talk, Mayor, about the fact that comparatively there weren't as many teenage boys here, as let's say, girls, and younger kids, that sort of thing. [inaudible] something that, you know, we need to do more of to get the word out?

Mayor: Well, this is a very new effort, and what we've seen is the attendance has been growing constantly week to week. And, you know, every – every center has different elements of what they offer, but certainly, I don't want to stereotype males, being one myself, but a lot of the sports programs are very well attended. A lot of centers are seeing great attendance by young men as well. So, I think the important thing to us is to keep promoting these programs. There's a lot more opportunity for young people to participate, and I think a lot of young men do want to participate.

Tameeka Ford: Can I add to that, very quickly?

Mayor: Please, come right – would you please roll over and ….

Tameeka Ford: I just want to add, tomorrow, on Saturday and Sunday, Taj Gibson, who is a basketball player that plays with the Chicago Bulls – he is doing a basketball tournament. Doyle, who is one of the organizers of it here – there will be literally 300-500 African-American, Latino, teenagers, that will be playing basketball here, Saturday as well as Sunday, in collaboration with PSA-3, in collaboration with the 88th Police Precinct, and it's become a huge dynamic and a huge event that so many of the young people anticipate. And when I asked where some of the children came from, they said from Marcy, Tompkins, Avalon, and I said Avalon? I don't know that development. They were like, the luxury condominium across the street! I was like, that's right! So, they're coming from everywhere – black, white, Latino, everyone's coming to play here. So, the African-American, Latino, Asian, white men – they're all here tomorrow, so if you'd like to come by that will be happening at 12 pm, Saturday and Sunday.

Mayor: Yes, please.

Commissioner Bill Chong, DYCD: On the gender thing, I think one of the things – I had a meeting with the 70 providers of the Cornerstone centers a couple of days ago, and one of the things we're seeing in some of the smaller centers that don't have gyms, what's popular is cooking workshops. Not just for young women, but young men, which kind of surprised us. So, what we're doing, and what we're encouraging the non-profit agencies that are running these centers is, to sit down and talk to young people and ask them what they want to do, and then design the program. That has been, in our experience, the best type of program, is when you listen to young people, give them a voice in what the programming should look like. So, I think if you go to different centers you'll see different types of programs that are engaging young people where they're at.

Mayor: And I think Top Chef has something to do with it too. You have to come over to the microphone so that we can make you a star, please.

Unknown 1: I just wanted to mention that this facility is predominantly males. And so, we are very excited to have all of the young ladies who are occupying the space. But if you come on any night, there’s lots of boys, and men, and athletes and NBA players running around the space. So I’m very grateful to have some women in the building.

Question: [inaudible] 

Mayor: I want to just make sure we’ve finished on this topic first and I’ll be happy to come to you. I’m going to stay just on these recreation programs and the efforts in NYCHA if there’s anything else people want to cover. Otherwise, you will be up to bat. Okay. Go ahead, finish your question – I’m sorry.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: Look, I think this is part of a much bigger effort we’re making to not only protect our citizens – make them safer – but also continue to draw police and community closer together. We have to foster a real lasting partnership. So, that was a real tragedy. It grabbed at all of us – it grabbed at our hearts. But, it’s something that has to be a part of the past – meaning, we have to move past the tragedies and the tensions to unity. We have to get everyone on the same page. Now, I think what you find – and I’m going to refer to Eric Adams here because he is an expert, because he spent over 20 years of his life as an NYPD officer, ultimately a captain, now leads the borough of Brooklyn. On the ground, police and community have so much potential to work together – there’s so much common interest. And, what we need to do is tap into that. Better training, better efforts at helping make sure there is coordination, collaboration, intelligence sharing, respect on both sides. I think, we have a great opportunity here to move forward. I want to call up Eric but I also want to say it was incredibly gratifying to me to have Cardinal Dolan agree to join into these into these efforts today – which I think is going to be very, very helpful – to help gather faith leaders. This has to be a turning point moment. We can’t let any moment that leaves us so sad and pained be an endpoint. It has to be an opening of a door to something better and we have to achieve that together. Let me ask Eric to join me.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams: Thank you so much, Mayor. And again, this was my precinct when I was a Lieutenant and I know all too well the different climate here. And I think the Eric Garner situation – we are raising the question of how do we turn pain into purpose. And the headlines are not descriptive of what’s taking place on the ground. On the ground, there’s a different energy and a different spirit with the men who are wearing blue uniforms are connecting with the young people who are wearing blue jeans. And that synergy and energy is going to cascade throughout the entire borough. We are – we hit a bend in the road with the Eric Garner, but a bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make the turn – and the police department has made the turn. We have the finest police commissioner in the country in Bill Bratton, and I’m confident that you’re going to see the energy that we looked for when we elected Bill de Blasio as our mayor. Thank you.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: You know, I don’t think that’s an accurate depiction. And I think more to the point – this is not about what one leader or another leader says. This is not about personalities, this is not about rhetoric – this is about a fundamental change we have to make. And the election was about that change. My mandate is to bring police and community together. My mandate is to keep this city safe – respect people and protect people. That’s the notion we have to achieve. And by the way, I think the vast majority of people want to go there. The vast majority of community residents want to work closely with the police. The vast majority of the police are ready to work more closely with community residents.  But we’ve got to turn this corner. That’s why what Commissioner Bratton is talking about, in terms of the retraining, is so foundational, and it cannot be missed. Retraining the entire police force in New York City in how to work more closely with the community – this will be a transcendent moment.

Question: [Inaudible] do you share that view and [inaudible] have you had any communication with Reverend Sharpton about his plans for this?

Mayor: I have and I think he’s made very clear that he’s looking at other options. And I – there’s been a close coordination with the NYPD in terms of what logistically makes sense. We respect anyone’s right to express their opinion in this country. It’s something the NYPD is extraordinary in their ability to work with any group, any cause. And they will work of course with Reverend Sharpton and the National Action Network. But there are very real logistical challenges vis-à-vis the bridge and I think the reverend has acknowledged that. So I think we’ll wait and see how the next days play out. But I think we have a good chance of getting to a solution that works fairly.

Question: Regardless of where the march ends up being, though, do you plan on taking part in it? [inaudible] bringing community and police together is something that you ran on with your [inaudible] for mayor. Do you plan on [inaudible]?

Mayor: I don’t plan on attending that event. I plan on doing a number of other things that I think are going to help move this forward. Look, let’s talk about the context for a moment. The concerns that have been raised, both in the election and since, are about coming up with a different approach. Well, what’s different already? Many, many fewer stops and the stops that are happening now are much higher quality. Before, 90 percent of stops resulted in no arrests, no summons, no nothing. Now you see many fewer stops and higher quality stops. So we fixed a broken policy. We said we’ve got to get away from some of the things that weren’t working - so marijuana arrests are down five percent, overall summons activity is down 17 percent. There’s a lot of changes to move us towards more serious crime and to deepen the relationship between police and community. The retraining is going to have a huge impact. That’s what I’m focused on – those actions that will result in real substantial change. I’m certainly looking forward to the meeting the Cardinal is convening. I think it’s going to be an important moment for this city, to have one of our most prominent leaders gather with other senior religious leaders from across the spectrum to help take us on a new path. And I think you’re going to hear – and houses of worship – I think you’re going to hear faith leaders all over the city talking the same way the borough president did about turning the page and moving us forward. So I’m excited for that effort to begin. Yes?

Question: Do you [inaudible] if Reverend Al Sharpton will be part the gathering of religious leaders?

Mayor: Again, the formal invitation list has not been determined. That’s something we’ll do working with the Cardinal, but I certainly expect the Reverend Sharpton to be a part of it.

Question: What are either of your complaints about having it on the Verrazano Bridge? I mean, Tish James [inaudible] that she doesn’t want it there. Do you want it on the Verrazano?

Mayor: You know, it’s not about what I want and don’t want. I think there are real logistical issues with the bridge. And I think there are challenges and I think other options need to be looked at and I think Reverend Sharpton said very clearly he is looking at other options. So, I believe we’re on a good path here. We’re going to work things out. But much more important than the bridge or any one protest is where we are going – a set of substantial policies to make a change. And these are things that are going to be felt in the coming months very deeply in this city. This is work, by the way, to undo years and years of problems – I want to emphasize that. I know it is a job for everyone in this room to report the news – by definition, what just happened. But we are talking about things that have developed over decades in this city that have to be fixed. The good news is there are so many people receptive to doing this work of unity. And the good news is, crime has gone down in the last year, murders have gone down – we have a moment which is in our history fairly rare, where crime goes down and there’s a real moment of openness on all sides to move forward. We have the leadership of Commissioner Bratton, which is decisive. It’s going to make a very substantial change that people are going to feel on the ground quickly.

Question: Sir, do you think Reverend Sharpton is ready to help you turn the page?

Mayor: I do. I think there’s a host of faith leaders in this city who are ready. And, again, I don’t think it is about any individual personality or the rhetoric of any individual leader. It is about a series of substantive changes already underway and that are about to deepen a lot more. I think a lot of people are ready to make this change.

Question: Is marching across the bridge going to help you turn the –

Mayor: Again, I think the bridge issue – let’s see how that turns out. I think the more important issue is the substantive changes that we’re trying to make.

Question: Mr. Mayor, as far as the substantive changes [inaudible]. What are going to be as we’re moving forward [inaudible] the yard lines, the indicators that we’re making progress?

Mayor: Sure, it’s a great question. I appreciate it. First, I think it’s important that we recognize again – little moment of history – there were many times in the recent history of this city when leaders of different communities were not welcome in City Hall, and that only set us back. And there were many times when the conversation did not become constructive, because there wasn't an open atmosphere. So, one of the things we value is saying, everyone come to the table together, we're going to work this through. Again, Cardinal Dolan's involvement, I think, will have a very big impact that is just going to greatly deepen the involvement of people from all over the city in getting to a solution. What will be the indicators of progress? We already have, first – I'm going to use what we've done so far to get us to where we need to go. Indicators of progress are that we're at 17,000 stops for the first quarter compared to a much higher number the year before, and much, much higher numbers the years before that. Indicator of progress is that marijuana arrests are down 5 percent, and summons activity is down 17 percent, but crime, at the same time, is down 3.5 percent, and murder is down almost 10 percent. So, when you can combine reductions in crime with a decrease in the kind of activity that wasn't productive, that is progress. An indicator of progress will be how quickly we move a retraining of the entire police force. That's going to be a very tangible thing. You're going to see real numbers. You're going to see real curricula, and what it's going to mean, and what it's doing for people. All of these things matter. An indicator of progress will be a reinvigorated Civilian Complaint Review Board, because that has to work better for the community members and the officers, simultaneously. The CCRB has been, unfortunately, the worst of all worlds, previously, because an officer accused couldn't get fair and swift justice, and a community member who raised a complaint couldn't get fair and swift justice. Under Richard Emery, I'm convinced you're going to see a lot of reform, and a much improved process of oversight. As the Inspector General starts to do his work, you're going to see specific actions. All of these things will indicate a new day, but what it really comes down to is what Eric Adams was talking about – what happens in Ingersoll Houses, what happens on the streets of this city, bringing police and community together so we can get things done.

And that – you're going to know it when you see it. I want to give you one example, which I think was incredibly powerful. A few months ago in Crown Heights, when Officer Chow was a rookie officer, got a fare evader off a bus – a very appropriate thing to do. Someone was violating the law – fare evasion – went to get him off the bus to give him a summons – the fare evader pulls a gun and fires at Officer Chow, who goes down wounded. Members of that community in Crown Heights rushed out to help that officer. Other members of the community pointed out to his partner where the perpetrator had gone, so he could be arrested, and the gun could be taken away from him. That's the New York City that we are intent on building. Thank you, everyone.

[Commotion]

Question: [inaudible] the DNC, mayor, on the Democratic National Convention?

Mayor: Quick, on DNC. Go ahead.

Question: [inaudible] up and down Flatbush Avenue, there are these flags. If you could talk about – what you hope to tell the delegates, number one. Number two, if you could about a report that has Bill and Hillary Clinton widely supportive of this plan to bring it to [inaudible]?

Mayor: Yeah, I would be careful ever to buy into any report where the people talked about are not quoted. You know, I don't want to speak for them. I am hopeful that they had a good experience in 1992. I certainly think it worked out well, and they love the state that they live in now, and so I certainly believe they would feel good about our application, but that doesn't mean they're necessarily weighing in. On the question of what we hope to achieve, it's very straightforward. We are going to show the site selection committee that New York City in general, Brooklyn in particular, is going to pull out the stops. We are going to pull out the stops to win this convention for New York City. We have the safest city, the safest big city in America. The convention is going to have extraordinarily good security support here in New York City, extraordinary logistical support. We have the ability to put together the resources. We have a world class facility – literally, one of the newest arenas in the country, and one of the best – in the Barclays Center. And we have everything fantastic about New York City to offer these delegates. But we are going to take a different view than the past. This is going to be a five-borough convention. It will be based in Brooklyn, but we'll celebrate all five boroughs. I think that's going to be very exciting to the site selection committee, and all the people that they're going to go and report back to. But I am going to tell you, I'm going to be very personally involved, on Monday and Tuesday, with the committee members. I'm going to spend time with them. I'm going to talk to them about what we have to offer. They're going to know at the end of this visit how enthusiastic, how focused New York City is, how much we want this, and how much we're going to move heaven and earth to make it a great experience for the democrats.

Question: What will you serve them?

Mayor: Many New York City specialties. We will get you a full – I'm not the chef – I will get you the full list of delicacies provided. On DNC? On DNC? Ok. That's it. That was the only extra.

Question: [inaudible]

Mayor: DNC?

Question: Do you know how much money is going to be set aside for this DNC [inaudible]

Mayor: I can get you the details of that. But I can tell you on the money front, we are committed to raising the resources it will take for this convention. It's going to be a very substantial figure, and we are committed to making sure that all the resources will be in place. Thanks, everyone.
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