December 13, 2016
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you very much –
I think you should run for office instead of –
Very good – Teeba, thank you so much for really laying out what we need to address here in this city. Here’s a talented, young woman – a product of this city. You live in Marine Park. And where did you go to high school?
Teeba Jihad: Sheepshead Bay.
Mayor: Sheepshead Bay High School. So, a product of our public schools, going to one of our great institutions at NYU, and she wants to stay here and build her career here in this city. But as Teeba said, very bluntly, for a lot of talented people – and particularly our young people – there’s a concern that they won’t be able to find the jobs in the future they want in this city in the area of life sciences.
Well, it’s our job to change that, to make sure that there is a very bright future in the life sciences for tens of thousands of New Yorkers. And that’s really the magnitude of what we’re talking about here – the life sciences sector has tremendous potential for growth in this city to the tune of tens of thousands more jobs.
And it is crucial to the deepening of our economic diversification as a city. It’s crucial to creating the good paying jobs that we need for the future. And this is a sector, as you’ll hear from my colleagues in a moment, not only a tremendous growth potential but a sector that fits here in New York City that really keys into some of our real attributes and real competitive advantage. But it’s one that we’ve underplayed our hand on historically and it’s time to change that.
One note – you’re going to hear the phrases life sciences and biotech used interchangeably. They are pretty equivalent. So, feel free – to our friends in the media – you can use both but life sciences, I think, we believe is the best phrase because it’s the most comprehensive and it’s a very positive phrase about what this sector does for people, what the extraordinary advances that come out of the life sciences sector, the discoveries that are made that improve people’s health and well-being, the endless potential in this sector to address people’s healthcare needs in ways that have never been possible before. That’s why it’s such an exciting sector in terms of its human and public impact as well.
Now, let me just say a few things upfront. We know that New Yorkers are deeply concerned about the cost of living in this city and about the potential of finding a good paying job that allows you to live in this city. That’s a reality that we’re facing today in a way that’s more intense, perhaps, than any other period in our history. The cost of living has gone up, wages and benefits have not kept up in most sectors. People are concerned about basic affordability.
The life sciences sector offers, really, one of the key solutions to that challenge because when you talk about life sciences jobs, you’re talking about good paying jobs consistently across the board. And that’s why we’re so focused on the growth of this sector. We have tried in so many ways to address this affordability crisis in this city – creating and subsidizing affordable housing, providing people with paid sick leave benefits, doing a host of things to lighten the burden on working families including benefits for their children like pre-K and afterschool programs. All of this is necessary to make this a more affordable city for New Yorkers.
But we want to get to the heart of the matter. The more good paying jobs that exist in this city, the more people who can continue to live and can afford to live here the way they deserve to.
Look, the life sciences sector is one of the most exciting potential growth areas in our city economy. We are blessed with a strong economy and a very diverse economy. We are blessed with the largest number of jobs we’ve had in the history of this city – 4.3 million-plus jobs right now in New York City. But what we look at all the time is – where are the growth opportunities? And I think this is one of the very strongest opportunities we have for growth in our economy.
Life Sciences NYC – the initiative we’ll talk about today – is a $500 million initiative. Half-a-billion-dollars that will help propel New York City forward into the top ranks of life sciences centers in this nation. As part of this plan, we expect the growth of 16,000 new jobs for New Yorkers – 16,000 good paying jobs for New Yorkers. On top of that, 1,000 paid internships that will help the next generation coming up to have immediate opportunity.
Look, we have a model here we’re working from. Years ago, I think very wisely, my predecessor Michael Bloomberg, recognized the need to immediately diversify our economy. And real steps were taken and one of the most successful examples of that strategy was fostering the growth of our technology sector.
You go back in time 20 years, the technology sector in this city was relatively small, not particularly secure. A lot of people were wondering if we would really become a tech center or whether it would be more of a flash in the pan. Fast forward to today – a direct and indirect employment in the technology sector in this city is well over 300,000 at this point. A massive growing sector in our city. That didn’t happen by accident. It happened by design in large measure. We had natural advantages but they had to be fostered and the public sector had to play a crucial role.
So, those investments made over the last 10, 20 years helped to set up an unbelievable growth pattern in our tech sector and now we’re poised for even greater growth in that part of our economy. We have to do that again with life sciences. So, there are times in life when you actually have a playbook that works and you can use it in more than one situation. We’re borrowing from a great playbook and applying it now to this sector with its tremendous growth potential.
So far, we have already seen what the life sciences sector is capable of here in this city. In addition to the extraordinary work that helps people of all walks of life with their health needs, we have seen real success with companies here in this city, developing new drugs, building new prostatic, designing software – real tangible work is being done, companies are succeeding. And it has already – even before this plan was put in place – a sector that has shown impressive growth; a 16 percent growth in this sector since 2009. So, definitely we have seen the initial growth that convinces us that a lot more is possible.
Jobs include roles as lab techs, as microbiologists, as marketing managers – a whole host of good paying jobs. 80 percent of these jobs require either a bachelor’s degree or even less than a bachelor’s degree. And the average salary in this sector, right now in New York City, is $75,000. These are solid, consistent, good paying jobs.
Now, we have, again, some natural attributes. We have a competitive advantage that we haven’t fully taken advantage of, but we can see it with our own eyes. The extraordinary universities in this city, Columbia, Rockefeller, NYU, Cornell – we have that infrastructure, but until now many businesses have chosen to go to competitor locations and we know who they are; most notably Boston and Cambridge and Silicon Valley, but there are others as well. We want to turn that situation around. We want to take those natural strengths we have, magnify them, take full advantage of them and make this the go to location for so many emerging companies.
What you are going to see here is a set of targeted investments. We’re going to invest in startup companies. We’re going to invest in the creation of a life sciences campus. And again, we’re working from a good playbook. When you think of what happened with the growth of our technology sector; a very powerful decision was made to create the campus on Roosevelt Island that eventually became Cornell-Technion. It is going to do so much to help us keep building our technology sector. We intend to do the same thing for life sciences. We’re looking at a variety of potential locations on the east side of Manhattan where the sector is currently so strong, but also in Long Island City, Queens, which is literally just a quick ferry ride across the river from where so many of the key institutions are right now. So, we have the right approach in terms of finding the geographical centers we need to mirror the success that we have seen already with the development of Cornell-Technion on Roosevelt Island.
There will be new lab space. It’s one of the crucial elements of this plan that we will be investing in; and a very explicit effort to create opportunity for students who come out of our public schools and our public colleges and all the great institutions of higher education right here in the City.
Look, we know that if we can replicate even some of the success that this city’s strategy towards the tech sector had – again, beyond the 16,000 jobs we expect to create over the coming years though this investment, we think there are tens of thousands more after that that could be created. This is a sector that could reach 100,000 jobs or more in this city if we make the right investments quickly; if we work with all our partners aggressively and agilely and we maximize our competitive advantage.
Finally, I would say – just before I say a few words in Spanish – think about this sector in terms of two very profound positive impacts it has on human life. One, the products that are created – that save lives; that improve lives, that address health problems that were previously believed to be beyond our reach, it’s one of the most exciting elements of this sector. The way a single product might change the lives of thousands of people. The second is the question of opportunity. For generations, New York City has been a place of opportunity. People who grew up here or people who came here from elsewhere knew there was opportunity here. We’ve seen challenges in recent years making sure that that opportunity is still widespread; that the jobs pay well enough, that we address the underlying crisis of income inequality that is [inaudible] our city and our nation. Here is one of the ways to do it – investing in a sector that has tremendous growth potential and a consistent ability to produce good paying jobs; and jobs that a young New Yorker like Teeba can reach. A young woman from Marine Park, Brooklyn – this is exactly what we want to see; young people from all five boroughs and adults from all five boroughs getting the kind of opportunity that our forbearers knew they had here in New York City. We have to create our generation’s version of that same opportunity.
Just a few words in Spanish.
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, I’d like to introduce a woman who has put tremendous energy into creating this plan – working very closely with the Life Sciences sector and leaders across the sector to make sure that this plan could come forward, the President of the Economic Development Corporation, Maria Torres-Springer.
President Maria Torres-Springer, Economic Development Corporation: Mayor – good morning everyone. It’s really my pleasure to join the Mayor and all of you in this room to launch LifeSci NYC today. At EDC, our mission is to invest in our city’s neighborhoods and to grow quality jobs – jobs that are truly accessible to New Yorkers and provide a pathway to the middle class. To that end we are always asking ourselves, what’s next? What are the jobs of the future? What is the next big growth industry with the potential to really transform our economy and to provide the highest quality jobs? And, what can we do in the public sector to really supercharge that industry to ensure that those jobs grow and stay in New York? That‘s really the promise, in my opinion, of life sciences. As the Mayor mentioned, one of the fastest growing sectors of the innovation economy in the country and we believe that is critical to the future of our five borough economy. It becomes really apparent when you listen to young people like Teeba – brilliant, hardworking at the top of her class. She could have chosen any field of study but she chose to pursue a career that would help solve some of the most pressing health challenges of our time – work that fundamentally improves people’s lives. That’s a remarkable thing and that’s precisely why we are making the investments we are announcing today.
As the Mayor mentioned LifeSci NYC is being built on a strong foundation thanks to the decades of work of many people in this room. You’ve really helped make New York City a global leader in both foundational life science research and quality medical care. So we started the process of developing LifeSci NYC. We really look to you for guidance and for ideas. We asked what are those missing pieces that are preventing New York City from turning more of your discoveries into businesses that will create good jobs? Now, one of the biggest things that we heard was that there was no single center of gravity in New York City for collaboration within the industry. Other cities with successful clusters have a physical hub that brings together researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs, experienced business leaders, financing a pipeline of talent. But here in New York, our life sciences community remains somewhat diffused. So we’re going to change all of that.
We are investing $100 million to create a world class applied life sciences campus to serve as a new hub for the sector. It will focus on cutting-edge cures, novel technologies and then building new companies. It will be a place where experts from diverse disciplines can come together; where ideas collide to create the next generation of businesses and thousands of good jobs. Importantly, it will also be a launch pad for young New Yorkers like Teeba looking to start careers in dynamic and growing industries. The campus will be a [inaudible] of all of our efforts in the sector, but we won’t stop there. We’re also going to invest $50 million in as many as eight of the city’s not-for-profit research institutions. We’ll help them build a network of life science, research and development facilities, focusing on fields with high potential for new discoveries and new jobs. We need to support this kind of research, but we also need to make sure that, that research is getting turned into new products and new businesses and that’s why we are also investing more than $300 million to address another of the biggest challenges facing this industry, which is the lack of access to affordable lab space.
To put it in perspective, Boston currently has 18 times the amount of commercial space available for life sciences companies as we do here in New York City. We can’t expect the companies and the jobs of tomorrow to go and stay here if there is no way for them to work. Case and point, a company called [inaudible], which is working to improve drug therapies – they started actually at a city-funded life science incubator called Harlem Biospace. They’ve been doing really well. They just recently grew to a company of about 15. The bad news is that those new jobs are not in Harlem. They are in Berkley, California because the company couldn’t find affordable workspace that they needed here in the five boroughs. Why are we losing companies like this one? It’s because lab space is more expensive to build and outfit than traditional office space. And so the market isn’t producing nearly enough of it here in our city.
That’s why LifeSci NYC includes an ambitious commitment to add nearly 3 million square feet of new space for life science companies over the next 10 years. We will do it in a few ways. First, we are going to strategically deploy tax incentives to help defer the additional costs of building that lab space. To qualify for that incentive the space will have to be priced at a rate that early stage life science companies can afford. Now this isn’t just an investment in construction, it’s a direct investment in the future of businesses that will be started by New Yorkers and create jobs for New Yorkers. Second, we are going to fund a network of new incubators around the city. Now, some cities might just be content to just build additional lab space, additional incubators, provide funding for research and let the market take it from there. But here in New York we believe that it’s not enough to just create new jobs. We need to build a pipeline for New Yorkers from every background in every neighborhood to get the skills they need to access those jobs.
So, through a public private partnership, we will be able to offer, as the Mayor mentioned, at least a thousand new internships to students at New York City schools, ranging from high school all the way to doctoral candidates. We’ll be working with industry leaders, local colleges, universities to make sure that students are graduating with the right skills to fill the most in demand jobs in life sciences. And we’ll also be providing assistance to the next generation of entrepreneurs, the innovators, the people who are starting their own ventures by expanding programs that we have that provide entrepreneurs in the city in life sciences with additional training and access to funding. And finally, working with Dr. Harold Varmus, Dr. Vicki Sato – really extraordinary people in their fields – we will be engaging an expert advisory council who are going to ensure in every stage of this 10-year commitment that we are making the right types of connections, we are making strategic investments and that we are doing all that we can to grow the sector in a way where it remains accessible and inclusive.
We are very much looking forward to continuing the partnership with all of you in this room. Thank you in advance for that collaboration and we are very excited for what is to come for life sciences in New York City.
Mayor: We’re going to take questions on this topic and then we will be taking questions on other topics. But first, on today’s announcement – questions – Laura?
Question: Can you lay out a little bit more about where the funding for this initiative is coming from – both the $100 million for the campus itself and the $300 million in tax incentives? Whether it’s in the current budget year or a period of years –
Mayor: Got it. Let me start and then I’m going to pass to Maria. So, a couple things – this will be part of the budget proposal we’ll put forward [inaudible] weeks and therefore for upcoming budgets. The other important fact is this plays out over a period of time for sure – development of space takes time, everything we’re talking about in this initiative will play out over years. So, we’re going to give you broad figures. When you annualize them in any given year, it is a pretty modest on the city budget but it also leverages a much bigger set of investment from elsewhere. So, Maria will go through that with you.
President Torres-Stringer: Yes. So, as the Mayor mentioned, there’s $150 million of city capital. We’re working with the City Council – that will be part of that process moving forward. In terms of the tax incentives – the value of those incentives, it’s about $300 million. As the Mayor said, that is over a 25 year time frame. And the City’s Industrial Development Agency will be administering those incentives. They help defray a number of taxes, property tax, mortgage recording tax, sales tax. But, again, as the Mayor discussed, these are the types of investments that really pay dividends to the city. And so in addition to the 16,000 new jobs that will be created, the entire package will leverage more than $6 billion in private investment whether that’s BC Capital real estate investment, and then in any given year, the economic output of these investments. So, think about worker earnings, corporate earning – it’s about $2.5 billion every year. And so, these are the type of catalytic investments that really will keep the city strong and make sense fiscally.
Question: Just to follow up on that – when do you anticipate achieving the 16,000 goal? How is it going to scale up? And do you have – can you give you us a sense of how it will be growing over the years?
President Torres-Stringer: So, the 16,000 jobs over the course of the next ten years – we anticipate as the new space comes online over the next few years, that you’ll start really seeing those job numbers come on the table. There are a wide variety of investments here. Some of them, that entail construction. The build out of new space will take some time but some of the more training oriented programs, entrepreneurial oriented programs, we’ll really start implementing next year. And so, it is intended to be a long term effort but the idea is for the 16,000 jobs to really come online, probably, scaling over the course of those ten years.
The other thing I’ll mention is that those are the new jobs that we anticipate through the investments that we’re making. But really, it’s the type of sector that I think has the capacity for even more. When you look at the investments that the city made in terms of tech, they were pretty modest in investments. The tech sector is now 300,000 people. So, we have the same vision for this sector in terms of long term growth.
Question: On the Life Science center – what’s the timeline for that? And do you envision, similar to Cornell, partnering with an academic institution or will it be multiple floors with different businesses on each floor? What are we talking about?
President Torres-Springer: So, we’ll be releasing the request for expressions of interests next year – by the spring of next year. And we’ll be soliciting proposals from really all over the country and maybe even globally. We want the proposal that will accomplish a few key objectives. The first is to make sure that it is of a scale and has the type of program or the type of translational research that we think is so important to make sure that there is that connection from academia to industry is there. That it is a place where top notch education is happening. That is a place where commercialization, entrepreneurship, innovation is happening every day.
And so, we will be working together with the advisory council really looking through those proposals and finding the type of project that accomplishes the real spirit of this, which is to establish a center of gravity of scale for the types of translational research and commercialization that we need in this city. That is a process that by the time we make an announcement and it opens it will probably take about four to five years. But we expect to get proposals from either institutions or [inaudible] of institutions.
Mayor: Just to follow – I’ll do the follow up question for you. That could involve one or more academic institutions as an anchor.
President Torres-Springer: That is correct.
Question: What is the current trouble in terms of determining whether this campus is located on the east side versus [inaudible] in Queens? When do you anticipate making that choice? And then as a follow up, in the State of the City you talked about having an innovation hub on Governor’s Island. What happened to that plan?
Mayor: That plan is alive and well, but the good news about a very diverse economy is there are many, many directions to go in for Governor’s Island. In this proposal, we’re really thinking about the geographical connection to the existing sector. I mean, we have this extraordinary set of institutions all along the east side – all the way to East Harlem. And we – and again, we have the tremendous opportunity, literally, right across the river in Long Island City. So, we want to figure out how to mix and match those options together. There is this core campus, but as Maria said, we’re going to investing in some of the existing entities in the City; the Genome Center is a great example of existing entities that need more capacity. And if this all goes well you’re going to need constantly more space and in the closest proximity possible. I’m not going to crassly attack my brothers and sisters in Massachusetts the way some have, but I will say it’s a bit the parallel that we have – this is my personal view, I’m not an expert in the field but it’s a common sense view – the parallel we have with the technology sector in the valley; more and more people have come here have said it’s a whole different quality of life and its a whole different approach to the profession to be here. If you’re in the technology sector you want to connect with other companies; you want to connect with people in media, advertising, finance. You can walk to them; you can take a Citi Bike to them, you can take – you know – the subway for two stops to them. That is a whole another reality from driving all over a metropolitan area to connect with people. So, our goal here is to see maximum opportunity – this center will be an anchor – but maximum opportunity in this whole zone and have it be so easy for people to interconnect on the east side, and again, potentially into Long Island City – that it becomes an even more attractive option that we get into that pantheon even quicker because geography that had hindered us actually starts to help us. Again, these are the experts, I’m the layman. They’ll tell me if I said that right.
Expert panel of judges?
Mayor: Okay, good.
Mayor: Thank you, I like – we got instant validation. Go ahead.
Question: My question is more basic, what is the challenge of [inaudible] either in – it has to be in one place or the other, this campus, so what is the challenge of picking one or the other?
President Torres-Springer: Each of the geographic areas that the Mayor mentioned has its strengths and weaknesses. And when we release the request for expressions of interest, we’ll make clear what the available public sites are and we’ll also ask if respondents have private sites that they might already control. So, that is a model that we used in the applied sciences initiative a few years ago for tech and it is one that worked. We had many different proposals, some using our public sites and some using their own sites. And at the time, when we see the proposals we will judge each of the proposals by how well they utilize that site, the connections they are making to other areas of activity in this city; whether funding is sustainable, the type of economic impact they are making. And so it becomes – it is something we are going to make available and offer, but we have to judge each of the proposals based on the totality of what each of the respondents will be proposing.
Mayor: Okay, Rich.
Question: Mr. Mayor, President-elect Trump has said he is not happy with where drug prices are now and would like to see them come down. And he has shown an impulse for attacking particular industries in regard to their prices. Is that a disincentive for this kind of thing if somehow prices of say drugs are suppressed – does that hurt research? Does that hurt [inaudible] efforts such as this?
Mayor: I’m not going to editorialize on what he is saying or where he may take it. I think as we have learned with the President-elect, let’s wait and see what these various words turn into. But I think the important fact here is, of course, we want drug prices to come down. That’s just a reality for people who are struggling with a cost of living in this city and all over the country, but I will argue more research and the creation of important new products is part of how you ultimately get them down. We want – you know – we want more and more options available to people and we want to get them out into people’s hands. And – you know -- we want competition, right? So this is a bunch of companies that will have a chance to grow and compete and hopefully one of the classic rules of competition will take effect, which is you have to set a price that people can afford and your competitors will set a lower price if they can. So, I don’t think what I’m hearing so far would have any impact on what we’re talking about here. I would argue more research and the creation of important new products is part of how you ultimately get them down. We want more and more options available to people and we want to get them out into people’s hands and you know, I think – and we want competition, right? So this is a bunch of companies that will have a chance to grow and compete and hopefully one of the classic rules of competition will take effect, which is, you have to set a price that people can afford and your competitors will take a lower price if they can. So I don’t think what I am hearing so far would have any impact on what we are talking about here.
Mayor: Okay. Yes –
Question: The City’s already home to a lot of the [inaudible] hospitals and labs and they are doing good research. Is there any plan to put some more money into them to help with their financial needs right now? I mean a lot of them are suffering from cuts from state and federal funding. Is there any plans in the city of who [inaudible] already doing the work?
Mayor: I’ll state the obvious, while passing to Maria. This is the plan we are introducing today. We look at a lot of things but this is the plan we are focused on today. Do you want to speak to the –
President Torres-Springer: There’s $50 million in the plan that will go to existing institutions that are doing applied life sciences research. [Inaudible] research and so a lot of the teaching hospitals are part of those consortia and so it’s the type of funding that will certainly be hopefully very beneficial to their activities. And so it is through this plan that is the program where we are really hoping to provide additional assistance to academic medical institutions, but it is still in the context of making sure that the work that they are doing is in the interest of expanding applied life sciences in the city.
Unknown: I don’t think it is in the purview of the city to try to make amends for the deficiency of funding of life sciences nationally so the National Institutes of Health, that is the federal government’s job. And we hope they’ll step up to it. But the job here is to facilitate the transfer of information to the commercial sector, provide the improved tools for the city to nurture the growth of local industry and that’s where the focus should be, not on trying to rectify the crying level of support for basic research throughout the country.
Mayor: Amen. Yes?
Question: Out of the 16,000 job number – is there a claw back on the incentives if that number is not met? And third how does one apply for the jobs or the internships?
Mayor: Big – Maria can do the basic fact points. I would say whenever we provide assistance it’s with ground rules – with ground rules about the number of jobs that would be created; for the period of time they would be created; and yes, if we don’t get what’s been agreed to we maintain the opportunity to claw back the resources we put into it.
President Torres-Springer: That’s right. Through each and every one of our deals through the Industrial Development Agency there are requirements about job growth, about the length of receiving them, the investment that actually needs to be made and anytime there is an instance of noncompliance we make sure that we enforce our rights and that could include recapture. If they are not meeting their end of the deal and we’re going to do the same thing here. On your second question, in the spring of 2017, we will make available applications for the thousand new internship programs that will scale up over time. It is a thousand over the course of the next 10 years but that application will be available in the spring for summer and Fall internships.
Question: How’d you come up with the 16,000 number?
President Torres-Springer: The 16,000 number includes 9,000 direct new jobs in commercial life sciences and as well as a percent – 7,000 are the indirect jobs. And so – the full ecosystem of life sciences as we make these investments and as the industry grows.
Question: Mr. Mayor, the governor announced a $650 million life sciences initiative yesterday. To what degree is this coordinated with that and he announced some developable sites – State-owned and one was 500,000 square-feet at Downstate Medical College in Brooklyn. Is there a reason Brooklyn’s not in the mix?
Mayor: We think – I certainly am thrilled that the governor is putting this focus on life sciences and putting resources into. That’s a good thing and we certainly will be coordinating with the state. But I think the State’s goals are complimentary, but somewhat different. First of all as I understand the rules I understand the details but, I understand it looks regionally not just at New York City. And it is about developing the sector more broadly. This is a very specific plan to create 16,000 new jobs so that’s one immediate difference. All of it’s good. All of it helps but this is a very targeted plan for New York City to create 16,000 jobs here. It’s complimentary, its two different tracks but they’re absolutely complimentary. But the difference is – look I am thrilled if jobs get created in Brooklyn or anyplace in the five boroughs obviously but we are trying to join the pantheon. Now I have a phrase I can borough. We are joining the pantheon. To join the pantheon we are going to have to really take full advantage of our natural strengths, which as a city we just haven’t done well enough up to now. It’s up to do it much more coherently. Again, that means keying in on the geography where we have something that I would argue no place else in the world has – that corridor along the east side of Manhattan that touches some of our most academic institutions, some of our most important hospitals and medical schools. We got to make more of that so the east side of Manhattan all the way up to east Harlem and the neighboring area which, if it were not for the water it would be just minutes away. It will be minutes away by ferry – Long Island City. We want to super concentrate our focus on that. Take full advantage of that opportunity. Make it an extraordinarily compelling exciting place for talent to be and companies to be. But if we succeed to the Boston Cambridge parallel we are going to constantly need more and more space. So if that includes space in Brooklyn, that’s fantastic.
Question: I just want to clarify again the nature of the new jobs being created. The 9,000 jobs within the industry – so, those are the ones that you clarify as good paying and $75,000 average. The remaining 7,000 indirect jobs I am assuming those are not of the same [inaudible]. Is that the idea?
President Torres-Springer: They are still part of the life sciences ecosystem and so to give you a sense of the types of jobs we are talking about here – from certainly the research scientists in different institutions to data analysts to medical coders to lab techs to the marketing admin and sales associated. So, that’s how the jobs are parse but the average wage for the entire sector is about $75,000. So they’re all very good paying jobs and accessible to people of different educational backgrounds.
Mayor: Okay. Other questions on this topic – on this topic.
Question: Deputy Mayor Glen has been a real force behind this initiative. She couldn’t be here. Where is she today?
Mayor: She is on a personal trip and she’ll be back tomorrow. It just wasn’t possible to make the scheduling work.
Mayor: She might be very close to the country but she’d still not back yet?
Okay. You’re not a member of the media but you’re our host – you can say something.
Dr. Tom Maniatis: It’s a great plan. Thank you very much. The plans to attract new companies and offer incentives, things of that nature – will some of those benefits in order to, some of the first [inaudible] companies who’ve already populated New York and other areas and help them to be a part of what’s happening in this initiative?
President Torres-Springer: We’ll have to – we’ll look at every proposal and consider the merits of them. It’s a case by case basis but what is going to be available today on the website LifeSci.nyc is more information about how the tax incentive programs will work. So it’s important for us that we get the type of program in terms of the space – the types of square footage that we believe will be meaningful here, the rents that are affordable to start-up companies. The – and so each case will be different, but our goal is to bring as many affordable square feet of commercial wet lab online.
Mayor: Okay, last call on this topic from media. Yes?
Question: Michelle [inaudible]. I wanted to ask – you’re talking about bringing people in. I’m sure that when people forward proposals to you, they will all not be from New York City. Where are they going to live?
Mayor: Look, I think this is the classic question we’re asking ourselves in terms of all economic growth in this city. We have to keep creating housing – most especially affordable housing. And we have to ensure that a lot of the housing we have already remains affordable. That’s why we are doing a number of rental subsidies. That’s why we’re doing – we’ve done a rent freeze for two-million New Yorkers in rent stabilized housing. That’s why we’ve reduced evictions through anti-eviction legal services. But you know we have a very aggressive building plan for affordable housing – 80,000 apartments. But we also have to foster more market-rate, but affordable market-rate housing for the city. That’s part of the overall growth of the city. But I think we know – again, there’s a chicken and egg reality. How are people going to be able to afford the higher cost of housing? One of the best ways to do that is better-paying jobs. That’s how we connect the dots.
Last call, yes?
Question: Can I ask the Commissioner about the complaints that there’s no life sciences hub in the city? Is it – isn’t where we’re sitting – wasn’t that intended to serve as a hub for life sciences? And isn’t it at least partially doing that?
President Torres-Springer: This – the facility that we’re in is certainly an extraordinary example of a catalytic investment – public and private. I think there are more than – there are close to 20 companies who are here – more than 1,300 workers. And so, the focus, however, of this facility are commercial companies. What we are trying to do with the hub is to have a place where you would have certainly companies, start-up and larger, but also translational research. And so it combines, not just the commercialization, the entrepreneurship part of the ecosystem, but certainly the research part of it as well. And to the extent that we can also include VC firms and other players of the ecosystem – that is the type of facility that we think will allow us to make sure that we are supercharging life sciences here in New York.
Mayor: Okay, we’re going to turn to other topics in a moment. But anyone who needs to cut out, this is good time to do it, from our panel.
Unknown: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Important public service to be done. This next section – you’re very welcome. Thank you, [inaudible]. Next section will involve fewer insults against other cities. I will be much more polite. Well done, Gale.
Mayor: All though it is good people milling around sound – it’s like soundtrack from a movie. Let’s secure that door back there – you can do it. There they go. Good things are happening. Okay. Andrew?
Question: Mayor, on the ACS vacancy – what are you looking for in your next commissioner? And is it your understanding that either the Zymere Perkins or the Jaden Jordan death was the factor that ended the term of Gladys Carrión?
Mayor: No. I think it’s important to understand the human reality of doing this work. Gladys Carrión put 40 years of her life into protecting children and the last three years serving in one of unquestionably the toughest posts in government – protecting the lives of children every day. There were many, many examples of success, which – I say this with absolute respect for you and everyone else – you guys will never report on the successes. You just won’t. There were many, many times that lives were saved. You will end up focusing on the tragic few times when we lost a life. I’ve said very clearly – our mission is to save every single life, and we’re going to do everything we know how to do that. But I think for Gladys – just a life of this very grueling, tough work really – it became a point where she just felt exhausted, and she felt she had done all she could do, and that she needed to retire. And I think people get to that point when they do very tough jobs.
In terms of the successor, we’re going to look for someone who can deepen the reforms. I’ve mentioned to you guys that there were reforms necessary after each of the tragedies that taught us things – after Elisa Izquierdo in 1996; Nixzmary Brown in 2006; Marchella Pierce, I think was 2010 – when we first came in – Myls Dobson – when we first came in. I wish these tragedies never happened. But when they do happen, we have to learn and we have to make changes. Gladys Carrión was implementing a host of changes, especially in the training of ACS workers and the improvement of preventative services to try and help things from spiraling out of control in families. She was trying to make up for what had been a real disinvestment in previous years in ACS. We’re going to deepen all of those reforms. We’re going to look for a very aggressive leader who can help us continue that work.
But it’s also very tough work. I want to note – the people who do this work – it’s not easy. It is not for the faint of heart. Imagine if you’re a child protective worker – you are willing to go into often dangerous situations to try and protect children, knowing you don’t control all of the factors, knowing you may not have all the information that you need. And it’s grueling, tough work. And we have to do our best to keep attracting people to the field, despite the many challenges that go with it.
Another thing we’re going to do in this transition – we’re going to name an independent monitor for ACS. And we’re going to work with the State Office of Children and Families to do that. The transition period offers us an opportunity to look and see if there are other areas we need to improve upon. We want to look under every stone. So we think that that would be a helpful addition to all we’re doing. And again, we’ll work with the State determining how to do that best.
Question: Mr. Mayor, on the independent monitor – what work do you envision them doing? Is this someone who would be tapped to investigate a Perkins-like death?
Mayor: No, again, I want to emphasize – whenever you put in a monitor, it is to work on structural issues, not individual investigations. And I want to caution. Again, I understand why you guys think from news moment to news moment, we have to think systematically. We have to think about what’s going to make this agency stronger, given the many, many challenges it faces. You’ve seen the tens of thousands of cases they deal with each year. And again, the thousands of successful cases you’ll never hear about, but we still have to figure out – what can we do that will make the agency stronger? And I think independent eyes on the situation will help us do it, so the mission is to look at the structural issues, not individual cases.
Question: [Inaudible] Does that mean you will need State approval for [inaudible]?
Mayor: No, we will choose someone. We’ll choose someone who we think is independent and exceptional, and has the kind of background that really would bring a good set of eyes to the situation. But we’ll certainly talk through with OCFS who might be a good choice. And we want to work closely with them. There’s a very good and strong working relationship with OCFS, and we want to – obviously, we’re going to continue that.
Question: I saw your interview on NY-1 last night. And I still have questions on the Daily News story. I know you said there was no pay to play involved. Why did you personally call lobbyists and why did Ross call lobbyists with business before the city? What was the thinking behind –
Mayor: Again, we followed – I’m just going to repeat it very simply, and then there’s just not much more to say. We followed the guidance from the Conflicts of Interest Board, which is what anyone should do in such a situation. We were putting together resources related to winning the pre-K effort and the affordable housing effort. There was no wrongdoing of any kind – any decision about anyone is based on the merits. That’s just all there is to it. I think there was an attempt to connect dots that just don’t add up.
Question: When [inaudible] to lobbyists, you don’t get credit for those donations.
Mayor: I don’t know the specifics, but I can tell you something that what people –
Mayor: Yeah, there’s not. It’s just – you can do a lot of sounds like, and try and do circumstantial connections – it just doesn’t add up. Something like that is a common phrase in fundraising of who actually raised money and who didn’t. But it means nothing in terms of the core reality, so I will simply say – people have asked a lot of questions for months, even years, you’re going to keep finding the same answer. People did their jobs properly, made decisions based on the merit. And what we were trying to do in those efforts was about things that would help everyday New Yorkers. You know there’s lots of other situations out there in the world, where people tried to line their pockets, you know work for their personal advantage. This was about trying to pass policies that would help everyday New Yorkers.
Question: Why do you think so many of the donations were from people that had something that they needed from the City?
Mayor: Again, there are people who donate to civic causes, to political campaigns, just as a group of people who donate, and you turn to those people. That has nothing to do with how you make decisions about their interests.
Question: Mr. Mayor, on the Campaign for One New York, I was hoping the Speaker would stay for this question – the City Council is going to pass a bill that limits such organizations and it seems like you intend to sign it. It’s going to limit the amount of money that entities with City business could donate to such organizations. So in supporting that, aren’t you both acknowledging that the way that the Campaign for One New York did business was a problem?
Mayor: No. The bill – we worked on the bill. We had concerns that some issues in the bill had to be carefully drawn so as not to exclude a lot of other types of activity – for example, the effort that was put together to try and get the Democratic Convention or any other major economic development opportunity for the city. But no, again – I think we just have a difference. I want to name it, respectfully. We followed the law. That’s what governs here – the law. We not only followed the law, we went to the Conflicts of Interest Board to ask for guidance about the proper interpretation of the law, and we disclosed all our donors, which you all know there are many, many organizations that do not disclose their donors, including some related to elected officials. You have to also put yourself in the context of time. I came into office and within months, we were subject to a very substantial negative advertising campaign, by what we all to believe a group of hedge fund managers. This was on education issues – who did not disclose who they were. But they spent about $5 million in a concentrated period of time. We knew that group opposed the pre-K plan, and the tax on the wealthy in the pre-K plan. We expected that reality to be a constant, so it was very normal to try and have some ability to get a message out and to counter. But I’m very comfortable that you know, again, it’s in the vain of distraction. I know we did everything right. And it’s – it can be looked at all day long. And you’re going to find we did everything right. But it’s not worth the distraction. We’re perfectly comfortable; I’m perfectly comfortable signing the bill.
Question: I’m not saying that you did anything illegal. I’m not saying you violated the Conflicts of Interest Board guidance. What I’m saying is if you’re now saying these groups should have limits on the fundraising they can do with entities with City business, aren’t you acknowledging that it was problem to do [inaudible]?
Mayor: I’m only acknowledging that it became a big distraction even though everything was done properly, and even though we achieved the goals we set out to achieve, which were the pre-K plan and the affordable housing plans, specifically the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing legislation. I – I have eyes to see. If something becomes too much of a distraction, you move on and you do other things. Yeah?
Question: You’ve said a lot recently that you believe that you did everything right. We’re now entering – it’s been months and months of these investigations. Two-part question – do you have any sense of when these investigations will end, or if they’re dormant? And have you or any of your employees in the City government that you’re aware of been asked to testify before a grand jury?
Mayor: I don’t know when it will end. I think the people are waiting for answers, certainly. But I don’t know when it will end. I have not been asked to testify before a grand jury. I can’t speak to other people. Way in the back – yes?
Question: Back to ACS, the independent monitor – how will that differ from the monitor that was proposed in the settlement with the State that ACS objected to?
Mayor: Again, at this point, we have a transitional moment. We think we can make something like this work – both in terms of us continuing our reforms, but still doing our work. You know that’s always the question with any kind of monitor situation. Will it help you get better at the work? Or will it hinder important work and important reforms? We think we can strike the balance. We’ll name someone. But again, we will certainly be closely communicating with the State at the same time.
Question: On that same topic, but more generally. So starting with Deputy Mayor Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, then moving to Gilbert Taylor at Homeless Services, and now at ACS – a lot of your sort of top City leaders who are in charge of some of these issues that you’ve said are most important to you – in terms of homeless, child welfare – have departed. It’s probably the area of your administration that’s seen the most churn. And I wonder if have a thought about why that is – is it your own frustration with these areas? Or is it something else?
Mayor: I think each person had a different situation, and this is very hard work. I mean I was the chairman of the committee that covered a lot of that subject matter for eight years, it’s really tough work. Turnover in this area is pretty common. The – when I was chairman of the committee for eight years, I worked with several different ACS commissioners, for example. I think it’s very, very tough work. And I think government can do a lot to address these issues, but they’re inherently human issues. They have to do with human frailty. They have to do with poverty. There’s many, many underlying realities. And so the folks who do this work understand they’re fighting a very long battle. And I think there comes a point for each person where it makes sense to do something else. I think that’s pretty well-documented. In the case of Gladys, I just want to put in perspective – a 40-year battle. I mean she stayed at this in so many different forms, including being the State commissioner and the City commissioner, and having to deal with really tough situations all the time, and you know – feeling it very personally. But, her record of accomplishment, I think will be seen as very, very impressive, especially the combination of reforms she achieved at the State level, close to home, and then what she’s achieved in trying to reinvigorate ACS, after again, years of disinvestment.
Question: [Inaudible] leadership in those areas of your administration?
Mayor: Again, I think the fact is it’s really tough subject matter. I push people very hard. I think by and large, all the people that you mentioned achieved a lot. We all want to go farther. I think that’s the frustration. We all want to go farther, but it’s not for lack of trying, it’s not for lack of investment, it’s not for lack of innovation. Everyone you mentioned is responsible for a host of reforms that worked.
Okay, back there?
Question: On the construction worker who died at Domino on Friday. So that’s one of the sites in the City’s affordable housing plan. Does the City have, or does the administration have a special responsibility for safety on those affordable housing City-backed sites? Should there be higher standards?
Mayor: I think there are high standards. We – we’re waiting for all the facts about this case. But as you’ve seen in some other cases, where full investigations have been done, sometimes it is just plain human and individual error, and that we as government can only account for so much of that. In terms of the standards, we hold very high standards for construction safety. We’ve added more inspectors. We’ve added stricter rules about who has to be present at a work site, in terms of the private sector supervisors. We’re going to keep doing that. But again, I want to caution between the things that we find that are structurally solvable versus the things that are individual.
Question: Those are general, in terms of specifically the City-backed sites – the sites that are part of the City’s –
Mayor: We don’t – we don’t treat other sites as less important. That’s what I’m trying to say. Every – we take construction safety very seriously. We’re putting more and more resources into it. Part of why you’ve seen a number of instance is just the sheer extent of construction in this city, which is now essentially gotten to the pre-Recession level. The city is booming with construction. We are putting more and more resources into inspections, into increasing the number of supervisors who are keeping eyes on each site. That’s just as true for a private site as one that we’re involved in.
Question: So you said that Gladys Carrión is stepping down because the job has taken a toll on her. In the wake of the Zymere Perkins tragedy, when the Public Advocate, James, said that her performance has been poor, you characterized that assessment as dead wrong. Do you still think that’s the case?
Mayor: That’s absolutely wrong – absolutely wrong. And with all due respect to the Public Advocate, I’ve spent a lot of time on these issues over the years – Gladys Carrión has been part of the solution for a long, long time, and that should be respected. But I also think, again the work is grueling. It does take a toll. I guarantee you if any of you tried doing it for 40 years, or even for the three years she has been commissioner, your life would be turned upside down. It is incredibly difficult work. And I think she served with distinction, but her time came, where she just felt it was time to move on.
Question: Mr. Mayor, last week, the Attorney General put out a report about the problems that occurred during the April presidential primary, and that report included a list of legislative recommendations that in some cases overlapped with some of the recommendations you had – early voting, same-day voting. I’m just wondering if you’ve seen the report, if you talked to the Attorney General, and given your plans to push for some of those reforms, do you intend to work with him on his legislative [inaudible]?
Mayor: Absolutely intend to work with him. I think he is right on the money. I know you and your station have looked really carefully at the problem. It is incredibly frustrating. We have to have these legislative reforms, especially the big ones like early voting. But I also, again, believe if we empower the executive director of the Board of Elections to be able to run the place more professionally, that that’s going to have a big impact. But we need State legislation to do it. I mean this agency is based on laws from another time. We just have got to get into the 21st century here. So I’m certainly going to work with the Attorney General and do anything I can. And I think there’s going to be a real public pressure on Albany to get this one done this time. Andrew – last call.
Question: Mayor, do you plan on attending the opening of the Second Avenue subway? Have you heard directly from either the Governor or the MTA when that will be? Is it 18 days from now? And have you been invited to the opening?
Mayor: I’m sorry, Andrew. That’s on a need-to-know basis. That’s like the biggest secret in New York City. I don’t know the exact day. I hope it will be on schedule. As I said last night, I think we’ve all waited a long time, and we should be ready for that date to change. But if it is the date, I’d love to be there. I think it’s a great moment for New York City and a hard-won victory. But I cannot confirm the date at all.
Question: [Inaudible] This is a very short conference for your only appearance in front of the press corps this week.
Mayor: Thank you for your editorial comment.
Question: Can we ask a few more questions?
Mayor: Thank you, Ben.
Question: Once a week really isn’t a lot of time for us to ask you questions.
Mayor: You get plenty of chances through our Press Office. Have a nice day.