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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Holds Impromptu Press Gaggle Following Meeting With Jewish Community Leaders in Crown Heights

December 9, 2014

Mayor Bill de Blasio: I’m joined by Chief of Department O’Neill – and earlier, Commissioner Bratton was with us – for what was a very productive meeting with community leaders here in Crown Heights. And one thing I want to say at the outset, people in this room represented the whole community of Crown Heights, which is a community that has done something extraordinary over decades, in terms of creating unity out of some very challenging circumstances. And people in Crown Heights should be very proud of that fact. That unity was evident today in the room. 

There was tremendous appreciation for the work of the NYPD, for the way our officers protected the lives of people who were threatened so suddenly a few days ago. There was deep concern, obviously, for Mr. Rosenblatt, and our prayers are with him and his family, and thank God he has been making good progress.

But I think the clear message in the room was a desire to know that there would be ongoing vigilance in what it is a very complicated situation around the world right now. And Chief O’Neill and I made very clear our focus on responding anytime there is an incident that causes concern in this community – a clear and vigilant response by the NYPD. I hasten to add, again, based on everything we’ve seen so far in the investigation, this was one very troubled individual with serious mental health issues and I’ve spoken separately about the need to address those issues as a society. But in terms of the concern that was raised in this community and other communities around the city, I think there’s a clear understanding – certainly for the leaders in the room – that the NYPD is vigilant, is effective, and is quick to respond and that we’re going to continue that. So with that, Chief O’Neill and I welcome your questions.
Yes. Courtney.

Question: Do you still plan on having this heightened police presence within, you know, the Jewish communities across the city? And because this appears to be some sort of one-off incident, with someone who obviously has a mental illness, why do you think that increased police presence is necessary?

Mayor: I’m going to start and pass it to the chief. I think if this incident had occurred in a store, for example, and not a synagogue, people might respond differently. I think if it occurred in an atmosphere that – a world we hope to see someday soon – where there were never any attacks on Jewish community locations, we might feel differently. But remember that just weeks ago, there was an attack in a synagogue in Jerusalem. And there have been attacks at other locations in Western countries. And I think there’s a heightened sensitivity, and a fair sensitivity, after having seen that – and certainly the sense for any of us, that a house of worship was invaded violently, even if it was an absolutely isolated act via a mentally disturbed individual – still, the sanctity of a house of worship is something I think that unites us throughout our societies. So it did cause real sensitivity. The other point I want to make is the NYPD has an extraordinary tradition of being vigilant against any attacks of any kind in any community. But certainly, we’ve long since have made the determination that when there is an attack anywhere in world on a Jewish community location, we treat that as a sign that we have to provide extra support to Jewish community centers here in New York City. And we take that step consistently when we see any possibility of a bigger trend. The NYPD is very quick. If something happens, God forbid, in France, or in Argentina, the NYPD takes it as a sign to be on extra alert and to add extra resources to protect Jewish community locations, and I think that’s a very smart policy. Chief, would you like to add?

Chief of Department James O’Neill: Sure, I would. So, it was a very productive meeting, and as we move forward here, we do respond to the needs of all communities across New York City and we’re doing our best to not only have the perception of safety, but the reality of safety too. So we’re going to continue increased coverage in houses of worship throughout the city for the time being. 

Phil Walzak: PIX 11 —

Question: Mr. Mayor, can you talk about –

Phil Walzak: PIX 11.

Question: Mayor, can you talk about more who was in the room tonight? And also, going forward, what changes we would see after this incident?

Mayor: Leaders of key institutions here in the Jewish community of Crown Heights, but also from the African-American and Caribbean community, and people who, for decades, have been working to strengthen the bonds between all of the communities here in Crown Heights. So, it was a very experienced group of leaders — also some citywide, very prominent Jewish leaders, who were united in recognizing that, first of all, we all have a common obligation to protect each other across all communities, and we have an obligation to work with the NYPD. One of the central points that was made in the meeting is the NYPD always welcomes community members and community leaders offering information, or sharing concerns, or sharing any sense that there might be a danger that the NYPD could address. So I think there was a very clear message in the meeting of the need to communicate constantly. And I think this is a community where that communication has been often very, very effective in helping to fight everyday crime, let alone any other kind of incident. So, a crowd of people who represented the strength of this community — and we’re very devoted to a constructive solution and we’re very appreciative for the NYPD’s work.

Question: Will we see increased security now?

Mayor: Well, again, I’ll let the chief follow through on this, but one of the things NYPD is constantly assessing — what needs to be done. We obviously, in the aftermath of this incident, added resources here in this community at a number of locations – and even outside this community. That’s a day-to-day assessment of what is needed – and that’s done regularly. Do you want to add?

Chief O’Neill: Sure. That assessment is done at the local level through the precinct commanders and the borough commanders. So as we went across the city, making our assessment on the local level, we did increase security in certain houses of worship throughout the city. 

Phil Walzak: One more media question, please?

Question: Yes, Mr. President – I mean, Mr. Mayor, how are you? Maybe one day Mr. President. 

Mayor: I’m just a humble mayor.


Question: You know, I wanted to say, firstly, thank you to the 71 Precinct and all the cops that do a wonderful job. Crown Heights has always been very appreciative of the work that you guys do and have always respected the police in general. How is the city going to show the world that we respect our police, and actually take care of ourselves, and show the whole world that we’re united and not divided?

Mayor: Well, I think this has been, actually, a proud time for New York City’s last weeks, as our police have done an extraordinary job keeping us safe. You know, we’re very, very proud of the fact that, as this year has progressed, New York City has gotten safer and safer. But even in an atmosphere where there’s been a very intense debate over a host of important issues, the NYPD has really functioned as a force that helps everyone express their views peacefully, appropriately, and keeps order at the same time. And the –

Question: That’s correct, but —

Mayor: And – but let me just finish – the whole nation’s been watching that. 

Question: Right —

Mayor: And I think New Yorkers should be very proud of the fact that the NYPD has handled everything so gracefully in these last weeks. 

Phil Walzak: Thank you, everyone.

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