February 8, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio: I want to welcome everyone. For me, this is a bit of a homecoming to Lincoln Houses.
Let me first acknowledge everybody who's been a part of getting us to this important set of announcements today. As always, I'd like to express my appreciation to the co-chairs of our transition, Jennifer Jones Austin and Carl Weisbrod, to all of the folks we're bringing in today. The process was led by our deputy mayor, Alicia Glen, who did a great job finding the best and the brightest for what we endeavor to do in the area of housing. Chief of Staff Laura Santucci – I want to thank her for her efforts.
We are joined by a key member of our administration, who will also be a part of this larger dream team, the president of EDC, Kyle Kimball. Where are you, Kyle?
In the back. Thank you, Kyle.
I should note, yesterday, another member of our dream team was announced – our City Planning Chair, Carl Weisbrod. So, this will complete a large group of leaders who are going to work in common cause – and that's a big theme today – all of the different leaders in this administration who are going to work together to achieve our crucial goals to help the people of the city, to address the affordability crisis and the inequality crisis in the city. All these pieces are going to synergize in that effort.
I want to give a very special thank you to my friend, Katherine Wilson. Where are you, Katherine?
There you are. Okay. And your daughter is here, yes? Tell me your name again, daughter?
Mayor: Lisa. I want to thank you. I know Reggie couldn't be here, but I want to thank you. Katherine and her son, Reggie, were wonderful hosts when I was here back during the summer, I guess it was. It seems like a long, long time ago, Katherine. And I want to thank Katherine for her kindness and her hospitality and for all she does to make life better for people here in the Lincoln Houses. So thank you, Katherine.
I want to thank two of my friends who are in elected life representing this community, Senator Bill Perkins – glad to see you here. Looking dapper – thank you – looking dapper today, Senator. And Council Member Inez Dickens – thank you so much for being here.
Now I want to tell you, when we gathered here last year – I really want people to understand this point – there were some who said, "Oh, look, Reverend Sharpton and other leaders and activists brought us here," and "Oh, it was a one day thing." But you know what? If you're a conscious human being and you're actually trying to learn, it's not a one-day thing.
I have to tell you, the time I spent here helped me to understand better what we're facing. I had spent a lot of time in public housing buildings over the last 20 years plus – I was no stranger to them. But I have to say, hearing from so many folks who live at Lincoln Houses, seeing up close what folks were dealing with, feeling the rhythm of life here, if only for a short time, it's helpful. It's eye-opening and it's clarifying of the mission ahead.
And I've stayed in touch with Katherine since. And I get daily or weekly updates on what's happening here, and that is a special and important perspective. So, I'm honored to be here again because it, to me, symbolizes a fact that we are learning and then acting on what we learn.
And I think, for all the tenant leaders and activists and all the tenants across Lincoln Houses, that's what they hope for in bringing us here – that it would be a new beginning, it would be a start of a new relationship – and that's what we intend to do today – not just with NYCHA, but with all our efforts to address the affordability crisis in this city.
We begin with a different attitude towards the people we're serving. We see the tenants of NYCHA as the people we work for – just like we work for all 8.4 million New Yorkers. We believe it is our mission to address this inequality crisis and this affordability crisis. It's what we came here to do.
And we want to constantly be in dialogue with the people we're trying to serve, because in many, many situations, it's the tenants or the neighborhood residents who can best tell you the way to get things done. They can best tell you what's working or not working. And all the leaders I'm announcing today start with that understanding. It's why it's a team I'm so proud of – because they understand it all begins with the people we're here to serve.
We are going to focus like a laser on these problems and we are inspired because we see the faces of the people we're serving. We know their families. We feel that obligation because we're all part of the larger family that makes up this city.
Now, we know that the inequality crisis we face has many components. We know it has many causes over decades. But one of the most powerful driving forces has been the affordable housing crisis – has been the difficulty that people have had in finding housing they can afford. And that crisis has grown and grown rapidly in recent years.
And a family has to make a decent income to live in this town to begin with. But with wages stagnant, benefits questionable, but housing prices ever-rising, you can see how many, many middle class and working class and lower income folks were behind the eight-ball more and more. And it's our job to address this.
We know it's a problem, again, with many causes – many that go far beyond the boundaries of the five boroughs. And we know that we could do so much better if we had stronger partners, particularly at the federal level, willing to help us. But in the end, it's our obligation to take care of our own people. And we have to address this affordability crisis head on because it undergirds the entire larger inequality crisis.
So, we see the symptoms everywhere – once solidly middle class families now experiencing economic uncertainty, seniors who helped to build neighborhoods now being forced out of them, public housing once such a strong pillar of our efforts to provide affordability suffering from federal disinvestment and from neglect.
These crises, again, are not all of the city's making, but it is our responsibility nonetheless to address them, and we believe we can. We can make this one city. We can make this a city where we all rise together. We do that by focusing on housing policies that don't just consider those at the very top, but also focus relentlessly on those who are struggling to make it in this city. So – you can clap for that. [Laughs]
And it's not just about building new units or preserving the units we have, it's also about putting New Yorkers to work in the process – people who live in the 5 boroughs, people who live in public housing – making sure they also get opportunity in the very process of creating and preserving affordable housing, of improving NYCHA, making sure that everything we do is an engine of growth for each community on many, many levels.
Today, we're putting in place an incredible leadership team. I have been at this for a long time. As some of you may know, I was the regional director for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in another life long ago, it seems. And I know a lot about the folks who make up the world of affordable housing and the talent base. And we have literally put together a dream team here. And we worked long and hard to get the right talent in place, and our efforts have paid off.
I want to thank again Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen for leading this effort with the relentlessness for which she is so well-known to bring together an assemblage of talent up to this task.
So we're going to talk about 3 agencies today – NYCHA, HPD, and HDC. Let's begin with NYCHA.
I can safely say – I've been in government a long time and I know people in government all over the country – I can safely say one of the toughest jobs in the United States of America is running NYCHA. It's one of the toughest jobs certainly in the public sector anywhere. And we seek not only to run it and run it well, but to reform it at the same time.
NYCHA is the largest public housing authority in the nation, with well over 400,000 tenants living in NYCHA buildings, another almost 200,000 served by NYCHA through the Section 8 program. If you combine those 2 groups of people being served by NYCHA – the tenants and the Section 8 recipients – the total number of people served by NYCHA is greater than the population of the City of Boston. So it gives you a sense of just how profound the task is. And again, we're talking about buildings that, in many cases, have gone through decades of disrepair and disinvestment.
We're responsible – we are responsible – for the health and safety of every one of these tenants. I want to key in on that point for a moment. I spoke a little bit about this yesterday when we named Carl Weisbrod the city planning chair.
The buck stops at City Hall from now on when it comes to NYCHA. I want this to be abundantly clear. In the past, past administrations and the silos that were created, NYCHA was treated, I think, sometimes as a stepchild, sometimes as something separate.
I often make the point that Mayor Bloomberg strenuously fought for mayoral control of education – and he was right to do so, in my opinion – but he did not provide the kind of mayoral leadership for NYCHA that it needed.
I've said to the folks that we're naming today to lead NYCHA that they can expect to spend a lot of time at City Hall, because I consider myself ultimately responsible for what we do at NYCHA.
And so, we see our mutual responsibility as protecting our tenants – protecting them against crime, protecting them against disrepair, ensuring that their homes are livable, and helping so many of them who are still struggling with the effects of Sandy.
We're committed to bring our public housing into a state of good repair. We're committed to protecting it as the bedrock of affordable housing in the city.
Let me clarify – there have been honest concerns among public housing tenants for many years now that there may be some lurking possibilities of privatization of public housing units. That is never ever going to happen on our watch. We will not allow any privatization of NYCHA units.
We are committed to using our public housing to protect people and lift them up and help them through this crisis we face – this affordability and inequality crisis. And then also, there are some other personal crises that NYCHA participates in addressing. For some who have been victims of domestic violence, for some who have been homeless, NYCHA has offered a safe haven.
Now, all of that needs to happen – that new focus and commitment, that reform has to happen while we simultaneously modernize and retrofit our buildings, and bring our buildings – many of them, again, decades old – into the 21st Century.
So, we have an effort to stabilize and strengthen what we're doing, while simultaneously moving on a path of reform.
It's a mission that will make our city more resilient in many ways – and I'm not just talking about physical resiliency. I'm talking about resiliency of our people as a whole. If we give people a decent way of life, if we give them a path forward economically, if we give them hope, that's what makes for a strong and resilient city. And we are going to be very focused on creating employment opportunities for NYCHA residents in ways that have not been seen before.
I like you.
Mayor: Yes, we have. And you're coming to all my press conferences now. Now, I want to emphasize – I’m about to talk about Shola Olatoye.
Incoming Chair of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Shola Olatoye: Well done.
Mayor: I've been working on that. Olatoye. Shola, I've been practicing Yoruba all day.
NYCHA Chair Olatoye: Better than me, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor: Olatoye. That's right. What's the whole first name?
NYCHA Chair Olatoye: Oyeshola Olatoye.
Mayor: And what's the whole first name mean?
NYCHA Chair Olatoye: God's gracious gift.
Shola: No pressure.
Mayor: No pressure.
Mayor: So, I’m going to talk about Shola, and one of the things I want to emphasize is – to her great credit, Shola asked about the vision of where we move forward. We said we're committed to creating those employment opportunities. We said we're committed to retrofitting buildings so they're not only energy-efficient – and by the way, the NYCHA buildings offer us the greatest front anywhere in the city to make a massive step forward on energy efficiency and addressing climate change. If we retrofit these buildings – it will take time, but if we retrofit these buildings, it's one of the greatest things New York City can do to address climate change from our own perspective. By the way, guess who we can get a lot of jobs for in the process? NYCHA residents.
So, this is the kind of thing we're charging Shola with doing. We're charging her with doing an act of repair, and not the physical repairs. I'm going to talk about Cecil House in a moment – I think he's done extraordinary things in advancing the physical repairs. There is some human repair that has to happen, too. We need to restore faith with tenants. We need to restore faith with the communities. We need to restore faith with elected officials – many of them who’ve worked hard to try and help NYCHA and often got a cold shoulder. Shola is going to be responsible for that.
And by the way, something I've spoken about often – restoring the honest deal that should exist between Washington and our cities – I'm not asking Shola to do that single-handedly, but part of her task will be to help us forge a coalition with cities and states around the country to start to change the rules of the game in Washington, because Washington cannot stay out of the housing business. Washington cannot neglect cities and ignore the need to create affordable housing, because if Washington does that, the cities can't move forward and our nation can't move forward. We're the economic engines, and we need to get Washington back in the business of supporting our cities.
So, Shola Olatoye will serve as the next chair of the New York City Housing Authority. Shola's worked long and hard to get to where she is today. Her father immigrated to the United States from Nigeria. She grew up, like so many in this city – like I did, as well – in a single-parent home. She worked hard, she reached for high goals, and she succeeded – and she inspired the people around her in the process.
First, at Wesleyan University or College?
NYCHA Chair Olatoye: University.
Mayor: University. And then, she got her graduate degree at my alma mater, NYU, or as a graduate student. Yes, you can clap for NYU.
Mayor: There you go.
NYCHA Chair Olatoye: [inaudible]
Mayor: All right – at the Wagner School. Let's shout out the Wagner School for Public Service, where, as a graduate student, she was chosen as the graduation speaker – a first for a university that often attracts celebrities and luminaries to that role. But Shola's story and her vision were inspirational. And she's known among her colleagues for a large, loving extended family – I think some of whom are here today, yes? Family, are you here? All right, excellent. And we're thrilled they're here today.
Shola has incredible experience – and it’s hands-on experience. She knows the theory and she knows the vision of how we create affordable housing and we protect public housing, but a lot of what she's done is also very, very hands-on.
She's a respected coalition-builder, who has worked on major affordable housing projects across the city. She is someone who's also worked to address inequality in other forms before. She was an active leader of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which successfully fought to get New York City public schools our fair share of funding from Albany.
She now serves as the vice-president and New York market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, which has helped build and preserve more than 44,000 units of low-income housing. And she most especially understands the stakeholders, understands the grassroots.
Shola told me in the last days about some of her experiences working with public housing tenants, bringing them into the decision-making process in places like [inaudible] Houses in Brooklyn, and her commitment to listening to tenants and working with tenants – and the fact that it’s something that is part of her family experience as well.
She understands what it takes to bring communities together with public agencies and private partners to get the kind of outcomes we need – and she is ready to lead this great agency. Let me welcome our new NYCHA chair, Shola Olatoye.
[NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye speaks]
Mayor: Turn up the volume. [Laughs]. Now, a moment before we take your questions – again, we’ll start with on-topic, we’ll go to off-topic after. First, en español –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
Mayor: All right. With that –
Senator Bill Perkins: Terrific!
Mayor: Muchas gracias, Señor Senador. With that, we will take your questions in Spanish only.
Courtney – you’re certainly prepared, Courtney, for the Spanish-only section of our press conference. We meant to announce it in advance, but we forgot.
Mayor: Sí, Courtney.
Mayor: Estoy listo, Courtney. ¿Sí?
Question: I think you’re just trying to throw me off—
Mayor: ¿Hay un problema?
Mayor: Courtney. Courtney. Courtney, ¿Hay un problema?
Mayor: All right, all right – Courtney’s not prepared. We’re going to allow her to do it in English.
Question: All right. Mr. Mayor, you spoke about Washington once again. This is something that we’ve heard from the Bloomberg administration as well. How is talking about the funding issue with Washington not, perhaps, just punting the NYCHA financial problem down to DC? That’s the first part. The second part is – thinking about NYCHA’s financial problems, is the land lease issue completely dead? Is it not going to happen? And we would love to get a response also from Ms. Oh-lah-toh-yuh? Olatoye!
Mayor: Second syllable – Oh-lah-toy-yay.
Mayor: You know, your Spanish, your Yoruba – you’re really off today. You’ve got to – this is really – this was kind of – this is New York City, Courtney. We’re supposed to be cosmopolitan. Let’s bring it up a notch.
Mayor: So, on the larger question, I think what we’re setting here is a clear understanding. We’re going to take the NYCHA challenges head on with what we have today. We are not saying, until Washington does what it should have done long ago, that we’re throwing up our hands – in fact, quite the opposite. We’re saying this is a mayoral responsibility. I’ve chosen a team that represents the values of this administration, has the capacity to make real changes within the dynamics we now face. But we know we can’t go to all of the places we should go without real federal aid, and we know there’s been massive federal disinvestment over decades, going back to Reagan. And so it’s really a two-track strategy. In the first instance, we’re going to do all we can with what we have, and be as creative as possible in that process. And second, we are going to start building a coalition nationally to address this issue. I think the difference is, with all due respect to Mayor Bloomberg, who had some impressive coalitions on some issues, like gun control for example – and one that I’ve recently joined – he didn’t apply the same kind of focus to creating a coalition on the economic issues that really are the bread and butter for this city. And I think there’s been an attitude in the national debate that we have to throw up our hands in the face the Tea Party, and it’s just some kind of fixed asset that we can’t overcome. The Tea Party wasn’t around ten years ago. This is a new phenomenon that is not the shape of things to come. It’s not something we’re going to allow to dominate our national life, and we have to go on a counter offensive. So the point is that cities and states all over the country are suffering because the Congress will not support the President’s core notion of investing in our cities. We have to break through that. It will not happen tomorrow. It probably won’t happen in this election, but it has to happen. And my argument has always been that if you look at the districts represented by Tea Party members, they include cities in them. And it’s time for those cities to speak out, and no longer accept an unacceptable status quo.
Mayor: Thank you. On the second question – the Bloomberg approach to development and NYCHA was unacceptable, and I stood against it, and we did everything in our power, and I think succeeded in ending that approach. The only way we’re going to consider development is with the tenants, and one of the things Shola will focus on is repairing the relationship with the tenants. And if we can find a way to create a responsible path forward with tenants that’s transparent, where there’s real guarantees of what the benefits will be to tenants in the immediate area – that’s a very worthy proposal to discuss. But we’re not there yet, so we’re leaving that door open. But we have to create a groundwork of trust and transparency to find a way to do development that everyone can believe in, that might actually help address some of the challenges that NYCHA faces. And that’s going to take some real work – and first and foremost, repairing a relationship that is broken between the Authority and its tenants.
Mayor: Oh, I’m sorry. Yes, I exhausted myself. Please. You don’t need the – you don’t need the step.
NYCHA Chair Olatoye: I’m good. So, I think the first thing – great question – the Mayor talked about a collaborative approach. And I think one of the reasons why he selected and the Deputy Mayor selected me is because of the work that we’ve been able to do, whether at Enterprise or beyond, to work with our partners in Washington. And I think this is an absolute reset, to use the mayor’s language. And in addition to ensuring that our tenants are at the core of our approach to development at NYCHA, we have a fantastic group of professionals where we are really going to avail ourselves of the tools that NYCHA needs to think about, as it builds out, as we think about a development plan.
Unknown: Do you want to address the land lease thing though? She asked about the land lease.
Mayor: Are you going to become the press conference coordinator? [Laughter]
NYCHA Chair Olatoye: I think – again, I think the mayor said that we are, again, with tenants, starting with our tenants, at the core of what we do, and repairing the important relationships to rebuild. Some of that trust is really critical. The door is open, and we’re looking at all of the tools at our disposal to make a better and stronger NYCHA.
Mayor: Okay. Thank you. Azi.
Question: Can you just elaborate a little bit on –
Mayor: Why is your coat on, Azi?
Question: Because I was distracted by all the linguistics.
Mayor: So you’re going – you will speak in Spanish, though?
Question: I will try. ¿Cuánto –
Mayor: Okay – on second thought, let’s stay with English. [Laughter]
Question: How are you going to measure the public sentiment for something like the NYCHA Info Plan? Because when – one of the greats debates in New York about development is there’s always someone who’s going to be outraged; there’s always going to be someone who says let’s not do this. How exactly are you going to measure when is it appropriate for something like this? And also, if we could get the agency [inaudible] to sort of weigh in on the financing of a plan like the Info Plan that they discussed?
Mayor: Yeah, I think the point is that – again, we’re starting with a very blank slate here because we reject the previous approach. So, this is a total reset – and it’s a reset that we will take time to work through, because it begins with a different kind of dialogue with our tenants. The – how do you know when something’s working? You know when tenants feel that they can see the plan as believable, as there being, bluntly, something in it for them, in the best sense of the word. A plan – look, I think what a lot of tenants felt with the previous plan was it might be a pathway to privatization of their units. I think anyone who had that fear was right to stand up and speak out, because if you didn’t believe that your tenants were going to – that your units were going to be safe – I mean, what could be more fundamental? So, job one – we have to develop the kind of relationship with our tenants where it’s abundantly clear that we believe in the long-term future of NYCHA. Part two – we have to show that anything we do would directly benefit tenants in the surrounding buildings, and help the health and wellbeing of their buildings. Part three – we have to show people that there’s going to be real employment opportunities in the process. And part four – you have to show there’s transparency and believability in the plan. So, it’s a lot to put together. If we can achieve a plan like that in any given instance and the tenants feel good about it, that’s the kind of thing we’d look at. Will there be some people who disagree? Yeah. It’s New York City. But, if you – that’s a very high bar we’re setting – on purpose. And it’s a bar we think we can reach, potentially, but we’ll know it when we get there. In terms of financing, let me just hear your question again for [inaudible]?
Question: [inaudible] agency commissioner, your thoughts on the NYCHA –
Mayor: HDC Commissioner. President. You have to call him Mr. President from now on.
Question: Mr. President –
Mayor: Disrespect levels are high. Yeah. Glad you admit it, Azi. Thank you. Thank you – I’m glad you said it.
Question: If – your thoughts about creative ways of funding NYCHA, and specifically the Info Plan?
President of the Housing Development Corporation Gary D. Rodney: Well, I guess, first and foremost, there’s going to be whatever program or parameters that we’re able to develop for these various properties. And once that, kind of, structure is put in place, and we discuss what the affordability levels can be, it’s my job to figure out how we can get that financed. I’m not trying to dance around it, but part of that becomes—
Mayor: Chicken and egg.
HDC President Rodney: Yes. Exactly. Part of that depends on what we try to structure, and what we want to put in place. And based on that, I will go out to the lenders, I will go out to the developers, and I will come up with a plan to get – to actually implement that.
Mayor: Let me just say, also, that I – you know, I was very straightforward with Shola that the repair of the relationship with tenants is a huge piece of this job. And again, I was struck by her previous good works, bringing tenants together with other agencies for common cause. So this is something we have to do in stages, but we’ll know – and I think it’s a kind of a human common sense thing – we’ll know when we have a real reset in the relationship, and when we’re able to show people that there’s a follow-through. And by the way, what Cecil’s been doing on repairs is an important part of it, and that work has to continue and deepen. When folks in the Lincoln Houses see repairs happen more readily, and it’s time to talk about other ideas – I’m not saying here, but any other place – it’s a different relationship when you have delivered for people, and when you’ve been consistent. And so that work has to be done first.
Question: Are there other ideas in addition to possibly leasing land? I mean, during the campaign you also talked about stopping payments to NYPD. That’s not necessarily revenue-raising, but I wanted to know where you stand now on that. But certainly, can you talk about other revenue-raising ideas other than land leases?
Mayor: I’m going to start, and then maybe Shola or Cecil have anything to add, that’s great. The – with a number of things we talked about last year that were part of the platform, we’re going to, piece by piece, talk about what we intend to achieve. Obviously, the issue of the police costs is something we’ll address in some combination of the February budget plan and the April budget plan. So, we are going to be rolling out piece by piece – as we are ready – some of the different pieces that can be helpful to the stability of NYCHA. Obviously it was crucial to first get the leadership team in place, and then to start building out those approaches. But this is work that never ends – I want to emphasize. When you don’t have the partnership you should have from the federal government – again, we don’t curse the darkness here – we light a single candle and say, “What can we do with what we have and creative approaches?” One of the issues is some of the expenses have been forced on NYCHA unfairly, but there are many other fronts that we can work on.
Any particular you want to add?
NYCHA Chair Olatoye: I would just add, that, you know, a budget, obviously, is both revenue and expenses. And as we begin to look at a real retrofit plan for NYCHA, really addressing some of the significant operating costs for buildings that were built almost half a century ago, I think, you know, that activity coupled with changes like the plan that – a long-term development plan – will get us on a path that is more financially sustainable. But we really have to look at it in totality.
Question: [inaudible] how much money can be saved by retrofitting?
NYCHA Chair Olatoye: You know, we are – I am – I am just getting started at looking at that, so I don’t know the answer to that question, but that will be a big part of my assignment.
Mayor: And let me add – Cecil’s going to come up, but let me just add that, you know, the retrofitting has obviously not proceeded in any meaningful way in a set of buildings that are the largest collection of public housing buildings anywhere in the country, so this is an unpainted canvas. Bluntly, I wish it wasn’t an unpainted canvas. I wish there had been real action on this front before, but we are starting from scratch. But we’re very adamant this has to be part of what we do. And retrofit is a much bigger issue than just NYCHA for us, but this is the best place to start in many ways. Let me bring up Cecil.
NYCHA General Manager Cecil House: Yeah, the only point that I was going to make is we’re going to hit it from both ends – not just the revenue side, but the cost side as well. So, as we make our operations more efficient, we’ll also be able to get a lot more work done as we move forward there as well.
Question: [inaudible] there’s a bunch of – you guys have right now a bunch of specific proposals from developers that were submitted, I don’t know, back in November, I think, and you’ve been – I assume – been looking at them. What’s going to happen with that? I think I’d like to ask whoever wants to answer that to answer –
Mayor: I’m going to start, and I think the deputy mayor may have something to add, if you’d like to join us. I know you’re very comfortable in your seat in the front row, but I’ll just start by saying – again, the previous approach we rejected, and this is entirely starting over. Let me let the deputy mayor jump in.
Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen: I mean, I think that the answer to that is that because the way in which the solicitation went out in the prior administration does not reflect the current values of where this administration is going with our affordable housing plan, our intention is to reengage on those sites over some period of time after this community planning process. So I think it would be fair to say that those particular proposals are not the ones we are going to be moving forward with.
Question: [inaudible] talking about 80-20? Is that the—
Deputy Mayor Glen: I’m not talking about 80-20. I’m talking about the responses to that solicitation are not the ones we’re going to be moving forward on. We haven’t made a decision as to what the ultimate programming of any of those sites would be, but we are going to have a restart, and reevaluate all of this in the context of this much more stakeholder-building process with respect to what those opportunities are for those info sites – and potentially different sites.
Mayor: Reset. ‘Reset’ is the key thing.
Deputy Mayor Glen: It’s a do-over.
Deputy Mayor Glen: A do-over.
Mayor: How many of you used to play on the playground? Do-over! It’s a total reset. We are starting from scratch.
Questions – anybody else on-topic, then we’ll go to off-topic. Last call, with – going once – on-topic. Yes –
Question: [inaudible] HPD, sorry [inaudible] 165,000 units, according to the Bloomberg administration, were – it’s the same phrase you used – ‘preserved or created,’ I think. And there’s some debate about what people say is affordable versus what is actually affordable within that subset. So can you address that, and tell me what – if you’ve taken a look at that 165,000? And what do you see?
HPD Commissioner Vicki Been: So, the 165,000 serves a range of bands of income, and I think it’s critically important that we serve a range of bands of income. For one reason, we have an incredible array of families – both working families, the lowest income of families, and all the way up to really working class families who are trying to make a go of it in New York. So we will be looking at both how we serve more of the very lowest income, but we will also be looking at how do we serve those working families that we also need to keep and retain – to attract and retain in New York City.
Mayor: And I would add that – look, we’re trying to do a couple things at once here. It’s ambitious and we know it’s ambitious. We’re trying to speed up the pace. A lot of people say, “Well how are you going to speed up the pace?” Well, for one thing, we are using very different tools than existed before. We are using mandatory inclusionary zoning. We’re using a change in the approach to our pension fund dollars – a very, very different approach. We’re going to start with a $1 billion investment in affordable housing out of pension funds. We’re talking about changing the tax code to end the practice of basically rewarding the land being held vacant with taxpayer subsidies. And a lot of things – we’re obviously going to go at the illegal units that need to be brought up to code, the basement apartments, et cetera. There’s so many fronts that we’re adding that are brand new elements of this equation. By the way, as a backdrop, we also – thank God, at the moment, I am knocking on wood – happen to have a strong housing market, which I think will strengthen a lot of these efforts. And finally, we’re taking a coordinated approach between all elements of government. Kyle Kimball is here because EDC is part of the package. Carl Weisbrod, yesterday, City Planning is part of this. This is one big unified approach that did not exist in the same way previously. So, we believe we can get at the ambitious goal, but we’re also trying to do, as Vicki indicated, reach the whole income bandwidth. Now, some elements of the Bloomberg plan, in my opinion, over-favored the highest ends of the income scale within affordability. I think there’s some objective proof that there was more emphasis on certain neighborhoods than the totality of the five boroughs – so, a lot of things we want to improve. I’m a big believer in a tiered approach where you focus equal amounts on folks who make, you know, $0 to $20,000 family income, 20 to 40, 40 to 60, et cetera. So we’re going to look to create a better equity in the approach, but at the same time, drive those numbers that people – you know, represent the units people desperately need.
Last call. Last call on-topic. Once, twice. On-topic, now still in English. Once, twice – you got my joke, I like you so much – three times. Now – oh, man. You can’t put up your hand at three times. What is it?
Question: Quickly, when will you restore the preference for homeless people for NYCHA apartments [inaudible]?
Mayor: This is – and again, we’ve got a whole team here, and we also have our new Homeless Services Commissioner – we – Gilbert Taylor – we are all working together to figure how we address the homelessness issue writ large. You’ve heard me talk about the number one thing I want to do differently is find a pathway to a prevention program, which I think was effective in the past. We do have to find ways, of course, to get down the historic number of people in shelter – that historic figure, sadly, achieved in the previous administration and left to us. And we have to fix it, because people are suffering. So we will talk with NYCHA about what NYCHA’s role will be in that. But that’s a conversation we have to do as part of a larger planning process to address homelessness.
Phil: We’re running out of time guys.
Mayor: Okay, we’re going to off-topic.
Question: Mr. Mayor, [inaudible] Harlem. I was curious if you have any thoughts on Reverend Michael Walrond and whether or not you two have had any discussions about his congressional campaign?
Mayor: I think the world of Pastor Walrond. He is a good friend. I have not talked to him since his announcement. I look forward to talking to him. But, again, we will have longer conversations about the future with all the different players in this community going forward. So, I just want to express my real respect for him, but I haven’t really looked at the election up here – it’s not time to yet.
Question: There was a bill introduced in the City Council by I think Annabel Palma and Richie Torres that they’re considering some kind of extension of the living wage bill that I think addresses whether or not developments that get subsidies and their relationships with unions and – I’m just wondering if you have a position on –
Mayor: I haven’t seen the bill. We’re obviously have talked about this for a longtime. We’re very interested in expanding the living wage approach. We’re going to have a lot more to say about that shortly, but I haven’t seen this particular piece of legislation, so I look forward to seeing it, and working with anyone who wants our effort to achieve living wage opportunities for folks who work for companies subsidized by the city. We think this is something there’s a tremendous opportunity to build upon, and we’ll have more to say on that soon.
Last call, off-topic. Yes.
Question: Mr. Mayor, about a week ago The New York Times revealed your true height. I was curious – did you really not know your height until a week ago? [inaudible] a full inch off?
Mayor: In the interest of full transparency, I am minding my own business, and I am in my bedroom, and the first lady orders me to stand – no, I’m sorry, it was in my living room – and the first lady ordered me, in no uncertain terms, to go stand by a closet, which she had made markers on of different height levels with her tape measure. It’s indicated in one of the articles that this was like a systematic effort. I’d just like to say this was Chirlane with her tape measure and a pencil, so – and she put them on the wall. And she made me wear my socks only, not shoes, and I stood against the wall, and she has declared now this new height. I – personally, I’ve not had that verified by other sources, but I have no reason to disbelieve the first lady. A lot of people have said to me when I said what I believed to be true, that I was 6’5” or 6’6” with these shoes that have probably about an inch of sole on them – I thought I was telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But I would never, ever disagree with the first lady in public, so I guess that’s my new height now.
Phil: Thank you, guys.
Mayor: Thanks very much, everyone.