December 29, 2016
Commissioner James O’Neill, NYPD: Good morning, everyone. Thanks for being here. I just want to tell you about the security plan we have for the annual New Year’s Eve event down in Times Square and events around the City. Mayor de Blasio will speak in a minute and we’ll have Chief of Department Carlos Gomez give you some more specifics about how we’re securing Times Square. And then Chief of Patrol Terry Monahan is going to speak about other citywide events. We also have Bill Sweeney the FBI’s assistant director in charge with us this morning. So, thanks for being here, Bill. As we do every year we begin preparing for this celebration right after the one we had last year. We plan for and secure large scale events on a regular basis in New York City. And the men and women of the NYPD do it better than no one else – than everyone else actually, thank you.
And we enjoy a great working relationship with the FBI and other federal international law enforcement partners. We’ll help ensure our primary mission and that is keeping people safe. Obviously, we want to make sure that the two million spectators who converge on our city at New Year’s will also have a great time. Chief Gomez will go over the specifics of what we are doing that night. And I – this is the first time in the event we’ll have 65 sand trucks around the area of Times Square. And I want to thank the Sanitation Department for all they are doing, and specifically Commissioner Kathryn Garcia for all their help.
We monitor and access the threat stream every single day in New York City, 24 hours a day; and we confer regularly with our law enforcement partners. At this time we have no direct concerns related to terrorism to Times Square specifically or on New Year’s Eve in general.
Our task is to provide secure viewing for everyone coming down to Times Square. And we will do that with spectator pens that will be set up very early in the day. But we also work closely with the more than 600 businesses in the immediate Times Square area to make sure shoppers can get to their stores. And I think we have done a great job of that this year and every year by working with the Times Square Alliance. I think Tom Harris is with us from the Timers Square Alliance today. Obviously Midtown is going to be exceptionally crowded on Saturday and I urge anyone coming to the City to leave their cars at home and take public transportation. But if you do drive, you can expect to see safety and DWI checkpoints in full swing.
What I want everyone to take away from our preparation is this, people will be safe this New Year’s Eve because we are there along with our law enforcement partners. We’re going to have one of the most well-policed, best protected events at one of the safest venues in the entire world given all the assets that we deploy there. And all of this will ensure that New York City has yet another safe and enjoyable New Year’s Eve celebration as we do every year.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you.
Thank you very much, Commissioner. I want to thank you Commissioner and all the men and women of the NYPD for the extraordinary preparations that have been put in place as we look forward to New Year’s Eve. I want to say to everyone in the room and to all New Yorkers a very happy and safe New Year to all. And we’re here today to talk about the extra ordinary work that has been done to prepare for the New Year’s Eve celebration – one of the great events every year in New York City. I have to tell you the NYPD has so much to be proud of at this point. This ability to handle big event after big vent; to do it seamlessly, to do it so professionally is the envy of the entire world. And at the same time the NYPD is doing better than ever at fighting crime and we have a few more days left in this year, but once again the NYPD is setting records when it comes to lowering crime in the City and making us the safest big city in America. New Year’s Eve we expect as per usual, over a million people. I’m not quite sure why a million people want to stand in the freezing cold for long, long periods of time, but they do. And we will be ready for them. And it is a wonderful celebratory event. Now, not only is the NYPD ready – all of our other city agencies are ready. I want to join the Commissioner in thanking the sanitation department. Those sand trucks are crucial to our strategic approach this year. But beyond that, Sanitation has a big job to do after the New Year’s Eve celebration. We thank them for that. We thank all the City workers who participate in this big event. We also thrilled to say that we have something additionally new this year, which is the reconstruction of Time Square is complete. A $55 million project has been going on for several years, finally complete. So the plazas are complete, wider sidewalks, new benches. It’s going to be a much better atmosphere both for New Year’s Eve and beyond. So that is something we’re very, very pleased with. I want to emphasize, as per usual, on New Year’s Eve you will see extraordinary assets deployed by the NYPD. You’ll see a lot of men and women in uniform including our members of our Critical Response Command, our Strategic Response Group, our Emergency Services Unit. A lot you will see and, as per usual, a lot you will not see. And that is that combination that keeps us safe. And that is what the NYPD has really perfected.
I want to thank all of the leadership of the Department. I want to give a special thank you to our Chief of Department Carlos Gomez and all the other leaders present. I want to amplify what the Commissioner said, we really deeply appreciate the partnership with our federal colleagues. And Bill Sweeney, assistant director in charge for the FBI, for the New York field office, thank you for all we have done together this year and what we will do in the future. I want to thank Michael Paul Carey, our citywide events director, for the great work he and his team have done preparing for this event. And I also want to thank Assemblyman Dick Gottfried for being with us and for all his support. Now, every year people want to know how ready we are and how ready the NYPD is and I remind people every year this extraordinary record, handling these big events, obviously New Year’s Eve every year, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade every year. You know, this year there were threats directed against that parade. And it was an extraordinary presence by the NYPD that was very, very effective. Everyone enjoyed the parade peacefully and happily. What we do with the UN General Assembly every year, what we did last year when Pope Francis visited. It is a proven track record, but as I have said also about the NYPD, this Department never rests on its laurels. Commissioner O’Neill made sure of that. And so, there’s always additional measures being put in place. Obviously what we have done this year with the sand trucks for the last few events is an example of that. Now, I mentioned the CRC, our over 500-plus anti-terror officers. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know a lot of these officers over the course of the year. A really dedicated group of professionals who feel very strongly about the work they do. They appreciate all the training they have gotten; they appreciate that they are at the frontline protecting this city against terror and have been give the training, the weaponry – everything they need to do that. And they are really doing well by the City.
And I have heard from so many New Yorkers how much they appreciate seeing the presence of our CRC officers and our other specialized units. It gives people a real sense of security. And again, you will see that in Times Square on New Year’s Eve for sure. This is also a point because of the graduation yesterday where we have reached the new level of patrol strength for the NYPD. Compared to two years ago at this time, we now have 2,000 more officers on the streets between the actions taken with the City Council to increase the number of officers and the civilianization effort. We now will feel the positive effect of 2,000 more officer being on our street; 2,000 more than two years ago; the first major increase in patrol strength for the NYPD in 15 years. And that is going to help keep us safe and make us safer as we go ahead into 2017.
Finally, I want to remind everyone, if you’re going to Times Square for New Year’s Eve remember there are very clear rules, very clear conditions. You cannot bring umbrellas; you cannot bring large bags. Sometimes there is controversy over that. I wanted to be real clear upfront, just don’t do it. If you don’t want your umbrella taken away, you don’t want your large bag taken away don’t bring it. And if you are worried that you may have to stand out in the rain, well you have various choices you can make about how you want to spend your New Year’s Eve, but the rules are really clear both for security reasons and for the comfort and respect of everyone else there. This is why the NYPD came up with these rules a long time ago; and why they enforce it.
Finally, I’ll say a few words in Spanish in just a moment – but want to remind people – I get the question all the time, ‘What can everyday New Yorkers do to help the NYPD including in a time of unprecedented challenges globally and there is real concerns that people have. And I always say everyone can help the NYPD. The concept of ‘if you see something, say something’ is a real concept and it is not just you see a bag unattended on a subway train. It can be a lot of other things. It could be information you hear; it could be someone acting suspiciously. The rule is real simple. If you think something is happening that makes you worried, go tell an officer. And there is going to be no lack of officers to find in Times Square on December 31st, but I would say it every day around the entire year – if you think something might be a threat; if you think someone’s life might be in danger, tell a police officer. Let the professionals do their work that they do so well.
Quickly in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
With that, it I s my pleasure to turn to Chief Gomez who will give us some more detail.
Chief Carlos Gomez, NYPD: Thank you, Mr. Mayor and Commissioner O’Neill, and good morning to everyone. In anticipation of Saturday evenings New Year’s Eve celebration here in New York City is really not just in Times Square, but throughout the New York City. The Department has been involved in months of preparation to ensure the safety of all those – of all those who come. I want to thank the Times Square Alliance. I think they are in the room today, as well as all the City agencies that helped us prepare for this event. This will be a very well-protected event. It probably will be our most protected event with multiple layers of security. It will also be one of our largest and most staffed events with close to 7,000 police officers dedicated to the celebration here in Times Square as well as other venues throughout the City.
And it will certainly be needed as we anticipate close to two million celebrants converging, gathering here in Times Square to watch the ball drop. Some revelers arrive as early as eight in the morning to get a choice position in our viewing pens. And these pens – there is 65 of them – they stretch from Times Square all the way north to 59 Street. So, it really – we try to fit up to 3,000 individuals in these pens, so certainly a lot of people will be here in Times Square.
As we formulated this year’s plan we paid close attention to world events and we learned from those events. This year, due to the terrorist attacks in Nice, France and in Berlin, Germany we have enhanced our security measures. Like we did during the presidential election last month and the Thanksgiving Day Parade, we will be employing the use of sanitation trucks. These are the heavy [inaudible] collecting trucks as well as sand trucks. And once again, I would like to thank Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and the members of the Department of Sanitation for their assistance.
We will be utilizing 65 of these vehicles. They will be paced in strategic locations around the perimeter of Times Square to keep our celebrants safe. In addition to those heavy vehicles, we will be employing over 100 blocker vehicles to also protect the celebrants. These are not as heavy. These are Department of Vehicles, but it is double what we have used in the past and they certainly add another layer of security.
Thousands of uniformed officers including all those graduated yesterday, over 550 of them, will be assigned here in Times Square; performing various security and other functions. We will have highly visible heavy weapons teams’ form the elite Emergency Services Unit, from our Strategic Response Group, from our Critical Response Command. They will be deployed here in Times Square and other venues throughout the City. And these two units, the Strategic Response Group, and the Critical Response Command – they are relatively new units. Just two years ago they didn’t exist or one was at its infancy stages. They gave certainly provide another layer of security, a good sense of safety to the public as well as the officers. They will be posted at fixed locations, but they will also have a mobile capacity able to respond to any event here in Manhattan as well as the outer boroughs. Our Counterterrorism Bureau will also be out in full force. They will monitor the 12 access points along Sixth Avenue, along Eighth Avenue. They will assist officers in performing bag checks. They will use metal detectors to scan individuals entering the observation areas in pens.
We will also deploy our full complement of explosive-detecting canines, the dogs, both at the event and throughout our transit system. Throughout the day and well into the night a detailed personnel will sweep hotels, theaters, and parking garages for potential threats and suspicious packages. As the Mayor said, these are the officers that you will be able to see. There are many others that you won’t. We will have officers attired in civilian clothes that are specially trained in detecting suspicious behavior. They will be mixing in – blending in with the crowds here in Times Square. We will also have rooftop observation posts as well as our fleet of helicopters observing the event from above. Our fleet of harbor vessels will patrol our waterways, the East River, the Hudson River, the Lower Harbor as we have many dinner cruises in play that night as well as our ferries shuttling people into this event.
We will utilize our network of cameras – hundreds of them – to assist in our security efforts. We will activate our Joint Operations Center at One Police Plaza and it will be staffed with over 30 representatives from city, state, and federal agencies to help coordinate operations throughout the night.
And the night is not just here in Times Square, there are other events throughout the City and Chief of Patrol Terrance Monahan in a few moments will go into greater detail about those events; some are substantial, some have fireworks displays. They will each have an appropriate uniformed presence, which will include heavy weapons as well as blocker vehicles. Also, expect to see a large increase in security at our major subway stations and transit hubs. More officers will be riding the trains. They will be conducting container checks, bag checks as riders enter the system. And there will also be canine dogs down in the transit system. As a reminder to those attending the Times Square celebration, you will be subject to safety screenings, which will include metal detectors, radiation detectors, and certainly bag checks. And I urge everyone, don’t bring any large containers, large bags, don’t bring any coolers, don’t bring any umbrellas, don’t bring any backpacks; you will be turned away. And the screening process, it’s really several layers of screening. As you approach the Times Square area you will be greeted with one screening and then once you get past that, before you enter our viewing pens, you will be screened once again.
Alcohol will certainly not be permitted. It will be confiscated by our screening officers. We will have traffic and street closures put into effect Saturday. DCPI will put out a release with more specific information, but of note, something different from past years, 57 Street and 59 Street – in past years these two streets were open to crosstown traffic, this year early in the afternoon we will shut down 57 Street between Sixth and Eighth and as the pens move up north we will also shut down 59 Street. So please don’t drive in this area. We urge that you take public transportation. To make sure the roadways are safe and secure, we will be conducting sobriety checkpoints throughout the City in all five boroughs. So, please do not drink and drive.
And I would like to close by reminding everyone to keep their eyes and ears open. We will have millions of eyes and ears out there on Saturday evening. If you see something, if you hear something certainly report it. As the Mayor said, you can tell an officer – alert an officer. One will be very close by. You can call 9-1-1 or there is also the New York City terror hotline that is 888-NYC-SAFE; a lot of planning went into play for this event. We expect it to be a safe night. Personally I am bringing many family and friends to enjoy the night. It is a special night here in New York. I hope to see you all out there and thank you.
Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan, NYPD: Good morning, everyone.
In addition to Times Square, we have a lot of other coverage going on throughout the City. Two other major events – we have the Central Park Run and Fireworks. We have increase the size of that detail. There will be sand trucks on the scene and there will also be blocker cars along with heavy weaponry. Up at Coney Island, we have also increased the size of that detail and there will be blocker cars on every street leading to the boardwalk. And we will also have blocker cars on the boardwalk. In addition to this, besides the major events or events going on throughout the City that day – and we are going to be monitoring them all. All our Borough Commanders will be working throughout the night as will all our precinct commanders – be working throughout the night. We’ve added additional personnel to be working the evening and through the late tour in every one of our patrol precincts. So, in addition to all the officers you’re going to see in Times Square, throughout the City you will be able to find an officer. The patrol strength in every precinct throughout the City will be out there to monitor every celebration and make sure that everyone has a very safe and happy New Year.
Mayor: Thank you.
Commissioner O’Neill: Thanks, Terry.
I’ll take some questions now.
Question: You guys are obviously gaining from experience doing this over the years. How do you guard against [inaudible]?
Commissioner O’Neill: You know what, its New York City police officers. This is something that we do every day. And they know – a few times during the year; Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, the tree lighting this is where everybody’s got to be on their toes. I know it’s – complacency can set in at times, but certainly not in an event like this. This is – everybody knows how important this is; everybody knows that the eyes of the world are upon Times Square on new Year’s Eve night. So, there will be no complacency.
Question: Since you’re closing 57 to 59 Streets early are you doing that with the transit systems in those areas too?
Commissioner O’Neill: What the buses?
Commissioner O’Neill: The buses will be rerouted. The trains will continue to go through Times Square area.
Question: Can you explain the closing – you said 57 between Sixth and Eighth and 59, is it the same – what time?
Commissioner O’Neill: Carlos.
Chief Gomez: Yes, 57 Street will be closed early afternoon. I can’t give you an exact time, but expect it to close real early. And then 59 Street, as the pens – as the setup progresses north, as they reach 54 or 55 Street, we will shut down 59 also.
Commissioner O’Neill: We’ll give you exact times through DCPI – we’ll put something out.
In the back.
Question: During the Macy’s – a big threat from ISIS the possibility of a truck attack. Your officers were out checking truck rental places, doing a sweep of the area. Realizing there is no imminent threat here, are you doing anything like that now?
Commissioner O’Neill: We continue to do that operation.
Question: What specifically changed in your approach and response to the attacks in Nice and Berlin?
Commissioner O’Neill: I think the blocker trucks, the sand trucks, working with the Department of Sanitation are a huge part of that, but we also put out additional blocker vehicles and additional long gun teams.
Question: I know that there was the alert that went out to the federal government about attacks at churches. Are you worried about that as people go to mass to bring in the New Year?
Commissioner O’Neill: Terry said this – Chief Monahan said each and every precinct is going to have a precinct commander working and we have additional patrol vehicles out there and we’ll be paying special attention to houses of worship.
Question: Are people allowed to bring gravity knifes into the secure area? And also some people may be inspired to bring signs about the President-elect being that it is a high profile area. Are those going to be allowed?
Commissioner O’Neill: You’re asking me if people are allowed to bring illegal weapons into the pens?
Commissioner O’Neill: The answer to that, Azi, is no.
Question: Signs about Donald Trump – are those going to be allowed to be brought in.
Commissioner O’Neill: You know what; people have a right to protests. If they are obstructing the view of other spectators then that might be an issue, then we might have to take police action there, but New York is – and a lot of people from out of town come to this event and I think people behave very well that night and they all want to make sure that they can see the ball drop.
Question: Can we expect to see these sand tucks, more trucks [inaudible] at not just large events like this, but day to day?
Commissioner O’Neill: This is, you know, it is a changing world. And we have to look around what is going on not just in the United States, but all around the world. So, this is something that will be part of the future. At each – and Terry spoke about Coney Island, we’ll be having blocker vehicles out there also. In the back.
Question: I’m not sure what you mean when you say blocker vehicle. [Inaudible]
Commissioner O’Neill: They are specifically there to stop vehicles from coming into areas where there are pedestrians.
Question: The Second Avenue Subway stations are opening up on New Year’s day. Can you elaborate a little bit about how NYPD will be securing the subway system around the holiday and whether or not that throws any logistical challenges your way?
Commissioner O’Neill: Well, with additional stations, obviously, it doesn’t need to put additional personnel up there, but I’ll let Chief Fox, Chief of our Transit Bureau speak about that.
Chief of Transit Joseph Fox: Everything we see happening in the street will be happening in our subways. As Chief Gomez mentioned bag screenings, canines, explosive-detection canines, additional officers, plain clothes officers that are trained in counterterrorism. And as far as the Second Avenue Subway that is a very important event, but it’s – it will be policed appropriately. It’s essentially three new stations at this point and we’re going to have adequate coverage as soon as their open.
Question: Can I follow up on the Second Avenue Subway? Right now it’s been patrolled by MTA police. How have you been working with them on switching it over because I know [inaudible] have been incidents where like somebody gets sick and you guys, obviously, don’t have the same sort of radio systems. So, how do you guys work with MTA?
Chief Fox: Well, those stations are not operational yet and when they are we will have the coverage there. And we work very well with law enforcement agencies as evidenced with who is stranding up on the stage here today.
Question: Who will patrol that station?
Chief Fox: NYPD Transit Bureau.
Commissioner O’Neill: David.
Question: Given that 7,000 officers roughly are going to be participating in this, how much of an additional strain does the security at Trump Tower add on New Year’s Eve, and has the president-elect decided to come [inedible]?
Commissioner O’Neill: We have a tremendous capacity of the New York City Police Department to cover events. So, it is not going to have an additional impact at [inaudible] and five. And I haven’t heard from the President-elect yet. So, I don’t think he is coming, but that might change I guess.
In the back.
Question: Given that there are a finite number of officers and Chief [inaudible] talked a little bit about all the added emphasis of the satellite events. Is it fair to say that there will be fewer – a smaller number of police officers from this personnel in Times Square in order to cover those?
Commissioner O’Neill: As I said to David, we have 36,000 police officers. And police officers understand when they come on the Department that holidays are not necessarily – they are not going to get holidays off. So, we have an absolute capacity to handle all these events.
In the back.
Question: Commissioner, do we know how much it is going to cost for the NYPD or the City to provide security for this event compared to last year?
Commissioner O’Neill: Yes, we can give – we’ll give you a number through DCPI. It’s a finite number of officers, so we can figure that out.
Question: We saw in September, in Chelsea, what a single man with a couple of improvised devices can do. Can you realistically protect all single individuals – one man [inaudible]?
Commissioner O’Neill: Can we ensure that nothing will ever happen. You know, this is – it’s an open city, it’s an open society, but we have – the security plan we have in place for Time Square. There are multiple layers there as Chief Gomez explained. So, if you are coming down to Times Square rest assured that it will be a safe venue. The NYPD along without law enforcement partners will make sure we do our absolute best to keep people safe.
Question: Commissioner, we have already heard the message to the people on the things that they shouldn’t bring on the New Year’s celebration, but what about other [inaudible] like celebratory gunfire. Any kind of message about that?
Commissioner O’Neill: Celebratory gunfire is like bringing a gravity knife into a pen at Times Square.
It’s illegal use of a firearm and our police officers – we have precinct commanders and we have extra patrol strength in every precinct, so if you’re going to participate in that there is a good chance you’re going to get arrested.
Question: Since we’re about to do off-topic, I have a question for you –
Mayor: Let’s finish on this and then we’ll go to off-topic.
Any other questions on New Year’s Eve? Please.
Question: I’m wondering could the Commissioner – because a lot of the manpower for the Times Square celebration is [inaudible]. So, I am wondering if precincts were [inaudible] are especially problematic. What are you doing? [Inaudible]
Commissioner O’Neill: We do take people from precincts around the City. We also use resources from other boroughs and other divisions, but we also use overtime to make sure that all the precincts throughout the City have enough manpower.
Question: Are there sweeps underway, let’s say tomorrow, in advance of Saturday or street closings; anything like that for security checks a day ahead?
Commissioner O’Neill: Yes, we do security checks – actually Jim Waters could talk about that a little bit. Chief Waters.
Chief Jim Waters, NYPD: So, we’ve done a number of things over the last week or so. So, we’re checking parking garages. The Intelligence Bureau is working in the Nexus program with the large truck rental locations etcetera. So, yes, we seal the manhole covers; we visit hotels, we do all the things that we do year around with events. We just jack it up a bit for New Year’s.
Chief Waters: Trashcans etcetera, yes.
Question: What is the usual rule of thumb or average for arrest and [inaudible]?
Commissioner O’Neill: The arrests I can give you. Last year was minimal. I think we had 15 arrests in the area of Times Square. Most of that was for unlicensed general vendors. And the number of C summonses I’d have to get back to you on that, but hospitalizations you’ll probably have to go to EMS for that.
Question: Total on the number of sanitation trucks you’re using and also the blocker vehicles – how many of those –
Commissioner O’Neill: We’re using 65 sand trucks and over 100 blocker vehicles, police vehicles.
Question: Do you have a figure of how much all of this is going to cost?
Commissioner O’Neill: Yes, we do. And we’re going to get that out to you through DCPI.
Question: It seems that this year as well as last year the way that you’re securing this event and other large profile events has really kind of morphed against terrorism, in other words this setup may be some sort of a large [inaudible] attack. You guys really are [inaudible]. How have your preparations warped and what are you doing with the NYPD to kind of [inaudible]?
Commissioner O’Neill: Sure. And Carlos mentioned this, so over the last three years we have put two new divisions – the Critical Response Command and the Strategic Response Group together. Because we live in a changing world now and again as I said before it can’t just be abbot what happens in New York or what happens in the United States. It has to be what happens worldwide. So, in addition to SRG and CRC we still have our Emergency Services Unit and we have our Joint Terrorist taskforce, which we have NYPD detectives and FBI agents. So, I think investigative wise we do great, prevention I think we’re in great shape and God forbid something does happen we do have a tremendous capacity to respond. So, we pay attention to changing events throughout the world.
Commissioner O’Neill: Hold on one second.
I just wanted to say, a lot of the people in the room – I have seen you all year – I just want to wish – I hope everybody had a great holiday season and have a very safe and Happy New Year’s Eve. And if you are down at Time Square we’ll all be down there too. So, I am sure we’ll be talking to you on Saturday night – so everybody Happy New Year.
Question: You’re not taking the night off?
Commissioner O’Neill: Come on.
Night off, what’s that?
Mayor: Okay. Hello, yes –
Question: Next week there’s a hearing regarding the New York ID card. I’d like to know what you have to say to ensure that the people’s information will be preserved and not –
Mayor: I’ll say two things. The – first of all going forward, we’ve already, under our City law, changed the protocol. We no longer take those backup documents. In terms of the court case, I don’t prejudge outcomes. I’ll simple speak to the fact that we’re very confident in our position. Our City law is abundantly clear. It went unchallenged for two years. It’s quite clear about the timelines, the methodology, and the need to protect people’s confidentiality. And I think protection of confidentiality is a very strong – privacy rights are a very strong part of our law. So, I feel very good about our legal position. Yeah –
Question: Picking up off that question about the ID cards – you’ve sort of spoken about Donald Trump’s policies and how you feel empowered to, sort of, rebut against what he may be doing. But when it comes to things like police disciplinary records which are a State law and the transportation of the deer in Harlem, you sort of said these are State law, my hands are tied, I really can’t do anything about it. Can you explain when you feel enabled to sort of stand against State or federal policy and when you feel you have to sort of follow it even if it contradicts a view that you hold.
Mayor: I think that is a real apples-and-oranges example but it’s a fair question. The Constitution is the issue here. The Constitution makes very clear that tremendous amount of power is held in local hands and that can be the state level, that can be the municipal level. Certainly between our laws and the history of this country, we’ve seen policing be handled at the local level. We’ve seen education be handled at the local level and so on and so on. The services that most affect people’s everyday lives are managed locally – the decisions are made locally. That’s how America’s evolved almost 250 years.
So, that, to me, makes abundantly clear that there are severe limits on what the federal government can compel localities to do. Now, State government – we’ve talked about this many times – there are plenty of areas where State government does have the right to set ground rules, there’s others where it doesn’t so much. Again, State government does not get involved in a whole host of issues related to our day to day policing, our day to day education. But on something like the deer, there was clear governing issues around wildlife. Wildlife is obviously more of a State issue than a City issue – that stands to reason.
And when it comes to the records issue – that’s abundantly clear in State law but it has to be changed. And I think everything you’ve seen in the last couple of years in this country – there is such a profound desire for more transparency on that front. I think it will be changed. I’m confident that whether it’s immediately or in the next few years that that will be changed.
So, I think they’re very different realities. Yeah –
Question: Can you comment on the criticism that you’re in-house team is producing video that are functioning as campaign ads –
Mayor: It’s – I think it’s absolutely a misunderstanding of what we’re doing. I think it’s a non-issue. The end of a year, in any branch of government, people put out reports of all kinds. This was a video which is more and more the way people get information. And the notion that it was an ad is outrageous and ludicrous. Ads have to be broadcasted. You actually have to pay to get time for an ad. No one’s doing anything like that. So, I think it’s a pretty big misunderstanding of what we did.
Question: Why is it necessary for 15 people to be a part of this team to produce videos?
Mayor: Well, again, you can look at what’s happening all over the country. You can look at the White House. You can look at corporations. You can look at news stations. Everyone’s using video more and more – a way of transmitting information. A lot of people what to get their information that way. So, it makes sense that government has to do it too.
Question: But 15 – why 15?
Mayor: I don’t get into the details of how many people are necessary to do things. But the point is – we put a lot of information out that people want and need and it’s a good way to do it.
Question: Can you tell us your thoughts on the U.N. resolution on Israel. Do you support it or not –
Mayor: I don’t think it’s the core of the matter to be honest with you. I think the issue is we need a two-state solution. I said that when I was in Israel. I feel that profoundly. The U.N. has not played a constructive role. I’m a believer in the U.N. as an institution but it has never played a constructive role in terms of bringing peace between Israelis and Palestinians. What we got to get to is a two-state solution. That’s the bottom line.
Question: Mr. Mayor, do you disagree with –
Mayor: Again, I don’t really know what I think about the details of the resolution. What I know is it’s besides the point. The solution has to come between negotiation, between Israelis and Palestinians. That’s the core of the matter. And right now, that’s not happening.
Question: On – back to the online video. Just as a matter of law, though, to my understanding, elected officials can’t appear in ads or commercials in an election year that are funded by taxpayers. Is it your interpretation that this does not fall under that umbrella –
Mayor: Couple of different things – everything we do like that, of course, goes through legal guidance. Obviously, we know in an election year, there’s going to be particular ground rules and we’ll follow those. But we’re going to put out a lot of information that has nothing to do with, you know, me as being a character in the video. We’re going to be putting out a lot of information on a lot of other topics.
Question: But are you saying this type of ad would not –
Mayor: It’s not an ad. You can say it all day long. It’s not an ad. I’ve actually been deeply involved in organizations that do advertising. You call up a TV station or a radio station. You purchase time. That’s an ad. This isn’t an ad. This is a video.
Question: So, you [inaudible] this kind of video even in 2017?
Mayor: Yeah but the same way we would put out any other kind of government report. I think the important thing to understand – I think you guys see this every single day – we have to put out information that’s accessible and interesting to people. We have to get out to people a whole host of things that the City is doing. We want to do it in an appealing and an engaging way. This is how a lot of people like to get their information nowadays and it just makes sense.
Question: Mr. Mayor, as far as I can tell, this video that’s been put out is the only sort of year-end thing that your administration has put out at this point. Is there anything else we should expect? And is the last that we’re going to see of you this year –
Mayor: I know you’ll miss me.
Question: Of course. But, you know, is there anything else in terms of looking at the year. And in conjunction with that you were asked recently about any mistakes from the year and you said you didn’t have an answer off-hand. Have you thought more about that? Anything from the year that you want to do differently next year?
Mayor: So, on the first point – this is the last press conference of the year. You know, obviously, at any point you guys can ask about anything about this year or next year, anything you want. So, we put out a lot of information over the course of the year about what we think we’ve achieved and the challenges we’re trying to face and that’s going to be an ongoing conversation.
In terms of – I think when you guys asked the question about mistakes you’re asking very fairly – do I think I’ve made mistakes? Do I think my team has made mistakes? I think that all the time. I’m very tough on myself. I’m very tough on my team. I think my team will attest to the fact I’m very tough on my team. I want perfection from myself. I want perfection from them.
But I make mistakes all the time and then I try and fix them. I try and figure out how I can do better. But I don’t make it a point to sort of self-flagellate nor to exaggerate when something goes right. I try and keep an even keel. I would say [inaudible] sort of snapshot the year, I feel good about the most important things and I feel, still, frustrated that despite a lot of efforts around homelessness we haven’t gotten where we want to go.
So, the easy answer is – I’m thrilled crime is going down while stop-and-frisk continue to go down. I’m thrilled that we’ve built more affordable housing at a record pace. And I’m thrilled that the graduation rate has gone up. These are the things that are the most important to everyday New Yorkers and it’s the first obligation of government. But I’m very dissatisfied when it comes to a lot of strategies we’ve put into play to address homeless that still haven’t gotten us where we want to go.
I’m seeing some real hope now particularly around HOME-STAT. And you saw the report last week. That could be a game changer if it continues that kind of progress. And the shelter census has started to go down a bit which is a good sign. But there’s a whole lot more to do. But that continues to be the number one frustration.
Question: And just – in a slightly related matter, the Campaign Finance Board insists that participation –
Mayor: Wait a minute, how are you – I’ll take it but I’m really interested to see how you’re making this connection.
Question: We’re transitioning –
Mayor: Slightly related.
Question: – into your re-election.
Mayor: Judges, do you see any relationship here? Do you think there were will be a martian landing during our lifetime? In a related matter – go ahead.
Question: The Campaign Finance Board requires participants to engage in two primary debates. Would you be willing to do more than two if there –
Mayor: Speculative. Obviously, we’ll do the two for sure. I’m going to be participating in the Campaign Finance program. We’ll see as we get closer. It’s a long way off.
Question: Just sort of on that same tangent of – where do you rate your administration's response to, obviously, the ACS issue which I guess is, if you add that – you can add that to the list of things on top of homelessness. But there’s also – in terms of the tale of two cities which you campaigned on, will that be sort of a message in 2017? And then on top of that –
Mayor: Okay. Hold on. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait. We’re going to do this in segments because I can’t remember by the third one.
Mayor: Someday we’ll trade places and I’ll do the six-part question and try it on you.
Okay. Fighting the tale of two cities is what I came here to do. That’s not changing. That’s going to be – as long as I hold this office, that’s going to be one of our central efforts to fight income inequality and other forms of inequality. I don’t have a doubt in the world that a lot of what we’re doing is having an effect but we’ve got to do a lot more. It’s as simple as that.
I know from talking to everyday New Yorkers who had a financial burden lifted by getting pre-K for their child or after school for their middle school child. I know that changed their lives. I know we’ve helped create a lot more jobs including good paying jobs. I know we’ve gotten a lot of people affordable housing. I know we did a rent-freeze for two million people. Of course, that is all a direct assault on income inequality. That’s directly improving people’s economic circumstance.
Is it enough? No. We have a lot more to do. And now the challenge is, you know, when I was first running you guys very fairly said, can you do it in a city without support, particularly from the federal government? And I said you can do a certain amount but to really make the big changes, of course, you need federal support. Now, we have no clue what the federal situation is going to be but it’s hard to be too optimistic.
On the ACS situation – I really want to put this in perspective. There is a lot of work to do but I think there has been a real misunderstanding of the situation at ACS. I’ve talked about the fact that there’s between 50,000 and 60,000 cases a year. The vast, vast majority are handled well and kids are kept safe. ACS has required changes and reforms for years and years going back to the Giuliani years.
Every mayoralty tries to add to that. I know Giuliani did. I know Bloomberg did. I know I have and we’re going to keep doing that. But we have to be clear about the things that are working as well as the things that have to be improved. There’s a lot more training now. We’ve put in a lot more resources. We brought the staffing levels back up. There’s a lot more to do but those are the right directions.
And I think it’s really important to recognize, this is incredibly difficult work and we have to respect the people who do the work who overwhelmingly succeed. And when something goes wrong we’re going to be resolute about addressing it.
I do want to take this moment to borrow a quote, here, because I was very affected by it. I don’t know it you guys saw the column a few days back by Errol Louis and I thought it really got to the core of how tough it is to do the work of ACS and how, overwhelmingly, ACS has succeeded. That never forgives the mistakes and as the column points out and I’ve said it too, we hold ACS to a standard we hardly hold to anything else to, in our society, of perfection. But his quote that appreciate, and this was directed to politicians, he said, “I suggest a New Year’s resolution for all politicians – when it comes to child welfare choose calm, compassion, and professional solutions not the politics of panic.”
And I think that’s true for all of us. It’s – we are deeply moved when a child is lost and we should be but we also have to look at the whole situation of what’s working and what’s not, and keep the improvements coming.
Question: I know you said you don’t like to self-flagellate, but can you elaborate a little on what mistakes –
What mistakes –
Mayor: You can set your watch by it.
Question: Can you elaborate on what mistakes, specifically, the administration made on homelessness that you were referring to?
Mayor: I’m not going to go into a big elaboration of it. I think I’ve spoken many times about the fact that we put a series of strategies in place. They didn’t get us where we wanted to do and we have to try new ones. And I think, again, one of the things that is pertinent to the other topics as well – no one says, even the finest moments in history of government which I would say was the New Deal, was filled with things that worked like social security because we still have it and things that didn’t work and had to be taken back done and retooled or started all over again.
We tried a variety of strategies on homelessness. Some worked, some didn’t. We’re going to keep trying to get it right. But I also know that it’s another issue that brings out a lot of emotion. I understand that and I’m not going to be swayed by the emotions of the situation. I’ve got to produce for the people of this city. And I’ve got to find a way to keep preventing homelessness, to get people off the streets for good, and to provide the shelter capacity we need. It’s not a fun and easy equation especially with the economic realities and the cost of housing in this city.
So, my job is to get it right and I’m certainly not satisfied that I or my team got it right to-date but I do see the beginning of some real progress.
Unknown: Two more questions.
Question: Speaking of –
Question: It’s the [inaudible] of the year, Eric –
Mayor: Willie, I was going to veto him. You don’t need to. Back off, Willie. I’ll do the vetoing around here. Eric, how dare you.
Question: Speaking of homeless programs –
Mayor: Poor Eric –
Question: – called Home for the Holidays –
Question: – to get homeless families out of the shelters. There’s a lot of red tape, a lot of forms, restrictions, a lot of hoops to jump through. Talk about this. I know it’s ending on December 31st – how is this going?
Mayor: No, no, first of all, I think there’s a couple of assumption there I don’t agree with. I don’t know if I’d say there’s a lot of red tape and hoops to jump through. This is a thing that has to be done right. We’re offering a serious subsidy to a family. We have to make sure it’s legitimate and the taxpayer would want us to do that. We think there’s a lot of families who are going to qualify now and going forward.
So, Home for the Holidays was focused on the particular moment when we thought a lot of people had a need and a receptivity but that’s not going to stop. We want to keep using this tool moving forward. We think it makes all the sense in the world. Why would a family be in shelter if they could be with their family members? But their families members need economic help to make that happen. We see some real promise here. We see some things working.
So, we got to guard against using it the wrong way but if there’s places we can streamline it, if there’s ways we can make it work, of course, we’re going to keep looking to do that. I like what I’m seeing so far. I think it’s something we can use in the future.
Question: Another big initiative of yours, Vision Zero – and you talked a lot about that it takes time but that we are making progress. As far as I understood, as of November, pedestrian and cyclists deaths were about flat [inaudible] even a little bit down. I’m wondering if you could give us a snapshot of where we are right now. And how do you square that with progress if we are –
Mayor: Yeah. A couple of things. So, one – obviously, all of us, everyone who was up here earlier – we’re all counting down to midnight on December 31st because all year long we’re watching all of the numbers. And we like what we see across the board on public safety with a few exceptions.
On Vision Zero – I think what you said is important. The timing – through the end of October, we did not like where we were compared to where we wanted to be. At the end of October we put this new initiative in place focused on the early evening hours and that a huge and immediate difference. If you remember the press conference we had some weeks later where we showed that that was actually really starting to move the needle and save lives. We’ll have the final numbers, obviously, in a few days.
But what I’d say is – of course, here’s the basic logic that I think people need to pay a little more attention to. When we came into office, the fatalities were at an absolutely unacceptable level. They were close to the number of murders each year. The first year of Vision Zero knocked that down. The second year knocked it down more. The third year’s been similar to the second year but it’s still a hell of a lot better than where we were three years ago. It’s still progress.
We want constant progress. And as New Yorkers, we’ve gotten used to that in terms of shootings, homicides – a lot numbers that have gone done pretty steadily over the years although you’ll see year to year fluctuations – pretty steadily. We want that for Vision Zero, too. The difference is Vision Zero is still in its infancy. The street redesigns, which are a crucial piece of it, they keep coming online all the time as they are completed. The enforcement levels are going up. They’re not static. There’s more NYPD enforcement being put in place.
We are hopeful this session in Albany that we’re going to get additional authorization around cameras – speed cameras around schools. So, it’s in progress. It’s in evolution. But my hope is, this year will be better than last year. But even if it’s similar it still represents real progress compared to a few years back.
Question: I wanted to ask a question related to your answer from a few questions ago –
Mayor: Yes –
Question: What is the most worrisome thing that you have heard the President-elect say in regard to his approach to federal programs that affects cities like yours?
Mayor: It’s a great question. How many hours do you have?
So, if you – I think you said it a particular way in effect to – related to programs affecting New York City. If you said the most worrisome thing overall, my mind immediately goes to deportations both because of the human impact and because what anything would cause a rift between our police and community would help public safety in this city. But if you say impact on specific programs, the first thing that comes to mind is the Affordable Care Act being repealed which could have a huge negative impact on the healthcare of New Yorkers and particularly on our public hospitals.
The even bigger question to me is if he tries to go through with massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, which I believe will get a massive amount of resistance including from a lot of people who supported Donald Trump – well, where is the federal government going to compensate for all the loss revenue? Are they going to take away from education? Are they going to take away from mass transit? Are they going to take away from affordable housing? I think that’s a huge x-factor. That will not play out until the fall with the federal budget.
So, I think the answer – the best answer to question about the here and now is the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Question: Back to Vision Zero, you mentioned the street redesign projects. The City Council and advocates have called for more funding for those kind of – that kind of work under the initiative. Given the number of fatalities this year, going into the next budget cycle, are you more willing to consider adding more funding for those projects –
Mayor: I’m always willing to consider it. The fact is there is a certain amount of work that can get done realistically at any given point in time. We have to be real about that. And that’s been one of the issues with the redesigns. We have crews working all the time, the resources are there. It is a question of how much could actually practically be done. And sometimes there is a temptation to authorize money because it looks good even though it is not going to be spent. We don’t like to do that. We like to authorize the amount we think could actually be spent. But there is going to be nonstop work on street redesigns for years to come. That’s the bottom line. Yes –
Question: Do you intend to run on the women’s equality party line next year?
Mayor: That’s a way off decision. I haven’t even thought about that.
Question: Going back to this controversy over that video and whether it was advertising. A lot of people in my family who have been in advertising and they would debate whether buying time is the definition of what an ad is – they would say selling something and promising a benefit is really advertising –
Mayor: So you have developed a new concept of free advertising. I don’t understand that Henry, with all due respect.
Question: Taxpayers –
Mayor: Henry, advertising is when you buy something.
Question: One of the lines in that video said, no matter what will be we’ve got Billy D. B. You’re not talking about policy there; you’re not talking about what government did there; you are selling yourself as the leader of the City.
Mayor: Henry –
Question: Why is that not advertising?
Mayor: Every leader, every organization puts out materials talking about what they’ve done. They usually have glossy pictures of their leaders and letters from their leaders and quotes from their leaders. C’mon this is no difference. It’s just a new way of getting information out.
Question: It’s not a new way. I mean [inaudible] did it.
Mayor: Wow. Henry, you’re stretching. You’re stretching my friend.
Question: I’m not.
Mayor: Yes you are.
Question: The message here is about you. It’s not about –
Mayor: Pretty cursory message about me.
Okay, next – Yes, sir.
Question: Are you going to the inauguration?
Question: A question from my colleague –
Mayor: You have to be able to read it.
Question: Senator Daniel Squadron has asked that the City’s Corporation Counsel investigate the events surrounding the sale of the Rivington House for possible violations of the False Claims Act and she wanted to know if you support that?
Mayor: I support anything that will get us further restitution for what happened. I made very clear my anger at the way the private sector firm handled things because I said it and then the attorney general verified that they were not truthful in the way they handled things. So far our Law Department cannot find an actual pathway. It’s one thing – no disrespect to Senator Squadron, it’s easy to put out a press release. We’ve been asking this question for months – is there some way to act legally that would work? We haven’t found it yet.
Question: A few questions ago you were talking about income inequality. When the St. John’s Terminal Development Project was approved your office sent out a quote about it being a win for mandatory inclusionary housing, but some of your allies in City Council did not vote for the project specifically because it did not meet MIH standards. The average AMI is 95 percent, not 80 percent.
Mayor: Look, I want to be careful because I don’t have all the details of the final plan in front of me. We are working with the City Council member and the community on a variety of needs in the community and this is something that you know predated the MIH legislation so a lot of it had already been in progress already. So, I think it is an exceptional situation but what I’d like to do to make sure I am being perfectly coherent and Eric and Austin will follow up on this is let us get our specific facts on what was achieved and why and get them to you.
Alright, anyone in the back? I am going to do a few more. Alright Jen.
Question: Back to Andrew’s question, how do you justify a line, no matter what will be, we’ve got Billy D. B.? Whether that’s a commercial or not, how is that something that’s not –
Mayor: Jen I just – you guys can ask all day long. I think it was a lighthearted attempt to get information out. It was very low-key. I just am not reading into it what you’re reading into it. I think it was funny.
Question: Is the job going to your head if you think it’s appropriate to have professional singers sing your praises –
Mayor: I feel my head is quite fine. Now we’ll do two more after you.
Question: The other day, Councilmember Idanis Rodriguez has an idea of extending the pedestrian mall in Times Square all the way down to 14th Street. Is that anything on your radar or [Inaudible] possibility?
Mayor: No it’s not on my radar. It seems a stretch, but I want to see what he’s talking about. But, it’s not on my radar.
Question: Do you know your plans for New Year’s Eve and are you going to the Second Avenue Subway?
Mayor: Yes to the Second Avenue Subway and yes to the ball drop. Azi, you’re the final word.
Question: That’s a lot of pressure.
Mayor: C’mon Azi, you can do it.
Question: I was going to ask you about why you are offering to pay NYPD officers money to wear body cameras. If that is a –
Mayor: I think I’ve made clear many times, don’t believe what you read in the New York Post. So there is a lot of discussion going on and we’re still in the mediation process and nothing has been decided.
Question: You’ve been denying it then?
Mayor: I’m saying there is a lot of discussion going on and nothing has been decided. And don’t assume until you see if something even comes of it. That’s the bottom line.
Happy New Year, everyone.