January 6, 2014
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Welcome, everyone. I want to just have a point of personal privilege upfront to say that in the year 1990, I started as a junior staffer in the Mayor’s office, and I have the most fond memories of this room – including some difficult moments too, but there are a lot of fond memories. And it is a very personally moving moment to be addressing you now from this side of the podium and have the chance to share these wonderful announcements with you. And I look forward to seeing my friends in the media many, many times in this room going forward. First, I’m going to do something really different and special and thank the leaders of our transition.
I want to thank Jennifer Jones Austin and Carl Weisbrod for their extraordinary leadership. And, as always, Laura Santucci and Ursulina Ramirez – now, of course, both have already taken their roles in the government, but both played a big role in the lead up to these announcements. And now that people are in place and starting to hire other people, I want to thank our first deputy mayor, Tony Shorris; our deputy mayor, Lilliam Barrios-Paoli; and our intergovernmental affairs director, Emma Wolfe – all of whom were essential to the hiring of some of the individuals here today.
So, the build-out of our government – the transition process continues, even though it was a tad interrupted a few days by a snowstorm. We’re so pleased with the way everyone handled the efforts of the city during the storm – led by our first deputy mayor, Tony Shorris – and now that things have got a little more normal, we are right back to the process of making appointments and then you’ll be having a number of press conferences with us in the next week or two as we announce more and more people. Our mission remains constant – we want a government that is progressive, effective, and diverse. And you will see in each round of announcements that we’re fulfilling that commitment. And we’ve got some tremendous leaders joining the administration today. I’m really proud of this group of people. I think they’re fantastic choices for the roles they’re going to play. And I would like to just [inaudible] and I’m start talking about each individual appointee, but let me just say for a moment for our friends in the Spanish media –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks Spanish]
I go back for my lessons.
First, personally, the first appointment, means lot to me because he’s a guy that I’ve worked with for many, many years. In fact, Bill Chong, we started working together over 20 years ago. So, haven’t gotten very far from each other, have we? Bill Chong has devoted his entire career to building neighborhoods and supporting neighborhood organizations that helped people in need, and helped our youth, and our aging population. He has been extraordinary in his public service – I’ve seen a lot of it up close and personal in his time as deputy commissioner at the City Department for the Aging. He played a crucial role in helping community organizations create disaster preparedness plans for our elderly and making sure that they were safe in disasters.
He’s also done a great job as someone who is devoted to making government work more efficiently. He’s done a great job at streamlining the grand process and creating the opportunity for more community input. In his eight years at Department of Youth and Community Development, previously, he led the Out-of-School Time initiative for more than 600,000 young people across 500 programs. He will be an integral player in our efforts to expand after-school programs for tens of thousands of middle-schoolers, helping them to stay off the streets, and get a great deal of assistance in their education, and keeping them on task.
Bill and I worked together in the Dinkins administration. He was a valued colleague then and I have the tremendous joy of working with him at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under Secretary Cuomo, and I turned to Bill throughout that experience. He’s really one of the smart people about how government can be made to work for people. He always had a level head, a deep understanding of the mechanics of government, a great wry sense of humor no matter what was thrown at us, and a deep appreciation and love to the people of this city. And I think he’s going to make a great commissioner for DYCD. It’s my pleasure to introduce, Bill Chong.
Bill Chong: Thank you. Excuse us, no pirate jokes?
Mayor de Blasio: I am resisting making pirate jokes. But if I were to make a pirate joke, I’m thinking of something with plunder, but I’ll be back with that.
Bill Chong: Thank you Mr. Mayor. It’s a pleasure working for this administration. As you’ve mentioned, we’ve known each other for many years. We shared common values about the power of community organizations, how they can make a difference in the lives of young people, and old people, and other vulnerable residents. I’m a native New Yorker, born in East New York, Brooklyn – lived in three out of the five boroughs, so I still have time for Stanton Island and the Bronx. But I’ve seen how important community groups can play in improving the quality of life of our neighborhoods. And that will be my priority at DYCD.
I’m extremely happy that you’ve made young people the focus of your administration and I think of no better investment than to invest in young people in middle school. All the research shows, our own experience show, that young people in middle school sometimes make bad choices that affect their lives forever. And by providing afterschool programs, providing the opportunities to do career exploration, community service, to learn more about science, math, engineering and technology, I think we’ll ensure that young people stay on the path to success to be productive citizens. I look forward to working with you and my colleagues in government. Thank you.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Bill. Welcome aboard. I’m not going to make my pirate joke yet, but at some time I might be so moved. But Bill, the good news is when you to DYCD you will know where everything is, you’ll know where the men’s room is – you’re all ready for the job. Alright. Next, the Community Affairs Unit – the CAU – again, I’ll refer back to my earliest time in city government – I worked very, very closely with the CAU. I know what a crucial role that unit plays, being the voice of the city government – the mayoralty out in communities – but also the eyes and ears – learning what’s happening in the community level, making sure that the government is responsive to the people at the grassroots.
When done right, this an absolute pivot point in our city government to make sure that we’re actually doing what we’re here to do in terms of serving people and also recognizing that we do not have a corner on the market of good ideas. A lot of times here in City Hall, we think we understand something that is the right way to handle a certain issue and we find out the grassroots leaders have a better idea. We need a leader at the CAU who understand that, who can work with every kind of community, who can listen, who can spread the word of what we’re trying to achieve, but also bring back those good ideas, those critiques, and make sure that community input really reaches deep into City Hall. And that person is Marco Carrion.
Marco has deep roots in organizing communities and in progressive movements. He’s someone that I’ve seen his work up close and personal – he is tireless, he is creative, and he has a great way of connecting with every kind of person. And as in his previous work as chief of staff for State Center at Gustavo Rivera, in a situation I can only say was an extraordinarily – whoops, this side – an extraordinarily difficult one, given the dynamics that were previously existed in United States Senate district. I think Marco did an incredible job in helping to restore integrity to the work being done in that district. At the Central Labor Council, he’s been one of the driving forces behind the Paid Sick Leave bill and everyone knows that I think that the Paid Sick Leave bill that was passed was a step forward, but we need to go a lot further.
I know Marco will be tremendously helpful as we continue that effort. He helped to forge progressive agenda – over 300 different union units that worked through the central labor council and coordinated activities. So, this is a guy who is used to a very big and complex playing field. As head of the Community Assistance Unit, he’ll make sure that this government responds to all five boroughs. And I think everyone knows how serious we are about making sure that this is a five-borough government. As a proud son of the Bronx, Marco is a true believer in this effort and he will pay particular attention to neighborhoods that have not gotten always the most attention and support from City Hall and from city government. He’ll be one of the people helps make sure that we right that wrong. It’s my honor to welcome to the administration, Marco Carrion.
Marco Carrion: Hello, everyone. I’m going to try to project – unfortunately I have a cold.
Mayor de Blasio: You can do it.
Marco Carrion: I’m going to try. It’s a little weird being on this side of the mic. Usually I’m the person who’s trying to convince folks to testify to hearings or speak in a rally. But let me start by saying how honored I am to be, you know, a part of this administration, how excited I am to start the work that we’re going to start. And I’m excited because this is really going to be revolutionary work. We were really going to hit the streets, talk to people and, most importantly, listen. The reality is the majority of people who talk about community outreach or engage in communities just do it to check a box just to talk at their constituents, and then walk away. But this administration is not going to do that.
Through this administration – especially through CAU – we’re going to talk to everyone. We’re going to deal with the civics, to the community boards, tenant associations, CBOs, you know, average New Yorkers and see what their issues are, to talk to them about what they think is important, whether it would be portable housing, universal pre-k, programs to seniors, after-school. That’s the type of stuff we’ll be talking about and we’ll be having the real conversations.
As the mayor said, as someone from the Bronx, [inaudible the Soundview section, you know, I’m someone who was born and raised in the Bronx – my mother was homeless as a teenager, my father was unemployed countless times during the fiscal crisis in the ‘70s – and my family stayed in their feet because of what government can be. I know under this mayor and his leadership, government will restore the important place in the life of not only people in Manhattan, but in all the boroughs and those forgotten neighborhoods. Thank you very much. Thank you, I appreciate it.
Mayor de Blasio: Thank you, Marco. Alright now, I did not make pirate jokes, I will try not to make height jokes either Mindy, but I’m tempted. I’m going to center myself for a moment. You know, I’ve said many times from the moment that I announced him that a great, great leader for the day-to-day work of our government is our First deputy mayor, Tony Shorris, and I think what he did last week with the snowstorm is a great indication of what is to come in terms of the great service he’ll provide to the city.
Well, a great leader needs another great leader to make sure that all the work that this City Hall does and all the agencies do is well coordinated, is focused, is efficient, and that work is done by the Mayor’s Office of Operations. And so we needed a director for the Mayor’s Office of Operations who had that sweep, who has that understanding of the whole city government, was someone who knew a lot about keeping things efficient, effective, and cost-effective, but also had a heart in terms of realizing what our mission is and who we have to achieve it every day in the most efficient manner.
I was convinced as I started to work closely with Mindy, I’ve known her over the years, but really worked closely with her during the transition process and saw her keen intelligence, her energy, her compassion, and her extraordinary knowledge of city government and her attention to detail – all of which perfectly describes what we need in a director of operations. Her career has been devoted to making sure government works for people, as well as in the non-profit sector to helping people in need. She – I’m happy to say when I served in this building, in a previous stint, she was at the Office of Management and Budget under Mayor Dinkins and she helped to craft the Safe Street, Safe City initiative. You’ve heard me talk about it over the years. It’s one of the things I’m so proud to have been in my own small way supported when I was a member of the Mayor Dinkins staff. Safe Street, Safe City changed everything in the city. It helped us on the pathway to public safety, it did a lot to support our youth. It was a very innovative effort to raise taxes just for as long as were needed to make sure we had the police officers necessary and the afterschool programs necessary to really turn around the situation of the city. And lo and behold, it worked – a pivotal moment in our city’s history and a very big success story in government, and Mindy’s one of the people who made that happened.
Over the last 20 years, she’s helped people with criminal backgrounds to rehabilitate and reintegrate into the city’s workforce. She’s served some of the folks with some of the biggest challenges in our city and she’s come up with a very coherent approach to make sure that they got a second chance. As Director of Operations, as much as anyone in this government, she’ll be the person to make sure that that effectiveness part of our mantra is followed through on. And I know she is someone who believes in transparency and accountability, and a government that serves the people effectively every day. It’s my pleasure to name Mindy Tarlow as our director of operations.
Mindy Tarlow: Is everybody happy? I’m now going to stand up here. Yeah – all right.
Mayor de Blasio: You have the power Mindy. Feel the power.
Mindy Tarlow: I know – it’s nice to be big. I’m feeling very good about that. Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to join your administration. I’m a huge fan, I’m a huge believer in your progressive agenda, and I’m so excited to be someone who can help realize it and bring it to fruition. And I’m also so happy to be working with First Deputy Mayor Shorris. We also go back many, many years and I’m delighted to be able to come on board and really focus, as the mayor said, on pulling this agenda together in an effective way, in an efficient way, in a way that breaks down the silos that everyone always talks about – which are real. You know, they always say clichés are clichés for a reason, and government silos fits that bill. And I think part of my job will be to cross-cut across agencies – really work together to solve the problems that we have and to really build the kind of progressive city that we all imagine.
And I couldn’t be happier to be on board for that. And for my own personal history, you know, I’ve devoted more than half of my life to public service, both in government, as the mayor said, and for the past 20 years running the Center for Employment Opportunities and helping thousands of formerly incarcerated people, who are so far outside of our economy, enter the labor force, get a foothold, really prosper for themselves, for their families, and for their communities. I fundamentally believe and I want to continue the mission of demonstrating that the city can be fiscally and socially responsible and in ways that I think are really about to hit the ground. And I couldn’t be happier to be part of that effort. I’m going to take this box with me wherever I go now.
Mayor de Blasio: Stay there a minute, Mindy. Congratulations.
Mindy Tarlow: Thank you so much.
Mayor de Blasio: Much easier. But wait, there’s more. Next appointee is someone I have worked with now for almost 20 years. And I was going to say we literally walked through fire together, but then the questions would be would you please describe the fire specifically you walked through? So I was [inaudible] to say figuratively, we have walked through fire together, starting with when I had the honor of being the New York state director for President Clinton’s re-election campaign in 1995 and ’96. A young, up and coming talent appeared on our doorstep. He was known for his energy. He was known for his creativity. He was known for his idealism.
Peter Ragone’s infectious positive attitude soon won all of us over, including the jaded state director at that time. And then we had the opportunity to work together in the Clinton administration for Secretary Cuomo at HUD and, once again, I saw Peter’s ability, under fire, under the most difficult circumstances, to be creative, to be strategic, to come up with ideas that literally no one else was coming up with. And I learned to trust his instincts and trust his mind.
He has been through the most extraordinary range of experiences. He’s advised some of the most progressive and dynamic leaders in the country. He played a major role in – I was going to say President Gore – it should have been President Gore – in Vice-president Gore’s campaign in the year 2000, which apparently won a electoral majority of 500,000 votes. Someone explain that to me why he’s not president, but he did not become president. He also – Peter played a very major role and something that I just want to honor because, I heard at that time, Peter went on in his career to California and worked for then San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom – now the Lieutenant Governor of California.
And I have to relate to you in the days that leading up to the very courageous decision that Mayor Newsom made to start a major, major step for equality in this country by literally saying that the City of San Francisco was going to recognize same-sex marriages, it’s going to recognize marriage equality and was not going to let many, many unfair policies stand in the way any longer.
And the City of San Francisco just went and did it in an incredibly noble and, literally, decisive moment – a seismic moment for this country. And I got to hear the lead up to it through the voice of Peter Ragone on the other end of the phone. I remember Peter, you may not remember this, but the day when so many San Franciscans same came to the city hall to participate in the marriage ceremonies, you literally held up the phone, so I could hear it and I could hear the emotion in your voice and the sense of what Mayor Newsom, and you, and all your colleagues have done.
It was a truly important moment in American history. So I have relied on Peter Ragone for his council for many years. I’ve found him to be an extraordinary insightful and strategic thinker. And I knew that I wanted him to come be a part of this team and to come back to his native land and help us as we build this administration. So I’m proud to appoint Peter Ragone today as my Senior Adviser for Strategic Planning – Peter?
Peter Ragone: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio. It’s an honor, of course, to serve in your administration. And, for those of you who don’t know, the mayor and I – well, he just told everyone – but the mayor and I have been friends since the 1996 campaign. And back then, we used to drive around New York City and upstate New York and talk about the potential of progressive government. Little did I ever know that we actually have the opportunity when you get elected mayor to implement those things that we talked about. And as a head-start kid and someone who’s been a part of this progressive movement my whole life, it’s a very, very exciting moment, an exciting time. I’ve also been very lucky to help you in just about everything you decided to do over the years, whether it was running for –
Mayor de Blasio: The school board campaign.
Peter Ragone: I actually was –
Mayor de Blasio: [inaudible] the school board campaign first.
Peter Ragone: I was going to say that too. I went door to door on your school board campaign, city council raises, term limits, all those kinds of things that we were able to work on together. I’m just thrilled to be able to work on progressive politics with you after everything that we’ve been together. I want to also acknowledge a couple of folks that we worked with. I’ve actually worked with pretty much everybody in this room at some point, it feels like – usually, when I was back on the council side. But I want to thank Mariah and Andrew Cuomo for their showing me the nobility of public service very early on in my life. I’d like to thank some of you all know Ken Sunshine – he’s been a surrogate dad to me for many years. I’d also like to thank Chirlane, Dante and Chiara, who’ve also been good friends over the years. And finally, of course, I like to recognize Lieutenant Governor Newsom, because when we did worked on same-sex marriage and marriage equality in San Francisco, it was the proudest moment of my life and it showed that the courage of the convictions can actually make a difference in life. And not to forget, of course, my family who’s been extremely supportive of this move to New York. It’s going to be a great couple of years and I’m really looking forward to it.
Mayor de Blasio: Thank you very much, congratulations too. You did good. Now, there are many important roles in government that takes a brave man to take on Albany, New York. And we thought about the role of the director of our Albany office for the City of New York and Emma Wolfe, our director of inter-governmental affairs thought long and hard – as she want to do – thought long and hard about who would be the right person. Everyone knows in this room so much of what we’re trying to achieve involves Albany. And to run the New York City office, we needed someone with a tremendous understanding of the legislative process, the executive branch, and a tremendous understanding of how Albany works and how state government interconnects with city government.
We needed someone who could see from the perspective of the governor’s office, of the assembly, of the senate, and understand how we can communicate – we can find common ground. But as you’ve heard us talk about – what we care about in this administration – we also wanted someone who understood the grassroots of this city and what we’re trying to achieve and why it mattered so much to people. It couldn’t be abstract work. It had to be worked from the heart.
Sherif Soliman is just that person. He understands that the agenda we’ve bought forward to fight inequality is an agenda that has profound ramifications for the future of this city. It’s an attainable agenda – it’s an agenda that we must approach urgently. And I am so excited that he’s agreed to join us and help lead the charge in Albany to achieve this agenda. He spent years as Chief of Staff for former assemblyman Eric Vitaliano of Staten Island, and grew up a part of his life in – I’m sorry, I always get my – camera one – camera two – camera one, there – grew up a part of his life in Staten Island. So he understands what members of the legislature think from the grassroots up as well. He’s spent five years as a legislative representative for the city of New York in Albany. So he has done a substantial part of this work already, defending this city’s interest in Albany on a host of complicated issues.
In recent years, I have a chance to get a sense of his work – the time he spent on the NYC Employee Retirement System, helping to lead our pension system, which is extraordinarily complex job and a job that hundreds and thousands of people depend on. Sherif has done an admirable job, both making sure that a nicer system has being run well, but also being a driving force and ensuring that there was a progressive agenda, socially responsible investment agenda, and one that made sure there was a focus on economic development in the five boroughs, and an agenda that stopped some of the mistakes in the past, for example the willingness of the city to make investments in companies that did some of the wrong things, like gun manufacturers.
So the fact is Sherif has extraordinary experience, he shares the values, and he knows the mechanics of Albany inside out, and I think he will be a great director for the New York City Legislative Office in our state capitol. We welcome, Sherif Soliman.
Sherif Soliman: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. And it certainly does take a brave man to travel to Albany. So I do have my hardhat ready to go and my fatigues for my most recent deployment up to our state capitol. But I just want to say that I’m thrilled to return to Albany to represent the mayor and his administration before our state government. Our mission is clear – we will partner with the legislature and the executive branch to ensure that the mayor’s agenda – an agenda predicated on social and economic justice for all New Yorkers – wins a broad approval.
Our top priority, of course, should come as no surprise – it is the mayor’s plan to ask the wealthy to pay a little bit more in taxes so that we can ensure that every four year old has full day pre-k and we can ensure that every middle-schooler has a place to go after-school. We will mobilize a broad coalition of supporters across the city and state to be forceful advocates for the plan, which, of course, is supported by a majority of New Yorkers.
I am confident that by working closely with our colleagues in state government, we will translate that public support into political support, and we will succeed in our cause. We will also focus our efforts on the issue of home rule. Much of what we do as a city government seeks to – and what we seek to accomplish is dependent upon state action. Whether it’s the impact of the state budget on city services or legislation affecting vital programs, the state’s imprint is felt across the city. The city-state relationship is critical, and it must continue and remain strong. But the city should be able to make its own decisions on issues such as rent laws and speed cameras, just to name a couple. And so we will join with other cities across New York state in fighting for more local control.
On a personal note, it is extremely humbling for me to be up here as a son of two immigrants who have worked hard their entire life to make it in New York – a union household with decades of public service. It is extremely humbling to be in this position and I want to thank the mayor once again for placing his confidence in me in advancing the city’s interest in our state capital. Thank you.
Mayor de Blasio: Now, Sherif, I hope you won’t take this the wrong way – there may be one mission just slightly more dangerous than the one you’re going on, and that resides in Washington DC. Even the name strikes fear in the heart of men and women everywhere. It’s a tough time in DC, we all know it. It’s a tough time – it’s hard to get things done. We have an executive branch that I’m so appreciative of and, as mayor of this city, I know president Obama is our ally and has our back. We have a congressional situation that’s extremely complicated, particularly in the House of Representatives. And to both work with our good colleagues in the executive branch and navigate the challenges of the legislative branch takes a particular talent.
We thought about it – and, again, this is a Emma Wolfe production – we thought about the complexities of Washington, the many, many elements that we would need, because it’s a big sprawling job to run the New York City office in Washington. And you’re connecting with so many different elements and trying to move so many different pieces of agenda. And, I dare say, there’s always a positive proactive agenda and there’s always a defensive agenda to make sure the actions of the federal government don’t undermine New York City. I can tell you that Max is going to be on his toes – he may get a few good night’s sleep, but not too many – and he’ll have a lot to do. The bigger hope that we talked about before is to one day – working with mayors and governors all over the country – get the federal government back to what it should be focused on, which is investments in our nation, in education, in infrastructure, in research, particularly a commitment to our cities again.
And I’ve said very clearly – this is going to be a big part of my agenda over the coming years and I’m not going to let go on this one. The federal government should be supporting our cities – it should be supporting New York City and many others that are increasingly the economic engines of this nation. We need help when it comes to mass transit, we need help when it comes to infrastructure, and we need help when it comes to public housing and affordable housing. And we’ve gotten used to our plea for help being ignored and we have to someday turn that tide. And where you have a lot of allies who want to join us in that, but we need a great leader on the ground there to help us coordinate all of these efforts I’ve mentioned – and that would be Max Sevilia.
Max understands our agenda to fight inequality – our progressive agenda. He has devoted his own life in so many ways to a similar agenda. He has represented urban interest before, cities in our nation’s capital, including the city of Oakland, California. He currently serves as a Washington DC director for the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, NALEO, and is a leading voice in Washington for the needs of Latinos all over the country on issues like in immigration reform, and education, housing and a whole host of issues affecting Latino communities. He’s been someone who has worked closely with the Obama administration and with both sides of the isle in both the senate and the house on a constructive agenda. So he’s someone who shares our values but also knows, even in the context of Washington, how to get people to common ground, which I find an extraordinary skill. And Max if you keep that, then I may have to nominate you for a Nobel Peace Prize at some point.
He will be our point person, of course, with the White House, with the congressional delegations from this city and state and with all members of the house and senate on issues affecting New York. He’ll obviously be working with other city delegations from around the country on our common agenda and he will support efforts that matter so much to this city, like continuing our efforts to get appropriate and speedy recovery support in terms of the aftermath of Sandy. And as I mentioned, infrastructure, housing, mass transit and issues that are tough but necessary for the future of New York City, like somehow moving forward on agenda on gun control to help us keep guns off the streets of this city and other cities.
I think I can safely say that Max will have his plate full. So welcome, you can say congratulations, you can say – I’m not going to say condolences, that’s too strong – you can say good luck, you can arch an eyebrow, whatever you like. But welcome Max Sevilia as he becomes the New York City representative in Washington – Max?
Max Sevilia: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Indeed, I’m ready for the long days and the long nights. I think the last time I slept the full night was five years ago before my oldest daughter was born and I got a two year old that still wakes up around three in the morning, so that’s when emails are coming out. But I want to thank the mayor – I want to thank you for your confidence in me. It’s truly an honor to serve you and all New Yorkers. From public housing to public transit, from rebuilding after super storm Sandy to comprehensive immigration reform – decisions in Washington create critical ripple effects in New York City. I’m eager to help protect and advance the interest of all New Yorkers from our nation’s capitol. I am committed to fashioning a new urban agenda that delivers for New Yorkers a progressive urban agenda that recognizes that we’re the country’s economic and innovation epicenter.
My entire career – almost my entire career – has run through New York. I have worked for nonprofits and for other government interests, based in New York City. Even my personal life, in getting married about seven years ago, we have family from all over the world, and we thought what would be a good location that really identifies with who we are and we chose New York City. And we had over 200 guests that came to New York for a very New York wedding at a loft in Chelsea with bagels for brunch after the wedding. New York is really dear to my heart and I’m thrilled to be a part of this administration and to be doing this good work.
Mayor de Blasio: Max is also the man in charge of our Destination Weddings Office.
Max Sevilia: I’ll be the wedding planner. I certainly look forward to working with our distinguished congressional delegation, with whom I have lots of experience working with, and certainly to seek like-minded partnerships far and wide to accomplish the thorough priorities that the mayor spoke about. If I may indulge for a second, I want to say in Spanish –
[Max Sevilia speaks in Spanish]
Mayor de Blasio: Thank you very much, well done. Now, one more thing I’d like to put forward before we go to questions – got some updates about the weather conditions and about the precautions New Yorkers should take as we continue to experience some difficult weather. Now, first of all, I think a lot of our colleagues here know that different departments are giving detailed briefings today, so I’m going to do overview very quickly. But the Department of Sanitation, Department of Transportation, and I think Department of Health are all doing separate detailed briefings. First of all in terms of the Sanitation Department, they remain vigilant – 12-hour shifts continuing today and tomorrow.
We are continuing to caution the public about the weather conditions, New Yorkers should recognize this. It’s very icy out. It’s going to get very cold very quickly. I went out to the gym this morning and I was not fully prepared for the balmy spring weather and then once again, we’re going to have the pendulum swing right back and it’s going to be very, very cold very quickly. The temperatures will plummet tonight. We will get down to the single digits, with wind chill we will be below zero in many parts of the city. So people need to recognize, it will be a very, very cold night and people should exercise caution all over the city tonight. You also will have the reality that there was some warmth today, which melted a lot of snow and ice and then you will have flash freezing tonight. So it will be very icy in areas that even earlier today seems clear could easy come be very icy by tonight.
At this moment, the Sanitation Department is picking up trash and recycling, trying to catch up on backlog materials while doing their Monday typical schedule. That will continue, obviously, pending other weather developments. Alternate side parking is suspended today and alternate side parking will be suspended tomorrow as well. Again, Alternate side parking is suspended today and tomorrow – the information of the minds of many, many new Yorkers has now been provided. Snow laborers will continue today into this evening and then, unless something changes, that will complete their work.
As I said the other day, the one thing we can depend on – eternal in the civilization of our city – parking meters are still in effect. Set your watch by it. Because of the extreme cold weather that’s coming in and the potential for very icy conditions, senior centers will be open only for lunch time tomorrow. They’ll open I think typically being at 11:00 am and stay open through lunch, but not later. For homebound, senior case management agencies will make calls to check on high risk clients during the cold weather.
To New Yorkers who drive cars, please drive carefully. Again, you’ll going to have sudden icing tonight into tomorrow – very slippery conditions – drive slow and drive carefully. For everyone, dress warmly – take precautions as you think about this kind of weather. You don’t want to be out in it for long periods of time. You want to dress lots of layers. I’m not going to talk about my own experience with layers. I’m just going to say people should wear lots of layers. As I said the other day, please, I know New Yorkers are so compassionate for their neighbors, look out for your neighbors, particularly that neighbors who are seniors or disabled or have health problems. Look out for them, check in on them.
Now, if you see something that you need help with – weather related – that is not life-threatening, call 3-1-1. If you see something that might be life-threatening, such as a homeless person that might be in immediate danger, or someone – I described hypothermia the other day – people who are shivering uncontrollably, people who are in immediate danger, disoriented, for example, that’s when you call 9-1-1.
Remember, it is not just a challenge of being outside in freezing cold temperatures. If someone is not getting heat in their home for prolonged periods of time, you could start to have the same kind of temperatures inside. So again, if you’re not getting heat, call your property manager immediately. If that is not working, call 3-1-1. If you’re not getting heat, call 3-1-1. Finally, in terms of – let’s see if I’ve missed anything here – no, just the point about hypothermia again. It can be from outside, it can be from inside, the bottom line is if the temperatures get too low for too long, that danger does exist. Again, you’ll get more thorough briefings from Department of Health, Department of Transportation, and Department of Sanitation. With that, we welcome your questions. Twice in one day.
Question: Any topic?
Mayor: Let’s do this topic first. I’m surprised at you [inaudlbe]. We always do on-topic first and then we evolve to off-topic.
Question: So I’ll save my spot then.
Mayor: Okay, you reserve your place. On-topic – anything about these appointees and the areas that they are working in? Yes, Kate?
Question: Could you tell us a little bit more about what Peter Ragone’s role is going to be as Senior Advisor? And also, I know that he has a long-time relationship with the governor – Governor Cuomo, as well. Is he coordinating with Governor Cuomo going to be part of his role?
Mayor: Well, the role is Senior Advisor of Strategic Planning, which means that he is the person I’m looking to, to plan out the efforts of City Hall and this Administration over the coming year and beyond. It is a particularly important role. We all know how City government can become very reactive if you let it be so. There’s so much going on. I was struck by that fact earlier today when the members of the team from the Department of Transportation came in, talked to me about how they had help to block traffic on the Major Deegan so a small plane could land there – just another day in New York City. So if you get just reactive, you’re not going to move your agenda forward. Peter Ragone is the person I’m looking to, to make sure that we are building out a long-term plan and sticking to it in terms of that proactive agenda. Yes, he does have tremendous relationships in Albany – all over the city, all over the state – and that will be very helpful in implementing the agenda. But his central role is to plan the strategic approach of this City Hall to achieve our goals. On these appointments – on these absolutely fascinating appointments – they’re fascinating people, you’ll see. Last call on these appointments. All right, off topic.
Question: Mr. Mayor, is it true that last night you met with the City Council Bronx delegation to push them to vote for Melissa Mark-Viverito as City Council Speaker? How did that go, and at what point do you think that your involvement in this process is too much or counterproductive?
Mayor: You’re leading the witness again. So the fact is, yes, I had a meeting with members of the City Council from the Bronx. As I’ve said many times, I do not go into recounting private conversations. It was a very productive and respectful meeting. The members of the City Council will make this decision. In fact, by this time Wednesday it will be made. But I have been through this – the members make the choice. I was happy to meet with them and have a very productive exchange. Yes?
Question: The candidate you favor in the Speaker’s race, Melissa Mark-Viverito, has been found to not have reported rental income from one of her properties. I was wondering what you think of that situation? She’s also declined to answer whether she has had [inaudible]. Do you think that she should answer the question?
Mayor: I don’t know the details of the situation. Obviously, in terms of any disclosure requirements for public officials, we all do our best to keep up with them. They are sometimes complicated and ever-changing. But I know her very well, she’s a person of tremendous integrity, I’m sure she will catch up on that disclosure and make it right. Emily?
Question: [inaudible] formal or official role in City Hall was just staff in office?
Mayor: I appreciate the question, but as you know it is our habit to announce such things when we feel they’re all fully formulated and, you know, we are ready to make a formal announcement. So that will be coming, but not right away. Yes?
Question: Mayor, some AIDS groups are insisting that Tom Farley be replaced as the Health Commissioner. Can you talk about what’s happening with that relationship? Has he submitted a resignation, and what’s the status of the search?
Mayor: Well, again, I very scrupulously don’t get into the blow-by-blow of our personnel process. I can say I have a lot of respect for Commissioner Farley and we asked him to stay on transitionally and, you know, we have not yet gotten deep into the process about making decisions about the future of the Department of Health. Yes?
Question: If it’s up to the members of the City Council to make a decision, then why are you meeting with Bronx delegation members so close to the Speaker’s race?
Mayor: I –
Question: To re-ask Juan’s question, as well, I mean, don’t- do you think at all that there comes a point where this damages –
Mayor: Again, the members make the decision. It is natural for the mayor to meet with members of the City Council. We had a very productive conversation. They’re going to make their own decision. Grace?
Question: Your new Schools Chancellor is going to be getting a pension in addition to her salary. So in all it’s going to be, I think, over $400,000. Are you comfortable with the fact that she’s going to continue drawing down that pension while also being a Schools Chancellor?
Question: Is that a good example?
Mayor: It’s absolutely legal and appropriate. A number of members of the previous administration did that. Look, she literally has one of the toughest jobs in America, and I’m absolutely appreciative that she agreed to join us. It would’ve been really easy for her to say no. I’m thrilled that she said yes. I think it’s absolutely fair.
Phil Walzak: A couple of more, guys.
Question: Over the weekend, Governor Cuomo – it was reported that the he reversed his decision on medical marijuana, and I was wondering what your take on that was and if you feel it’s appropriate for the City to follow suit? What your expectations –
Mayor: Well, first of all, I haven’t seen the details of his plan, so I will speak very broadly. I commend him for what he’s doing. I think he has sought a balanced approach and I think, from what I understand, the effort that will be made through health facilities is a very careful and smart one that I think responds to people’s legitimate needs. So I certainly look forward to understanding the proposal more and working with him and then seeing where we go from there.
Question: Can you comment on the status of the investigation into the abduction and killing of Menachem Stark in Williamsburg? Do you know of any suspects?
Mayor: I don’t have a detailed briefing. Obviously, we’ll leave that to Commissioner Bratton and his team. My only offering I can make is that I understand that will be led by the Nassau County authorities, where sadly the body was found, and obviously in close coordination with the NYPD.
Phil Walzak: Last question, guys.
Mayor: Wait, in the back – Sally?
Question: Has there been any change to your security team over this timing lag last week?
Mayor: We don’t comment on that as our security. I think the NYPD has done an extraordinary job on many, many fronts, including the security of me and my family. I’m very, very appreciate for their efforts. They’re very hardworking, effective folks. But one thing that is a cardinal rule around here is we don’t go into the details of security. Thank you, everyone.