Apr 26, 2020
Bill de Blasio NYC COVID-19 Press Briefing Transcript April 26
Mayor Bill de Blasio held a NYC press conference on coronavirus on April 26. He outlined a 4-part strategy to reopen New York City. Read the full transcript here,
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Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:00)
dBusinesses are struggling, and are going to struggle to come back, but there is in my mind also no question that New York City will come back strong, stronger than ever. This is what New York City does. This is who we are. This is what we’ve always done. I get very upset when I see people betting against New York City. When I even seen New Yorkers putting down New York City, they need to go and read a little bit of history. They need to go and understand how many times this city has been put back on his heels and fought its way back. They need to spend a little time with everyday New Yorkers, who’ve got a lot of fight in them. We’re going through a lot. We’re going through a lot of pain, but we will unquestionably come back. And we will learn powerful lessons, and we will act on those lessons because that is who we are.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:51)
There are so many instances where that’s clear. Think about what happened after 9/11. A lot of places might never have been able to find a way back after something as horrifying as 9/11. This city fought back. We remembered the heroes we lost, but we were inspired by their example. Think about Hurricane Sandy, worst natural disaster in the history of this city. So literally 9/11, worst attack on the city in our history. Sandy, worst natural disaster in our history. People fought back, those extraordinary efforts at the grass roots to help each other just in the hours immediately after the storm hit the way people came together and helped each other in neighborhoods all over the city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:40)
And then the way people fought back and rebuilt, learned lessons, did things better. We will rebuild. We will be stronger. There is no question. That does not in any way minimize or ignore the pain that we are going through now, but it is, to me, so clear who we are and that we will find a way back. And it’s important to remember even as we grieve.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (02:13)
That is the nature of this place to work together and to build something new. That’s always been the history of this city, so we’re going to build something new and we’re going to build something better. And not just better because it’s more modern. We’re going to build something more fair. We’re going to build something for everyone. This recovery has to have that spirit, that New York spirit that everyone matters. Doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from. Everyone needs to be included, and we need to build a better and more just society than the one we left behind. I don’t want to see recovery mean, let’s just go to the status quo we had before. I don’t think that’s what’s going to work, and I don’t think it’s fair. Recovery means making something better, and we have it in our power to do that. Even as we’re in the midst of this pain and this challenge, New Yorkers know in our hearts that we don’t give up.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (03:24)
It’s in our DNA. We don’t give up. And we find a way to create, and a lot of times… A lot of people out there listening have I said more than once in your life, you’ve made something out of nothing. You know what I mean. And this city… Can’t tell you how many times in our history people said it was all over, the ’60s, people were leaving the city and droves. In the ’70s, the fiscal crisis, all the other challenges we’ve faced.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (03:51)
This city was written off more times than I can count. This city came back stronger every time. Now we’re going to come back stronger and fairer, we’re going to learn the powerful lessons of this horrible tragedy. We’re not going to allow the disparities that we’ve seen to exist in the future. We’ll fight every single day. We know these are intractable problems, or at least they seem to be intractable. We’re going to find ways to beat them back and make profound changes, as only New Yorkers can make.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (04:23)
So, today I’m going to start talking to you about how we’re going to approach this. And this is going to be a long effort. It’s going to be the next 20 months of my administration and then far beyond, but today I’m going to talk to you about some of the building blocks we’re going to put in place to get us to that restart and that recovery. I’m going to talk about four specific pieces of our strategy. And again, these are just the initial building blocks, as I said, some of the ways we’re going to put together the deeper plans, the more specific plans that will move us forward. We’ve got a lot of work to do. And it’s going to be for me and my team, a nonstop effort, a race to the finish line over these next 20 months to do the most we can to put the city on the strongest possible footing for the future.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (05:15)
Everyone wants to know about the restart, and that discussion is going to happen over these next few weeks. We’re obviously watching our healthcare indicators every day. I’ll talk about them again in a few minutes. They will tell us a lot about the timing of what we can do. We’re working right now on what each element of a restart looks like, and it will not all happen at once and I keep cautioning. Restart happens in careful smart phases because the last thing we’re ever going to do is allow this disease to reassert itself. We’re not going to risk people’s lives. We’re going to be smart about it, but that work of framing the restart is going on right now. And we’re going to bring in a lot of people to help us, and I’ll talk about that. And then we have to focus on these disparities in everything we do. They’ve been laid bare in this crisis.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (06:03)
We have to talk about how we fight these disparities now in the work we’re doing now, and then in a much deeper, bigger way going forward. The economic and racial disparities that have been made so clear by this crisis. We knew about them before. They’ve been just a powerful, painful exclamation point has been put on them by this crisis. It is a clarion call to us to start right now fighting back against those disparities and to build a deeper plan to fight them, on a more permanent basis. So you’re going to see a lot in the next few weeks about the immediate efforts to restart the first steps and then over the weeks ahead in the months ahead, a deeper vision of what a fair recovery looks like.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (06:49)
So again, not just let’s get back to the status quo that was before, but something different and better and fairer and it’s going to be in a reimagination of what this city could be. We are the greatest city in the world before the chrono virus hit. The city was in an amazing point in our history, with an economy so strong with a constant effort to include more and more people in what the city has to offer and what it can mean for all of us, a growing reality that we could include everyone in our prosperity and our strength. We’ve got to take that and build something much bigger to truly make this a city for all.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (07:34)
And we have to look at our basic laws, our basic government structure. We have to look at the whole thing to think about how we can much more deeply ensure a fair recovery. So I’m going to be talking to you again about some of the initial steps that will help us with the first acts of restarting. I’m going to be talking about the immediate and ongoing effort to address disparities. I’m going to talking about a bigger effort to create a vision for a fair recovery that then can be put into action. And I’m going to talk about how we consider the very reality of our government in this moment of crisis and where it needs to take us in the future. And I’m going to bring in a lot of very, very talented people to help augment all we do here at City Hall and our agencies.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (08:22)
This is a moment where we’re going to invite in tremendously smart, innovative New Yorkers from many, many parts of our city. Many different parts of our life of the city, of our economy. Bring their brain power, their ideas, their perspectives to help us do all we do. So, the restart is the first thing in our mind. We know it directly interrelates with what we’re learning about this virus and its presence in our city and those indicators. We’re going to constantly talk about where we stand each day, what kind of element of restart we can think about now, what we have to think about later. Remember when you think about restart, think about those indicators going down. Let us pray, always going down and then think about the testing and tracing that we talked about a few days ago. That really widespread effort to test as many new Yorkers as possible, trace their contacts when needed.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (09:25)
Isolate people that need isolating. Those strands need to come together and we’re preparing for them to come together in the first two weeks of May, so that we can really go on the offensive. But again, the healthcare indicators have to give us that all clear so we can start that effort, and we need the supply of testing, which is still a big open question here to pull those pieces together. Okay, let’s start with the question of when we restart.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (09:57)
We restart wen we have evidence. Look, we see some states around the country rushing to restart their economies. I’m worried for them. I’m worried for their people. Some seem to be paying attention to healthcare indicators more than others. Anybody, any state, any city that doesn’t pay attention to those factual healthcare indicators that evidence is running a risk, is endangering their own people. And their whole idea of wanting to rush a restart so we can have a economy again and recover, it could all backfire. Because if the disease reasserts, you’re delaying potentially by a long time when you could have that kind of recovery.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (10:38)
We won’t let that happen here. We will focus first and foremost on the health and safety of New Yorkers protecting our healthcare system so it can be there for all of us making our moves when the indicators tell us and then making them piece by piece, testing to see how they’re working, making sure that each step we take is a strong foothold before we take the next step, so that’s the when. How? How do we restart? There’s so many open questions and the people we’re going to bring together are going to help us answer them with their powerful perspective on the life of the city, and the different parts of the city they come from, the different industries, et cetera.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (11:19)
They are going to bring perspective so we can get these decisions right. So here are kinds of questions that we all have to ask. And again, some of these will be things we do earlier, some of these will be things we do later, but here are obvious everyday questions. How do you reopen a restaurant and still do it in a way that protects the customers and protects the people that work there? How do you do that right? What kind of protection will people need? What kind of PPEs will people need to wear in a lot of different parts of the city? A lot of different work that they do to make sure they’re safe. When will they need more? When will they need less? We’ve got to start to fill in those blanks. How much will we be doing temperature checks or symptom checks on a regular basis? Where, how? They’re clearly powerful tools. They fit our test and trace strategy.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (12:15)
How are we going to do that? How extensively? Are we going to have enough thermometers? All sorts of basic questions have to be answered to determine what’s our ideal, but also practically. What can we get done at any given moment? What kind of cleaning protocols will businesses need as they restart? What kind of social distancing will be required in the business? How many customers can be there at any given time? All of these answers need to be filled in. We have some really good information from around the world of some things we see working better and worse.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (12:47)
We’re going to borrow from that and use it as we formulate our plans, and this is all going to move fast because we have to be ready for that moment where the indicators tell us it’s time to open up a little. But I want to be clear there’s no on/off switch here. It’s not like… I think people know it, but I want to say it for emphasis. It’s not like there’s ever one jump back to normalcy. It’s a series of careful smart moves. And then you test each one along the way to make sure there’s not that backfire. And then when you see things working, you take the next step.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (13:20)
Now to help us on this journey and to help us immediately, I am going to bring together people who really know their communities, their industries. People bring a huge amount of expertise. So, we’re going to have a set of advisory councils. And it’s going to be sector by sector in our city, going to get these folks together very quickly. They’re going to start meeting in the first week of May. So, literally in a matter of days. I’ll be meeting with each of them. My team will be meeting with them constantly. We need to get this perspective from the folks at the frontline of every part of this city’s life. We’ll have small business, as its own council. We’ll have larger businesses in their own council. They have different needs. We want to account for both. We need both to come back strong. We’re going to have one for public health and healthcare.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (14:10)
Obviously, so crucial in this fight, but we have to make sure strong to say the least for the future because we don’t know what the future brings. And it’s a crucial part of our city to begin with. Arts, culture, tourism, which we’re so proud of, such a big part of our city, they all will come back strong. We want to figure out the right way to get that started and then build upon that. So these councils are going to get together immediately to help us frame the restart, but they’ll stay with us for weeks and months to come. As we build out our actions to open up and then to envision our future and build our future, there’ll be one for labor. We have to hear from the folks who represent working people and determine what we need to for working people. Nonprofits and social services, huge part of New York City life and our economy often not given the credit they deserve.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (14:59)
They’re going to have a council. I’m going to be meeting with them because we need that part of our city to come back strong. The faith-based community. We already have extraordinary efforts with CORL, The Council of Religious Leaders, with our clergy advisory board. We’re going to bring them together to help guide us in thinking about how we restart the life of faith in this city, but also the crucial role that faith based communities can play in rebuilding our economy, making sure people are protected, making sure people have what they need in their lives even in this struggle. And education and vocational training, obviously bringing back our public schools strong, bringing them back safely, dealing with the trauma the kids and families and educators have gone through, thinking also about all parts of our education system, how we work with our religious education schools, how we work with private schools, higher education, vocational training. All of them will be at the table to help us think through this restart. So, we’re going to start right away. It’s going to be very practical and specific about what we-
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (16:03)
Let’s start right away. It’s going to be very practical and specific about what we need to do together and then also be part of how we build our bigger plans. That’s immediate. Another immediate piece, it’ll start with immediate actions the city government needs to take and build out as part of the bigger vision, is a city task force on racial inclusion and equity. This will be made up of leaders of the city government, focusing on the disparities we’re seeing already, making sure that we are addressing structural racism that is obviously present in the realities we’re facing with this disease, making sure we take immediate actions through all the agencies of the city government to address this painful reality. This is a right-now thing. Right now, we can start to address these disparities. We’re doing it in many ways on the healthcare front with the plans that we have announced, the community-based testing and the outreach programs of community-based health clinics, many other things working on right now.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (17:02)
I want to make sure that every agency of the city government is moving in that same direction urgently. The task force will be led by our First Lady Chirlane McCray and by Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson. This is based on ideas that they have both developed in the last few days to address the immediate disparities, but also to make sure that we address these disparities more thoroughly in our recovery plans ahead. We will be naming a group of leaders from the administration who focus on and represent all communities of color in this city. Again, they will think about immediate things that need to happen that work with the community-based health clinics and providers, how we can work right now with minority-owned businesses and obviously deepen our MWBE efforts right now, how we can support essential workers. This task force will focus on those issues but also build out and help us think about the bigger structural changes we need to make going forward.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (18:12)
Now, those are some very immediate things that all build to the future. Let’s now talk about the broader concept of recovery. Restart is necessary to recovery. Recovery means, to me, getting back, not just to a point where life feels more normal, but getting back to a point of strength and additionally, addressing the underlying issues that we still need to address in the city, certainly building back, but building better, building stronger, building fairer. Recovery starts with the restart. It starts with making sure we’re all taking those steps back. We always, in that road to recovery, think about those four basics I’ve been talking about throughout that are governing our actions, our budget, everything, making sure people are healthy, safe, have food to eat and a roof over their head.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (19:07)
We have to get those basics to be 100% secure as we build out. We have to get people back to work. This is central to everything. So many people are clamoring, rightfully, to get back to work the first moment it’s safe. I want people back to work. I want to restart our economy. I want to see people back to work. Whether they work on Wall Street or they work in a bodega, we need everyone back to work. We have to do it the right way and get our bigger economy going, so it’ll support everything else we do. When you think about all the pieces we have to pull together, it’s not just a restart. It’s not just the mechanics of how you start your economy again. It’s not just a recovery in the sense of… Okay, we have a functioning city. We don’t just need a recovery. We need a transformation. We need to go much farther. We need to take this painful, difficult moment and turn it into something that we can build upon for a better city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (20:12)
This is where I want to talk about the concept of a fair recovery. The crisis has laid bare so many things that are broken in our city and in our country. There have been so many amazing acts of heroism. Let’s praise the good: the heroism from our healthcare workers, our first responders, the incredible things people have done for each other at the community, the amazing discipline and strength of New Yorkers with social distancing and shelter-in-place. There have been many heroic, positive stories, but also extraordinarily painful and clear inequalities.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (20:47)
We see it over and over again. We see working families who have been brought to their knees in a matter of weeks, and there’s not enough safety net there for them. We finally are seeing some progress from our federal government, but our federal government’s always been behind the curve, not dealing with the reality and only coming up with very partial solutions. For so many working families, this has been a devastating time. We see the federal government focusing on the wealthy and corporations before working people. It’s painful to acknowledge how much of the stimulus discussion in the beginning was about big business, not small business, and about a payday for those who are already wealthy and privileged, not those who are struggling.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (21:35)
The federal government here, in this case… It’s been consistently the case, not only behind the curve, but the focus has been all wrong. Our federal government was much quicker to bail out the airlines, $58 billion, than to focus on cities, and states, and working people. These contradictions are now clearer than ever, and they’re more unacceptable than ever. As we fight what’s broken, as we fight these inequalities, we draw upon what we’ve done over these six years, the whole reason we all came here to do this work. It came through in so many ways leading up to this crisis. We’ve seen it vividly during this crisis. Thank God, our focus was on healthcare equity, saving our public hospitals, creating a guarantee of healthcare, and making sure people could get insurance, or if they couldn’t get insurance, had the right to healthcare through NYC Care, building up access to free mental healthcare across the board, through ThriveNYC.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (22:41)
These acts of equity are serving us right now in this crisis. They’re reminders of how much more we have to do as well and fighting for economic fairness: $15 minimum wage, paid sick leave, rent freezes. The things that we have done to try to bring a beginning of fairness and equity to the city, we need to do even more now. As we’ve talked about this crisis, I’ve said it very bluntly. The only comparison we can make in terms of what it’s meant to people’s livelihoods, their family reality or economic reality… The only comparison is the Great Depression. I heard those stories from my older relatives. When they spoke about the Great Depression, it sounded like it was yesterday. It was so vivid. It was so intense: the challenges they face, the pain that they overcame somehow. It’s also clear in those stories… I bet a lot of you have heard them, too. It’s very much a New York story.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (23:45)
When you talk about how our nation fought back through the Great Depression, it was very much through the leadership of great New Yorkers like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Fiorello La Guardia, giants that we can only think of with awe. In our time, we look to them for inspiration. Well, they did not say, “Let’s just rebuild what was happening that day before the stock market crashed in 1929.” I want you to remember this. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Fiorello La Guardia, and all the other great leaders in New Deal… They did not say, “We just want to go back to that horribly unequal, volatile, unfair world of 1929.” No, they said, “We’re going to build something transformational and different.” That was the New Deal.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (24:34)
They reimagined what government could be. They reimagined what it could mean for people. They very much made clear that it was not going to be a government for the few, but a government for the many. The visions that they put forward, the policies they created were for all. It was a sea change. It was a breakpoint in the history of this country. By the way, the things that came from that noble fight, we live with today because the ideas were so good, so durable, so right that they still frame, thank God, so much of what we do as a nation now. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, just reach for your Social Security card, and you’ll have a great example right there.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (25:15)
We need to build a group of people to help us come up with the same ideas, the same kind of ideas, I should say, the same creative, innovative, forward-looking ideas. When you think about what these great leaders and thinkers were doing in the first half of the 1930s, they were coming up with ideas that had never been heard of before. They were seeing the world in a whole new way. They were doing things at the time that people said were impossible, but they made them happen. We all have benefited, generation after generation, from it. We have to find the ideas for our time. We have to dream new dreams. We need great thinkers to help us do it.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (25:57)
I’m appointing today a Fair Recovery Task Force. This is an extraordinary group of New Yorkers, each of whom has contributed to this city in really profound ways. They bring different perspectives, different ideas, but all have a common thread. They have devoted so much of their lives to building a better New York City and a fairer society. They all have the impulse to lift people up. They all have the impulse to say, “The status quo is not good enough. We have to do better.” We can do better. Every one of them has that energy and that spirit to build something new and better. I’m bringing them together to help all of us to advise me, to help us create the plans for now and for the future. It’s a group of people I think will make New York City proud.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (26:42)
Let me introduce each one to you. This will be a group of people in common, thinking together. Each of them bring so much to the table. First, Patrick Gaspard… Patrick is a New Yorker through and through. Born to Haitian parents. Grew up in New York City. Went to our public schools. Served in the Obama administration, now president of the Open Society Foundations, one of the most important philanthropies on earth. Someone who served right here in City Hall, loves this city, and believes things can be created, and has been part of it all over the world.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (27:27)
Dick Ravitch, former Lieutenant Governor of New York state, a legend… Dick Ravitch is one of the people that helped this city survive the fiscal crisis of 1970s, one of the great innovators who saw us through. He helped save the MTA in the ’70s and ’80s. He is someone who, time and time again, has seen what others could not see and helped us, not just to come back but come back stronger. His extraordinary experience will bring so much to this group. Jennifer Jones Austin… Jennifer is someone I have such appreciation for. She was the cochair of my transition when I came into City Hall. She helped us build this administration as CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. She’s a leader in this city in so many ways, in our nonprofit sector, in the work of social justice, in the work of the faith community. Her family is four generations. She is the fourth generation of faith and social justice leaders in her family. She understands what it is to run a large nonprofit. She understands how crucial those extraordinary nonprofits are to the city. She brings amazing perspective to this effort.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (28:45)
Her cochair in that transition, off in that transition effort seven years ago, joining us as well, Carl Weisbrod… Carl has done it all for New York City and most recently, serves as the chair of the City Planning Commission in my administration. He has served in one form or another in city administrations, going back to the time of Mayor Lindsay. He is legendary for the work he did, taking a symbol of so many things that were troubled about New York City, Times Square, and turning it into something strong and vibrant. He knows what resurgence looks like. He played a crucial role in bringing back Lower Manhattan after 9/11, as well. I think one of the most respected leaders in government in civic life over the last half century in this city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (29:36)
Henry Garrido leads our largest municipal union, DC 37 AFSCME, the people who do so much of the work that keeps this city going. Henry is a thinker, and a change agent, and a visionary. I have had many a long conversation over the years with Henry. He’s always looking over the horizon. He also comes from the immigrant experience, his family from the Dominican Republic. He fights for working people and believes we can do much better for working families. He also has the extraordinary experience of running a huge organization that’s there to serve and uplift working people. Henry brings a great mind and a great spirit to this effort.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (30:20)
Maria Torres Springer, vice president for United States Programs at the Ford Foundation… Maria is someone who, in her 15 years of public service to our city, hit the trifecta, if you will. She led three agencies. Very few people have done this and done it so well. She led, various times, our Economic Development Corporation, our Small Business Services Department, and our Housing Department. She understands what it’s like, not only to run these large organizations, but to serve people who need the help now, folks who need affordable housing, the folks in our small business community who are going through so much now and need a helping hand. She certainly understands what it means to foster economic strength, but from a perspective of fairness, child of Filipino immigrants. I remember when I first talked to her, the passion with which she spoke about helping working people and immigrants. She’s going to bring that passion and all that experience to this group.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (31:19)
Liz Neumark, CEO of Great Performances… She is an extraordinary New York city entrepreneur, a great New York City story. She started a small business that turned into a much larger business, now employs so many people all over this city, a New York success story, but not someone who just kept her success to herself. What Liz did was said, “How can we turn business into an engine for change?” She’s led efforts to empower people, to train people, to bring them into industries that previously didn’t have an opportunity to participate in. She’s worked tirelessly to fight hunger in this city. She’s a great example of someone from our business community who every single day…
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (32:03)
-example of someone from our business community who every single day asks the question, “How can we take our New York City businesses and make them agents of positive change in our city?” And she has proven it over and over again that it can be done and it must be done.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (32:16)
And finally, Fred Wilson, Fred is a legend in our technology community. Some consider him the godfather of the New York City tech scene. He was an early stage investor in many of the New York City tech companies that are thriving today. He is someone who really had a profound vision, one of the first to have the vision of New York City as a great international tech hub. And now that vision has come to be true. But his true passion is making sure that our kids get computer science education.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (32:46)
I’ve worked closely with Fred, I’ve been so impressed by his generosity, but also his extraordinary entrepreneurship and his drive. He created the Computer Science For All initiative that now has been one of the most successful elements of our initiatives at equity and excellence in our public schools. Because of Fred, every child in New York City public schools is now getting computer science education. And he led that effort and now we’ll bring that same drive and ingenuity to this group.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (33:19)
So an amazing collection of New Yorkers bringing so many different talents, so much perspective. This group will come together quickly and I’m going to ask of them that they come up with an immediate product to frame our work. Now it’s going to be a preliminary product. They’re all very, very talented, but I’m going to ask them to, in addition to their very busy day jobs, to take some time to come up with a preliminary recovery roadmap by June 1st. This is not going to be the final word. This is going to be the first outline of how we build that smart recovery, that recovery, that will work, that recovery that will be fair. I’ll expect that preliminary roadmap by June 1st, but then their work will continue on in the months ahead.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (34:06)
Finally, we need to look at the bigger changes, and I’ve talked about what it’s going to mean that long road ahead, dealing with things like the inequities in our healthcare system, dealing with the challenge that New Yorkers face still finding affordable housing. The profound issues that working people face. The huge issues of protecting this city and our ability to serve people going forward. And obviously the questions that will come back to the fore shortly of how we fight global warming and what the role of this city is. I’m going to expect this group to work on all of these things in the months ahead. Remember, we have 20 months to build this longterm fair recovery. I’m going to depend on them to help in every phase of that.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (34:59)
But the last piece of the equation is the structural question of our government and everything that our government is built to do and what we need to do going forward. So the fourth thing I will do is I will plan in the days and weeks ahead to formulate and announce a charter revision commission. The announcement will come when we’ve put together the team that will do this work. And again, this is something that will happen in the weeks ahead. First we need to deal with the more immediate matters. But I think it is the right time for a charter revision commission because if ever there was a moment, a breakpoint moment in the city’s history, this is it. And it’s time to look a new at everything we do and see what works, what doesn’t work, what about our city government structure might be outdated or less effective? What do we need to build a fair recovery?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (35:53)
Charter revision commission will hold hearings all over the city and again, hopefully someday soon there’ll be public hearings again where people come in person. And anything they have to do in the short term, if they need to do it virtually, they will. But I want this group to really think about the big picture of how our government works, how it serves our people, where we need to go for the future.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (36:15)
So those are four pieces, four building blocks to building the strategies to get us through some of the immediate decisions and on into that broader fair recovery. I am convinced we can pull these pieces together and build something new and better. Now, the part of the day, we always wait for: reviewing the indicators. And this has everything to say, again, with the restart. We’ve seen some good progress the last few days and today is another good day, and I’m very happy about this.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (36:47)
Now the first indicator is unchanged and I want to see it go down, but still it’s not going in the wrong direction. I am a guy who believes the glass is half full, so I’m happy to see it’s not going in the wrong direction. And many days this one has gone in the right direction. Indicator one, daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID: unchanged.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (37:07)
Indicator two, number of people in ICUs across our health and hospital system for suspected COVID has gone down 785 to 768. Percent of people tested who are positive for COVID-19 has gone down 30% to 29%. now unfortunately this is the one piece of this that is not so sunny. Public health lab tests have gone up 31% to 46%. but still when you look at this day and the days before, overall continuing to move in the right direction, seeing good signs, but I want to see all of these go down consistently for 10 to 14 days. That’s what will signal those first steps in opening up.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (37:51)
So I’m going to conclude before a few words in Spanish, just want to focus on the word normal. So, a crisis will end, and I keep saying it, this crisis will end. We will come back. We will be a great city. We always have been a great city. Will we be normal again? People talk about this word a lot and I understand it and I relate to it the same way. Normal in some ways sounds like a very good thing right now, but normal isn’t good enough for our future. Normal could be interpreted as the status quo we knew before the coronavirus. That’s not the normal I’m aspiring to. I’m aspiring to something different and better.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (38:38)
We have 20 months for this administration to run all the way to the finish line and really make sure we address these inequalities while building up a strong economy, while building up a strong city for all. I think we can do those things. I think we can pull those pieces together and really build something better and that’s what I’m devoted to and that’s what my whole team will be devoted to. A few words in Spanish.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (39:35)
[ Spanish 00:07:03].
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (39:44)
With that we’ll talk to media questions. Please remind me of the name and the outlet.
Speaker 3: (39:50)
Hi all. Just a reminder that we have commissioner Barbot, Deputy Mayor Thompson and Deputy Mayor Been on the phone. With that, I will start with Katie from the Wall Street Journal.
Hey, good morning Mr. Mayor. I have a two parter. I’ll be quick. The first is what’s the city’s immediate plan or just plan in general if they don’t get significant federal aid? Also the state cut $8.2 billion in cuts to localities from the state budget, which I’m sure will hit the city pretty hard. What the city’s plan on that? And looking at, I guess by my count 10 task forces are so, but I don’t see one on things like public transit, which some people seem to alarmed about. What’s the plan for improving that, figuring that out? And will you perhaps add or consolidate more task forces to the list of task forces?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (40:39)
Katie, this is a living, breathing reality, Katie. We’re certainly, if we think something has to be added, obviously we can do that. Public transport is going to be a big issue. Respect that the state runs the MTA and we want to be mindful of that. But as we get more deeply into the recovery thinking, we’re going to do a lot of work on the future of transportation. And again as we talked about previously, how we have a New York City that’s more about public transit, less about cars. That makes sense in terms of saving our environment and protecting against global warming, reducing congestion, and is more fair and available to people. So that’s going to be a big piece of what a fair recovery looks like. These immediate sectorial groups, as I said, it’s very much about what we have to do to restart and then they’ll help us build out division. But absolutely transportation issues will be a big part as we go further into this discussion.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (41:35)
State budget, I’m very, very concerned. I cannot tell you, there’s no words for how much alarm was sounded when we heard of the magnitude of the cuts the governor plans. Now look, I want to immediately empathize with the governor. He is dealing with a horrible situation just like I am in terms of massive lost revenue, and so many people out of work, and so many people hurting, and a federal government that hasn’t been there for us. So I share the governor’s anger at what he’s dealing with in Washington, what I’m dealing with in Washington. We’re both pounding away with so many others for a stimulus four that would make us whole and replace the lost revenue and really support us in dealing with all the huge expenses we have in attacking the coronavirus.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (42:24)
Could Washington do the right thing? Yes they could. And we’re going to fight for it. And in fact I’m heartened that this legislation, stimulus four, is going to start in the House of Representatives with Speaker Pelosi. And I’ve spoken to her and have a lot of confidence that she is doing the right thing for New York and for the whole country.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (42:41)
But if that doesn’t reach the level it needs to and then the state has to make cuts, it will be devastating to New York City. And I’m certainly going to work with the governor’s team, the legislature to say, look, whatever is thrown at us and whatever we do or don’t get from the federal government, we have to remember that New York City, not only is this a huge percentage of the people in the state are right here in New York City, and so many people need help. But if New York City cannot provide basic services then there won’t be a restart of the economy in New York City or New York State. So we have to balance all those factors. I’m very, very worried at the prospect of even deeper budget cuts from Albany.
Speaker 3: (43:24)
Next we have Alexa from News 12.
Hi, Mr. Mayor. I have a question about cancellation of rent. Yesterday people were protesting for cancellation. Do you think that’s a real possibility and what kind of burden would it cause to landlords, if so?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (43:40)
Alexa, I don’t think it makes sense for… I understand people’s pain to say the least. I understand there’s so many people struggling and so many people have no money for the rent, but I don’t think we want to compound the problem by saying, if no one acts together to address this problem, it’s going to be okay. I don’t think it will be okay because there are so many landlords trying to do the right thing, including smaller landlords who need to pay the bills too and keep their buildings running.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (44:08)
My first concern always is for working people and tenants. But I want to make sure their buildings are running and so they are getting what they need to live a decent life. I think the answer is for first of all, our rent guidelines board to pass that rent freeze, I’m calling for. That will reach over 2 million New Yorkers. That’s crucial. But the state really needs to act quickly. Allow tenants to use their security deposits to pay the rent. That one to me is a no brainer. It can be done quickly. That would immediately take pressure off the situation. Create a plan for tenants to pay back rent later when they have money. So at least landlords will know the money will be there, but tenants who have no money will know that they are safe. Obviously continue to stop evictions and make sure that no evictions happen during this crisis and for at least 60 days thereafter. So the state needs to act on these things. Folks who are hurting need to see a response. I want our rent guidelines board to do that for the city with a rent freeze. But I want the state tag quickly on these other issues, to finally give some relief to our renters.
Speaker 3: (45:16)
Next, we have Sean from the Daily News.
Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I was wondering if you could speak some more about the task force on racial inclusion. I know you only just announced it, but could you say what are the sort of metrics or goals you might have in mind by which progress would be gaged? Also, could you say why you decided to make a first lady Chirlane McCray, one of the leaders of that task force?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (45:42)
Sure. Sean, we will with all of these things, so on each of these groupings that have not yet been named, we’re going to be putting out the names in the next few days. So on this task force which will be made up of city government leaders, we’ll put out the name and we’ll give you more and more of a sense of the specific work products that’ll be coming from it. The same with those sectorial advisory councils. We’ll be putting out those names in the next few days. They’ll be meeting, all of them, in the first week of may.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (46:08)
The idea here is to be very much focused on the metrics of addressing disparity. Making sure city agencies across the board in this time of crisis are continuing and deepening their work of addressing disparity. For example, how much are MWBEs right now being supported, getting opportunities to continue to stay alive and then rebuild? Are agencies acting with the same energy and focus they need to serve MWBEs? In fact, they should be doubling down in their supportive MWBEs in this moment. That’s one example, it would be very metrical in terms of being able to present what our goals are and holding agencies to those goals.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (46:52)
So we’ll I’m more to say on that going forward, the ideas originated here from Deputy Mayor Thompson of why a task force like this could be crucial at this moment where we have to make sure every part of the city government is coordinated and addressing the immediate disparities. The first lady, when she became involved in those discussions, added a set of ideas as to how this could be played out and the urgency that was needed. And as we had the discussions over the last few days, it was clear to me that the two of them were the perfect people to bring this larger effort together. They’ve both known each other a long time. They work very well together, but they share that sense of urgency.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (47:36)
So they’ll set up the group. It will be focused on all communities of color and the question of deepening inclusion, and then we’ll report what the larger group will be and the goals of it.
Speaker 3: (47:49)
Next, we have Yoav from The City.
Mr. Mayor, I wanted to ask you, there was a story recently [inaudible 00:47:57] about the medical center on Roosevelt Island and the Coler-
Speaker 4: (48:03)
Medical center on Roosevelt Island and the Coler Nursing Facility, and they basically said that the city brought COVID-19 patients into that facility even though there’s a nursing home there with some vulnerable patients. So I wanted to see if you could just tell us what the situation is there. Do you know anything about an outbreak of COVID and do you know how many folks in that facility might’ve passed away?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (48:38)
Yohav, we will get back to you today with the updates that we can pull together quickly. I can tell you having visited as that facility was being built out, my understanding at the time was there was a very distinct separation between the new medical elements of the facility and what was there previously. At that time, you’ll remember there was an absolute desperation to make sure that we had backup hospital spaces because of the growth of COVID-19 and the need to save lives. So it was very good and smart of health and hospitals to open up space in that facility. But we’ll get you the details on how that separation was kept and what proceeded to happen there. Dr. Katz isn’t online with us now, but I’ll make sure that we get that to you later today.
Speaker 5: (49:29)
Next we have Sydney from Gothamist.
Hi, Mr. Mayor. I hope you’re doing well this morning. I know you’ve said before that you feel like New York City is different from other cities regarding some type of open streets plan that that several people are supportive of and city council is hoping the city will look into. But just considering just my own experiences on the waterfront in Manhattan personally, is it’s so crowded, it’s not even about enforcement. I see Parks enforcement vehicles. I see NYPD vehicles, presumably driving around to make sure people aren’t gathering, but it’s not about people gathering in groups, it’s just people taking walks. It’s people just biking or running or walking with their children, toddlers. They’re wearing masks and they still can’t stay away six feet from people because there’s physically just not enough room for people. And so just wondering if you can update us on what you plan to do if you don’t support an open streets plan, because right now it’s not physically possible to socially distance and take a walk in our parks.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (50:48)
Sydney, couple things real quick. [crosstalk 00:02:49]. Go ahead. I’m sorry.
Yeah, yeah, two parter here. Just what would you plan to do if you don’t support some type of open streets and that kind of goes into the larger summer plan you’ve talked about a couple of times that you’ve said is being developed.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (51:04)
Right. So as I’ve said, we will have a bigger summer plan for sure. It’s April 26 today. There’s time to bring that out over the next couple of weeks. We will do that. Your points are very well taken and as I said, I’ve spoken to a transportation commissioner, police commissioner, we’re talking about the ways to address the issues around the parks in particular where there may be very valid areas that we need to open up further. We’re having very productive conversations with the city council, but everything starts with health and safety.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (51:36)
So what I have to make sure, working with the police commissioner, transportation commissioner, parks commissioner, is that we are solving problems, not inadvertently creating new ones, and that we do things in a way that always is connected to enforcement. Look, I believe fundamentally what works in New York City is a whole lot of information and education to people, and New Yorkers have been amazing in the way they’ve approached social distancing, the way they approached the face coverings. Overwhelmingly people are using them.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (52:05)
So you may see, and I see too, some instances where it’s not what it should be, but the vast majority of what I’m seeing is people doing it the right way. But we need to do more. But to me it is about enforcement and it is about making sure people understand how this needs to work, supporting them in that. And then if there are places where we do need to open up new options, we can and will, but with the right enforcement, with the right ground rules. So we’re going to keep working on that for sure. I want to emphasize to Sydney’s point to all New Yorkers taking seriously the face coverings. They help. You should have them on all the time. I see some people when they’re running or exercising, they take them down. I can understand that.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (52:51)
If you can run or exercise or bike with a face covering on, that’s even better. If you take it down, sort of the intense exertion, put it back up after. Every member of the family needs a face covering. Anything will do, a bandana, a scarf, anything you’ve got. We’re going to keep giving this message. We’re going to keep enforcing. But a lot of what I see out there is people, families together, close and again that is acceptable. That is within the boundaries of social distancing, and other folks making a very good effort to socially distance the maximum amount possible. Face coverings matter all the time, but we will be working particularly as the weather gets warmer to look at new options but with enforcement attached.
Speaker 5: (53:32)
Next we have Luis from New Yorker.
Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I’ve got two questions.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (53:39)
Go ahead, Luis.
Okay there. Going forward as we approach the point when mass testing becomes a true reality in the way that you and the Governor envision it, in light of the families who have suffered through the same predicament that the Chris Cuomo family have gone through, God bless them, would there ever be a time when a person who tests positive not be allowed back to their family, presuming they have a family, and under what circumstances might that be?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (54:04)
Okay, so Luis, the goal here is to work with everybody and work with every family to determine if someone tests positive, to determine if they have a living circumstance that will allow for isolation properly. Some people do. Some people don’t. Someone living alone obviously can do isolation in their own apartment or home. Someone who lives in an apartment or home where there’s enough room determined by the other members of the family could do it too. A lot of New Yorkers can’t. That’s where the hotels come in and providing people the support in the hotels.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (54:40)
So what the test and trace approach means is determining not only if someone’s positive, who are the other people in their life that might be affected or might have been affected, but can they have proper isolation or not? If they can’t, the hotel is there for them immediately. And I think from what we’re seeing so far, people are going to deal with that on a very common sense level. We’re going to always try and work with people to figure out the thing that works for them. But you know, the most important part of the equation is testing people, which we’re still do not have the capacity to the level we want. That’s what we’re focusing on every day, making sure we have those hotels available for people, and making sure there’s a tight process between the test and the tracing and then getting people to isolation who need it.
Speaker 5: (55:28)
Next. We have Jeff Mays from the New York Times.
Jeff Mays: (55:33)
Hey, good morning, Mr. Mayor. Two questions. I wanted to ask a little more about the charter revision commissions. What do you envision them tackling? If you could go into some more specifics, and then secondly on the racial equity task force led by your wife. I’m wondering if there’s any concern in appointing her to this position given some of the questions that have been raised about Thrive and their operation in the past.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (56:03)
Of course not. The reality is, and Jeff, you’ve asked the question several times, about what was done before the coronavirus to address healthcare disparities in New York City. I’ve talked about the kind of physical health changes that were needed, things like saving the public hospitals, creating a guaranteed health care system with NYC Care and getting insurance to people. I’ve talked about a lot of the very immediate physical health realities. But in terms of fighting inequality, Thrive has gone to that point in many ways even farther, because Thrive was about addressing profound inequalities in health care, and in fact even more so, creating access to healthcare that didn’t exist for anyone in a society that never has given proper attention and respect to the issue of mental health. So I think what Chirlane has done over these last six years is take this issue, put it in the light, open up access for millions of people, and then continue to build out a structure that could focus on effective delivery and equity.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (57:16)
I think that’s exactly the kind of mindset needed for this task force. And again want to give credit where credit is due. The initial thinking came from Deputy Mayor Phil Thompson, who has a lifetime of work serving the city and a lifetime of work as an innovator in public policy. As he and Chirlane talked and more of the rest of us started talking about it, it made total sense to me that they would be the leaders and then they’ll bring together a whole team from the administration.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (57:42)
In terms of charter revision, again, we’re going to announce a whole team for that, a charter revision commission. That’s at least weeks away, honestly. We got a lot we’ve got to do in the immediate term. The Fair Recovery task force is a group I’m going to depend on for the initial thinking, and again with that very preliminary June 1st, roadmap is going to be crucial to determining how we act in the months ahead. Charter revision commission, when we get to naming that group, that’s an opportunity to take a more structural look at the work of New York City government and determine if we’re positioned right for the future or if we have to make other changes. And again, that’s a very deliberative process. Bring together a wide range of perspectives, have public hearings. That’s what a charter revision commission is great for, but that will come farther down the line.
Speaker 5: (58:33)
Last question for today. We have Jannen from Cranes.
Hi Mr. Mayor. Can you hear me?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (58:39)
Yes, Jannen, how you doing?
Good. How are you?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (58:42)
The city council last week announced a suite of bills for COVID relief protection. The business community, however, sharply criticized this as a burden on small businesses. Where do you stand? Do you support this legislation?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (58:59)
Jannen, it is brand new and I still have not had the opportunity to carefully review it. I look forward to doing that. I look forward to talking to Speaker Johnson. As I’ve said, some of the elements that I’ve heard, just the broad outline of, I think I share the goal, but where I want to see these things handled is in the federal stimulus, and there is a lot of energy in that direction. Senator Schumer has put forward the Hero’s Fund idea to provide bonuses to essential workers, first responders, healthcare workers, grocery workers. I think that is very smart. I think it is entirely within the reach of the federal government to do that. Remember, effortlessly, they gave $58 billion to the airline industry, a very profitable industry. They were quick to bail them out. I think they should bail out essential workers and first responders as well and they can do that.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (59:51)
So I think that is a live option to be in the stimulus, and that vote in the stimulus, we’re hearing more and more, not even late May, that could come in early May, so that’s where I think the focus should be. But again, we’re going to review everything that was put forward by the council, work with them closely. It is a great working relationship. We’ve all been working closely through this crisis, and I really appreciate that the council is constantly thinking about the needs of essential workers and all working people. I think we have a lot of common ground there. So more to say on that as we deepen our conversations with the council ahead.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:00:25)
So with that everyone, again to conclude sort of where I started, we got a lot to do right away and everyone’s feeling that urgency to restart. I feel it. Everyone in here at City Hall feels that. We’re going to do it when the time is right and in the right way and in stages. But New Yorkers have the ability to do great things. It is who we are and we’re going to do something great over the next 20 months. We are going to figure out how to rebuild, how to come back strong, how to take all the strengths of the city that were so clear just a few months ago and bring them back stronger than ever, but with a fundamental devotion to making sure this is a better city for all, a fairer city, a more inclusive city. It can be that. And look, we’ve shown how fast you can make change in this city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:01:17)
This place is capable of great things. The people of the city are capable of great things. All of you have participated over the years in making New York City greater and greater. Now let’s make it fairer and fairer. Now let’s go someplace we’ve never been before. In that same spirit of the new deal, imagining a world that does not yet exist and building it. It’s something we can all do together. And that’s what I’m devoted to and I know together we will achieve it. Thank you so much, everyone.