Jul 20, 2020
Bill de Blasio NYC COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript July 20
Bill de Blasio held a New York City coronavirus briefing on July 20. The city is moving into phase four of reopening. Read the full transcript of his COVID-19 speech transcript here.
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Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:04)
Well, good morning, everybody. We’ve got a lot to talk about today, first day of phase four, and obviously, a very hot day. We’re going to talk about the heat advisory, but first I want to take a moment to remember a true American hero. Congressman John Lewis, and [inaudible 00:00:21] city all over this country. People are remembering this great man, and taking inspiration from him, and this is just what I want to talk about for a moment, because the amazing thing about John Lewis is that for almost 60 years he was a consistent beacon to all of us, of what it means to work to make this a better country, and to overcome our painful history, and take us to someplace better.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:51)
The amazing energy, the hopefulness, the resolve of this man is so much of what bonded all of us to him. No matter what he went through, he found a way to find a hopeful place, to find a North Star that moved him forward, and it’s something we all need to remember right now, so we’re mourning, but there’s something I think even more important, I think he’d say it to us, which is to remember that always stay inspired, and focused on the next thing we can make better. Now, a few months back in December, I had an incredible honor with my family of spending time with John Lewis. He spoke at the New-York Historical Society, and I asked him how he got inspired originally, and in a picture you see, he’s telling the story, and he uses the phrase, “Good trouble.” That’s his signature phrase, of how you can make trouble for a positive end, you can fight against something unjust.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:52)
But, he talked about starting out as a kid in a rural area, with very little that told him about the outside world, and how teachers, and mentors, and clergy members started to open his eyes, not just to what was going on, and what needed to change, but to what he could do about it. He was very clear, no reason to believe that he personally could change the world, he got inspired, and became one of the crucial figures of the civil rights movement, and everything since, so what an honor to have spent time with him, and let me tell you, his legacy lives on in so many people right now, including a lot of young people that I spent time with over the last few days.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (02:35)
On Friday, I was in Harlem for a town hall meeting with young people, and the spirit of John Lewis was clearly in the room in the sense that these young people were learning about their own abilities, their own power to make change, their own value, what a different world they could help create. It was very, very moving to hear their voices, and there were voices of pain, and they talked about some very difficult experiences they had had, including with police, but they also talked about how they knew that community and police had to come together. They talked about, they knew how we had to create a different relationship, a more human and humane relationship. It was inspiring to hear these voices, and to realize that they’re our future, and our future can be in very good hands if we support them.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (03:23)
So, those young people in Harlem on Friday inspired me. On Friday evening, I was in Bedstein with Occupy the Corner’s effort. Community members taking back their neighborhood, not allowing the gun violence to take over, but reclaiming their own streets. Elected officials, clergy, Cure Violence folks, all together, and again, on Saturday with the Cease Fire Peace March in Bedstein. I was out there and I saw the incredible energy, and commitment. Community members making very, very clear their community, their streets, they would stop the violence, they needed the partnership with NYPD for sure, but they also knew the community had to come forward, and the community has come forward, not just in Bedstein, not just in Harlem, but all over the city, and you’re going to see a lot more of that in the coming weeks.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (04:14)
Now, this is all part of our violence prevention plan that commissioner Shay and I outlined on Friday, and it will work with the combination of pinpointed police efforts, and key police deployments where needed most, but also a closer working partnership with communities. That’s the key. Okay, I set up top, we should talk obviously about the momentous nature of this day, and I got to tell you, I think a lot of us would have said that it would have been a really, really, a big challenge, maybe an unlikely possibility that New York city, and its comeback from the coronavirus, having been the epicenter of the crisis in the very beginning that we would get to phase one, phase two, phase three, and now phase four, exactly on schedule, and we have.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (05:05)
Again, credit to all of you, the heroic efforts of New Yorkers fighting back this disease have made this possible. Phase four begins today. A lot of wonderful things. We see sports coming back, baseball back this week, professional baseball, major league baseball. That’s going to be incredible, media production starting again, a big part of the life of the city, a big part of people’s livelihoods. Some wonderful outdoor activities opening up again, botanical gardens, zoos at more limited capacity, but they will be open, and that’s going to be great. So many things are moving forward, heavy emphasis on outdoors, but when it comes to certain indoor activities, that’s where we keep holding back.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (05:46)
We’re holding back indoor dining, museums, malls, things that we’re still not certain can be done right, and a reminder that even though we think there’s a lot evidence of a huge difference between outdoor, and indoor, and outdoor always being better, and that’s why we extended the outdoor dining all the way to October 31st. Let’s take maximum advantage of that. It’s an amazing thing, but outdoors doesn’t mean that people should forget all of the tough lessons that we’ve learned, and let’s be fair. Overwhelmingly, around the city, folks who own restaurants, bars, and their customers have been responsible, have been smart, have remembered to follow the rules, but not everywhere.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (06:26)
We saw some real troubling overcrowding in Astoria this weekend, we will not tolerate it. Let’s be really clear. It’s not widespread, but where we find it, it has to be stopped. There’s one restaurant in Astoria that was a focal point for this overcrowding. They’ve been shut down, and no one wants to shut down bars or restaurants, but if they do not cooperate in our efforts to contain the coronavirus, they will be shut down. We don’t want to give out summonses. Everyone’s hurting right now, financially, economically, but if we have to, we’ll give out summonses. There’ll be heavier enforcement efforts by the Sheriff’s office, and when needed by the NYPD as well, around bars and restaurants.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (07:09)
I want it to be very, very clear, when we agreed to let this part of our life come back, it was not meant to be business as usual. It was meant to be with the understanding we all gained the hard way of why we need social distancing, why we need face coverings, why we need to understand some limits, to stop this disease and to never let it come back. You’ll see, as I said, a very aggressive effort to enforce, and look, I think it’s as clear as this, we don’t want to shut down restaurants, we don’t want to shut down bars, but if we have to shut down a few of those, it is a hell of a lot better than seeing the coronavirus start to surge again in this city, and we know in other places, it was a reckless disregard in the way that bars and restaurants were handled. That was one of the causes of a resurgence of the coronavirus. We will not let that happen here.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (08:04)
Everyone remember, we’ve got to keep to those rules, keep educating everyone around you face coverings, social distancing work. Now, that’s the importance of doing that, including when you’re outdoors, and while we’re talking about outdoors, let’s talk about this very hot week we’re going into, and particularly, today. Today is a day to be very concerned about the heat index could reach 100 today, so everyone, remember we [inaudible 00:08:32] into this very hot temperatures, take it seriously. Do not minimize the challenge. Stay hydrated, stay cool. When you can, stay in air conditioning. Check on your neighbors. If you know there’s a neighbor who might be a little more vulnerable, a senior, or someone with a health condition that might make him more vulnerable check in on them, make sure they have enough water, or anything they need.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (08:51)
Now, there’s going to cooling centers open all over the city. They’ll be smart in the terms of the way they run them. There’ll be social distancing, face coverings within the cooling centers, but there’ll be available to anyone that needs them for free, and you see on your…
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (09:03)
Centers, but they’ll be available to anyone that needs them for free. And you see on your screen, a variety of efforts, outdoors and indoors, in our parks and all around, to keep people cool. Anyone who needs to know about that, you can call 311 for locations near you, or go to nyc.gov/beattheheat. Get all the information you need. Okay. I’m about to turn to our daily indicators, but before I do, we have an important milestone in our city’s recent history that I want to note. And it’s a good one. There is good news. No matter what challenges we face, New Yorkers keep creating good news. And here’s one about Citi Bike. This is quite amazing. Just in the last week, the hundred millionth Citi Bike trip in New York City. A hundred million trips on a Citi Bike, all about making sure people can get around, can get around in a way that is friendly to the environment. No emissions, no pollution. This is a fantastic development, and also the 1000th Citi Bike station installed.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (10:07)
Citi Bike being expanded… This has been proven to be a really good thing in the midst of this pandemic. It’s been a great option for a lot of New Yorkers who wanted a different way to get around. And we’re going to keep expanding in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan. Folks at Department of Transportation are working every day to make sure there’s more and better options, and they are safe options. Now as to our indicators, number one, daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19. The threshold is 200. Today’s report, 74 patients. Number two, daily number of people in health and hospitals ICUs, threshold 375. Today’s report, 311. And number three, percentage of people testing citywide positive for COVID-19, threshold of 15%. Today’s report, once again, 2%. So a very good day. A few words in Spanish. [foreign language 00:01: 59]. With that, we will turn to our colleagues in the media. Please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Speaker 1: (11:35)
Hi, all. Just a reminder that we have with us today. Deputy Mayor Been, Commissioner Criswell, Sheriff Fucito, And Senior Advisor Dr. Varma. With that, we’ll start with Andrew from NBC.
Always nice to be in the lead offs, but I just try to get on base here. Hope everybody’s doing okay. Mayor, my first question has to do with schools. Israel has readjusted its policies for fall reopening, where students in kindergarten to fourth grade will return full time five days a week. And that’s based on medical evidence that children under 10 very, very rarely spread the virus. I’m wondering, is New York considering a similar plan for the DOE to fully reopen from kindergarten through fourth grade, and go to the blended learning for the higher grades. And if not, why not?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (12:29)
Andrew, great question. You excel in the lead off spot. Since it’s baseball week, we can keep these analogies going all day. I would say, we will look at any and all options, but one, we’re very careful and cautious here. We’re the place that was the epicenter. Thank God, we’ve made a lot of progress. We’re not going to let it slip away. There’s a lot of people in Israel in a small country, but nowhere near the kind of density we’re talking about here. I think our approach would be particularly cautious. We also have just the space realities in schools to think about. Although, I’ve seen those reports, and I know our health leadership have seen those reports, I would say, that’s not on the front burner right now. We’re going to see how things go and see how we evolve over time. But right now, the blended learning approach that we’ve described, is plan A.
My second question has to do with mask usage. The MTA, today, is stepping up a program to distribute masks and encourage masks on trains and buses. Their latest numbers show 90% compliance on subways, which may sound high. But if you have 200 people on a train, that’s 20 people not wearing a mask. I’m wondering what you think of that number, and whether you think even stronger measures need to be taken, not only in transit, but in stores, and all across the city, to enforce mask usage.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (13:59)
Andrew, what we’re finding is the best measures are the free masks constantly distributed, the constant reminders, the educational efforts, including the in person education efforts, the messages spread out in a variety of ways. That’s where I would stay now, because I think that’s what is getting people overwhelmingly to comply. But we just need to do more of it and better. But again, we’re going to watch every step along the way. And if we need to do something more aggressive, that’s always an option.
Speaker 1: (14:30)
Next. We have Gersh from Streetsblog.
How are you Mr. Mayor?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (14:35)
Hey, Gersh. How are you doing?
I’m good. I’m staying cool-
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (14:38)
Let’s continue the baseball theme, Gersh.
Well, I don’t know if Andrew got on base, so I’ll bumped him over if he did, if it’s late in the innings. Anyway, the New York Post reports today that the NYPD has scrapped its 114 member traffic congestion mitigation unit. Now this move comes days after you disagreed with some advocates and said that you believe that traffic enforcement should remain inside the NYPD. So if that’s the case, why did the NYPD get rid of a key traffic enforcement unit?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (15:09)
Again, I have not seen that article. Let me make sure that I’m responding broadly because I don’t want to pick up on the way that article might’ve characterized it. Look. What we have to do in light of the budget situation, in light of the changes we made with NYPD, was free up officers for a lot of other important work right now, particularly fighting back some of the issues we’re having with shootings around the city. And we, obviously, for now, have seen a great reduction in the amount of vehicle activity in this city. This is where we’re starting, is having to make adjustments as we go along, but we’ll keep assessing it. And the things we do right now may not be what we do in the future, but this is what we’re doing now.
I would ask a followup to that, would be that this move comes after the NYPD and the DOT scrapped their placard enforcement teams. That was due to budget cuts. Now your pay-by-plate electronic system is not in place until next year, at the earliest. Right now, is any arm of your government enforcing placard misuse by city employees?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (16:19)
Yeah. There’s still, from everything I understand, will get you the facts. There’s still all the other ongoing enforcement that happens, separate from that specialized unit. And this is something we’ll keep fighting against. But again, we have much more profound priorities right now, in terms of fighting back the coronavirus, in terms of fighting this recent spate of shootings, and dealing with a change in the NYPD budget. But we’ll keep making adjustments as we go along. And that technological support that we’re going to get next year, that new solution based on better technology, I think is really going to be the thing that’s going to change things once and for all.
Speaker 1: (16:58)
Next, we have Katie from the Wall Street Journal.
Hey, good morning. I think this is the three hole position. Usually, the best hitter.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (17:06)
Very good, Katie. Katie, you stepped up the game there. Very nice. Very good.
Let’s go Mets. I have two questions. The first is, I guess, thinking of schools, particularly in districts that are incredibly overcrowded already. Is there a plan to perhaps find outside siting for school, whether it’s libraries, large unused spaces, trailers, which I know are very controversial. If there is the plan, what would that plan be?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (17:34)
Yes, Katie. That’s exactly what Lorraine Grillo and folks in School Construction Authority are looking at right now. Where there is additional space that could work for a school, that’s going to be the first priority. Obviously, a lot of space is being found for childcare, as well, as we announced last week. For a space to work for a school, obviously, it has to be pretty nearby, and it has to be available quickly, et cetera. But yes, absolutely. That is what’s being done right now. Trailers, maybe some but…
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (18:03)
… what’s being done right now. Trailers, maybe some, but as you said, never a preference.
My second question is your response to a video that I personally reported in The Daily News, it was Commissioner Shea speaking at a CompStat briefing on Thursday. He was very critical of lawmakers. He said people that don’t have a clue about how to keep New Yorkers safe suddenly think they know about policing, but I wanted to get your reaction, as a politician, if you’ve spoken to him about those, this is his criticism of calls for reforms, the police department. What’s your response? Have you spoken to him since? Have you seen the video? All that.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (18:37)
Yeah, I’ve spoken with him. Look, I have not seen the video, but I’ve spoken with him. I have a lot of respect for him and I think on Friday we were able to lay out the vision for moving forward. And I think the central point here is we all have to turn the page and move forward. That language wasn’t constructive. I don’t think it’s helpful. I think we just need to understand there’s a lot of frustrations out there. I do understand the frustrations. He and I have talked about it and I’ve understood it was important for him to express some of those concerns. But now it’s time to move forward.
Speaker 2: (19:08)
Next we have Maya from Patch.
Hi, good morning, Mr. Mayor?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (19:14)
Maya, are you a baseball fan?
I am a Yankees and a Mets fan, I have to play both sides.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (19:22)
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (19:23)
That is the most controversial statement we’re going to hear during this press conference. You’re a rarity.
No, [crosstalk 00:19:27]. I report on Queens. I’m from New York City. I’ve got support both of them.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (19:34)
All right. I admire that.
My question is about the scenes that we saw in Astoria this weekend. I know that you promised and enforcement [inaudible 00:19:46] people were sent out from the Sheriff’s office and NYPD to enforce there by City Council member Constantinides and residents of Astoria have been raising this issue to the city for weeks now and say that if the city had acted sooner, that potentially we wouldn’t have seen the scenes that we saw from this past week and this past weekend and that Steinway is not an isolated thoroughfare for all of us. So my question to you is, why did you take so long to act when you were being notified by officials and three [inaudible 00:20:23] complainants about this issue for weeks?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (20:25)
Maya, I don’t know all the details of the specific information that flowed to the Sheriff’s office or any of our other agencies but I can tell you this much, I know there’s been a lot of presence out there in recent weekends. I know overwhelmingly, we found compliance around the city. This particular prominent story obviously has grown and particularly occurred very late at night. I think that’s part of what was under-recognized. I’ll be the first to say it, I think there was activity earlier in the evenings, but [inaudible 00:20:50] did not recognize that it was so late at night when some of these problems were occurring. But again, one restaurant has been shut down. If others have be, and we don’t want to, but if others have to be, we will, and we’re going to have a lot of presence out there and that’s always going to be a solution. People have to get clear that this is dangerous if they don’t do it right. We’ve given lots of warnings. Now, if we have to do fines, if we have to do shutdowns, we will.
[crosstalk 00:21:17] Just to follow up on that, specifically what would be your response to City Council member Constantinides and the people who have been raising these issues of late night parties for weeks [crosstalk 00:21:29]
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (21:29)
Again, Maya, I don’t know the specifics of what they raised to who. I have a lot of respect for him, I just don’t know the specifics. I can’t speak to it, but anytime that any community members or elected officials raise something, our enforcement agencies are supposed to get out there and do it. And if they miss something, then they got to do better quickly.
Speaker 2: (21:47)
Next, we have [Yowa 00:21:48] from the city.
Hi everyone? Mr. Mayor, I wanted to go back to that video that I asked you about last week, a police officer in the course of removing a homeless man from the subways, punching him in the face twice. Wondering if you’ve had a chance to see that video, and I’m trying to find out the status of the officer, whether he’s been reassigned or put on modified duty.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (22:18)
I need to get that answer for you. I know NYPD has investigated that situation, but we have to get an update from you about whether there’s any particular action that’s been determined yet. I am behind on video so I’ll see that one today for sure but no question, each and every one is being evaluated and there will be, whenever necessary, followup action taken.
And I also wanted to go back to the death of George Zapantis in Queens, he’s the man who was tasered by the police. That investigation, apparently by the Force Investigation Division, last I heard is ongoing and it’s been close to a month. The reason they are providing for why they haven’t met that new two-week deadline is because the Attorney General’s office is also investigating but her office has said that the Force Investigation Division is free to do its thing simultaneously so that there should be no impediment there to eating the two-week deadline. I guess I just want to hear right off the bat, right after you announced this two-week deadline, we already have a case that doesn’t appear to be meeting that timeline.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (23:40)
No, I disagree with you respectfully, Yowa. The investigation was completed at the timeline. Again, no disrespect to you, I want to make sure NYPD and Attorney General’s office are communicating and if there’s agreement that the NYPD can publish the results of investigation, then of course they’ll go ahead and do it. But I think there’s been sensitivity about that because of the desire to yield to the Attorney General’s role. But my full understanding from the commissioner is that investigation is long since completed and was done within the timeline. So let’s just resolve this today on if they can announce findings, they will, and if they need to hold back because of the Attorney General, then they’ll keep holding back.
Speaker 2: (24:20)
Next we have Sydney from the Staten Island Advance.
Hey Mr. Mayor, I’m wondering if there’s a target date for a decision on when indoor activities, specifically malls, can reopen. I’m wondering what the specific criteria you’re looking at to determine when malls can reopen and whether you think a decision on the reopening of malls will be made at the same time as indoor dining and museums all at once or separately. Maybe Dr. Varma could comment on the criteria aspect of the question and I have a second question.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (24:51)
Sydney, I’m going to accept that, but I just want to caution that was many questions in one question, so please let’s be tighter about that. Look, I think the answer is simply this, indoor activities by and large, we do not have a set timeline because there’s so much concern about certain types indoor activities. And right now we’re all about keeping New York City safe and being smart and being cautious about it. So from everything I’ve ever heard from the state and certainly our own deliberations, we did not have a “deadline” by which we’re looking to make a decision on indoor dining or malls. We certainly are continuing to look at what would make them more safe when the moment came, but no specific timeline we’re working from. We want to keep watching the overall situation in the country, the overall situation in the city and how all these other things interact, including most obviously when people start to come back more in September to school and work. Dr. Varma, you want to add?
Dr. Varma: (25:55)
I concur entirely with what the mayor said, and I would just emphasize that we understand completely this presents an incredible challenge for the businesses throughout the city, but we’ve seen what has happened in many other places around the world, particularly places that have done an exceptional job at controlling this epidemic have had to repeatedly open and close indoor bars, restaurants, other shopping facilities because of resurgences. So I think the approach that the mayor has laid out about being as cautious as possible, while we recognize it doesn’t provide the certainty that people need, I think it does provide us with the important understanding that we need to be very cautious because of the experiences throughout the world.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (26:43)
Go ahead, Sydney.
And I’m wondering how parents will be able to enroll their kids in the free childcare in the fall you announced last week, will it be through a lottery system and will there be a certain number of slots per borough?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (26:58)
There’s definitely going to be a spread all over the five boroughs. We’re working out the specific criteria-
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (27:03)
It spread all over the five boroughs. We’re working out the specific criteria for people to sign up. We’ll have a lot more to say on that shortly. And again, Sydney, we start with a 100,00 seats for our young people. We want to expand that. So that’s an initial allotment, but we hope to do more as we go along, but details coming soon.
Speaker 3: (27:18)
Last two for today. Next we have Nolan from The Post.
Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (27:24)
Hey Nolan. How you doing?
I’m all right. How are you?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (27:28)
Never a dull moment, Nolan.
If I could just follow up with all the questions about the enforcement action in Astoria, why has it taken City Hall so long to lower the boom on businesses that have been repeatedly in violation of social distancing [inaudible 00:00:47].
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (27:46)
Nolan, look, again, I think I’ve said a bunch of times. I’ll say it one more. Our goal is not to shut down businesses that are struggling to survive in the middle of a pandemic. And our goal is not to put people out of work who need a job, but we must obviously focus on health and safety. So we’ve tried to use education and we’ve tried to use warnings and overwhelmingly that has worked. Been a few places where it hasn’t. Enough warnings enough education has happened, now it’s time to take more aggressive action. But it wasn’t our preference given everything it would mean to the people involved. Go ahead.
Yeah. And the followup on the shootings over the weekend, they were up significantly again compared to the same point in time last year. You and commissioner Shea have partially pinned the shooting surge on the lack of grand juries and jury trials in the city. As we asked on Friday, the NYPD’s own stats show that just one of the 20 cases they’re currently pursuing has a prior open case. Your own office referred questions about your claims to the Office of Court Administration, which called them [inaudible 00:28:50] So why do you continue to pin the shooting surge on the court closure when there’s little evidence to back it up?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (28:54)
Yeah, Nolan, I think you’re missing the import of what I said on Friday and what the commissioner said with all due respect. First of all, I do think we saw some progress this weekend. We got a lot more, we got to do, but at least we’re beginning to see progress from the combination of putting officers out in the places where they’ll have biggest impact in a pinpointed way. And the growing presence of community members working with NYPD to stop the violence.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (29:19)
But what I say very clearly is, and the commissioner as well, you don’t have DA’s prosecuting, because they don’t have a place to prosecute to, because the court system is not functioning. We’ve got a lot of interrelated problems. It’s not one. I’ve said perfect storm more times than I can count. But a important piece of this equation is the criminal justice system is not functioning the way it normally does.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (29:44)
That is just a factual statement. If anyone wants to contest that, come on down, we do not see the kind of prosecutions we normally see. We did not see the kind of court activity we normally see. That is interrelated to some of the problems we’re having. You don’t have this kind of uptick out of nowhere without these bigger factors playing a role, including all of the impact of the coronavirus as well. But we’re going to fight our way through it. Again, we see the beginning of progress and we’re going to overcome it.
Speaker 3: (30:09)
Last one for today. Next we have Seth from City Journal.
Hi, Mr. Mayor, how are you?
Speaker 3: (30:16)
Good, Seth, how you doing?
I’m fine. I’m here batting ninth [crosstalk 00:00:30:24].
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (30:23)
I’m glad you brought it together, but Seth, just because you’re batting ninth doesn’t mean you can’t have a great question.
No, no. I hope you’ve got the infield shift in. Yeah. The other day there was a march heading up Fifth Avenue from Washington Square Park, a defund the police march. And it wasn’t that many people, but nevertheless, they were allowed to block traffic and the police said, “Well, they’ve been told not to bother any protesters.” Now, we’re going on seven, eight weeks of this. And I know you’ve said, “Well, this is an emergency.” And this is just a such total import that the protests have to be allowed to continue, but it’s not really a mass movement. It’s like a few people being allowed to block the streets. So at what point does this just become you picking winners?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (31:18)
Yeah, Seth, respectfully I don’t make the decisions about how each protest is handled, the NYPD does that. NYPD, long before I came along, had very developed approach to determining when a protest was of the size or the type that they should be given the street to march on, or stay on the sidewalk, or whatever it is. These are longstanding approaches. The local commander makes the decision in each case. I didn’t even know about that one you’re referring to. I think that’s a classic example of the local commander on the scene decides what they think is safe and what they think makes sense overall. Go ahead.
Okay. And then to follow up, for years now, you’ve said that if there’s any encampment in the city, you will shut it down. Any homeless encampment of any sort, tents, and that this represents a departure from past practice. But I guess this relates to my other question. There is an encampment next to City Hall Park, but you’re permitting it to stay up even though the bulk of the protests wound down weeks ago, isn’t this a contradiction?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (32:30)
It’s a great question, Seth, and no, it’s a different reality. So let’s go over the history. I think it’s something New Yorkers don’t know, so I’m glad you raised it. For the 20 years before I got to this office encampments were tolerated in this city. Unfortunately, there were places where people, for weeks, months on end, would turn them into permanent dwelling places, all over the city. And they weren’t safe, and it didn’t make sense. So we stopped that practice all over the city and we will continue to.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (33:02)
Here we have a complex situation because it is interconnected to the right to protest. We’re balancing the fact, the factors I should say. We’re balancing the right to protest with the safety considerations. That’s looked at every single day and the NYPD will ultimately decide what it thinks makes sense in that location, in terms of balancing, again, people’s rights and safety. And we’ll evaluate that and make a decision based on the facts on the ground.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (33:28)
So everyone, as we conclude, we had a bunch of different topics today, but I want to go back to the heat, because I don’t want anyone to underestimate it. So again, today could be up as high as 100 degrees. Please, everyone take this seriously. Look out for your family. Look out for your neighbors. Remember if you need information, call 311, or go to nyc.gov/beattheheat. But we want to make sure that everyone is safe today. The cooling centers are there. The spray apparatuses in the parks, all sorts of great things.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (34:07)
This is a day to be safe. And it’s also a day to appreciate that everyone together got us to phase 4. Sure didn’t look like that would be the case a few months ago, but everyone has done this. It’s a day to appreciate your fellow New Yorker and all the hard work and keep going, so we can beat back this disease once and for all. Thank you, everyone.