May 14, 2020
Bill de Blasio NYC COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 14
Bill de Blasio held a New York City coronavirus briefing on Thursday May 14. Read the full transcript of his COVID-19 speech transcript here.
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Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:00)
… the least. Whatever else was going on in that video, whatever else was happening in that moment, we should never have a situation where a mom with her child ends up under arrest for that kind of offense is just not right. Now, if you look at the whole story, unfortunately, there are problems in the whole thing, including I want to remind everyone, no one should be disrespectful to police officers. No one should ignore the instructions of police officers particularly when they’re trying to protect people’s safety and try and do something for the health and safety of all of us.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (00:39)
So we have to work together in this city to try and get everyone to play their role respectfully of each other. But what we saw there did not reflect our values, it did not reflect our goals of deescalation and we have to do better. And it’s my responsibility and the commissioner’s responsibility to find that path forward and we will, and I feel very confident about that.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:02)
We will figure out a way. If I didn’t feel confident about it, I’d tell you. But I do feel confident because we had to do everything we’ve done for the last six plus years in changing our department and making it have a closer relationship with the communities, and that happened. People said we couldn’t get away from stop and frisk or the city would end up being more crime-ridden and chaotic. The opposite happened as we got away from stop and frisk.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:25)
People said, there’ll be all sorts of problems if we implemented body cameras or if we reduced marijuana arrests or reduced arrests overall. We are hundreds of thousands of fewer arrests than we used to make and still remain the safest big city in America. So we’ve made those changes. We will figure this one out too. But I want the day to come when there are no such videos when people can really have faith in each other and that’s what we will strive for. And we will work on that every single day.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (01:57)
Now, a few more points before we conclude. One of the things that matters always and I said, talking about policing community, we got to listen to all the time. I make it a point to listen all the time to people who raise concerns. Well, obviously this coronavirus crisis is one part profound health care crisis and another part profound economic crisis has just done horrible things to families all over the city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (02:25)
And the anxiety, the fear, the sheer, not just a lack of a livelihood or the fear of how people will keep a roof over their head or where the next meal is coming from, but not even knowing when the economy will come back and whether their jobs or their small businesses will still be there. Last night, I talked to folks who brought so much to the discussion. Leaders of the small business community of this city who are part of our small business advisory group, and we’ve called together these advisory councils because we need to hear from people their perspective.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (02:55)
We need to hear what they’re going through. We need to hear their fears, their anxieties, and the unknown, but also their solutions, their ideas. What an extraordinary conversation. Small business leaders from all five boroughs. Folks who created from scratch the extraordinary businesses that they run. I want to thank everyone who was a part of that advisory council for the work you’re doing, helping all of us, helping your fellow small businesses, helping New York City to bring back the small businesses that are a part of our heart and soul.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (03:24)
So it was a very energetic and inspiring conversation. Even if it was against the backdrop of a lot of fear and anxiety, a lot of questions, people had ideas and they had proposals of what would work and a sense of can do. Let’s make something happen, classic attitude of a small business owner. And it gave me confidence that if we listened to small business owners, we’ll find the solutions and it means the city government’s going to have to act differently and do more to work with small businesses and hear small businesses.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (03:53)
And that also means we’re going to have to find new forms of support from the larger business community, from the philanthropic community to help our small businesses. And we talked about all of that. But there was one particularly poignant moment where an owner of a small business in Chinatown talked about what it has been like since basically the beginning of this year. That against the backdrop of this horrible crisis and the human suffering, that so many members of the Chinese American community and the Asian American community have on top of that suffer discrimination throughout, which is wholly unacceptable. And I want to remind everyone, we will fight this discrimination. We will fight this bias wherever we see it. And we need people to call in if it’s any act of discrimination or bias, call 311. We need to know when anyone has been the victim of a bias crime. If it’s obviously something violent and immediate, call 911.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (04:51)
But the point last night that was even more poignant was that people have suffered discrimination while losing their livelihoods. Think about this for a moment. And let’s put ourselves in the eyes and in the shoes of people who worked all their life to create something for their families, created these beautiful small businesses all over New York City, then suffered discrimination and then saw their business fall away because of fears that people had.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (05:24)
Unfortunately, fears stoked by misunderstanding and bias that caused everyday New Yorkers not to want to go to a Chinese restaurant. I remember going to Chinese restaurants in Chinatown and then Flushing Queens to make the point that there was no bias that should be accepted or perceived from one community to another. And what I heard last night was about the pain of a community that has lost its livelihood, not when most others did, but a month earlier, two months earlier than so many other people in this city, so many other small businesses in this city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (05:59)
So look, it is a reminder to us that we have a lot to do. This city has done a lot to overcome bias and discrimination. We have a much stronger social fabric than we used to, even just a couple of decades ago. We will overcome this. We need to embrace and uplift our Asian American brothers and sisters in this fight to bring back our city. But we also need to specially focus on the economic reality of those communities and make sure those small businesses come back. And that we all go and make an extra effort to patronize them and help them back on their feet because in many ways they suffered long before everybody else in this crisis.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (06:42)
Okay. It’s time for what we do every day, our daily indicators. And in terms of getting out of this crisis and moving forward, this is the main street right here. This is what matters most. And my friends today is a very good day and you deserve the credit because it’s because of your hard work that I get to tell you this good news. Every time you stay home, every time you socially distance, every time you use hand sanitizer, even every time you put on a face covering, you’re helping to drive these numbers down and get us closer to a better place.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (07:17)
Indicator number one, daily number of people admitted to hospitals for suspected COVID-19 is down from 78 to 59. That’s wonderful. Number two, daily number of people in ICU is across health and hospitals for suspected COVID-19 down, markedly down from 561 to 517. So that’s a big movement there. That’s a big jump in the right direction. Bigger than we’ve seen most days, even when things go in the right direction, so that is really important. And that means you’re talking about fewer and fewer people fighting for their lives, more and more people being saved. That is a very powerful number.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (07:58)
And number three, percentage of people tested who are positive for COVID-19 down from 13% to 11%. Three for three, a perfect day, New York City. So let’s now put together a bunch of them and that’s what’s going to help us take the next big step forward. Okay. A few words in Spanish. [Foreign language 00:08:26]. With that, let’s turn to our colleague in the media and please let me know the name and outlet of each journalist.
Speaker 1: (09:10)
Just a quick reminder that we have Dr. Varma, Dr. Katz and Commissioner Banks on the phone. And with that, the first question goes to Andrew from NBC New York, Andrew.
Hi, good morning. Hope everyone is doing well. How are you doing, Andrew?
Hanging in there.
Speaker 1: (09:25)
All right. Positive spirit.
My first question has to do with testing. You said at the outset that there are now 23 sites where people can essentially get up and go wait in a line and get tested. We also understand that there are some free sites in each borough where people can make an appointment and not have to stand in line. But on those free sites, it seems impossible online to get an appointment. And with regard to the 23 sites you have open, there are some in neighborhoods where people cannot walk to them. They’d have to take mass transit or an Uber or something.
So are you satisfied that anybody who needs the test right now in New York City can get one? My second question is on behalf of my colleague, Melissa Russo, are you satisfied with the job that your health commissioner Barbot is doing? And are you responsible for any of the reported tension with her? Because you didn’t take her advice in the crisis early on.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (10:30)
So on the first question, am I satisfied with the level of testing in New York City? Of course not, Andrew. You and I have known each other a long time, and I know you’re listening to my presentations. I don’t think there’s anything I’ve said in these presentations that suggests we’re at the level of testing we want to be at. I want to be at to begin with many tens of thousands a day. We’ve talked about by May 25th, 20,000 a day. We talked about later in the summer gain of 50,000 date. If I had my druthers, we’d be at hundreds of thousands a day. But I can’t get there without the federal government. So of course I’m not satisfied.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (11:09)
I am pleased that we’re making progress. And I’m pleased that the labs are working with us to open up more capacity. And I’m pleased that we’re able to bring more capacity online quickly, but far from satisfied. No, the goal is to have so many sites over time and so much availability that you don’t need to see people travel meaningful distances, but that’s going to obviously take time and it’s going to be imperfect for quite a while. And again, federal government has to step up in a very big way.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (11:41)
On the question of the health department. Andrew, look from the very beginning, all of us have been dealing with the great unknown of this disease. And again, unfortunately, without the partnership from the federal government we have wanted. And I asked for widespread testing to be available in New York City starting back on January 24th, and I still don’t have it. So that’s made it hard on all of us. But I have worked closely with all the healthcare professionals and our team with Dr. Barbot and the team at Department of Health, with Dr. Katz and the team at Health + Hospitals with Deputy Mayor Perea-Henze who was also a doctor with Dr. Jay Varma, who I brought in as a senior advisor. Non-stop communication and conversation. You know what? Even among the healthcare professionals, there’s going to be different perspectives, which is normal. They’re humans and they each have different training, different expertise, different understandings, different perspectives. But the conversation has been constant and we’ve kept building out a strategy.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (12:48)
And the strategy, obviously, thank God is working to reduce the number of cases in this city, and we’re going to keep building on it. So I think there has been a constant consultative process that has led us to get this city in the right direction, but there’s a hell of a lot more to do. And we still need that federal partnership deeply.
Speaker 1: (13:15)
Next is Marla from WCBS 880. Marla.
Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (13:21)
Good morning. How you doing, Marla?
Good. Glad to ask a question this morning. I want to know where Commissioner Barbot and Shea are at. Why are they not at this press conference? We spoke to both the PBA and the SBA this morning. They want you to fire Dr. Barbot and question why that wasn’t done when the comments were made in late March. According to the New York Post, you were at the meeting where the comments were made. Can you tell us what was said and will you ask Commissioner Barbot to resign?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (14:01)
Marla, I was not at …
… to resign.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (14:03)
Marla, I was not at a meeting where I heard that. What is being reported as I understand it, and I heard about first time last night, is a conversation between Dr. Barbot and Chief Monahan. Now, I don’t have the full details yet, and I want the full details for sure. I want to speak to each of them and understand exactly what happened, but the allegation that something was said that was disrespectful towards the men and women NYPD, that’s not something that was said in my presence. I assure you I would have dealt with it at the time had I heard it in my presence.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (14:45)
What I was involved in was the effort to make sure that the PPEs that were needed by the men and women of the NYPD got to them. I had numerous conversations with Commissioner Shea, Commissioner Barbot, Chief Monaghan, and others to make sure that happened. I felt a deep sense of urgency that I wanted to make sure that the distribution happened, and when I didn’t see it happening quickly enough, I intervened to make sure it would happen.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (15:15)
So, again, I want to get more information. I will state something I feel very strongly that no public servant should ever in any way say anything disrespectful about the men and women of the NYPD. They protect us. We need to protect them. So to me, it would be inappropriate for anyone, particularly in a leadership role, to suggest any lack of interest in protecting the men and women of the NYPD. That would be to me a real inappropriate statement. I’ll have more to say after I have had the opportunity to hear directly from people. As for today’s press conference or any press conference, we put together the lineup each day according to what we think is necessary, and that changes every day.
Speaker 2: (16:04)
Next is James from Pix11. James?
Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (16:10)
Good morning. How are you doing?
Thank you for asking. Doing okay. I appreciate that. Now, today you described as a “very good day” with the metrics. Congratulations to you and the city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (16:24)
You’ve recently had a few more days with all three indicators coming down. How does that fit into your hope to have New York City be more on course with beginning to reopen possibly by the beginning of next month?
Yeah, James, exactly what you’re saying is right that the goal of the first steps… I’m going to keep saying, we have to get these indicators right, move down together for 10 to 14 days, we also have to meet state indicators, but both of them right now could be met in the first half of June. That would be the right time then to lift some restrictions, but carefully, slowly, smartly.
Remember, I keep using that toehold analogy. Your rock climbing, your mountain climbing, whatever, you get your toe hold, you make sure it’s secure, then you take the next one. If at any point things aren’t secure, at any point the indicators are going in the wrong direction again, that’s going to tell us something different, and we’re going to be very careful and cautious. Your question, I think, hits the nail on the head. The indicators have been moving pretty damn well, not quite as well as I want them to, but pretty damn well. We are getting in range now of hitting all our numbers in the first half of June. Then if it’s consistent, that’s when we take the first steps to open up more.
Speaker 2: (17:51)
Next is Al from 1010 WINS. Al?
Well, happy anniversary, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (17:59)
Thank you, Al. I appreciate that.
My question has to do again kind of with where James was going with reopening. I’m just wondering, as far as restaurants and closing off street, has a decision been made about Mott Street or Arthur Avenue or Austin or any of these streets that are lined with restaurants. I know it’s been discussed, but is there any sort of timetable for closing off sections of those streets and allowing the restaurants to expand out because I know from hearing from restaurant owners, they grow more nervous by the day. This is hard for them. So they’re wondering when can we open and expand beyond delivery and takeout?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (18:39)
Al, it’s a really appealing idea. I’ve been talking to restaurant owners too, a number of them on Friday and some restaurant-bar owners on the small business call last night. They’re making a great case that this could be a difference maker, but what I’ve said is I want everyone to be clear. First of all, we’re not there yet. We have to be convinced that we even get to first base here with these indicators getting to the right place, the city and state indicators. Second, the restaurant piece of the equation and even more the bar piece of the equation, I would argue, call into question how do you hit that sweet spot where you have the right social distancing and protections, where you have the right capacity so the businesses can actually be profitable, and the right atmosphere, which is one of the things that restaurant and bar owners are raising to me that they need a certain atmosphere to be effective. That’s what people want.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (19:41)
So we have to sort of figure out that trifecta, if you will. The streets certainly offer a very appealing option, but that doesn’t automatically solve our problems in terms of when you think about the social distancing, the capacity, the making sure that people are safe and is handled consistently. Even the streets don’t instantly achieve all of those goals, so we have to be smart about it. I can tell you, humanly, I think is a really good idea. I think it is something we might be able to reach. Whether it’s something we reach sooner or later, I’m not sure about yet. I do agree with you, Al, every day matters for these restaurant owners and bar owners.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (20:29)
It’s being very thoroughly discussed right now, what it would look like, how we would do it. The minute we have a plan, we’re going to announce it. If we even got to a plan we had confidence in, it would not start until we were absolutely sure that the health indicators told us it was that time and we’d still need to figure out the right kind of enforcement mechanisms working with all the civilian agencies that work with small businesses because we would not want to start something and then have it get so loose that it caused a resurgence of the disease. That would be something that would only setback small businesses much more.
Speaker 2: (21:09)
Next is Gloria from New York 1. Gloria?
Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I wanted to ask you a question first on behalf of my colleague, Courtney Gross, who spent a night of following the process of engagement with the homeless during the subway overnight cleaning. She spoke with some homeless people who said that they were not given a place to sleep. I know that she also spoke to the commissioner who said that they would no longer be taken to the 30th Street Intake Shelter, but she did see lots of people getting dropped off there. So I want to ask you about that disconnect, but also how you are defining these numbers. Isn’t it an accurate count of the services people are actually being provided if people are being dropped off at a shelter and still walking away because there is no bed or because they don’t feel safe there, it’s not sanitary.
My second question is about your health commissioner. I don’t believe you answered the question about these calls for her to resign. If you have the confidence in her that she is doing her job well, and what do you say about these law enforcement unions that are calling for her removal?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (22:34)
So let me speak to that, and then we’ll go back on the homeless question. I have not seen all the comments from different unions, and I want to caution that if people are concerned about this issue, they need to express their concern in an appropriate manner and two wrongs don’t make a right. I’ve heard, but I’ve not seen, that some comments were offensive in their own right, but again, I’ve been working with the commissioner, with the whole health care team. We’ve been getting a lot done.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (23:09)
I need to understand what happened here. I am concerned about it. It does need to be addressed. If what is being reported is accurate, the commissioner needs to apologize to the men and women of the NYPD unquestionably. Again, I need to hear her perspective. I need to hear Chief Monahan’s perspective. We have a job to do here, and it’s not about… I know many of the questions kind of come down to the personalities in the lineup. To me, this is supposed to be a team where it is not about one personality or another or one agency or another, it is about all of us working together as a team to help the people in New York City. That has to be the approach, so that’s what I’m focused on.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (24:01)
Again, I don’t want to say more until I’ve talked to the commissioner directly, but what I want everyone to focus on, including everyone in my team, is how can we support each other in doing the best work possible to keep the people of New York City safe, period.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (24:17)
On the question of the homeless outreach, Commissioner Banks will weigh in now, but I’ll say we need to give you very accurate information, not just because you all in the free press deserve it, but we need to be able to understand what we’re learning from this experience and what’s working and what’s not. Now, again, anyone accepting any services is a step forward. That might be hard for people to hear who have not been working on this issue a long time, but if you work on this issue a long time, you know how extraordinarily difficult it is to get someone who’s street homeless to accept any change. Again, we are talking about people overwhelmingly dealing with serious mental health issues and or substance misuse issues. So it is a very, very tough playing field. If someone accepts help, that is a very good indicator. It doesn’t work necessarily the 1st time, the 2nd time, or the 50th time, you have to stay with it. So just getting to the door of a shelter is a beginning, but I don’t want the presumption to be people walk away because of X or Y reason.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (25:26)
There’s been a lot done to improve the shelters. There’s been a lot done to make them safer, a lot done to create new options, like safe havens. Each person is an individual and each one needs to be understood individually. So if there’s anything that’s inaccurate about the numbers, we got to fix it and explain it, but what I’m seeing suggests major change. It’s very early on, but suggest major improvement and a lot that we can work with in a very imperfect world.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (25:54)
Commissioner Banks, pick it up from there.
Commissioner Banks: (25:58)
Thank you, Mayor. I just want to really nip this in the bud. We have a bed for everybody. We have capacity in the shelter system. Gone are the days when the shelter system did not have enough beds for everyone. Having said that, I think we’ve been pretty clear that this is really hard work, as the mayor said. To have someone on a subway platform except help and then when they arrive at the shelter door, make a determination that they don’t want that help that night, that is actually a step forward in helping rebuild trust with people who have fallen through every social safety net. It’s understandable that they’re distrustful of every system they’ve ever interacted with because they’ve been let down repeatedly.
Commissioner Banks: (26:43)
To me at the end of a week or so, that we’ve got 103 human beings that are actually still in shelter after all of these efforts is indicative of what we’ve been seeing for the last couple of years. If you keep looking for what it is that the person wants and you eventually connect with what they want, we can change lives and bring people off the streets. It’s certainly true, and we’ve been saying this since the beginning, that the victory one night might simply be to get someone to say I’ll accept services and go to the entry point of the shelter and then not actually go through the process. That tells us we can really try to reach that person on night two or night three. We’re not going to give up. Every night we’re out there trying to bring people in.
Commissioner Banks: (27:29)
We made certain changes in terms of not bringing people to Bellevue as a default unless the person said that’s where I’m willing to go. People have a free will. They could change their mind, but that gives us an insight into what might work next time. We’re going to keep taking these looks after each week to see how many people are remaining in shelter because those people are on the pathway to coming off the streets permanently as the 2,500 people have come off the streets permanently since we began Homestead. We’re going to have defeats every night too, which is the acceptance of services on a platform is not necessarily…
Steve Banks: (28:03)
… which is the acceptance of services on a platform is not necessarily going to lead to the staying in a bed for more than a few hours, or even continuing with the process. But we’ll know more about that person, having gotten them to accept the offer of help to go to a shelter, even if they don’t stay, because the next time we know more about what might be the thing that will help them. Let’s not forget we’re adding new tools for our outreach workers. In the middle of the pandemic, we’ve stood up more than 300 Safe Haven or stabilization beds, including at a commercial hotel. We have an active solicitation with providers to bring on even more of those beds, because we’re learning more every night from clients about what it is going to take to have them come in and remain in. But we’ll have defeats. We’ve been pretty blunt about that. Acceptance means acceptance of services, but the gold standard is coming inside and remaining inside.
Speaker 3: (28:57)
Next is Erin from Politico. Erin?
Hi, Mr. Mayor. First question is about the test and trace effort. We understand that DC 37 expressed concerns about it being housed within the Health Department. Wondering what role those concerns played in your decision to move it to Health and Hospitals. Second question, a follow up on the homeless issue. I just want to understand, if 200-some people went into shelter, are you saying the other 600 were driven to the shelter and then decided they didn’t want to go inside? And if so, when you’re saying they’re accepting services, what services are they accepting, if in fact they don’t end up going into the shelter?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (29:44)
Okay. So I’ll bring Commissioner Banks in on that in a moment. On the question of DC 37, I want to affirm I have immense respect for DC 37 AFSCME as a union and what the people in that union do for the people in New York City in their day-to-day work and particular respect for the Executive Director, Henry Garrido.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (30:09)
But I want to be very clear, I did not have any conversation with him about the test and trace initiative at the time we made the decisions. And the decision was made in terms of creating an apparatus to reach the entire city of New York, that we needed a large operational agency with the capacity to build out test and trace, not on a small level, not on levels like we had known before in our history, but on a massive level, that I believe fundamentally only a major operational agency could do, and one that in the case of Health and Hospitals performed brilliantly during this crisis.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (30:49)
We wanted to bring the best and the brightest from all agencies into it. Obviously not only Health and Hospitals, but also Department of Health and the work of many other agencies, because we’re depending intensely on Department of Buildings, on our IT Department do it, on so many other pieces of the equation, Department of Design and Construction. We need everyone to be a part of this effort. But the decision I made was about what would work operationally, particularly on such a tight timeline, not because of any consideration with the union, despite my respect for the union, which is real.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (31:27)
In terms of the homeless and what comes in, I think Steve Banks here could help us all with a little more of the human-level view of this. Again, if all we had achieved, Erin, in the last eight days, nine days, whatever it’s been, was 100 homeless people came in and stayed in, it would be a victory unto itself. Because 100 homeless people, that’s 100 human lives. But also again, against the reality that’s been documented by the Federal Annual Study of somewhere between 3500 and 4000 street homeless people, citywide, on any given day. If 100 people came in in a week and stayed in, it would be worth it for that alone.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (32:08)
But all the other people who got medical care, that’s good for them as human beings. That also sometimes is the first step towards people coming in. All the people who began to accept shelter, any experience there that opened their eyes to the possibility or started to see the options that we had, the Safe Havens and other options. This is painstaking, slow, difficult work. So any, even marginal, step forward helps. Even a single night where someone comes off the street helps.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (32:39)
But Steve, I think you could help us by one, the specific question, what happens if someone goes to the door to the shelter and turns away? What do you try and do to convince them or support them, even if they get second thoughts about going in? And two, could you help people understand a little bit more about why even that interaction still gives you something you didn’t have before with that individual?
Steve Banks: (33:05)
Sure. And if I could just reiterate, if you had told me that we would be able to implement an initiative and 5 to 7 days later have 100 people, 100 human beings off the street, I would tell you this is a great opportunity to really change lives. And those people are in the process of really making a positive step forward. But I think a couple of days ago, maybe Mayor, the best way to go back is a couple of days ago, I talked about somebody that we had tried … our teams had tried to convince more than 50 times to come in off the streets. I think that kind of gives you the sense of what happens before someone says, “Yeah, I’ll give it a try to get on the transportation to go to a shelter.”
Steve Banks: (33:52)
It’s not that the engagement issue is you meet somebody and then they say right away, “I want help.” That individual that was 50 times that skilled outreach workers, trying to convince him to accept services. On the platform one night, last week, I witnessed, he said, “Yeah, I’ll come on in.” He’s come in and has stayed in. But there are other people who are in that continuum where it’s been 50 times, they’ve tried to engage, that outreach teams have tried to engage that individual to come on inside. They continue to say, “No.” Half the people on the subway platforms are continuing to say no. We have to look for what’s the key to get them to say yes, to have somebody to be ready on a particular night.
Steve Banks: (34:31)
But for the people who are saying yes, they’re saying yes because they want to give it a try and then they’re not quite ready yet. It’s incumbent upon us to look for what are the things that will make them ready either that night or the next time, or the next time, Because we won’t give up. I think, as the Mayor’s asking me to focus on, it’s a series of options. “You don’t want to be in this shelter. Is there another kind of place we can send you? What kind of place would make sense to you?”
Steve Banks: (34:59)
Some of it, too, is we need to analyze what kind of service would make sense for the individual. Someone who’s got a serious mental health challenge may not want the mental health services that we think are critical to provide. Part of building trust is to get the person to accept that helping hand that will help them come off the streets.
Steve Banks: (35:18)
So it’s not a one size fits all. It’s a case by case. On a case-by-case basis, we’re changing lives. But we’re not changing everybody’s life every night. That’s the frustration of the work and it’s the reason why our frontline outreach workers are so dedicated and so critical to this work, because they keep coming back, night after night, to the same person who won’t engage, and then night after night to the same person who engaged enough to go to the front door of the shelter, but not stay. Then night after night, to the person who came to the front door and stayed for a few hours, but wouldn’t stay more, and night after night to try to get that person to come in off the streets and stay off the streets, at least even for a week, like those 103 people.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (36:01)
Thanks very much Steve.
Speaker 3: (36:03)
Next is Brigid from WNYC. Brigid?
Morning, Mr. Mayor, another question about Dr. Barbot. I understand you want to get more information about this latest report. But I’m just wondering, do you believe she has effectively done her job to this point? Then second question, the NYPD is testifying at the City Council Budget Hearing today. They have reportedly identified about $10 million in cuts, but Council Members have ID’d closer to 50 million, given the lack of scheduled summer activities and lack of OT. Are you willing to ask the NYPD to cut more than that 10 million?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (36:41)
So Brigid, on the NYPD, we’re going to look at all agencies with fresh eyes as we go into the rest of this budget discussion. Remember, it’s May 14th. Typically we would be deciding the city budget for next year in about a month. We don’t know, the big X factor here is the Stimulus vote in Washington. We don’t know when it’s going to happen. We don’t know how it’s going to happen. The House is in the process of doing something very important and putting down the marker of a stimulus package that would actually work for New York City and New York state and cities and states around the country. But the Senate is going to take it up. We don’t know how and when. We don’t know if the Senate’s going to come back with a different version and there has to be a conference process. So how will that align to our budget process? And Brigid, you know we have to pass a budget by the end of June. That’s a legal requirement. It has to be balanced.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (37:39)
So we got a lot of decisions to make with a kind of moving target reality in Washington. But that will determine what we have to do with each and every agency. Right now, we’re asking NYPD to do a whole lot. We’re asking them to do everything they normally do to protect people and to keep crime down and to provide support to people in terms of quality of life, while also having to play a constructive role on addressing a social distancing and all the other realities of this crisis. Again, we have to do better at that. But there’s no question that there’s a role for the number one public safety organization in the city to play in making sure we are all safe in this crisis.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (38:20)
So I’m not ready to comment on how we’re going to handle that budget, because it will be absolutely dependent on everything we see with the disease, everything we see in terms of what our game plan is going forward, and what happens with the stimulus. When we get closer, we will certainly talk about what we have to do at every agency. If God forbid there isn’t a stimulus, then you’re talking about really tough decisions that will affect every single agency, unquestionably.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (38:47)
Look, again, the situation with Commissioner Barbot in the first instance, as you indicated, I need to have a conversation to understand this latest situation. It obviously raises real concerns to me, but I want to hear everyone involved before passing any judgment. On the bigger picture, I keep making the point that I have been working with Commissioner Barbot and her team at the Health Department, Dr. Katz, his team at Health and Hospitals, Dr. Perea-Henze, Dr. Varma, a whole host of people have contributed to where we are now.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (39:28)
I am looking at the progress we’ve made from a team perspective. I appreciate everyone’s contribution. I know there’s things that we still have to improve upon. So from my point of view, I am pleased where we are today because we’re continuing to make progress. I know we’re not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t spend a lot of time looking backwards. I need to focus on keeping people safe right now and in the future. But again, when I’ve had a chance to have the right conversations, I’ll have more to say.
Speaker 3: (40:02)
Gwen from Crains is up next. Gwen?
Good morning, Mr. Mayor. Crains looked at Checkbook New York City data and found that the biggest order the city placed for PPE was with a business who had never contracted with the city and had a history of tax and other financial issues. I’m wondering if you think the city should tighten its verification process for potential contractors, even during the pandemic?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (40:33)
Thank you, Gwen. I mean, look, Gwen, I would say we have two realities here, where we were in March and into the beginning of April, where we literally did not know, and I think you remember this and your colleagues remember this. We didn’t know many times if we would have enough PPEs for the week ahead. Obviously, the folks who do our contracting and the folks who did the effort to put together the PPEs, they did an amazing job, many, many great people.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (41:10)
Want to give special thanks to Dan Simon who runs the Mayor’s office, Contracting, Jackie Bray played a crucial role in the effort. So many good people at the Emergency Management Office who really had to construct something out of nothing to get PPEs in, on a historic level, from all over the world, in an incredibly unstable dynamic. I want to thank Emma Wolfe for her extraordinary leadership, helping to bring together the team that always stayed one step ahead of the situation. I got to tell you, it was so close sometimes, but they always found a way. Of course, Jimmy O’Neill came in and played such an important role in making sure the distribution was right.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (42:01)
… while making sure the distribution was right. I can’t emphasize enough Gwen, that it was touch and go for days and weeks. But this team managed to always find what was needed to protect our healthcare heroes and protect our first responders. I cannot fault them for a moment that even with their instincts again, since our chief contracting officer was a big part of it, I assure you there were plenty of checks and balances involved. But they had to come up with the materials. But now, as we hope, we’re going to get to a point where we’re going to be able to breathe a little bit easier and then start to build up our strategic reserve. Of course I want any and all checks and balances in the process. So I don’t know about the specific business you’re referring to. I’ll look into that, but again, I’m not going to fault anyone for making sure that the materials were in, in an incredibly difficult environment and I’m happy to say it is looking better. I think that’s going to allow us to be choosier going forward.
Speaker 4: (43:07)
Last two Sydney from the Advance, Sydney.
Mr. Mayor, [inaudible 00:43:12] this week, [inaudible 00:43:15]-
Speaker 4: (43:14)
Sydney were having issues hearing you.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (43:16)
Sydney, can you hear me? Sydney? All right, bring… Yep, try again. Sydney?
Can you hear me?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (43:25)
Yes, I can.
Okay. I think I’m having WiFi issues. Yeah. So earlier this week, a batch of rotten food was sent to seniors on Staten Island from the city, rotten carrots, bread and potatoes. I wanted to see what you have to say. Do you think it’s acceptable that people in need are receiving rotten food in their deliveries during time, like now? Will you commit to resending people who received rotting food, a fresh delivery of food right away?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (43:51)
Of course and Sydney, thank you for raising a concern. I heard about your reporting. I appreciate it. We never want to see anyone in need get anything but the best food available and certainly never acceptable for people to get food that’s rotten or unhealthy. So I’m very angry that happened, but I know it can be fixed. I know efforts were taken immediately to replace the food. Look, this is a massive operation trying to reach New Yorkers on a level that’s never been done before with food relief. It’s going to keep growing, unfortunately, because of the really tough reality, we’re hearing about the number of people unemployed and people who don’t have a livelihood to pay for food with.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (44:35)
So I need this program to grow and grow and grow and reach more and more people, but always the right way, always with quality food. If ever there’s a mistake and there will be mistakes because as human beings evolve, your point is right. They need to replace it immediately. So anyone who gets food that’s not the right quality we need to know about so we can fix it. If there’s any vendor, who’s not doing their job, we need to deal with them, but you definitely have my assurance. We don’t accept that state of affairs. We will fix it.
Speaker 4: (45:04)
Last question goes to Anna from the Daily News, Anna.
Hi, Mr. Mayor, two questions about the comments reportedly made by the health commissioner. First, I wanted to read you a tweet from the SBA specifically, they called her a bitch and basically said that she should have been fired long time ago. They’re not surprised that an appointee of yours would make comments like that. And then I also wanted to ask the comment that Dr. Barbot made according to our sources was the results of NYPD cops trying to commandeer some masks that were otherwise meant for healthcare workers. Which might contribute to the strong words that she used. I wanted to see if you could respond to that aspect of it, as well as the SBA calling her a bitch.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (46:10)
Yeah, Anna, again, I have not heard the details of this situation. I learned about it last night and I want to hear from everyone involved. So I don’t know what the scenario was. I do know that whatever the scenario was, it is crucial that our first responders have PPEs period and obviously that our health care workers have PPE. So there’s no either or here. We said from the very beginning that all of those who are serving at the front lines needed to be protected and separate from the question of what people said. The bigger question of was the distribution happening to the NYPD in the number they needed and the timing they needed. When I heard there was some kind of problem or delay, I stepped in to make sure it was corrected because remember on top of everything else, NYPD was, short-staffed a huge number of people were sick.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (47:12)
We were asking so much of the officers on duty. It was crucial to provide them with the protection that was available. So I don’t know the specifics of the context you are suggesting. But I can tell you that what everyone had to do was figure out a way to distribute fairly to everyone involved, because there was no choosing among people, both first responders and healthcare workers needed help. Second, what the SBA is saying, what Ed Mullins is saying or authorizing is absolutely unacceptable. He should apologize, but he never does. That language is a misogynist and unacceptable. I’ve learned long ago that so much what comes out of the SBA is divisive and meant to set the city back. I don’t know how an organization could be so consistently negative towards its own city and towards its own people, but that’s what they do.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (48:11)
But no, that’s absolutely unacceptable. As I said, two wrongs do not make a right. So that language should be condemned. I think everyone needs to focus on trying to, in the middle of this crisis, be respectful and try to work together and not divide people. So I absolutely condemn that language. All right. Well, again, there are some things around us to give us pause, but I want to always come back to the larger truth about New York City. And again, I love this city very deeply and I believe in this city, but I’m also a student of history. I think a lot of people watching right now, you know your history, you’ve lived here. You’ve seen this city through so much. I’m amazed when I see not just naysayers, naysayers are part of life, but some people seem to be taking to it very quickly.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (49:12)
And assuming it’s unquestioned fact that somehow this city won’t be able to overcome this and I’m stunned by it because I remember what the city went through in the ’60s and ’70s. It really looked like it would be impossible to be anything like we are today. Or if you remember the days and months after 9/11, there was so much doubt. There was so much fear. People said no one would ever go downtown again. That businesses, offices, people wouldn’t want to live there. Well, Lord knows the opposite happened and time and time again, this city comes back. So unless someone wants to root against New York City, I would advise people to look at the facts, look at the history and recognize what we have is absolutely irreplaceable. We are not up against an enemy that is going to be the same forever.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (50:13)
Like every other crisis, whether you’re talking about the great depression or the fiscal crisis, every other crisis we’ve been through, it had an end point. This one will have an end point to history tells us that. In fact, in this case, we’re not going to have a vaccine tomorrow, but we’re going to have a vaccine. Maybe it’s this year, maybe it’s next year. Maybe it’s the year after, but we’re going to have a vaccine. And at some point, this disease is going to play a very different role in our lives and much less role. The strengths of this place will come to the fore again. The fact that even earlier in the discussion today, we’re talking about restaurant owners trying to figure out how to open up outdoors and create that energy and excitement again in the city. They’re ready to get going as quickly as possible.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: (50:55)
That speaks volumes. People are not giving up and people will always want to live here. People will always want to come here. People will always want to do business here because it has been proven generation after generation, there is a magic to this place. So don’t get lost in the moment. We’re going to overcome this too. One of the things I think history also teaches us is the way you move forward is through faith and belief and hope not through belittling what the people of this place are capable of. I never bet against New Yorkers. New Yorkers have proven themselves time and time again. We will, again, I don’t have a doubt in my mind about that. And again, thanks to all of you who are proving it again, by the way you’re fighting back this disease good day with our indicators because of you and a bright future because of you. Thank you very much. (silence)