May 10, 2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 10
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on May 10, 2021 to provide updates on COVID-19. Read the transcript of his briefing with coronavirus and vaccine updates for New York here.
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Governor Cuomo: (00:02)
Good morning. A lot going on today. What’s going on today? A lot. Let me introduce who we have here with us. From my far right, Kelly Cummings, director operations, Dr. Howard Zucker, commissioner of health extraordinary, Sarah Feinberg, interim president of the New York City Transit Authority, who’s doing a great job. Chairman Patrick Foye, who has been shepherding us through this unprecedented time and doing a great job at the MTA, and John Ledecky, co-owner of the New York Islanders. Congratulations to the Islanders who are making it into the playoffs, and we are very, very excited on behalf of many New Yorkers. Let’s talk about where we are and then we have a number of announcements today. Watch the numbers. I know you all get up first thing in the morning and go to the website, and check the numbers, because the decisions are based on the numbers. Overall statewide positivity, 1.4, 2000 hospitalizations. ICU is down, intubation’s down. Statewide deaths, 27. When people say COVID’s over, COVID isn’t over. 27 people died. 27 families grieving today. So, it’s not over and they are enough thoughts and prayers.
Governor Cuomo: (01:33)
Positivity, I say this a lot, but look at the variances across one state and ask yourself why. Why do you have such a wide range within one state? When we get the politics out of COVID, and politics has infected COVID from day one, thank you to the prior federal administration. But there’s a lot to discuss and analyze here. For example, why do you have this variance? Western New York has had one of the highest rates for a prolonged period of time. Finger Lakes is now higher than Western New York. Staten Island is back at number one. And you want to talk about inexplicable range of positivity. Manhattan 0.7. Staten Island, literally double Manhattan. How do you explain that?
Governor Cuomo: (02:40)
Brooklyn right behind Staten Island, Queens, Bronx. How do you make decisions, Governor? We make decisions on the data, on the science, on the facts we always have. It’s worked very well for this state. This state made more progress on COVID than any state in the United States. Fact, we went from the highest infection rate on the globe to one of the lowest. That is a fact. And we did it on the science and the data. First metric we watch, the positivity rate and the positivity rate has been great. We were at 7.9 January, we are now at 1.4. 58% decline over the last month. 35 straight days of decline. Congratulations New Yorkers. You see the same trend all across the state, little variance here and there, but the same basic trend all across the state. We’re now focused on the places in the state that have the highest infection rate. And that right now is Western New York and Finger Lakes. Second metric hospitalization rate. This is what we were petrified of when we first started. People forget that.
Governor Cuomo: (04:07)
When we first started, the COVID infection rate was going up so fast, that the experts all projected an overwhelming of our hospitals. They were projecting a need for 140,000 hospitals bed. We only had 50,000 hospital beds in the entire state. That’s what aged Dr. Zucker and myself. But we fixed that. And the hospitalization rate is now down to 2000, we were close to 9,000 in January. 49% decline. Over the last month. Third metric is the vaccination rate. And this is now the most important metric to watch, is the vaccination rate. Positivity is good, hospitalization’s good, vaccination rate is key. Why? With all the political garbage and with all the different medical opinions, everybody agrees on one fact. As the vaccination rate goes up, the positivity rate goes down. As the vaccination rate goes up, the positivity rate goes down. They are an inverse. Everybody says it, every country shows it. It’s the one global fact. If there are any facts in COVID, it’s the one globally fact that everybody agrees on.
Governor Cuomo: (05:39)
Keep the vaccinations going up, the positivity rate will come down. That’s why we are so aggressive on vaccinations. We’re doing everything we can, every way we can. 16 million total doses. We’re over 60% of the population who had at least one shot. 48% fully vaccinated. But, because there’s a but. But the vaccination rate has the declined. This is not a New York phenomenon. This is a nationwide phenomenon. As you know, I’m head of the Governor’s Association. Every governor is talking about the number of people now coming in for vaccines is declining. Why? Part of it is understandable. There was a group of people who wanted to get the vaccine right away, and remember how people were fighting for vaccine appointments right away. Some people were hyper anxious. A lot of them are in my family. I’m want to get a vaccine. I want to get a vaccine. I want to get a vaccine. So, you had a hyper anxious population to begin with. Then you had a second tier population who wanted to get the vaccine. They weren’t that anxious. They’ve gotten the vaccine. And you’re working your way through really the population.
Governor Cuomo: (07:05)
You have two groups. One, I call the youthful, one I call the doubtful. Young people are not getting vaccinated. Why? They were never the focus. They weren’t even eligible early on. Everyone said the young people can get it and they’re going to be fine. There was a transmission risk, but this whole COVID was introduced as young people really don’t have to worry about it. And then we reinforced that when we said the eligibility was by age. The doubtful are vaccine hesitant people. I’m afraid of it. I don’t understand it. I don’t trust it. Government, I don’t trust. I don’t trust any of it. I don’t want to take the needle. I don’t want to put something into my body. The doubtful is a problem unto itself. The youthful is a problem unto itself, and we need to address both separately. You look at the age stratification on the vaccination. It is very clear. 75 plus didn’t take it, but I can as much as 65. But I understand that.
Governor Cuomo: (08:22)
I’ve had a lot of conversations. The 75 plus, they’re anxious about a vaccine. They have other problems they’re dealing with. 65 to 74 is the highest population rate, which makes sense when you think about it, and then it goes straight downhill. And the 16 to 25, we’re at 24%. So, we’re at 60% as a population, we’re 24% with 16 to 25. 26 to 34, we’re at 35%. That’s where we have to get the numbers up. The youthful and the doubtful. The doubtful, I’d say a hard core 20% is philosophical. It’s a fear-driven, it’s misinformation driven. But we also have to attack the doubtful problem. What’s the key to supercharging your vaccination rate, eliminate the excuses, increase access and to the doubtful, communicate the facts. You have no factual argument against the vaccine. So, today, no excuses. SUNY and CUNY boards will require vaccinations for all in-person students coming back to school in the fall.
Governor Cuomo: (09:51)
You’re a young person, you go to a SUNY schools at University of New York, City University of New York, you must have a vaccine to come back in September. If you must have a vaccine, get it now, if you have to get it anyway. I also encourage private schools to do the same thing. Let’s make a global statement. You cannot go back to school in-person in September, unless you have a vaccine. That will be a major motivation for people to get the vaccine, and if you have to get it by September, you may as well get it now. Why wouldn’t you get it now? Okay. Second, there are some situations where people are discriminating against people who got a vaccine, which is almost inexplicably to me. There’s a situation with summer camps saying, if you are vaccinated, you cannot go to that camp. If you’re vaccinated, you can’t be a staff member at that camp. We can’t be in a situation where we were full throated, encouraging people to get a vaccine, and then have people saying, if you get a vaccine, you can’t participate in this activity.
Governor Cuomo: (11:23)
I want to propose a law that says you can’t discriminate against the person who has a vaccine. I understand the anti-vaccine argument very well. We’ve been through this before. Dr. Zucker and I, when we mandated the measles vaccine a couple of years ago. I understand the anti-vaccine argument. In my opinion, there is no science to it. There is no science to it. You can have a theory. You can have a belief, but you can’t use that to make public policy without science and without data. But we also have to start to get creative, because you are seeing this all across the nation. And we’re good in New York at getting creative. We are very creative types. Here’s the creative idea. Wednesday to Sunday, we’re offering vaccines at subway LIRR and Metro-North hubs. Get a shot and take a free ride on the MTA. You get a free seven day Metro card for everyone vaccinated at a subway station. And LIRR Metro-North, two free one way trips anywhere in the service area. It’s Johnson & Johnson, so it’s one shot.
Governor Cuomo: (12:48)
So, think about this. You are walking into the subway station anyway. You are walking past the vaccination site. It’s a one shot vaccination. Stop, take a few minutes, get the vaccine, and then you get the incentive of a one week unlimited Metro card if you do it at a subway station, or free tickets, Long Island Rail Road Metro-North. Why wouldn’t you do it? No excuse. You’re walking there anyway, it’s Johnson & Johnson one shot. You don’t have to schedule a second shot. You don’t have to go back to that station, and you have a financial incentive. These are the places where we’re going to be starting this. These are major hubs, Ossining on Metro-North, East 180th in the Bronx, Grand Central Station, Penn Station, Coney Island, Broadway Junction, Hempstead Long Island, 179th street, Jamaica. That’s my old stop, 179th Street in Jamaica. It’s as far east as the subway goes in Queens.
Governor Cuomo: (14:05)
Different times because we want to see what time frame works the best, what stations work the best. There’s a theory that people are going to be rushed in the morning, and they’re not going to want to stop in the morning. That they’re more likely to stop in the evening on the way home. So, we have a lot of theories. We’re going to test them, see how it works, see what the receptivity rate is, and then we can adjust. But it is a creative idea. We’re trying many creative ideas because we have to get that vaccination rate up. And in this situation, we’ve always handled this as a community. Everyone should be doing everything they can to get people vaccinated. That’s what mayor should be doing, and county executives should be doing. That’s what the religious community should be doing. That’s what sorts teams should be doing. As far as I’m concerned, we all have one goal, get people vaccinated. And that brings us to the Islanders. Congratulations to the Islanders.
Governor Cuomo: (15:19)
They are a great New York team. We’re building a new arena with the Islanders out at Belmont. We were out there a couple of weeks ago, John, myself, and a few others. It is going to be amazing. Really an amazing arena. And before we open the new arena, they have now clinched a playoff spot. Tickets will go on sale tomorrow for the playoff game. Home games are at the Nassau Coliseum. 50% of the tickets will be sold to vaccinated people. And the rule then will be for the vaccinated section, three feet distancing. 50% of the sales to the unvaccinated people, six foot distancing. Everybody was a mask. My point to business owners, sports, concerts, et cetera. The more vaccinated people, actually the higher the capacity. Because they only have a three foot distance requirement. So, it’s actually increasing capacity to get people vaccinated. But the playoff start the end of may, tickets will go on sale tomorrow. The Islanders needed to set guidance and they had to do it, cleared by our health commissioner, Dr. Zucker. And that’s what they’re going to do. So, congratulations to the Islanders. Last point. Remember the goal of all of this. Remember the big picture. Vaccinate New Yorkers, and then build New York back better than before. We are not going to have gone through the hell that we went through just to restore what we had. I’m not doing that. New Yorkers are not doing that. The house was demolished. We’re not going to build back the same house. We’re going to build back a better house. We have federal funds. We’re going to take this as a pivot moment for New York. We weren’t perfect the day before COVID. We weren’t. So, don’t say we’re going to rebuild what we had because the day before COVID, that was Navana. No. Recognize where we were the day before COVID. Recognize the…
Governor Cuomo: (18:03)
…recognize where we were the day before COVID. Recognize the problems. And use this as an opportunity to improve and build the state better than it’s ever been. That’s our goal. That’s our ambition. That’s what’s driving us. And that’s what should drive all of us. With that, let me turn it over to my colleagues for comments. And we will first go to Sarah Feinberg, interim president for the New York City Transit Authority.
Sarah Feinberg: (18:33)
Thank you, governor. The MTA is excited to be assisting in this important state effort to ensure that every New Yorker has easy access to a free COVID-19 vaccine. We’re committed to doing everything we can to help lead New York’s recovery. The MTA will provide eight convenient sites across the region from Wednesday, May 12th through Sunday, May 16th, where members of the public or employees of the MTA can walk up to receive a free one shot Johnson and Johnson vaccination without an appointment. I won’t repeat the sites that you already mentioned. The MTA is also providing free transportation passes for everyone who receives the vaccination, as the governor said. If the region is really going to recover, we need as many people as possible to get the vaccine. Safety from COVID and safety from crime and harassment are what we need to get people back on mass transit.
Sarah Feinberg: (19:23)
And while we continue to work with our city partners on the second issue, we have a golden opportunity here to tackle the first. We’re at a pivotal point for the City. The subway is reopening 24/7, as the governor has announced. Curfews for bars and restaurants are being eliminated. And we just hit a new ridership milestone on the subways. Last Friday, May 7th, we recorded 2.23 million riders. The most on a single day, since the pandemic began. Bus ridership hit a pandemic high on April 28th with more than 1.2 million trips taken. So it feels like New York is getting back to normal. We can’t get complacent and jeopardize this progress, so I want to urge all New Yorkers who haven’t been vaccinated to consider these sites because the more folks we vaccinate, the sooner the region can return to normal. Thank you. And I’ll turn it over to Pat Foye.
Governor Cuomo: (20:17)
Thank you, Sarah. Mr. Foye.
Pat Foye: (20:20)
Thank you governor. Thanks Sarah. In addition to the six New York city sites Sarah mentioned, there were another two locations, one each in the Long Island Railroad and Metro North footprints. One will be at the Ossining Metro North Station in Westchester County on the Hudson line and another at the Hempstead Long Island terminal at the Hempstead branch. We feel this is an important step to help the region reopen and build back better. We focused on high traffic sites where we can vaccinate many customers and employees, employees are eligible for this too, on a first come first serve basis. The MTA has already been administering vaccines to our employees since January 13th, shortly after vaccines first became available. The men and women of the MTA have been heroes in this pandemic. Heroes moving heroes. And, to date, nearly 30,000 employees have received, at least, the first dose through the MTA’s program or as part of city or state efforts. Our vaccination program is part of the MTA’s nation leading and overall transit COVID safety.
Pat Foye: (21:23)
That also includes the MTA’s mass force distributing free mask to subway bus and railroad customers, enhance disinfecting and cleaning efforts, and partnering with the federal government and MIT to research best in class technologies. Now, the MTA moves from continuing efforts to vaccinate its employees, to helping vaccinate the public, too. As Sarah mentioned, we will be providing free transportation passes to everyone that gets a shot at one of our locations.
Pat Foye: (21:52)
Either a free seven day unlimited Metro card or a round trip ticket for Metro North of the Long Island Railroad. We want to see more and more customers return to the system. Just as New York City Transit is surpassing new pandemic ridership milestones, so are the railroads. Last Friday, May 6th, the Long Island Railroad hit a pandemic high of 101,600 riders. Metro North, too, saw 83,100 trips that same day, a new pandemic weekday high. Let’s keep that going. We only get one shot, pun intended, at reopening strong and revitalizing the regional economy. That makes the coming weeks and months essential to recovery. I’m bullish on New York, we all are. I’m confident we will emerge from this crisis stronger and better if we all pull together. Thank you. Thanks, Governor.
Governor Cuomo: (22:43)
Well said. Heroes moving heroes. That’s so true. And it is one shot. This is our one shot. And it’s our shot to take. And speaking about shots, Mr. Jon Ledecky, we’re very proud of the Islanders. I want you to know I offered Mr. Ledecky, I said, “I could be a backup goalie. I have a lot of pucks shot at me, every day. I’m sort of in that business.” He didn’t see it my way. Congratulations, Jon. We’re all very proud. Good news for New York and we needed it. Congratulations.
Jon Ledecky: (23:17)
Thank you so much, Governor. It’s great to be here with you today, and it’s great to be back in the playoffs for the third straight season. Today’s news, that you have increased the overall capacity and, therefore, the number of fans who can attend the Stanley Cup Playoffs, is wonderful news for our fans who are the most passionate and loyal in all of sports. Islander fans are the heartbeat of this franchise and we owe everything to them. It’s a fitting tribute to our fans, that they can be at the Nassau Coliseum in big numbers for the playoffs and can celebrate the many wonderful memories they have had there through the years.
Jon Ledecky: (23:52)
Our fans are truly the seventh player/ they are now going, thanks to you, to rock The Barn, one more time, at Fort Never Lose. We’re also grateful to Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL for their support in delivering the Stanley Cup Playoffs through these unprecedented times. Governor Cuomo, this is a wonderful gift to New York. Thank you for your leadership and guidance, as you have taken forward the Islanders amazing new home at UBS Arena at Belmont Park. Our fans have a cheer when we score. We say, “Yes, yes, yes.” Thank you for saying yes to Islander nation today.
Governor Cuomo: (24:31)
Thank you. My pleasure, Jon. Commissioner Bettman has been great for us. Where’s he from?
Jon Ledecky: (24:37)
Queens. Another Queens boy.
Governor Cuomo: (24:38)
Yeah, you go. What a coincidence. Let’s take questions for Sarah, Pat, or Jon on those issues and then I’ll let them go
For either Sarah or Pat. Can you talk about, at the MTA hubs, the degree to which this is aimed at reluctant employees? I think the last percentage we saw was something like 36% of either transit or the MTA, as a whole, why you think there’s been such a low percentage of your employees getting vaccinated when they’ve been eligible since January?
Sarah Feinberg: (25:10)
Well, I think the percentage, I think that’s not the most recent percentage. I think the most recent percentage of employees who have had at least one shot is more like 51.
Pat Foye: (25:20)
Andrew, mentioned in my remarks, we believe 35,000 transit workers across the agencies. That would be approximately 50%. We’re continuing to vaccinate employees daily. And obviously this program, which starts on Wednesday, is available both to customers and employees.
But, still, if you compare it to healthcare, which has been eligible for months, that’s way lower than the percentage in that field. Do you have a sense of why it’s still low and how much of this pop-up is aimed at your work force?
Sarah Feinberg: (25:50)
Well, so the pop-up is aimed at the public. But, obviously, it makes sense for that to be a convenient location for many of our employees to go, as well. If they’re getting off of work and headed home, this could be a very convenient place for them. Right now, they’re either going to a clinic in their neighborhood or their doctor, or one of the large facilities in the state, or to our facilities at Livingston or at Grand Central. And so these are just additional places that are convenient. This was about the public. In terms of why folks are hesitant to get the vaccine, I think it’s the same thing you’ve heard from the Governor and others for months, which is there is hesitation. And there is some hesitancy about getting a vaccine and that is on us to do everything we can to make sure that our employees feel comfortable are educated, are getting the information they need. We’ve done webinars and we’ve brought people in to speak. And, obviously, we want to make sure that all of our employees end up getting vaccinated.
Governor Cuomo: (26:46)
Excuse me one second. We spent a lot of time looking at the population who gets the vaccine, who hasn’t gotten the vaccine. And there’s a spectrum. And there’s a portion of the population that says, “I would get it. I’m not really going out of my way to get it. But I would get it.” When you talk about the healthcare workers, remember what we did with the healthcare workers. The vaccine was available in their place of business. They didn’t have to go anywhere. It was in your place of business. And we focused on that for weeks. We, basically, had a sanction system where I called out the hospitals that were low, by name. And we then didn’t give them any additional vaccines the next week. Remember the vaccines were scarce. So that was a very intensive effort. It was where you work. We then ranked hospitals. Frankly, we called the hospital managers and said, ” Get them vaccinated because a healthcare worker, they’re coming in contact with hundreds of people all day long.” So hopefully, this helps increase it because there’ll be more available at the MTA where the MTA employees are themselves. I’m sorry, Zack.
I was just curious, why do it on such a limited basis, initially? Do you have plans to potentially expand it either to other stations or for a longer period of time?
Governor Cuomo: (28:27)
We want to see how it works. And you see, we have different hours of operation in different places. It’s never been done before. None of these things we’re doing have ever been done before. So let’s see how it works. How many people get online? We picked busier hubs. There’s a debate about that. If you pick a busier hub, the line may back up. If the line backs up, somebody is going to look at a long line and say, “Forget it.” And keep walking. Is it better in the morning? Is it better in the afternoon? Is it better in the evening? So, these, it’s a creative idea. It’s never been done before. Let’s see how it goes. Let’s see if it works well in these locations. Let’s see what the take up is. And then we can always adjust.
A related question though. Why only five days a week? Why not on Mondays and Tuesdays?
Governor Cuomo: (29:29)
Does anyone know?
Sarah Feinberg: (29:29)
Yeah, it’s a pilot program. We’re going to see what works. So we’re announcing it today and we can start it on Wednesday, which was as quickly as we could get it started. And we’ll go for several days and see how it goes. And if we, like the Governor said, see that people are seeing a line and bypassing it, then we’ll make adjustments. So we’re just, we’re trying to see what works.
Governor Cuomo: (29:50)
This is the plan. Just Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Different hours, different stations to see how it works and where it works. Is it better on a weekend? Is it better on a weekday? Is it better in the morning? Is it better at night? Is it better in a busier station? Better at a slower station? So this will give us more data on where it works better.
On subway safety, we hear a lot of verbal barbs, back and forth, between you and the Mayor. Would it help if you and the Mayor and the co-chairman sat together and try to figure this out? And why has that not happened?
Governor Cuomo: (30:36)
This has been an ongoing conversation for years. For years. And there is a philosophical difference. I see crime in the subways as a major problem. I believe the solution to the crime in the subways is more police in the subways. I believe that. And I have said that. We did an MTA hiring of more MTA police. Two years ago, which was unheard of because the NYPD are charged with doing protection in the subways. I believe you’re not going to bring back the New York City economy until you bring back the transit system. I believe people are anxious when they’re now in the subway system. It is irrefutable, but that there are serious crimes in the subway system. It is irrefutable that they are emotionally disturbed people in the subway system who can do violence and have done violence. It’s irrefutable that there’s been a degradation of the situation in the stations, Penn Station, et cetera.
Governor Cuomo: (32:05)
I think the answer is more police, which I believe we showed during the period of time where we didn’t do the 24 hour close down. And that gave a period of time, for the police to do an intensive effort with social workers and bring people to safe shelters to get the help they need. I fundamentally disagree. I’ve done more work with the homeless population than probably any elected official. Certainly who’s ever served as governor. I started in my twenties running not-for-profits and then I did it for eight years for the nation as Housing Secretary. This concept that, we’re doing the homeless a favor, letting them sleep in subways and tunnels.
But, why can’t you get together and figure it out. Are you suggesting the Mayor wants higher crime in the subway?
Governor Cuomo: (33:09)
This has been an ongoing discussion. Let me ask the interim president, who deals with on a daily basis, what she thinks.
Sarah Feinberg: (33:17)
I’m not sure it’s… I think you’re suggesting it’s either a political argument or a policy argument. And I think the reality is, there are not very many people, at this point, who believe or suggest that this is not what’s needed at this moment. The Mayor has said he doesn’t think additional policing is necessary. And the vast majority of our customers, and certainly our leadership and certainly our customers who we hear from, are saying they absolutely want a more significant police presence. A uniformed presence. And mental health resources. And I think if you ride the system on a regular basis, if you’re in the system day and night, like so many of us are, it’s not really up for debate. It feels very clear that we don’t have the sufficient resources in the system that we need.
Getting in a room, sitting down, and trying to figure it out, to get them to the same table would help.
Sarah Feinberg: (34:14)
I have done that. I have reached out, repeatedly, and Pat has, of course, as well. We have reached out, repeatedly, to City Hall and they engage. We have weekly calls with City Hall. I have ongoing conversations with staff. I’ve certainly offered to talk to the Mayor and brief the Mayor on any number of occasions over the last year, as I’ve been serving as interim president. We get a response. There’s a back and forth between us and the staff. But, I think there’s just a fundamental issue where the Mayor is not necessarily in touch with our ridership. I just don’t think he has his finger on the pulse of our ridership, right now. And, I think that I do. We survey our customers frequently, every couple of months. There’s overwhelming support for this.
Sarah Feinberg: (35:03)
It’s not just a couple of voices. My obligation and responsibility is to be responsive to our customers and to riders. But, also keep your eye on the prize. There’s a bigger issue here, which is, as the governor said, I don’t think New York comes back unless the transit system comes back. And so you’ve got to get people into the transit system in order to back to the city and back to the economy.
Sarah Feinberg: (35:26)
We have said, repeatedly. This is not about a five-year commitment or some ten- year commitment of resources. This is about the Mayor understanding that we need a three to six month shot in the arm to get people comfortable with coming back. And frankly, I would love to see this debated by the mayoral candidates a little bit more, because it’s going to go beyond this Mayor and it’s going to be about the next person who comes up and what kind of resources they can commit to this. Because, this is going to be with us for a bit. You’ve got to do better on the mental health resources and the uniformed presence in the system.
Governor Cuomo: (36:02)
Excuse me one second. What were the numbers-
Sarah Feinberg: (36:03)
… our presence in the system.
Governor Cuomo: (36:03)
Hold on. Excuse me, one second. What were the numbers again what the number of police in the system, roughly do you remember?
Sarah Feinberg: (36:11)
Sure. The NYPD, so back when the NYPD took over transit policing in the mid-90s, the number of NYPD officers, transit bureau NYPD officers was about 4,300. It is now significantly down from that. We think probably about 2, 000. We don’t have a solid number. We don’t have deployment information and a solid number because that information isn’t shared with us by city hall. And so, if you assume that that number is about 2,000 and then remember the city surged additional resources into the system following the stabbings in February, which got us to about 2600. 25, 2600. So that’s 25, 2600 uniformed police over a 600 and some mile system, 473 stations, 12 districts.
Sarah Feinberg: (37:04)
If you remember that these officers work in teams of two, and that you lose an automatic 15 to 20% of officers presumably everyday for sick leave or vacation, or court appearances or whatever else, the numbers dwindle quickly. And so, I think it’s important to just do the math on how many uniformed officers we’ve actually got in the system on any given day. And it’s important information, frankly, it would be really useful for it to be shared with us so that we can make some of our own decisions better on MTA policing and deployment.
Governor Cuomo: (37:34)
Yeah. Also, don’t minimize the difference of opinion on this issue. I proposed hiring 500 more MTA police officers because the city wouldn’t provide more NYPD. There was a vociferous opposition to hiring more police. The proposition of more police in the subway system is opposed by many right? You have many people saying, “Defund the police. We shouldn’t be spending all this money on police.” So don’t minimize the opposition to this idea that you need more police in the system. You have a theory that says we need less police, which is the “defund the police” measure. So that is very real and you know that’s real. And you know that when I hired the additional MTA police officers, there was tremendous blow back. So it is a real issue to grapple with and I do think, I think Sarah’s exactly right in this mayoral discussion. Next mayor, what’s your plan for making the subway safe? How many police will you commit to the subways?
Governor Cuomo: (39:07)
And for the next mayor, that’s going to be a threshold issue. Are you with the defund the police, or are you with the people who believe we need more police? And then it’s not just the subways, right? You have the same problem on the street level. It’s not just crime in the subways, it’s crime in the city. And I think that should be a top topic in this mayoral debate. What are you going to do about crime? What are you going to do about crime in the cities? What do you think the solution is? Well, it’s comprehensive, it’s holistic. We need more intervention services. It’s education, it’s jobs, it’s economic. Yes, I know. And how do we stop the killings? And remember it is the black and brown community that is paying the highest price for increased crime. That topic should be first and foremost, and it’s not about sitting down and having a chat. We’ve had this chat for years. Sarah has it. Pat has had it for years. It’s been an ongoing debate and they’re two very different schools. I’ve had this conversation with the mayor dozens of times.
Speaker 1: (40:26)
So how are the two of you trying to figure this out together?
Governor Cuomo: (40:31)
We had discussed it many of times. They’re two different schools of thought. You want to say, “Oh no, which do you think is the no-brainer? Is it a no-brainer to put more police, or is it a no-brainer to say defund the police?” They’re both legitimate schools of thought. Question, Sarah, Pat, or John? You’ve exhausted them with your comprehensive presentation. Thank you guys very much for being here. I’m going to stay behind. New York Islanders mask.
Governor Cuomo: (41:13)
Speaker 2: (41:33)
Governor, the senior advisor of yours said last month that the state attorney general was investigating you for political reasons, because she apparently has motivations to run for governor. Could you elaborate on that? Do you believe that Ms. James’ investigation into your sexual harassment claims are politically motivated?
Governor Cuomo: (41:53)
I don’t want to comment on the ongoing review. And I think everybody’s aware of politics in Albany and political realities. I think you guys are also. So, but I don’t want to comment in the middle of the review. You’ve heard one side of the story, only one side of the story. You will, at one point, hear both sides of the story, and you don’t need me to explain to you the context of politics. If you do need me to explain, you wouldn’t be the bureau chief. Yeah, Zach?
It does seem like you’re doing a lot now to incentivize people to get the vaccine. And I’m curious if you can go back to those early months, do you feel as though the tone out of the gate was a little restrictive, maybe a lot of hoops to jump through for individuals? Do you feel as though maybe that might’ve discouraged people and now you’re having that reluctance, might have contributed to that?
Governor Cuomo: (42:57)
No, Zach. I think, I think let’s go back, because I always run the video tape over and torture myself in the retrospective, right? I was listening to a quarterback once in an interview and he said he watches the tape of the game over and over and over, the last game. And now on the tape, you see the person, the man open. “Why didn’t I pass? The man was right there, he’s waving his arms. Why didn’t I pass?” It’s not especially constructive. But, I do that. When the vaccines first started, we followed all the federal guidance. The federal guidance was get the older people vaccinated first, nursing homes and older people, because that is the population that was most vulnerable. That was commissioner Zucker’s position, the CDC position, Dr. Fauci’s position, everyone.
Governor Cuomo: (44:10)
And we didn’t have enough vaccines for the population. The demand was 10 fold the number of vaccines. And that was the federal problem of the federal government ramping up production. The message that was sent now to torture ourselves on watching the old game tape, ” Well, if older people need it first, I’m younger, it means I don’t need it.” I think that was the implicit inverse message. “This is an old people problem, it’s not me. I’m young.” We then said every day, “Mortality is more probable if you’re older and if you’re younger, you’ll get sick, but you probably won’t die.” Which by the way, was before long haul syndrome, which is a whole nother topic. But I think, yes, I think the entire national dialogue was, “This is an old person problem and if you’re young, don’t worry about it.”
Speaker 3: (45:25)
Another, have you been interviewed by the AD’s office or the state assembly, or the FBI in either of those investigations? And my second question is about the Wall Street Journal’s leaders report on your former vaccine czar Larry Schwartz. Can you comment on whether or not you know anything about the phone calls he made, allegedly politicizing vaccine distribution? Were you aware of any of that?
Governor Cuomo: (45:47)
Yeah. I said I don’t want to comment on reviews. The Larry Schwartz was a volunteer helping the vaccine effort on his own time, and he did a phenomenal job. Former secretary to the governor. You look at all these sites, he and Kelly did all of it. So he did a phenomenal job and I’m totally confident in his performance. He was secretary to Governor Patterson. He was secretary to me. He was deputy county executive in Suffolk. The deputy county executive in Westchester County. He’s an extraordinary public servant. So, I have total confidence in him.
Speaker 4: (46:35)
Has Larry been replaced?
Governor Cuomo: (46:39)
No, he was a volunteering.
Speaker 4: (46:42)
Is someone taking orders, his role-
Governor Cuomo: (46:44)
Kelly is doing the operations.
Speaker 5: (46:46)
On a total change of subject, if I may, and this is on behalf of my colleague, Mary [inaudible 00:46:52] regarding the opioid settlement money to New York state, you know $32 million is coming to New York state. So far 21 million went to the state’s general fund according to family advocates who were upset about it. Can you respond to that change and talk about efforts to maybe alter that situation and prevent settlement money from going to the general fund going forward?
Governor Cuomo: (47:25)
I don’t believe your number is right, but I don’t know the specific numbers. Settlement money, in general, always goes to the general fund. I was attorney general. I got billions in settlements from different reasons. It always goes to the general fund. And then in the state budget, you make decisions as to where that funding goes. I don’t think it’s right that well, let’s say you have a recovery of environmental, an environmental recovery or a litigation recovery for one reason or another. I don’t think it’s necessarily quid pro quo that if so facto, if the funds came from that settlement, that that amount of funds is what’s needed for that area.
Governor Cuomo: (48:29)
So as a general rule, I would disagree with you. The budget process, the legislature takes the total amount of money and then allocates it. We need this much for childcare, this much for prisons. We need this much for education. We need this much for tenant relief, et cetera. So, they’re making those prioritization allocations. The real argument would be, “Well we needed more in treatment, than we have gotten.” I believe the number’s higher. You don’t remember the number off the top of your head? But, I’ll find out and I’ll get back to you. I just-
Speaker 5: (49:12)
So, whatever has gone into the general fund, would that then go toward the office of addiction services and supports as the families want to have happen?
Governor Cuomo: (49:25)
Any settlement funds, opioid settlement funds, any fraud funds, any funds that come from settlements, go into the general fund. We then do the state budget from one lump sum in the general fund and make allocations. And we make an allocation to addiction services, which has always been a priority for the state. I don’t know what percent of the settlement funds went to addiction services. But your other question, which is should all settlements always go to the subject area of the settlement? I don’t think that makes sense, because sometimes the settlements are more than you need. Sometimes the settlements are much less than you need. You fund the need proportionately, the best you can, regardless of where the funds come from. But it doesn’t sound right to me that it’s 20% of the settlement. I have to check that.
With the issue of more police in the subways, do you think that’s also true of the streets of New York City? Do you think there need to be more streets, more police on the streets of New York City in light of the Times Square situation and what are you as governor doing right now about the violence problem?
Governor Cuomo: (50:53)
Look Andrew, I think we have … let’s take a step back. We go through COVID, tremendous amount of damage happens during COVID, some directly COVID related. Businesses closed, tenants lose their apartments, people leave New York. Zoom says you don’t have to be here anyway. Crime goes up. We’re now starting to move forward and plan a future. Fix the problems you know that you have, which are an impediment to people coming back to New York and New York being vibrant. The top of the list is crime, right, or one of the top. I want a better public education system. But up at the top of the list is crime. Crime in the subways, crime on the streets. You look at the homicides rate, you look at the gun crimes, people see this, people live it. It’s not a matter of translation.
Governor Cuomo: (52:13)
You see it on the nightly news. You open the newspaper, you take a subway ride you feel it. You walk down the street, you feel it. And that is real to people. That’s what Sarah’s point was. This is nothing that they need to read your stories to understand or watch your story to understand. They can report on crime in the city, as well as you can, because they live in the city. And they can do the report on what it feels like to ride the subway and what they saw on the subway that day. They can do the report on what they heard about the Times Square shooting and how they felt. It is a major problem.
Governor Cuomo: (52:58)
Now I do believe in the subways you need more police. I believe city-wide, it’s more complicated, because there is a tension between the community and the police, and that is a real problem. The George Floyd killing exploded the problem, but it didn’t create the problem. The problem was there, and the problem had been percolating for years, years. Every time there was another shooting, Eric Garner was the George Floyd situation, basically, right? And there were 20 Eric Garner’s. George Floyd, it explodes. And now you have a real community police tension, and it doesn’t work until you resolve that tension. New York was the first to say every police department sit down at the table…
Governor Cuomo: (54:02)
… apartment. Sit down at the table. This was Pete’s question from policy point of view, every community sit down at the table and have the conversation. Community groups that distrust the police, police, elected officials, and business leaders. How do we fix this problem? You say no more police. Police say, we need more police. You say crime isn’t a problem. Business and civic leaders say crime is a major problem. Have the discussion and figure it out. Rationalize defund the police, and we can’t bring the city back until we take care of crime because people are afraid to come back and fully revitalize the city. You have to rationalize that. I say first day in the nation every community must do that. Every community must do that. Politicians say we don’t want to do that. Why? Because you’re never going to win.
Governor Cuomo: (55:10)
The defund the people are never going to agree with the police department. I say, but you must reduce the tension and resolve it. And because they don’t want to do it, Andrew, I say, you must do it by April 1. And you must pass it as a law by your city council. Oh, mean governor. No, don’t ignore a problem. You never solve a problem in life you ignore. Face it, confront it. New York City passes a plan. They pass the police reform plan. They had the conversation, forget me and the mayor, Sarah, and the police commissioner. They had community wide conversation. They came up with a police reform plan. They had to, otherwise they didn’t get funding in the budget.
Governor Cuomo: (56:00)
95% of the communities came up with a police reform plan. Now was the New York C plan as sweeping as I believe it could have been? No, I believe it was a good first step because it recognized the problem. It was a good first step because it said basically you have to get the groups and sit around the table and figure this out. And I think for the next mayor, this is job one. This is job one. If I were at the table, I would say, you’re oversimplifying the conversation. More police, less police. Defund the police or more pleased. That’s not what it is. It’s different policing strategy.
Governor Cuomo: (56:57)
Not every situation requires someone to show up with a gun and handcuffs. There are different problems you’re dealing with. We saw that in the subways when we went from 24 hours. This is a mental health problem. This is a social service intervention problem. This is a mental health diversion. Get people from… Nobody should be sleeping in a tunnel. Have you lost your mind? Have you lost your mind? We want people to sleep in subway tunnels. No. Well, let them sleep in subway cars. No, bring them to a safe shelter. Bring them to a mental health diversion, but don’t leave them in the subways.
Governor Cuomo: (57:50)
And more police, different police, different police. Some of the communities did some very interesting things. Communities involved in selection of police officers and in recruitment of police officers. Different groups responding to different issues, mental health dispatch groups, domestic violence dispatch groups. It has to be a public safety function that the community supports. Otherwise, you’re in this same irreconcilable difference. I want more police. I say defund the police. It is going to be a different type of police with more transparency, more accountability that understands we all in a different place. You know, everything evolves. Education evolves, everything evolves. Policing the way we’re now doing it is distrusted by the community. Well, the community has no right to distrust us. That’s not the answer.
Governor Cuomo: (59:04)
This is a two people, married couple having the same argument over and over. All right. Either get past the loggerheads or get a divorce. Here, divorce is not an option because I don’t believe defund the police is a realistic option. No police. We don’t need the police or no. Then what is it? A city of mayhem. Does anybody remember 1960, 1970? Anybody remember that? 1980, mid nineties, anybody remember that? What? Do we forget all if it’s not in a tweet? It didn’t happen?
Governor Cuomo: (59:56)
So yes, you need police. You have fewer police in the subway stations today than you did in the mid nineties. And you’re surprised, but you have a bigger issue, which is the reconciliation. You’re not going to force the community to hire a police department it doesn’t like or trust. That’s not going to happen. And that’s what has to be reconciled. And it’s more than just your right or your right, or this is the politically you’re stronger, you’re not as strong. It is an art form of government and resolution of a complex relationship. That’s what this is. George Floyd, social equity questions, injustice questions, questioning the justice system and the bias in the justice system, which is real. Questioning the prison system. And why do you have so many young black males going to prison? Why? Why is the number of police actions against blacks higher? Why? Why is the arrest rate higher? Where is this bias coming from? They’re all interrelated. And that’s the conversation that you have to have.
Speaker 3: (01:01:26)
Governor, but can you specifically comment on the shooting in Time Square. Broad daylight, a four year old being shot. This is a whole different type of incident. The mayor said that he believed that this was just a particular incident, but he didn’t think that it was going to necessarily affect the tourism coming to the city. Can you specifically comment on that particular incident? Because for many people outside of the city, it’s all they’re talking about right now. And my second question is, are you for plain clothes officers patrolling our streets again, particularly when it comes to the gun violence?
Governor Cuomo: (01:02:00)
Yeah. Look, you guys want to over-simplify. You want oversimplify. You want to say, oh, well I should just talk to the mayor and figure it out. It’s not about two people. It’s about two schools of philosophy. You have a cleavage in this city between people who don’t trust the police and the police. I don’t think it’s about any one episode. Yeah. Times Square, high publicity, more people have heard about it. Time Square’s a tourist destination. Time Square is iconic New York City. Was it more damaging? Yes. Only because it communicated to more people, but then did it tell the people of New York City anything new? No, no. That’s why this is all a game. You take subway. You know there’s a crime problem. You live in New York City, you watch or read any newspaper. Look at any news show for the past months, there’s a crime problem.
Governor Cuomo: (01:03:07)
Well, now it happens in Times Square. That may translate to more tourists, but I don’t think it made a difference for New Yorkers quad New Yorkers. And you look at the economic cycles of New York city. Okay? And then you look at the crime rate of New York City, and you’re going to see the correlation between the crime and the economy. And it’s going to be even clearer today because more of the economy is based on tourism. We need to get tourists back for those hotels, for Broadway, for those restaurants. That’s a big engine for the economy. They’re not going to come back unless it’s safe. It’s safe. Times Square hurts in that regard. By the way, to encourage that, I forgot to mention. We’re waiving the residency requirement on vaccines. Anyone from out of state can get a vaccine in New York. So if you’re a tourist and you come to New York, we’ll give you a vaccine, but it publicized it more.
Speaker 2: (01:04:34)
SUNY CUNY mentioned last week that there was a problem with mandating vaccines because of the EUA designation. How does-
Governor Cuomo: (01:04:43)
It would have to be by September. That’s why it’s by September. By September, the federal government would have to do the approved beyond the EUA. Or is it EAU. EUA, emergency use authorization. They would have to give it full approval before September. Otherwise, SUNY CUNY could not mandate. If it doesn’t have the full approval, you cannot legally mandate just a EUA. We believe they will do that in the near future.
Speaker 2: (01:05:19)
I know you don’t want to comment on the investigations and I’m not asking you to, but in theory, do you believe that what investigators are looking into constitutes an impeachable offense? I ask because as you know, that’s a gray area in the state constitution. It’s not clearly defined. So in theory, is that something you believe is impeachable?
Governor Cuomo: (01:05:40)
It’s simpler than that. I didn’t do anything wrong, period.
Governor, not to beat a proverbial dead horse, but you want answered Andrew’s question. And you said, get together, figure it out. And that was basically my question to you. Why can’t you get together, figure it out?
Governor Cuomo: (01:06:03)
Forget beating the proverbial dead horse and forget me sparring with the press, which I enjoy doing, frankly. You said the mayor and I should have a conversation. I said the mayor and I have had dozens of conversations over years, Sarah, Pat, same conversation over years with counterparts. I said to Andrew, it’s bigger than that. There are two philosophical differences here. Remember when I did the additional police for the MTA?
Governor Cuomo: (01:06:44)
Peter, I’m not saying my position is a slam dunk. I said more police for the subways. The mayor said no. I said, okay, the MTA will hire 500 more police. There was an uproar. It was an uproar. “No, we don’t need more police. And we don’t need more police in the cities.” That’s a very real thing. That was before George Freud, that was before defund the police. So you have a real philosophical issue in this city where people say I don’t trust the police. Defund the police. More police is not the answer. More social services is the answer. More intervention is the answer. The justice system is biased. More police is not the answer. That’s what has to be reconciled. And that’s a lot harder than two people in the room. And that’s what I was trying to get at with the police reform plan. Put everybody in the room and then the city council has to pass it.
Governor Cuomo: (01:08:06)
I think it was too much for the political system. I think it was a good first step, but I don’t think it went far enough. Husband and wife fighting, fighting, fighting. First step, they’re in therapy. They’re talking about the issue. I think that’s what we accomplished. And they made some short term fixes, good, but this is a nationwide deep issue. By the way, they’re debating in Congress right now. Right now, they’re debating this in Congress. It’s a national issue. That’s why George Floyd exploded nationally. I have to go to work. I would like to stay here and beat the dead horse, but then we’ll have the horse people criticizing both of us. And I remember, it was Seth who started. Just in case someone is going to take the heat. Thank you guys.