Jun 15, 2020
NY Governor Andrew Cuomo June 15 Press Conference Transcript
Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo held a press briefing on June 15. Cuomo will sign into effect additional police reforms that require more documentation of arrests. Read the full news briefing speech transcript here.
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Andrew Cuomo: (04:25)
Good morning. Pleasure to be in Westchester today. Thank the Thruway Authority for these very cool special edition New York Tough masks. It is a beautiful day today. Let me recognize the people who are with me on the dais. To my right, we have Matt Driscoll, who runs the Thruway Authority who has done an extraordinary job with this new Mario Cuomo Bridge that we’re here to celebrate again today. To my left, Melissa DeRosa who is secretary to the governor. We also have with us Jamey Barbas and Rick Cotton. Jamey works with me, Rick Cotton runs the little organization called the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey but before Rick went to the Port Authority and before Jamey came to the governor’s office, they were the ones who were working very hard on making this bridge a reality together with Larry Schwartz, [inaudible 00:05:28] they really did an extraordinary job and it’s a pleasure to be with them today as we open the pedestrian shared use path on the bridge that I think is going to be a big hit, a big success.
Andrew Cuomo: (05:42)
This bridge has energized the economy for the entire region and I think this shared use path, you’re going to see people coming to enjoy the bridge even more so it’s a pleasure to be with all of them today. Let’s talk about some of the facts before the sun melts us here today. Today is Day 107 since the COVID crisis started in New York. It’s Day 22 since we’ve been dealing with the civil unrest after Mr. Floyd’s murder. On the civil unrest, I said from day one I stand with the protesters. The outrage was right, the outrage was justified. What we do in New York is we take the outrage and we seize the moment, right? Carpe momentum. It’s about people wanting change. Well, New York will be the place that actually makes the change and we have passed laws that have done just that. Today I’m going to sign additional laws, first that an officer must report a weapon discharged within six hours. Second, police departments and courts must track all the arrest data so we have all the facts, race, ethnicity. Third, a law that requires police officers to provide for mental and medical help to any person under arrest or any person in custody when they require it.
Andrew Cuomo: (07:10)
The major reform that we’re going through in New York that is going to be the first in the nation, and I think really show people across this country how to change the system, how to hear the anger, hear the outrage, that vented with Mr. Floyd’s death but which has been percolating for years and years and years. Mr. Floyd’s death was the last in a long list, but it was a long list that goes back over 40 years. Goes back to Dr. Martin Luther King’s murder. The question is, how do you make the change? How do you turn that energy into a positive source to actually make change and we’re doing that in New York with the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative, that says every community has to now come to the table, as a collaborative, local leadership, police, the community activists, and redesign their public safety function. How do we change the police? How do we take this moment and actually institutionalize it to have progress? That’s going to require local leaders to come to the table.
Andrew Cuomo: (08:36)
We want a new design for public safety in their community. We want it by April 1. We want it to be legislated by April 1, so come up with a plan after putting everyone at the table and then pass it into law and get it done by April 1. That’s 290 days and counting, so I encourage all local governments to start today. The mayor can do it, the city council president can do it, someone else can do it, but in every city, in every county in this state, come to the table and start designing the plan for the future.
Andrew Cuomo: (09:21)
In terms of our reopening here after COVID in New York, we’ve been following the facts and the facts are that New York is on the right track. That is an objective fact. You look at the numbers which we watch every day now, watch those testing numbers every day, we’re doing the reopening, let’s make sure there’s not an increase, there’s not a spike. How do you do that? You follow the numbers on a daily basis by region, by county in the state, and you can see exactly what has been happening since the reopening. All of the numbers so far have been very good in New York. We’re hitting a new high
Andrew Cuomo: (10:03)
We’re hitting a new high, which is really a new low, but in this case, low is good. The lowest number of hospitalizations since this has started. Amen. The lowest number of deaths on the three-day average, since this has started. Now, we’d love to see that number at zero, but really you’ll never get to zero because this is now the number is so low that it’s coming down to what a doctor certifies as the cause of death.
Andrew Cuomo: (10:41)
Many people who pass away because of COVID have other underlying illnesses. They’re battling heart disease, they’re battling cancer, they’re battling another disease and they contract COVID. But this is the lowest number since we have started. And that my friends is a cause to celebrate in and of itself. We are now entering phase three for some regions across the state. We’re going to modify phase three, given this new data.
Andrew Cuomo: (11:18)
And we’re going to allow gatherings up to 25 people in phase three, which is up from 10 people. Again, because the numbers are good in most parts of the state. Western New York will enter phase three tomorrow and that’s exciting. The capital region we’ll be entering phase three on Wednesday, that’s exciting. The rules and regulations of phase three are very clear. They’re all set out.
Andrew Cuomo: (11:42)
People should follow the guidelines because the guidelines have been working. They have been working. We have months of data now that says the guidelines make sense. Keep following them because they are working. And everyone has a role to play in all of this. As we’re reopening, employers have a role, store owners have a role. Employees have a role. Individuals have a role and local government has a real responsibility. And to the local governments, I say, do your job. Do your job.
Andrew Cuomo: (12:18)
Local governments are supposed to be enforcing compliance. Compliance is hard. Why? Because people have been cooped up for a long time and they want to do what they want to do. I want to do what I want to do. I’ll tell you the truth. I get it, but we have to stay smart. And if the local governments don’t enforce compliance, they’re not doing anyone a favor.
Andrew Cuomo: (12:43)
Because if they don’t enforce compliance, you will see the numbers start to go up. And if the numbers start to go up, you’re going to have to see that area take a step back. So the local governments, I say, do your job. We know the alternative. You’re seeing all across the nation, the virus actually increasing. We have 22 states where the virus is increasing. It’s a dramatic national turnaround. We are the exception here in New York. God bless us, but we are the exception.
Andrew Cuomo: (13:23)
We don’t want the same plight of these other states. Talk about a great irony. One of our concerns now in New York is that people from the other states that have a high rate of increase of COVID virus may start traveling to New York. Remember when we started, other states were saying, “We don’t want people from New York coming to our state because we’re afraid they’ll bring the virus.”
Andrew Cuomo: (13:52)
Well, now we’re afraid people from the other States might come here and increase the viral spread. One of the great ironies in life. You look at what’s happening in New York, you look at our curve, the curve that we all live by. On our reopening, since our reopening, the virus spread has continued to go down. That my friends is an extraordinary exception when you look at all the other states around the country where they did the reopening, they didn’t do it smartly and you saw the virus go up.
Andrew Cuomo: (14:34)
Here in New York, we reopened and the virus continued to go down and that is exactly what we want to do because we have been smart the way we’ve done this. We have been smart. It was hard, but we stayed smart because the question was never to reopen or not reopen. That was a political question. That was all a political game that people played. Well, are you in favor of reopening or are you against reopening? Nobody was against reopening. What an absurd frame.
Andrew Cuomo: (15:11)
That’s what politics does. It defeats intelligent conversation. Nobody was against the reopening. The question was always how to reopen and reopened smartly. And what we said here in New York is if you don’t reopen smartly, it’s not going to work anyway. If the reopening doesn’t control the virus, it’s going to make the economy worse. That’s what we said. And all the voices that know, “Just reopen, reopen, reopen. Liberate. Free us, free us.” Yeah, free us, free us to hurt ourselves and decline.
Andrew Cuomo: (15:50)
And you know what? That’s exactly what you see happening right now. Reopening, reopening, reopening wasn’t done smartly. Wasn’t done on the facts, wasn’t monitored and now people are seeing the second wave. 22 states numbers going up. Oh my gosh, the coronavirus is here and it’s growing. Yes, because you didn’t reopen smartly. Let’s stay smart in New York because we were right.
Andrew Cuomo: (16:27)
Moving forward, we have to do two things. One monitor the virus, look at those numbers every day and two let’s get affirmative and aggressive and let’s start building back even better. Let’s jumpstart the economy with essential projects, that’s create those jobs. Let’s re-energize this economy. Let’s re-energize society. We’ve all been closed down for three months. Okay? Everybody caught up on their sleep? Everybody rested? Everybody ready to go to work? Well, then let’s go to work and let’s set the goal of not just reopening, but we’re going to build back a better New York.
Andrew Cuomo: (17:09)
Let’s take those big projects that we have to do, and let’s energize them. Let’s really get them moving and get them moving quickly. Let’s re-energize the Belmont racetrack, the new arena for the Islanders. We’re accelerating $2 billion in work at the MTA. Now’s the time to do construction because the ridership is down, great. We’re going to capitalize on the moment. Let’s get that Moynihan Station open. We lost a few months because of the virus. Let’s make up that time.
Andrew Cuomo: (17:42)
Let’s get a new Moynihan Station open right across from Penn Station. When those commuters come back, let’s say to them, “You’re going to have the best train station you’ve had in over 50 years. Better than anywhere else.” Now’s the time to do it. Let’s take this moment and lets reimagine our upstate airports and let’s rebuild them. Let’s get Stewart Airport and let’s reinvigorate that. Stewart Airport, I believe is going to energize the entire region and let’s get it done and let’s get it done this summer.
Andrew Cuomo: (18:20)
Rick Cotton, fast-tracking LaGuardia Airport. First new airport in 25 years. Come see New York. Come visit New York. It’s not the old LaGuardia that people laughed about. It is going to be the new LaGuardia that people envy across this nation and I believe will bring people here. And for the Mario Cuomo Bridge, nearly two years ago, we celebrated the opening. The largest infrastructure project in the United States in the past 10 years. Think about that. Nowhere else in the nation did they even attempt a project this big? Why? Because it’s intimidating. It’s intimidating. You’re going to build a new bridge across the Hudson River? Government?
Andrew Cuomo: (19:16)
Government can’t put two bricks together, you think you’re going to build a bridge? Yes, yes. We can do it. We can do it. That’s what we said with this bridge. Today, we’re going to open the 3.6 mile long path for cyclists and pedestrians. You can come across the Hudson River, which is spectacular in and of itself. From this bridge, you look south, you can see New York City. You look north, one of the most beautiful river valleys on the globe, 3.6 miles and you’re over one of the most beautiful bridges in the United States of America. You can say that I’m not objective about that.
Andrew Cuomo: (20:03)
Of America. You can say that I’m not objective about that because I’m not, but I believe it is a fact anyway. Sometimes you can be not objective, subjective, but still tell the truth. And I believe this is the most beautiful bridge in the United States. So we invite everyone to come enjoy it with us.
Andrew Cuomo: (20:26)
And the bridge says something else. The bridge speaks to a sense of possibility, a sense of capacity. When people are wondering, “Can we do this? Can we rise to the challenge? Are we capable of it? Can we do these big things?” The bridge says, “Yes we can.” And the bridge said, “Yes we can,” after 20 years of people questioning and doubting and being afraid. The bridge took on the challenge and defeated the challenge. It showed what we were capable of.
Andrew Cuomo: (21:07)
And over the past 106 days, we confronted another challenge that we had never faced before. No one had faced a challenge like this coronavirus, no one. It was the greatest challenge that government and society faced in a generation. And there were days where everyone said, “Can we do this? Can we handle this? Can we close down? Can we come back?” It challenged us to the core.
Andrew Cuomo: (21:40)
When we were talking about a curve, I never saw a curve, I saw a mountain. That’s what I saw. I saw a mountain that we had to scale, and we didn’t know where the top was. The top was up in the cloud somewhere when we started scaling this mountain, but we had to get to the top. We had to then get over the crest and we had to come down the other side. And that’s what we did for the past 106 days.
Andrew Cuomo: (22:10)
It had never been done before. Nobody knew where it was. Nobody knew how high the mountain was, but we did it. And our accomplishment over these past 106 days will go down in the history books. Just remember what we did here. When we started on the base side of the mountain, we had the worst infection rate in the United States of America. Today, we have the best infection rate in the United States of America. You want to talk about a turnaround? You want to talk about an accomplishment? You want to talk about people doing something they never did before? Yes, they built that bridge, the largest infrastructure project in the country. And New York scaled the highest mountain and went from the worst situation with this COVID virus to the best situation with this COVID virus.
Andrew Cuomo: (23:10)
New Yorkers did it because we did it together. That’s what was so different. So challenging, but so exciting. The only way for each of us to be healthy was if all of us were healthy. The only way to protect my health was if you were willing to protect my health, and we did it together. Challenge for all of us, but a challenge for each of us. Each of us had to battle our own fears and our own demons to be ready for the moment.
Andrew Cuomo: (23:48)
And this Governor Mario Cuomo Bridge, we’re here today to say, “Happy birthday.” I’m here today to say, “Happy birthday.” It’s my father’s birthday today, and he would be very proud today. I miss him very much. I miss him every day, but in a lot of ways, he’s still with me. There are many nights that I went to sleep during this past 106 days and I laid there in the bed and I said, “What would my father tell me to do today?” And I could hear his voice. And he gave me great advice and great comfort in some of the longest nights.
Andrew Cuomo: (24:39)
And I knew exactly what he would say. He said, “Take responsibility. Own it. Don’t point fingers. Don’t get into a blame game. You’re Governor of the State of New York. Take responsibility, take responsibility for all of it, and be accountable for it.” My father would have quoted Winston Churchill. He loved Churchill saying, “Never give up, never give up, never give up.”
Andrew Cuomo: (25:09)
My father said to me, “Rise above the politics. They’re going to play politics. They always do. Don’t sink to their level. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Speak to people’s better angels.” And he would say, “Trust the people of the state. Tell them the truth and they will do the right thing.” And that’s exactly what I did for 106 days. I told the people the truth. I told them the facts. I didn’t sugar coat it. I told them what we had to do and they did the right thing. And they wrote a beautiful chapter in the history of this great state, and in the history of this nation. My father always spoke about the fundamental philosophy of operating as a family. As a family, we take it for granted. I’ll help you, you’ll help me. We’re family. We’re all family. We’re all family. This state is one family. When they murdered Mr. Floyd, they murdered a member of our family. That’s what the protests are saying. When one of us get sick, we’re all suffering in this state. So we’re all supporting one another. I think my father would have loved where we came out of this because his dream, his moral leadership, was just that simple. Came down to love, care about one another and act like you care about one another and you love one another. And that’s what we did.
Andrew Cuomo: (26:56)
Tonight we’re going to illuminate the bridge in blue because blue is my father’s favorite color. And when he’s looking down, I want to make sure tonight he sees his bridge lit up blue. And I think it’ll put a smile on his face. Questions, comments?
In terms of having concerns about people coming here from other states, are there anything, sort of protocols, you can put in place? Temperature checks at the airport, et cetera. I know it’s much harder to do by people traveling by car, but is there anything the state can do to really make sure there’s not-
Andrew Cuomo: (27:32)
Yeah, we’re not there yet, Zack. What other states did, if you remember in the beginning, when they were afraid of New Yorkers going there, they did a mandatory quarantine. That if New Yorkers traveled to their state, they had to quarantine for two weeks. We’re not there yet, but it is just a great point of irony that when we start this situation, the other states said, ” No, we don’t want New Yorkers coming here.” Federal government was talking about blockading New York and not allowing New Yorkers to leave. Right? That’s what they were talking about. Now, it would have been illegal, unconstitutional, and it would have started a civil war, but I don’t know that any of those things is ever stopped the federal government before. But that’s where we were. They wanted to blockade New York. The other states wanted to make sure no New Yorkers went to their state. Fast forward 106 days. We have the lowest infection rate. And my health officials are saying, “We hope people from Florida don’t come here.”
Andrew Cuomo: (28:48)
[inaudible 00:28:50] Business owners. How many businesses did you call and what kind of reception did you get?
Andrew Cuomo: (29:00)
I’m sorry, a little louder, Peter, please.
What kind of reception did you get from business owners that you called about shutting down and staying shut down?
Andrew Cuomo: (29:11)
Oh. People send me texts and videos and pictures. And they were sending me texts and videos of particular restaurants and bars at particular times. We got over 25,000 complaints from people, which is a very interesting phenomenon, by the way. We’ve never gotten 25,000 complaints. Sometimes when I say something really absurd, but not even 25,000. People are concerned, people are scared. So now they see a business doing the wrong thing, they snap a picture, right? Everybody has a phone and a camera. They snap a picture. They’re doing complaints, 25,000 complaints. Some of them actually text them to me. So I made a few phone calls and said to restaurant owners, bar owners, “What are you doing? We have the guidelines. I’m looking at a picture of your establishment taken 25 minutes ago.”
Andrew Cuomo: (30:03)
I’m looking at a picture of your establishment, taken 25 minutes ago, and people are violating everything. Everything. No masks, no social distancing. You’re violating the rules. What are you doing? And look, the state is going to enforce the rules, the state licenses bars and restaurants for a liquor license, state liquor authority. You can lose your liquor license. You lose your liquor license, that’s serious. So I just wanted to make sure they knew the laws and the rules. I wanted to make sure they knew that the state was going to be sending out inspectors. And this was a very serious sanction. And even their patrons don’t respect it. That’s what’s interesting here.
Andrew Cuomo: (30:50)
The people of the state know what they did. They know the sacrifice they made over 106 days to get that virus down. And they don’t want anyone’s irresponsibility to jeopardize that. The reciprocity is real. I’ve been with people, somebody walks by doesn’t have a mask, they are outraged. I think that’s why there were so many complaints. There are a lot of conscientious people who paid a very high price, did the right thing and they don’t want other people ruining it for them.
Speaker 1: (31:26)
What kind of response did you get from business owners?
Andrew Cuomo: (31:32)
Little disbelief, little shock that this would have communicated that quickly. And frankly, that I would have called, but no denial. They would say, “We told people.” Was their best response, but what does that mean? We told people? They’re your patrons, in your establishment, you are responsible.
Speaker 2: (32:02)
Governor, how would social distancing be enforced on the bike path?
Andrew Cuomo: (32:07)
Like any other path, like any other park, stay six feet apart when you can’t wear a mask.
Speaker 2: (32:14)
Governor, any barricades separating direction from Westchester and Rockland or with bikers and pedestrians?
Andrew Cuomo: (32:20)
Do you want to answer, Matt?
Yeah, no, there are not. As an example today, when we opened the path, we’re going to have staff all across the shared use path to make sure reinforcing that people need to stay socially distancing. We also have signage out there as well.
Speaker 2: (32:34)
Speaker 2: (32:37)
That’s the way that’s already staffed, that’s monitoring?
Speaker 2: (32:39)
Okay, thank you.
Speaker 3: (32:42)
Governor, Kiryas Joel confirmed to us that several private schools have reopened under the phase two religious gathering allowance. We’ve also have videos of dozens of kids going in, buses with backpacks and masks. There’s also another video we got a huge wedding at KJ last weekend with hundreds in attendance. Orange County says Kiryas Joel is in state’s police’s jurisdiction, why isn’t state police enforcing your executive order?
Andrew Cuomo: (33:05)
Well, first, local governments have the primary responsibility for enforcement. That is the law. And I’ve said a number of times, local governments have to do their job. My father’s advice to me, “Take responsibility, own it.” I have taken responsibility for every bad decision and every unpopular decision, right? I’m the one who closed down. I’m the one who sets all these rules. Everybody’s angry at me. Fine. The one thing I need the local government to do is actually enforce them. Now, they don’t want to enforce them because they’re not popular. Nobody wants to go to the bar and say, you guys have to wear a mask. You guys, guys being gender neutral, are violating the social distancing. I get it. But they have to do their job.
Andrew Cuomo: (34:06)
Any religious group, any community, they have to do their job. If they need backup help by the state police because they can’t handle it, then we’ll provide state police backup help, but they have to do their job. I can’t use the state police everywhere in this state. We don’t have enough state police. I need the local governments to do their job. One more then we’re going to cut a ribbon.
Speaker 4: (34:31)
Hey, Governor, in chatting with any of the restaurant owners or bar owners about lack of social distancing and not wearing masks, did any of them counter to you by saying, “Well, where is your call on your request to the protestors who had been gathering and not really social distancing and in some cases wearing masks?” Shouldn’t the rules be the same for the protestors as they are for the bar owners and restaurant owners?
Andrew Cuomo: (34:53)
They didn’t say that because they listened to my briefings. And because I have said to the protestors on a number of occasions, you should be wearing masks. And by the way, I said to the police, you should be wearing masks, even on a symbolic level. You want other people to comply with the law, you’re going to enforce the law, adhere to the law. Wear a mask police officer and protester. Just kidding you.
Speaker 5: (35:27)
Governor, can you give us your impression of the bridge path. And do you think it will have an impact on the black [inaudible 00:35:32] Rockland economy?
Andrew Cuomo: (35:34)
I think, and I’ll ask Matt to chime in because he sees it more closely. I think the bridge has had a tremendous positive impact on the entire regional economy. People, the commute is shorter. It’s better for the environment. It’s saving money. The bridge is beautiful. People are coming to restaurants, et cetera, just to see the bridge, especially before this COVID situation. And I think that pedestrian path is going to be a home run. There are other pedestrian passes on the Hudson that attract people just to walk over the Hudson. They’re just a pedestrian path and people, by the thousands, go just to walk over the Hudson. Here, you can walk over the Hudson on a beautiful bridge, you can see New York City to the South, the Hudson Valley to the North. Yeah, I think you’re going to get thousands of people who come and they’ll stop and local shops and they’ll stop in restaurants and they’ll stop in bars. Matt.
Yeah, I think the Governor nailed it. There’s been a tremendous amount of interest in the opening of this path, from beyond the people that live in this region. So in addition to what the Governor pointed out, one of the things that we have in our kiosks that are at each of the Belvederes, information related to local shopping dining, et cetera, because we want to help support the local tourism industry as well. But there’s no question that this will have a positive impact on the economy here in this region.
Andrew Cuomo: (37:11)
Thank you guys. Thank you. We’re going to cut a ribbon.
Speaker 6: (37:14)
Can you respond to Mayor de Blasio’s assertion that you need to calm down regarding the past weekend’s violations of social distancing?
Andrew Cuomo: (37:28)
That I … Sorry who said that?
Speaker 6: (37:29)
Mayor de Blasio asserted that you should calm down regarding this past weekend violations of social distancing. What you were just referring to.
Andrew Cuomo: (37:36)
I don’t know what he said. I know … Look at the facts. Look at our viral infection rate. Look at the other 22 states and you don’t want to be one of those 22 states. Do your job local governments. Masks up. Okay. On three. One, two, three.
Andrew Cuomo: (37:50)
Good job. Well done.