May 31, 2020
NY Governor Andrew Cuomo May 31 Press Conference Transcript
Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo held coronavirus press briefing on Sunday, May 31. Cuomo announced that dentists can reopen across the state and said the national guard is “on standby” as George Floyd protests go on in New York City.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev for free and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Andrew Cuomo: (00:00)
Good morning. Let me introduce who’s with me today, from my right, Robert Mujica, budget director for the state of New York. To my left, Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor. To Melissa’s left, we’re joined today by Major Chris West from the New York State Police. Last night was a long, and ugly night all across this nation as we know. Let’s talk about where we are today with the COVID virus first. The number of hospitalizations are down again. A net change in hospitalizations down again. Intubations down again. Number of new deaths still dropping. All good news. Number of lives lost down to 56, which is in this absurd reality we live in actually very, very good news. There’ll be a point at which the number of deaths can’t get any lower, because people will die of something, and COVID virus is very good at affecting those people who have other illnesses.
Andrew Cuomo: (01:27)
But, this reduction in the number of deaths is tremendous progress from where we were, and we have gone through hell, and back, but we are on the other side, and it’s a lesson for all of us. Last night, as I said, was an ugly night all across this nation, was an ugly night across this state. We had a number of protests all across the state, New York city, cities upstate. We’ve seen a lot of disturbing video about the protests, and I’ve asked the attorney general to review the New York city protests, and the actions, and procedures that we used. I’m going to ask her to include in that review these demonstrations that are ongoing last night. If there’re additional demonstrations tonight, and the attorney general will be reviewing those actions.
Andrew Cuomo: (02:42)
Upstate New York we also had actions. We had a significant state police presence all across upstate New York. We have the National Guard on standby. We expect additional protests tonight, and we’re preparing for such. Rochester, the county executive, and the mayor asked for additional state police for tonight, and we’re going to have 200 additional state police, but look, the big issue is people are outraged, and I understand that. I am outraged. It’s not just George Floyd’s killing. Although, that’s enough to outrage a nation. It’s George Floyd, it’s Ahmed Aubrey, it’s Brionna Taylor all just in the past three months. It’s 30 years of Rodney King, and Amadou Diallo, and Sean Bell, and Abner Louima, and the same case in states all across this nation where only the name changes, but the color stays the same.
Andrew Cuomo: (03:47)
You then had the first press conference by prosecutors looking at the Minneapolis situation that frankly raised more questions than it answered, and the real issue is the continuing racism in this country, and it is chronic, and it is endemic, and it is institutional, and it speaks to a collective hypocrisy. We’re very good in this country at telling other people how they should live their lives, and how they should act. We preach a high standard, but we still discriminate on the basis of color of skin. That is the simple, painful truth, but this is a moment for truth. Now, at the same time, it is equally true that violence never works. How many protests have we had? How many nights have we gone through like last night? How many times have we burned down our own businesses, our own neighborhoods, and our own communities?
Andrew Cuomo: (04:57)
Burning down your own house. Never works and never makes sense. Burning down your own struggling businesses. People who are trying to bring back the community never makes sense. It dishonors Mr. Floyd’s death. Mr. Floyd was not violent. Mr. Floyd was compliant. Mr. Floyd wasn’t even charged, or accused of a violent crime. There was no violence. That’s what makes the killing more outrageous. When you are violent, it creates a scapegoat to shift the blame. It allows the president of the United States to tweet about looting rather than murder by a police officer. It allows the federal government to politicize what’s going on, and to come up with theories blaming the left and the extreme left, which only furthers the politics of division.
Andrew Cuomo: (06:11)
Maya Angelou said, “Hate has caused a lot of problems in the world, but it has not solved one yet.” The goal has to be effecting change. How do you use the energy to mobilize people, to actually reform society, and make things better? And don’t tell me that we can’t change, because we know we have, and we can. Change comes in a moment when the stars line up. It’s not easy, but when the stars line up, and the people are ready to change, they can change. We have seen it happen in this state, and in this nation. We created a new civil right in this nation for the LGBTQ community when we passed marriage equality, and we said, we will no longer discriminate when it comes to marriage, and telling people who they can love and who they can’t love.
Andrew Cuomo: (07:21)
After the Sandy Hook massacre, when people saw the madness of an assault weapon killing children, we passed common sense gun reform in this state, if the decades of trying. When we had record income inequality, and people said, this is enough and enough is enough, that’s when we passed free college tuition, and we passed a minimum wage where people can actually live decently. People can change, and we have seen that lesson over the past 92 days as we’ve been dealing with this Coronavirus. Who changed society to deal with this virus? The people did it.
Andrew Cuomo: (08:11)
50 days ago on April 12th we lost 800 people from COVID. Yesterday, we lost 56. 800 to 56. 60 days ago we had 3,400 people come into our hospitals. Yesterday, we had 191. Who did that? Who made that remarkable change, that radical change? Who made all that progress? Government leaders? Government did it? No, let’s be honest. Most government leaders denied that COVID was a problem. Most didn’t know what to do, and if they knew what to do, they didn’t know how to do it. It wasn’t government. It was we, the people. We, the people.
Andrew Cuomo: (09:03)
It was we, the people. We, the people, forced that change, and did it in weeks. Literally. Of course we can change. Our challenge today is to use this moment, use this energy constructively, and demand real positive change. Articulate what the change is that we want. Be specific. We know what must be done. We know what we can do. We know what should be done, and we know what should be done immediately. Demand that the federal government and every state government pass a law that says allegations of police abuse can not be investigated by local prosecutors, because self policing does not work, period.
Andrew Cuomo: (09:52)
Allegations must be investigated by an independent outside agency. Demand that we define excessive force by a police officer by one standard all across this nation, so every American lives by the same standard. If a police officer is accused of wrongdoing and is being investigated, release their disciplinary records so people can see what the prior acts of that police officer was. Demand that every public school provide the same level of funding for a child so we don’t have two education systems in this nation, one for the rich and one for the poor.
Andrew Cuomo: (10:36)
There is no reason and no excuse today for any child to live in poverty. We know that. Demand that change, and if our government leaders won’t do it, or can’t do it, or don’t know how to do it, then you vote them out. That’s how you make change. Most Americans are good, fair minded, decent, kind, loving individuals. We need to mobilize the best in our people, rather than allowing the worst. Don’t lose the passion. Don’t lose the outrage. Be frustrated, but be smart, and be directed, and be constructive and destructive. Help your community. Don’t hurt your community. Be a laser and focus on real, positive change. That’s how this moment becomes a different moment in the history books. That’s how George Floyd’s death does not become just another name in a long list of people who should have never died in the first place.
Andrew Cuomo: (11:54)
George Floyd must not have died in vain. Mr. Floyd’s killing must be a moment in which this nation actually learned, and grew, and progressed to make this place a better place. We can do it if we are smart together. Langston Hughes told us the ultimate goal. Make America the land that fulfills her promise of greatness for all Americans. That’s what this is about. We can do that. We have shown what we can do.
Andrew Cuomo: (12:40)
Use this moment, use this empowerment, use this mobilization, and use it for good. Use it for good so that when we look back, we say, “Yes, this story was all too familiar in some ways. What happened to Mr. Floyd was all too familiar, but the outcome was different, and the outcome was historic, and it was actually a moment of positive change.” That has to be our goal. All of us, from the angry, young protesters on the street, frustrated, energized, lashing out, to government officials on both sides of the line, to the police officers, 99.9% of them who are good, hardworking people who are trying to help their community. It’s a common goal. We just have to be smart enough to get there. Questions?
Speaker 2: (13:57)
Last night, we saw a lot of videos of NYPD accelerating into a crowd of protesters. There’s videos of NYPD officials pulling down the mass of protesters and pepper spraying them, and just violence on both sides. Was NYPD’s response to the protests appropriate at this rate, and should the state police step in and take over?
Andrew Cuomo: (14:20)
These situations are very, very difficult. I’ve seen them. I’ve been there. Everybody is under stress. They are very difficult situations to manage. The police are in an impossible situation in many ways, but their behavior is everything. I’ve seen those videos, and those videos are truly disturbing. Some of the videos, frankly, are inexplicable to me. What do we do about it?
Andrew Cuomo: (14:55)
I’ve asked the attorney general, who is an independent, elected official, to review the police conduct activities in the protests last night, the night before, if there’s one tonight, and then I want an independent, informed review of what was done right, what was done wrong. I want that report in 30 days. I don’t want this to be another government, ongoing report that comes out when everybody has moved on. Get it done in 30 days, don’t pull any punches, tell the truth. Everybody saw the video. Everybody wants an explanation, and let’s get the explanation from the attorney general and let’s make it informed and smart, but let’s get it done quickly.
Speaker 2: (15:50)
That will be in 30 days. What about tonight? What about tomorrow?
Andrew Cuomo: (15:51)
Well, tonight the NYPD, I’ve spoken with the mayor. He understands the situation. The police commissioner understands this situation. They know the attorney general is going to review it. I am telling them that if that review looks at those videos and finds that there was improper police conduct, there will be ramifications. That is not going to be a report that just sits on the shelf. This is a moment of reform. I’m not going to judge it on just what I saw on the video.
Andrew Cuomo: (16:31)
As I said, from what I saw on the video, I think it’s inexplicable. Maybe there is an explanation, and there’s always two sides. The attorney general will talk with the police. Let’s see what they have to say, and then we’ll make decisions. If there was improper behavior, there will be consequences. Period. Period. People deserve answers and accountability. As I said, I think one of the problems in Minneapolis was people saw the video of the George Floyd killing, and then the prosecutors got up and said, “We have to look, we have additional evidence, we don’t know what it is.”
Andrew Cuomo: (17:15)
There’s been no answer yet on the other police officers. There’s been no answers on why manslaughter, not murder. I think that just compounds the situation. I’m not going to make decisions off the video. I understand how difficult the job is of the police, and let’s hear what they have to say. I agree that the videos are very, very, very disturbing.
Speaker 3: (17:42)
As of a few months ago, the state police were the largest police agency, largest state police agency in the nation without patrol cameras, dashboard, cameras, or body cameras. Your administration announced the pilot program. Can you please give us an update on if that pilot program is now in place?
Andrew Cuomo: (17:59)
Yeah. I don’t know. I can get you an update. I don’t know the …
Andrew Cuomo: (18:03)
Yeah, I don’t know. I can get you an update. I don’t know the progress of the body camera program, but I can get it.
Speaker 4: (18:07)
Governor, [inaudible 00:18:08] of protesters are really sort of tired of the language of a few bad apples when it comes to police brutality. And there are a lot of calls to put more focus on officers who might be watching wrongdoing happening as protestors assess what they’re taking a lot from the videos that we’re seeing of other law enforcement personnel who are watching something while it’s happening and not stopping it, or following up. What more can be done on this issue to encourage, to have whistleblowers and to sort of fight against this boys’ club mentality that a lot of protesters are talking about?
Andrew Cuomo: (18:47)
Yeah. I think what I was trying to say in my opening remarks, you listen to the protesters interviewed on TV. “Well, what do you want done?” And you just get a whole array of issues and vagaries. We know what needs to be done. We know what reforms we need, and let’s be specific. If there’s an allegation of police abuse, the local district attorney should not be the investigating authority. Why? Because self-policing doesn’t work and the local prosecutor works with that police agency day in and day out. And are they really in a position to be fair and objective? They will say yes. I say, from a public confidence point of view, have the investigation done by someone else. It should be done by an outside agency that people know can be fair. That’s why I’m asking the attorney general to do the review of the police conduct because she’s independently elected. She’s a statewide official. She can be honest and objective about the NYPD. That’s why in this state we have, when there’s a killing by a police officer of an unarmed person, the attorney general does the investigation and not the local district attorney.
Andrew Cuomo: (20:13)
Having national definition of excessive force. Why? Because there should be one definition. If a police officer abuses someone in New York City, it should be the same as if they abuse someone in Minneapolis or if they abuse someone in Los Angeles. If there’s an investigation for abuse against the police officer, release their prior disciplinary record to see if there’s a pattern. By the way, if you release the record and it says there has never been any prior conduct, that actually works to attenuate or exonerate the police officer. If you release the disciplinary record and you find that there’s been a pattern, that’s also informative, right?
Andrew Cuomo: (21:00)
These are changes that can be made and should be made now, today. Not cursing the darkness, light a candle, this is what we want done. And be specific. And then say to your congress people, I want this law passed. And then say to your mayor, I want this law passed. And then say to your governor, I want this law passed. And if they don’t do it, then say, I’m going to vote you out. That’s how this works. And people win at the end of the day when they’re focused and mobilized and they are focused and mobilized today.
Andrew Cuomo: (21:40)
I would even go further. I would say, now is the moment to say, I want equality in education. This is ludicrous and repugnant that you have some school districts that spend $36,000 on a child’s education, and some school districts that spend $13,000 on a child’s education. How do you justify that the children of the rich get a much better education than the children of the poor? How is that fair? How is that fair at all? “Well, you don’t understand. It’s hard politically to do that.” Well, I understand it’s hard politically. I also understand it’s the right thing to do. I understand that. “Well, the political system…” Too bad. Then I’ll elect a new political system. That’s what I say. That kind of reform can be done by political will.
Andrew Cuomo: (22:45)
How can you justify any child in America living in poverty? How can you do that? Any child? “Well, it’s hard politically.” I understand it. I’ve been battling these things as governor. I would welcome an empowered citizenry that says, yes, we demand equality of education funding. I would welcome it. I proposed it every year. I can’t get it. Be specific about the changes you want made and focus that energy, make it a laser, and actually effectuate change. Well, how does George Floyd become different than Rodney King, than Abner Louima, than all these cases? 30 years in my lifetime, 30 years of the same basic situation and what changed? Nothing, nothing.
Speaker 5: (23:56)
Governor, a lot of the people that we’ve been speaking to over the last two weeks feel that the government is at fault for their situation. Specifically, people in poverty with what’s going on with the pandemic because a lot of people were forced out of work. And now they’re waiting for unemployment and it’s been three months and they haven’t gotten any money. We have people calling our news station in tears saying that they can’t get through to the unemployment line. And they’re saying specifically something this state government can do to help them is to open in person unemployment lines and make sure these people get their money. Because what I’m hearing from people is this state of unrest, but a lot of these folks that we’re seeing are in, they’re just desperate. They were already poor, now they were forced out of work, now our unemployment system is backed up. They can’t get through. So they don’t just blame police, they blame government as a whole.
Andrew Cuomo: (25:03)
I understand. You’re right. And they do blame government as a whole. And this is a very tough circumstance for everyone. And look, it’s not a coincidence that the unrest happens in the middle of the pandemic, right? Those are not separate situations. There’s tremendous stress on everyone. This isolation of people, the lack of social interaction has created a lot of mental health stress. I think that’s true and that’s a fact. And the explosion we saw last night and we’ll probably see again tonight, I think there are many sources of energy coming into that. And what is the direct relationship between 90 days of close down and coronavirus and unemployment and fear and isolation, and then the George Floyd killing as an accelerant to an already highly stressful situation, more sophisticated minds than mine would have to figure out. So it is all of that. Yes, I understand.
Andrew Cuomo: (26:17)
On the unemployment benefits, the state administers federal unemployment benefits. The federal government has many rules before people qualify for funding. We’re not in a position to tell people line up and I will give you a check. It’s not that simple. The money is not give-anybody-who-asks funding. They have to meet certain criteria. The federal government has a whole list of criterion that have to be met before they can get the funding. Most of the people who are still waiting for checks now have issues that have to be reviewed or investigated. I understand this moment-
Andrew Cuomo: (27:02)
I understand this moment, but let’s remember the next moment. You’re going to be sitting in the same chair three weeks from now and you’re going to have the same indignation in your voice when you say, “How did the state give out a hundred million dollars wrongfully in unemployment benefits who defrauded the government and actually were living in wealth? How did you do that?” You’re going to have this same indignation. Promise me.
Speaker 6: (27:34)
Because you said before that some people were defrauding the unemployment system. People can’t get through just to get basic questions answered to see if they qualify. They’ve made their full time job trying to get through to unemployment. So they’re saying it’s at a point of desperation. Where can we do lines with social distancing, where I can get my question answered? Where I can find out a timeline of when I’m going to get my money? I mean, governor people are literally calling our news station crying and saying that their families are starving and they have to borrow money from people.
Andrew Cuomo: (28:10)
I understand. You want to answer?
Melissa D.: (28:12)
We’ll look into it. We’ll look into that option. It’s a good idea. Great. Well, we’ll look into the option.
Speaker 7: (28:17)
[crosstalk 00:28:17] About the protests that have gone across the cities, upstate and do you have plans to increase the state police or the National Guard? Do you think it’s that at that level that you need to do that?
Andrew Cuomo: (28:34)
Yeah. I think I said we have had state police helping on all of the upstate. You may have come in late. I said, in the beginning, we’ve had state police helping all the upstate cities, city of Rochester; asked for 200 additional state police for tonight and we’re doing that and we have the National Guard on standby.
Andrew Cuomo: (28:55)
One more, Mr. Campbell.
Mr. Campbell: (28:56)
So what are those 200 state troopers that are going to Rochester, what is their role going to be? Also at what point do you step in and take some sort of state statewide action? A curfew, deploying the National Guard, something like that?
Andrew Cuomo: (29:10)
I have the National Guard on standby. Any place that needs additional help, where the local police can handle it, we have National Guard and we have state police. We’ve had state police helping all of the upstate cities and that worked well enough. I mean, it is what it is but we’ve gotten them all the resources they need.
Andrew Cuomo: (29:35)
For tonight, Rochester’s asked toward 200 additional state police. We’ll do that. Any other city that asks for additional state police, we can provide that. If we need more than the state police, then we have the National Guard but it’s just making sure we have enough resources to address every situation and we take our clues from the local officials and the previous behavior and the only city right now that says they need help is Rochester.
Andrew Cuomo: (30:08)
Mark. You have really the last one, you have a point.
Melissa D.: (30:10)
There are actually a few other cities that we’re talking with about some protection for tonight. In Buffalo, we’re going to be deploying 150 troopers and then we’re working with Syracuse and Albany. They’re still figuring out what they think that they need to harden their infrastructure but as the governor said, we’ve been communicating with the county executives and with the mayors all morning and whatever they need, they’ll get.
Mr. Campbell: (30:28)
Is there a point where you implement some sort of statewide curfew. A lot of cities are implementing curfews right now. Is there a point where you implement one statewide?
Andrew Cuomo: (30:37)
Curfews, there is no one size fits all here. Curfews work well in some cities and some cities they can create additional issues. So, that’s a case by case basis. But look where we are in New York, this was ugly last night but from a management point of view, a police officer point of view, resource point of view, every locality did what they had to do. It’s just an ugly situation and it’s a difficult situation but we have between the state police and National Guard, we have more than enough resources to make sure every locality has what they need.
Andrew Cuomo: (31:19)
Mark. Last, last, last.
Thank you. I didn’t want to break the momentum of all these other, cause I have a question a little bit off topic.
Well, I mean off topic from what they were saying.
Andrew Cuomo: (31:29)
But it’s not their topic. Everybody has their own topic.
When do you think the time will be ready for the state workers to head back to their offices and the state workforce. I understand it’s all regional and it’s at the right time and as you’re re-imagining New York, how does that relate to state union contracts? Is that why the state workforce is without a contract today because you’re trying to re-imagine things.
Andrew Cuomo: (31:57)
No, the re-imagining has nothing to do with the contract. Excuse me.
Andrew Cuomo: (32:02)
Rob. You want to talk about the state offices open with that regional opening?
Robert Mujica: (32:07)
The state offices have been as we need more employees in certain areas for certain things, for parks, for example, and those employees have been operating. As far as the offices specifically in office based, those are being ramped up as we put out protocols. They will follow a similar protocol as to what we put out for Phase Two for offices but they’re also a lot of workers who were actually teleworking and that’s functioning. So, that’s in place.
But if the state worker feels more comfortable being at that person’s desk in the building, is there a way and they’ve not comfortable being at home, is there a way of getting that person, a request being made for that person to go in to the office, with with safety in mind, of course.
Robert Mujica: (32:57)
We’re going to make sure that workers come back when the offices are safe. When we set up the social distancing protocols, when we have it in place so that everyone can be safe with all of the protections that we need to have. So not individual for an individual employee, whether or not they have a preference to be home or be in the office. We’re going to make sure that the offices are safe, all the protocols are in place uniformly, and then the workers will we’ll come back to the office. But a lot of them again are working from home. Along with the phases. So as Phase Two comes in, that’s when. So right now is when we’re doing it.
Andrew Cuomo: (33:36)
It was a long night. It was a long night. Get some rest and hopefully we have a better night tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow.