Eid al-Fitr & Eid al-Adha Added To School Holiday Calendar

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the addition of two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, to the New York City school system’s calendar.  They are the first Muslim holidays included on the City school calendar.  It’s a change long-sought by New York’s Muslim community and reflects a Muslim population in the City and it’s schools growing in both number and political influence.

Here are highlights of the press conference:

The full press conference Q&A is available here.

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Eid-al Fitr Edition

At a press conference this morning in Bay Ridge Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the addition of two Muslim holidays to the New York City public school calendar.  Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha will be added as school holidays for the 2015-16 school year.

On topic Q&A:

On topic question topics included how the school schedule will accommodate the two additional holidays, who will the City look to to determine the exact date of Eid al-Fitr each year, how many religious and cultural holidays are currently on the City school calendar and whether the mayor believes there should be a set limit on the number of such holidays, whether the mayor considered a possible backlash and why he concluded that now is an appropriate time to add these holidays, the status of adding Lunar New Year as a school holiday, whether this applies to private schools and the New York State Department of Education’s position on adding these holidays.

Off-topic Q&A:

Off topic question topics included the mayor’s favored candidate in the Chicago mayoral runoff election, how he’s going to try to convince the state legislature to block Governor Cuomo’s plans to increase reliance on student testing in teacher evaluations, his speech tomorrow to ABNY, Hillary Clinton’s use of private email for government business and his own use of private and government email, current numbers on the issuance of municipal IDs, Correction Commissioner Joe Ponte’s letter concerning a recent sexual assault on a correction officer on Rikers Island and the Corizon healthcare contract, de Blasio’s planned trip to Israel, the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at Gracie Mansion and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and City efforts at protecting residents from “growing islamophobia”.

de Blasio On Government Officials & Email Use

“I do my official business on official email” said Mayor Bill de Blasio today when asked whether he uses “private email for public business.”  He also offered strong praise for Hillary Clinton, but did not respond directly to part of the posed question: whether he thinks its “ever appropriate … for a senior government official to rely exclusively on private email.”

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito responded somewhat imprecisely, saying that “there are times when we, yes, when we rely on private email, but we do use our government email.”  Public Advocate Tish James and Council Member Danny Dromm did not respond to the question posed by Matthew Chayes of Newsday.  de Blasio spoke during a press conference announcing the addition of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha as school holidays.

de Blasio On His Cuomo Relationship. Again.

In a somewhat contentious exchange Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to engage directly on a press question concerning the apparent frictions in his relationship with Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Asked about a Daily News report describing him as “at his ‘wits end'” over the “harsh treatment” administered by Governor Cuomo, de Blasio sought to dismiss any interest in “the personalities” as misguided.  de Blasio suggested that he’s not concerned with it.  He went to list a variety of issues that he’s agreed with the governor, as well as some substantial issues he’s disagreed with the governor on.  (In an unusual moment de Blasio praised former governor Eliot Spitzer’s school funding adjustments and lamented the current school aid calculations.)

Difficulties in the Cuomo/de Blasio relationship have been readily apparent since de Blasio took office.  The City’s existence as a political subdivision of the state possessing only those powers granted to it by the state ensures a tension between the state and city chief executives, but there’s a personal element involved as well.  Governor Cuomo is loath to yield political and decision-making power to anyone, including his former subordinate.

Last week de Blasio reacted to Cuomo’s prediction that their governor/mayor relationship will be the “best in modern political history” with a broad smile.

Here’s what de Blasio had to say today:

Would It Be Good To Have A Republican in 11th Congressional District?

Would it be logical for Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York’s Democratic members in the House of Representatives to accept or even welcome a Republican winning the upcoming special election in the 11th Congressional District?  That seat was held by Michael Grimm, the only Republican House member from New York City.  Republicans hold a 245 to 188 edge over Democrats in the House and a member of the majority may be more successful than the minority members in advancing New York City’s interests.  Mayor de Blasio, when asked that question by Anna Sanders of the Staten Island Advance, didn’t buy it.

NY Congressional Reps, de Blasio On Netanyahu Speech

Nine members of congress representing New York City discussed the upcoming speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress and whether they plan to attend.  Senator Chuck Schumer and Representatives Charles Rangel, Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Joe Crowley, Hakeem Jeffries, Grace Meng, Nydia Velazquez and Yvette Clarke joined Mayor Bill de Blasio this morning for a press conference at Gracie Mansion intended to focus on the House Republicans’ inability to fund DHS for longer than this week.

Senator Schumer and six of the eight house members said that they plan to attend.  Charles Rangel does not plan to attend and Yvette Clarke said that she has not yet decided.  Many of the representatives had harsh words for House Speaker John Boehner, with Velzquez denouncing his actions as “shameful.”  Mayor de Blasio harshly criticized Speaker Boehner for his invitation to Netanyahu, but since he is not a member of congress de Blasio does not have the option to attend.

Congressional Views:

Here’s what Senator Schumer and the House members had to say:

Mayor de Blasio:

Here’s what Mayor de Blasio had to say:

Best Governor/Mayor Relationship?

Does Mayor Bill de Blasio share Governor Andrew Cuomo’s view that their relationship “will be the best relationship between a mayor and governor in modern political history when all is said and done?”

Cuomo and de Blasio do have a long relationship, with de Blasio having worked for Cuomo in the 1990’s at Department of Housing and Urban Development, and there have been moments when Cuomo has looked to de Blasio for assistance.  At many other times however, and as have virtually all New York governors and mayors, Cuomo and de Blasio have found themselves at odds.  They’ve mostly worked to keep their disagreements and differences out of public view, but those frictions clearly exist.

I asked Mayor de Blasio about Governor Cuomo’s comment today at an unrelated press conference.  Here’s how he reacted:

de Blasio Press Q&A: The M/WBE Edition

Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference this afternoon following a closed-door “Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise Stakeholder Meeting.”

Questions during the off-topic portion of the press conference included his opinion of the expected Democratic candidate in the 11th Congressional District special election and whether he’ll campaign for Gentile, the prospect of Department of Homeland Security losing funding, religious organizations renting City school facilities for prayer/worship services and the related lawsuit, a NY Post report criticizing a newly-created NYPD training program, reported terror threats against shopping malls, the absence of a Lunar New Year message from the mayor and his non-attendance at the Lunar New Year parade, his reaction to Governor Cuomo’s comment that their relationship will be “the best relationship between a mayor and governor in modern political history,” his scheduled trip to Albany on Wednesday and delays in federal funding of Sandy rebuilding.

King Day 2015: de Blasio & Sharpton

de Blasio Sharpton Hug 1/19/15Mayor Bill de Blasio joined the Rev. Al Sharpton for Sharpton’s annual Martin Luther King Day celebration this afternoon, happily sitting with Sharpton in a duel appearance aimed at rejecting critics of their relationship.  Sharpton’s celebration featured many elected officials but contrary to his typical practice Sharpton initially invited only de Blasio to join him on stage.


In a lengthy introduction and opening remarks, Sharpton rejected the notion that he is anti-police and the notion that de Blasio’s relationship with him is either unusual or untoward.  After describing his relationships with past mayors and governors, Sharpton said of de Blasio “we didn’t want a flunkie we wanted a mayor, and we got a mayor that will talk to us and respect us.”  Here are his full opening remarks:

de Blasio:

Mayor de Blasio saluted Martin Luther King and praised Sharpton as continuing King’s work.  de Blasio also indirectly rebutted critics, offering praise for police while emphasizing the crime reductions in 2014 under his administration.  He criticized anyone “saying something vicious and vile to a police officer”, saying that anyone doing so is “holding us back.”

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Housing Goal Edition

On Thursday Mayor Bill de Blasio continued his efforts at moving past his recent friction with the NYPD and PBA, holding a press conference to tout his administration’s accomplishments in “creating or preserving” affordable housing during 2014.  de Blasio celebrated exceeding his administration’s stated goal of creating or preserving at least 16,000 units of “affordable” housing in calendar year 2014, reporting that it financed the “creation and preservation of” 17,376 “affordable units.”  After several weeks of intense confrontation and conflict with the PBA and many outside critics, de Blasio appeared to relish discussing a subject that he’s long been been deeply interested in and in which his administration has invested substantial energy and effort.

The mayor was joined at Eagle Houses, a co-op in Fort Greene, by Rep. Jose Serrano, Assembly Members Walter Mosely and Joe Lentol, Public Advocate Tish James, Council Members Laurie Cumbo and Jumaane Williams, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, HPD Commissioner Vicki Been and Housing Development Corporation President Gary Rodney.

On Topic Q&A:

On topic questions included whether the administration plans to increase low-income affordable housing production, what actions are required for the administration to count a unit of housing as “preserved”, whether housing built with 421(a) tax credits anywhere in the City should require affordable units, how the de Blasio administration counts housing underway at the end of the Bloomberg administration toward its goal, what was done in this housing complex to “preserve” these units, whether units counted as “preserved” are always on a 30 year agreement, the annual average of 20,000 units created or preserved as set forth in the mayor’s ten year goal of 200,000 such units and how money was spent on the 17,000 units created or preserved in 2014.

Off Topic Q&A:

Off topic questions included a Department of Investigations report detailing problems with corrections officers at Rikers Island, de Blasio’s message to protestors resuming anti-NYPD protests, his relationship with police unions, a call by the head of the Lieutentants Benevolent Association to strengthen laws concerning resisting arrest, an increase in police protection for Jewish organizations and sites and Dov Hikind’s claim of a decrease in police presence, delays in the implementation of the City’s municipal ID card program, his message to PBA members dissatisfied with their union leadership, his position on a city council plan to fund the purchase of additional bullet-proof vests for police officers, whether the Democratic National Committee has expressed concerns around the recent protests as it considers whether to hold the 2016 convention in Brooklyn, whether his “thoughts” on the anti-NYPD protests have “evolved” and whether he will direct the NYPD to change its FOIL request process to accept email or other electronic requests.

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Westchester Square Edition

On Wednesday Mayor Bill de Blasio worked to turn attention away from his troubled relationship with the NYPD and toward one of his successful initiatives, highlighting significant improvements to an historically dangerous intersection with a visit to the redesigned and rebuilt intersection of East Tremont Avenue and Silver Street in the Bronx neighborhood of Westchester Square.  The redesign and rebuild is part of his administration’s Vision Zero initiative.

Joined by DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Public Advocate Tish James, Assembly Member Luis Sepulveda, Council Member Jimmy Vacca and NYPD Assistant Chief for Transportation Thomas Chan de Blasio then held a lengthy press conference nearby.

On Topic Q&A:

The on topic Q&A included redesign plans for other streets, especially Queens Boulevard, why the administration attributes the reduction in pedestrian fatalities to Vision Zero and not to regular year-to-year variances, how the administration actually knows that driving speeds are reduced, why so few street redesign projects have been done on Staten Island, data for any changes in safety at this E.Tremont/Silver Street intersection, why Commissioner Bratton did not attend, why there are few speeding and failure to yield tickets issued in this (45th) precinct, the negative effect of speed bumps on emergency response vehicles, plans for marking and painting of roads, whether the mayor will seek additional red light camera authorizations from the state legislature, the paucity of criminal prosecutions against drivers who kill pedestrians and an estimate of money received from speed camera tickets.

Off Topic Q&A:

The off topic portion of the press conference substantially focused on de Blasio’s continuing friction with the NYPD and the PBA.  Question topics included the recent rollout of the City’s municipal ID program, an internal PBA meeting reported to have degenerated into yelling and shoving over PBA President Pat Lynch’s demands for an apology from the mayor and whether that provided “consolation” to the mayor, whether he takes comfort from the low number of PBA members reported to have signed “stay away from my funeral” statements, Bratton’s comment that the “well was poisoned” by de Blasio’s bring of former Sharpton aide Rachel Noerdlinger, a potential Teamsters strike at Hunts Point market, Governor Cuomo’s consideration of legislation allowing public access to grand jury minutes, the mayor’s objections to a City Council proposed bill outlawing police use of chokeholds, a reported Cuomo/Lynch meeting and what role the governor should fill in the Lynch/de Blasio dispute, whether the mayor is willing to acknowledge “missteps”, the reports of Legionnaire’s Disease in Co-op City, de Blasio’s reaction to a possible 2016 Mitt Romney candidacy and when he last spoke with the Rev. Al Sharpton.

de Blasio Press Q&A: The School Cellphone Edition

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina today announced the reversal of the City’s prohibition on students having cellphones in public schools.  Rules of usage will be established on a school by school basis, but all schools will allow them.

On Topic Q&A:

Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina addressed numerous detailed questions on the new policy and its implementation.

Off Topic Q&A:

Off topic question topics included whether the mayor and his wife have smoked marijuana inside Gracie Mansion, a Daily News call for the mayor to “accept responsibility for inflaming the police”, whether the mayor believes he should apologize for comments on the police, whether the Democratic National Committee has expressed concerns about current mayoral/police friction as it considers Brooklyn as a site for the 2016 Democratic Convention, whether the mayor supports the recent Cuomo/Christie veto of legislation on the Port Authority, a pending state legislative bill on police disability pensions, the expected  special election in the 11th Congressional District, whether the mayor believes there is a police slowdown, the dismay of the recently shot and wounded police officers at Mayor de Blasio’s hospital visit, the possible change in the Staten Island Chuck/Groundhog Day ceremony, the meeting today between Police Commissioner Bratton and union leaders and how Mayor de Blasio envisions the current mayoral/police friction ending.

Separate clips of the questions on mayoral mansion marijuana and Staten Island Chuck are here.