de Blasio Press Q&A: The Building It Back Edition

Today Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference promoting his administration’s advances in the Build It Back program.  Created to assist homeowners in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Build It Back was immediately mired in bureaucratic quicksand, producing virtually no assistance to any homeowners by the close of the Bloomberg administration.  Although the program continued to drift in the early months of the de Blasio administration, it has markedly accelerated its efforts since the late March hiring of Amy Peterson as Director of the Office of Housing Recovery.

The mayor has set a Build It Back goal of 500 construction starts and issuing 500 reimbursement checks by Labor Day.  While modest compared to the estimated 20,000 or more homeowners who could be helped under the program, that’s a dramatic improvement from the program’s first year in which virtually no homeowners received such assistance.  In today’s press conference, the mayor announced that Build It Back has had 132 construction starts and issued 397 reimbursement checks.

Preparation for the Next Storm:

I asked Mayor de Blasio whether he has examined, and made any significant changes in,  the City’s emergency management system in anticipation of future storms:

Eric Ulrich:

Council Member Eric Ulrich, one of only three Republicans in the City Council and whose Sandy-impacted district includes part of Rockaway, Broad Channel and Howard Beach, spoke briefly:

Press Q&A:

On topic questions included funding for items in the City’s SIRR report and whether there is an alternative source for such items, whether the mayor is satisfied with the pace of City spending of federal money for Sandy relief, whether the mayor is confident of reaching his 500 construction starts and 500 reimbursement checks by Labor Day, Comptroller Scott Stringer’s report on a lack of oversight on spending by the Department of Homeless Services, whether the City has the “right formula” for Build It Back, the total number of homes damaged by Sandy and when all will reached through Build It Back, how many of the 132 construction starts to date are repairs and how many are rebuilds and whether the mayor has closely examined the City’s emergency management system in the context of preparing for a future coastal storm.

Off topic questions the Long Island Railroad and possible strike, the City’s contingency plans and role in the event of a strike, whether the petitions supporting continued operation of horse carriages, with 40,000 signatures recently delivered to City Hall affect his thinking on the topic, what the 66 donors to Campaign for One New York expect from the mayor, whether he plans to take any additional vacations this year, what initiatives Campaign for One New York will next focus on, the status of the review of the 911 system upgrade and, concerning his trip to Italy, whether he is packed, whether he’s packing his own bags and what food he is most looking forward to.

de Blasio Press Q&A: The NYCHA Crime Fighting Edition (Updated)

Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced a series of steps intended to reduce crime and increase public safety in New York City Housing Authority housing complexes.  The multi-part plan involves re-assignment of police officers, additional money for physical security and lighting improvements in NYCHA buildings and expanded hours and programs at community centers located in NYCHA buildings.

Carriage Horse Ban:

During the Q&A Mayor de Blasio was asked about his campaign promise to ban carriage horses immediately upon taking office:

Update – Full Q&A:

On topic questions included whether the NYPD has ever had a similar program to check in on residents, whether the announced plans will likely have an impact on citywide crime rates, the impact of reduced stop & frisk activity on gun violence and the legacy of stop & frisk, what is new in today’s announcement, whether there is a specific anti-gang component in the plans announced today, whether the City plans to open additional community centers in NYCHA buildings, whether the community centers will include additional private organizations and programs, how NYCHA will deal with residents breaking newly-installed lights, where the funding for these plans is coming from, whether the recent Grant Houses raid will lead to changes in large-scale takedown methods and what assurances the mayor can offer that the long term promises made today will be kept.

Off topic questions included the status of the mayor’s stated intention to ban carriage horses, the recent near-miss of two drones and an NYPD helicopter, whether Uber’s announced price reductions are unfair to yellow cabs, how the mayor will fulfill his stated promises concerning a living wage, why no NYCHA locations in East New York were selected for the plans announced today, the selection criteria for the NYCHA locations covered by the plans announced today and details about door/entry security in NYCHA buildings.

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Middle School Summer Enrichment Edition

On Tuesday Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an expansion of middle school summer enrichment programs, along with the selection of 271 providers for those services.  He described the expanded after school programs as, together with universal pre-K and the community schools program, part of his efforts at broadly improving the school system.  de Blasio was joined by Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, Youth and Community Development Commissioner Bill Chong, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., Council Member Andrew Cohen.

Press Q&A:

On topic questions included: what defines a “community school”, whether community schools are only located in low-income neighborhoods, whether there is a plan to extend universal pre-K to three year olds, how much more expensive community schools are to operate than “regular” schools, why was the UFT not at this announcement, whether academic gains are expected from community schools and how will such gains be measured, what programs are added to “regular” schools as they are converted into “community” schools, potential changes to the admissions process for specialized high schools and whether the seats announced today are new programs or new spaces.

Off topic questions included: the ISIS in Iraq and potential threats to New York, his hair color in a World Cup themed picture, the City’s negotiations with CW Capital concerning Stuyvesant Town, whether he concerned that religion-affiliated CBO’s pre-K programs will involve some religious instruction or indoctrination, the Rent Guidelines Board and a possible rent increase, rating his administration on it’s FOIL responsiveness, whether subway dancers are a “sign of urban decay”, whether he is contemplating a special district for failing schools and whether there is symbolism is seeking to bring the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn rather than Manhattan and whether he has coordinated that effort with Hillary Clinton.

Here is the full Q&A:

Building & Running in Sugar Hill (Updated x 2)

This morning Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference at The Sugar Hill Project, an affordable housing project under construction on West 155th Street in Sugar Hill.  Congressional District 13 primary rivals Congressman Charles B. Rangel and New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat were among the many elected officials joining the mayor.  The Sugar Hill Project is in the 13th Congressional District.

Update #2 – Congressional District 13:

We look at the 13th Congressional District primary-related portions of the press conference, including my question to Mayor de Blasio of whether he plans to endorse a candidate in the race:

We spoke separately, and exclusively, with Congressman Rangel and Senator Espaillat.


I began by asking Congressman Rangel how the race, with barely two weeks remaining, is shaping up:


I began by asking Senator Espaillat whether he expects the controversy over Congressman Rangel’s comment to continue:

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Ridgewood Redux Edition (Updated)

Today Mayor de Blasio returned to PS 239 Q in Ridgewood for a roundtable and press conference aimed at encouraging parents to enroll their children in pre-K.  de Blasio visited this school in April for a similar press conference.

Update – Bellicose Emails:

Asked by WCBS radio’s Rich Lamb about the Rangers’ Stanley Cup appearance, Mayor de Blasio discussed his “bellicose emails” with the mayor of Los Angeles:


Topics addressed in his Q&A include the Brooklyn child stabbings and the absence of cameras in the NYCHA building where they occurred, the IDC and his relationship with state Senator Jeff Klein, the UFT contract, recent allegations of wrongdoing against former Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes, Willets Point development, consistency of standards among the many community based organizations providing pre-K services, the Rangers Stanley Cup appearance and his long-delayed move to Gracie Mansion.  Here is Mayor de Blasio’s full Q&A:

Rebuild By Design (Updated x 2)

Today Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Chuck Schumer and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced four winning designs in the “Rebuild by Design” program administered by HUD and the federal Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task force.  Three of the selections are for projects in New York City, with the fourth a project in Nassau County.  The New York City projects are (1) “The Big U”, a series of berms and bridges around lower Manhattan, (2) “Living Breakwaters”, a series of breakwaters off the south shore of Staten Island, and (3) “Lifelines”, to provide flood protection systems for Hunts Point, the site of a major food market that functions as a hub of the region’s food supply chain.

Their press conference included remarks by each of the four government officials as well as an on topic Q&A.

Off-Topic Q&A:

Afterwards, Mayor de Blasio separately answered off topic questions.  He began with a statement concerning the stabbing of two young children in Brooklyn and then answers questions concerning that incident, the proposed state law to allow municipalities to further raise the minimum wage and whether he would pursue a $13 minimum wage for New York City, how that proposed law fits into the political deal that gave Governor Cuomo the Work Families Party ballot line, a young boy hit and killed today by a car and how Vision Zero addresses that location and the large number of shootings in the City this past weekend.  Here is the Mayor’s full off topic Q&A, which began with some press dissatisfaction:

Update – Opening Yucks:

The three elected officials began with a couple of yucks:

Update #2 – On Topic Q&A:

The Mayor, Governor, Senator and Secretary answered several on topic questions, including why the approved projects do not include any in Brooklyn and Queens and whether actions taken by “other jurisdictions” are sufficient, when will the resiliency efforts be complete and when will the majority of Build It Back homes be completed, what complexities Secretary Donovan saw when his Department approved the Build It Back program and why is New York City slower than Nassau and Suffolk Counties to deliver post-Sandy assistance to homeowners.  Here is their full on topic Q&A:

Little Neck Douglaston Memorial Day Parade (Updated)

Many elected officials participated in todays Little Neck Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, among them Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate Tish James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Update – Electeds on Parade:

We look at the Mayor’s, and other elected officials, reception:

de Blasio & Cuomo Remarks:

In what could be titled “a tale of two proclamations”, the Mayor and Governor each made brief remarks at the start of the parade and each presented their own proclamation to the parade organizers.  Neither took questions.  de Blasio invoked his father’s World War II service and injury, and subsequent struggles, in urging the audience to “never let their memories go” of service members injured or killed.  Cuomo described himself as a “Queens boy” for whom it is a “pleasure to be back on [his] home turf.”  H e declared it “a day to remember that freedom is not free”, noting that “we still have boys in harm’s way.” Their full remarks are here:

Steve & Teddy:

Congressman Steve Israel, chair of the DCCC, met a historic figure.  Every parade needs a little goofiness after all.

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Jobs Task Force Edition

Today at the Brooklyn Army Terminal Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the 30 members of a task force “that will develop real-time strategies to strengthen the city’s workforce and help workers develop” more advanced job skills.  The task force includes city government officials, a major union leader, senior staff from large New York City businesses, investors and principals of smaller businesses.  The task force is produce a report “[t]his fall … with concrete recommendations.”

Press Q&A:

Question topics included financial incentives given by the City to Altronix (which hosted the Mayor for a visit just before the press conference), whether the mayor has concerns about offering such incentives, whether his jobs task force will work with local communities, whether his affordable housing plan conflicts with his plan to enable more manufacturing in the city, what a base livable minimum wage is, whether the mayor is concerned about the possibility that Republicans may control the U.S. Senate next year, whether NY State has done enough to assist NYC in obtaining hazard mitigation money from the federal government, the Mayor’s views on items sold at the September 11th Museum gift shop and what the first “tangible” product of the task force will be.

Here is the full Q&A:

Benvenuti a Tutti

Mayor de Blasio today celebrated his Italian heritage and two bicycling events.  He spoke at the NYC Bike Expo, highlighting both the Expo and the Campagnolo Gran Fondo New York.  The Gran Fondo is a bicycle race from the George Washington Bridge to Bear Mountain, scheduled for Sunday May 18th.

The Mayor has two other Italian-involved events today; he’s scheduled to meet with Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini and to host a roundtable with members of the Italian media.

Here are excerpts from his remarks at the Bike Expo:

de Blasio Press Q&A: The No-Man’s Land Edition

Mayor Bill de Blasio today touted the reopening of the Hamilton Avenue asphalt plant and the City’s ongoing work in repairing and resurfacing city roadways.  He spoke at the Hamilton Avenue asphalt plant in Brooklyn, described by several city officials as in a “no-man’s land” between Red Hook, Gowanus and Sunset Park.

Press Q&A:

On topic questions covered changes in the manufactured asphalt and the respective role that pothole filling, road resurfacing and road rebuilding play in the maintenance of city roads.

Off topic questions included an unsuccessful attempt by a Queens resident to submit a paper list of needed road repairs to 311, Mayor de Blasio’s 20th wedding anniversary, LICH, the possibility that the Working Families Party will not select Governor Cuomo as its nominee, Alec Baldwin’s recent arrest by the NYPD, interest in New York seeking to host the 2024 Olympics, a plan by a French-American group to airdrop rose petals on the Statue of Liberty, Comptroller Stringer’s demand that the administration change how it accounts for $725 million of costs under the proposed UFT contract and the apartment towers contemplated for Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Here is the full press Q&A:

de Blasio Press Q&A: The PS 69 Q Edition (Updated)

Mayor Bill de Blasio visited PS 69 Q in Jackson Heights this afternoon, promoting the changes to city schools incorporated in his proposed budget and proposed UFT contract.

Citywide Debriefing Team:

During the Q&A portion of the press conference, Jill Colvin of The New York Observer asked the mayor for his reaction, and whether he approved, to a NY Times report that the NYPD has a “Citywide Debriefing Team [that] has combed the city’s jails for immigrants — predominantly Muslims — who might be persuaded to become police informants.”  Here’s how the mayor responded:

Full Press Q&A:

On topic question topics included the mayor’s proposed $20 million allocation for arts programs and whether this is all new spending, whether it’s typical for elementary schools to have arts teachers, the mayor’s proposed $4.4 billion capital spending to address classroom overcrowding, how many new classroom seats that spending would produce and where they would be located, whether all trailers used by schools would be eliminated, the definition of “problematic behavior” used in dealing with the Absent Teacher Reserve, what the state funding to be used for middle school after school programs would have otherwise been used for and DoE support for schools that will participate in the program providing increased school autonomy.  Mayor de Blasio interrupted the on topic portion of the press conference to introduce “parent activist” Laverne Maison (sp?).  We have omitted that portion of the Q&A, presenting only the portion with actual questions and answers.

Off topic question topics included Vision Zero, the NYPD’s plan to stop seizing condoms from sex workers, the NYPD’s “Citywide Debriefing Team”, the Working Families Party and whether it will nominate Andrew Cuomo as its candidate for governor, the 9/11 Museum and the total spending through 2020 for the proposed UFT contract.

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Fire Academy Edition

Speaking at the Fire Department’s training academy on Randall’s Island, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his appointment of Daniel Nigro as Fire Commissioner.  Nigro is a retired FDNY chief of department, and his long career at the FDNY included assuming operational command at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, after his predecessor as chief of Department, Peter Ganci, died in the building collapse.

Press Q&A:

On topic questions included changes in technology since Nigro retired from the FDNY, Nigro’s thoughts and feelings upon accepting the job, his disability pension, whether he has a set of goals or planned steps concerning diversity in the Department, what Nigro see’s as the Department’s biggest challenge, when he will start as commissioner, what it was like to tell his father, a retired FDNY captain, that he will be commissioner, how the Department is different from when he retired, why the mayor did not retain current Commissioner Sal Cassano, the 911 call system, what Nigro sees as an appropriate level of diversity, whether the mayor considered any women or candidates of color for commissioner and whether Nigro has a predominant image or memory from September 11th.

Off topic questions included Falun Gong’s efforts to obtain a parade permit, the 10 race horses that have died at Aqueduct this winter, Michael Mulgrew’s “war with reformers” comment, whether the House Select Committee on Benghazi is unfair to Hillary Clinton, treatment of teachers in ATR under the newly negotiated contract with the UFT and the moving of identified remains of September 11th victims to the World Trade Center site.