New York City’s three citywide elected officials – Mayor Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate Tish James and Comptroller Scott Stringer – and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito joined a press conference today demanding federal action to address Puerto Rico’s deep fiscal and financial crisis. Puerto Rico’s government and related public authorities owe more than $70 billion to creditors, an amount which Puerto Rico’s governor recently termed “unpayable”, with looming large payments pushing the Commonwealth toward a critical moment.
The City Hall Plaza press conference, hosted by the Hispanic Federation, called for a laundry list of federal actions, including implementing “a federal investment plan”, eliminating Jones Act requirements that goods shipped between Puerto Rico and other places in America be transported on U.S. ships with U.S. crews, changing the U.S. bankruptcy code to allow Puerto Rico and its government related enterprises to file bankruptcy petitions and urging President Obama to “explore a Federal Reserve loan” and “oppose severe austerity.”
Puerto Rico’s crisis is decades in the making. With a shrinking population and a shrinking economy Puerto Rico has long borrowed to fund operating costs. As described in a recent report commissioned by the Puerto Rican government, Puerto Rico’s fiscal shortcomings have been masked and ultimately worsened by poor fiscal and accounting practices.
The press conference produced an infrequent appearance of all three citywide elected officials and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito – the “CW3+MMV”, perhaps – at an event. There appeared to be polite interaction among them, but no sign of great warmth.
Mayor Bill de Blasio today touted a high level of affordable housing activity in the City, reporting that the City “financed the creation and preservation of 20,325 affordable apartments and homes during fiscal year 2015.” de Blasio spoke at a Bronx press conference, accompanied by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and several Bronx elected officials including Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Congressman Jose E. Serrano, State Senator Jose M. Serrano and Assembly Members Luis Sepulveda, Michael Blake and Latoya Joyner.
Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Mark-Viverito both expressed support for federal government action to address Puerto Rico’s deep fiscal crisis. de Blasio suggested federal financial assistance, urging the federal government to “take responsibility” for resolving the crisis and that it has both the “obligation” and “capacity” to do so. Mark-Viverito suggested a change in federal bankruptcy law to allow Puerto Rico to file a bankruptcy petition and operate as a debtor under federal bankruptcy law (Puerto Rico, like states, is not eligible to do so). Here are their full answers, including the Spanish portion of Mark-Viverito’s.
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.
“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.
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito gave a wide ranging State of the City address on Thursday. Speaking to an audience of approximately 300 people at the Johnson Community Center in East Harlem, Mark-Viverito called for new programs which would expand access to civil legal services, create new technology-focused programs in City high schools, as well as for expanding existing agencies and programs such as the Human Rights Commission. In contrast to Mayor de Blasio, who did not address a topic at the center of the City’s past year, Mark-Viverito discussed the NYPD and the criminal justice system in her State of The City speech.
Here is her full State of The City Speech.
N.B. Photos of Mark-Viverito’s State of The City are here.
In her State of the City address, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito addressed a topic central to the City’s well-being; the NYPD and its relationship with the citizens of New York. She noted the reality that all plans for changing and improving New York City depend on a basic underpinning, New York City remaining safe, and that such safety is “ensured by the diverse men and women of the New York City Police Department.” Mark-Viverito lamented the “senseless murders” of Detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, saying that those murders “left a gaping hole in the hearts of New York.” She also praised Commissioner Bratton and gave a shoutout to the “wonderful” local precincts.
Mark-Viverito again promised to seek a 1,000 person increase in the NYPD’s headcount and praised the City Council for a program in Mayor de Blasio’s proposed budget to fund replacing aging bullet-resistant vests for the NYPD.
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.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito held a press conference this morning to condemn the recent killing of two NYPD officers and offer support to the victims’ families and the Department. Mark-Viverito, who has had her share of political tensions with the police force, spoke in somber tones accompanied by about 25 of her fellow council members. She began by characterizing the deaths of Police Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos as “a cold-blooded assassination.”
When asked about Mayor de Blasio’s comments yesterday blaming the media for fostering divisiveness, Speaker Mark-Viverito response that “I don’t share in that thought”, appears to leave the mayor increasingly isolated.
Here is the english portion of her full opening statement. (She also made a statement in spanish.)
Update – Q&A:
Mark-Viverito answered several questions, including her reaction to some protest groups rejecting the call for a moratorium on protests, whether she shares the sentiment expressed by Mayor de Blasio that media coverage of protests has fostered divisiveness, whether the council will table any pending NYPD-related bills, whether she’ll attend the Ramos and Liu funerals, her reaction to PBA President Pat Lynch’s comment that responsibility for the bloodshed begins “on steps of City Hall”, how long a protest moratorium should last and whether her “show of support … will be received as … political expediency.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio today signed two laws which markedly reduce the City’s cooperation with the federal government’s efforts at deporting people unlawfully in the United States. At a ceremony on the steps of Our Lady of Sorrows in Corona, the mayor signed bills which prohibit the presence of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency at Rikers Island and other City facilities and which provide that the City corrections and police departments “will no longer honor requests by ICE to detain an individual for up to 48 hours beyond their scheduled release unless (1) ICE provides a judicial warrant as to probable cause, and (2) the individual in question has been convicted of a violent or serious felony within the last five years, or is a possible match on the terrorist watch list.”
Following opening remarks and a signing ceremony, the mayor answered questions from the press. On-topic questions included the timing of the effectiveness of the laws signed today and when ICE will close it’s office on Rikers Island, how many people currently on Rikers Island will be covered by these laws, details of Carlos Rodriguez (who was held on Rikers Island for eight months on an ICE detainer) path to this country and his thoughts during his eight month detention, what Mayor de Blasio would like to see the federal government do about immigration and what he will do absent such action, what he would tell Republicans who think his approach is a dangerous precedent, de Blasio and Melissa Mark-Viverito’s positions on municipal IDs and voting rights for non-citizens, the number of people arrested on misdemeanors and then subject to ICE detainers and whether persons arrested on felony charges must first go through the justice system before being subject to an ICE detainer.
Off-topic questions included efforts at combating sex trafficking on Roosevelt Avenue, reports of criminal charges against a defunct arm of the Working Families Party, whether the mayor will veto proposed bills criminalizing police use of chokeholds and requiring police to advise people of a right to refuse before asking to search them, whether the mayor plans to see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge when they visit New York, whether his message is getting lost in critical news coverage and his view of the Astoria Cove development deal.
Several thousand people marched from the site of Eric Garner’s death past the Richmond County District Attorney’s office, ending at a rally overlooking New York Harbor. Organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the march and rally was about the Garner case and demands for criminal prosecution of the police officers involved, but also about broader complaints and concerns around policing and racial discrimination in New York and throughout the country.
Among the elected officials I spotted: Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Council Members Helen Rosenthal, Jumaane Williams, Carlos Menchaca, Daneek Miller, Ydanis Rodriguez, Vanessa Gibson, State Senators Adriano Espaillat and Gustavo Rivera and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. Mayor de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Tish James were not there. Former Governor David Paterson joined, marching with Rev. Sharpton. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout was also there.
Update – Teachout:
We asked Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout why she was attending the march and her answer touched on stop & frisk, broken windows policing and Andrew Cuomo’s decision to go fishing. We spoke with Teachout in the Staten Island ferry terminal as she headed to the march.
(Flashing neon signs produced ever-changing colors and brightness on Teachout as we spoke.)
We spoke with Speaker Mark-Viverito on the ferry ride to the march. I asked her why she was going and what she hoped the march would accomplish:
Congressional candidate Adriano Espaillat today led a group of supporters on a four mile walk through Manhattan, from 135th Street to his campaign headquarters on Sherman Avenue. With several dozen cars in a caravan following him and music blasting, the candidate and supporters sang and danced their way up Broadway.
Espaillat spoke to the press and his supporters just before the walk. Giving a fiery speech, he attacked Rangel for being “in the center of [the] dysfunction” in a “broken” Washington. Espaillat also attacked Rangel for having “sided with Wall Street” repeatedly. Here is the portion of Espaillat’s remarks made in english.
We talk with City Council Speaker, and Espaillat supporter, Melissa Mark-Viverito, about the congressional primary campaign in her East Harlem council district:
Update – Dancing & Singing on Broadway:
It was a bit north of the theater district, but there were some solid performances on Broadway.
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