de Blasio Press Q&A: The Brooklyn Library Edition



This afternoon Mayor Bill de Blasio visited a Department of Education Universal pre-K enrollment workshop being held at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.  Following his visit, Mayor de Blasio held a press conference in front of the Library, promoting his pre-K/middle school program initiative.

Full Press Q&A:

Following an opening statement, the mayor answered questions from the press.  Topics included his reaction to Governor Cuomo’s statement that he is not planning to approve a specific amount of pre-K funding set forth in the state senate proposed budget, how confident he is of pre-K funding, the status of his administration’s review of the city’s Sandy relief programs, his reaction to Governor Cuomo’s statements on mayoral control of the city school system and charter schools, the current status of site clearing and the investigation into the cause of the East Harlem building explosion, whether New Yorkers should be concerned about gas leaks, his reaction to a tweet yesterday by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito critical of Governor Cuomo’s reaction to the East Harlem building explosion, how the church services he attended this morning for victims affected him personally and the relief efforts being led by his wife, Chirlane McCray, and the Mayor’s Fund for NYC.  Here is his full press Q&A:

Sandy Review:

I asked the mayor about his previously discussed review of the City’s Sandy recovery programs.  Here’s how he responded:

de Blasio Press Q&A: The HeyNow Edition



This afternoon Mayor Bill de Blasio met with elected officials on Staten Island to discuss Sandy recovery efforts.  Led by Borough President Jimmy Oddo (or @HeyNowJO as he’s known on Twitter), eight elected officials met privately with de Blasio and then joined him for a press conference.

Off Topic – Speeding:

A modest portion of the press conference was devoted to off topic questions, all four of which involved the speeding and stop sign-running imbroglio of late last week. Those questions included whether the mayor thinks recent criticism directed at him, on the driving flap and other actions, is fair, whether he thinks the speeding flap will negatively impact his efforts at implementing the Vision Zero plan, whether the mayor has discretion to direct how the NYPD drives him and whether his NYPD detail thought they were being followed by WCBS-TV news.  Here is the full off topic portion of the Q&A:

Full Q&A:

The Q&A was primarily on topic, with questions on Sandy recovery and the mayor’s plans for changes to existing city efforts.  Among the questions: what is working, and not working, in the Build it Back program, the mayor’s reaction to a report that a family he visited in the Arverne section of Rockaway is “getting close” to losing faith in the mayor, the scope/number of people still directly affected by Sandy, whether his weekend trip to Pennsylvania involved a meeting with the consultants running the Build it Back program, whether he stands by statements he made during a September visit to Far Rockaway’s St. Mary Star of the Sea, whether the Bloomberg administration allocated enough money to housing from the first tranch of federal assistance, whether he agrees with Oddo’s idea of acquiring land for redevelopment, the role of Michael DeLoach in Build it Back, whether New Yorkers should be concerned that they may lose desirable options under Build it Back after de Blasio completes his review and issues on elevation of existing structures v. new construction.

Here is the full press Q&A:

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



Today Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference in Maspeth to highlight the City’s efforts at pothole repair.  The city’s roads have been battered by a high number of winter storms and temperature fluctuations, producing a bumper pothole crop.  The mayor’s press conference, held at 69th Lane and 60th Avenue in Maspeth, featured the mayor and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg joining a Department of Transportation road crew in filling a pothole.

Full Q&A:

On-topic questions for the mayor included the cost of the pothole repair program, the furlough of seasonal DoT workers, the average time between pothole complaints and repair, the outlook for the rest of the winter, the number of potholes repaired, how potholes are identified for repair, the DoT’s road resurfacing plans in the near-future, how many crews are working, why this particular pothole was chosen for the press conference location, whether the mayor is enjoying “this aspect” of his job and an assessment by the road crew of how the mayor performed.  Off-topic questions included the mayor’s proposed budget and the potential cost of open labor contracts, a timeline for settling the open labor contracts, the Build it Back program, the administration’s “comprehensive review” of the city’s Sandy recovery efforts, release of Bishop Findlayter’s arrest report, the mayor’s September promise to visit a carriage horse stable before acting on his pledge to ban carriage horses and the administration’s community development block grant application.   Here is the mayor’s full press Q&A:

Sandy Recovery:

The mayor was asked three separate questions concerning the city’s ongoing efforts at recovery from Hurricane Sandy.  The first focused on the Build it Back program, which is widely criticized for a slow, even glacial, pace of funding repairs.  The second (from yours truly) asked about the “comprehensive review” briefly mentioned by the mayor in his State of the City address on February 10th.  The third asked about the city’s community development block grant application, due to be submitted to the federal government by March 18th.  Here is how the mayor responded:

Update – Pothole Repair:

Mayor de Blasio and DoT Commissioner Trottenberg filled a real live pothole; here’s how it went.

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Pussy Riot Edition (Updated x 3)



Today Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the appointment of Carl Weisbrod as chair of the City Planning Commission.

Among the topics discussed during the Q&A portion of the announcement press conference was a vital question – can the mayor pronounce the name of guests scheduled to visit him this afternoon.

Update – Full Answer:

Sandwiched between the opening and closing giggles he elicited from the press, Mayor de Blasio gave a serious answer on why he plans to meet with members of Russian band Pussy Riot this afternoon.

Update #2 – Sandy:

Mayor de Blasio was asked about ongoing Hurricane Sandy rebuilding and resiliency efforts. It’s an issue that has not received much public focus in the first six weeks of the de Blasio administration.  With ongoing substantial rebuilding continuing in several parts of the City, however, it’s going to demand attention.  Here’s what the mayor had to say:

For background, here is our coverage from de Blasio’s October visit to Breezy Point and September visit to Far Rockaway.

Update #3 – Full Q&A:

Following statements from de Blasio and Weisbrod, de Blasio answered questions from the press.  On-topic questions included his process for selecting Weisbrod and whether as Transition C-Chair Weisbrod submitted his own name for consideration, what neighborhoods they are targeting for revitalization and what they plan for those neighborhoods, whether Carl Weisbrod is related to Ann Weisbrod, what plans they have for rolling back Bloomberg administration planning initiatives, governance of the City Planning Commission, the status of the Transition Committee co-chaired by Weisbrod, how Weisbrod’s past work in revitalizing neighborhoods and his current role intersect, the mayor’s strategic plan for post-Sandy rebuilding in waterfront neighborhoods and the challenges of finding neighborhoods primed for growth.

Following a statement on the importance of donating blood and a question on his own experience of donating blood that morning, the mayor answered off-topic questions including a preview of his State of the City address, why he was not wearing his wedding ring, his plan to charge rent to some charter schools, whether the administration has started labor contract negotiations, de Blasio’s scheduled meeting with members of the Russian band Pussy Riot, his plans for addressing potholes on city streets and Vice President Biden’s characterization of LaGuardia as a “third world” airport.

Here is Mayor de Blasio’s full press Q&A.

de Blasio Press Q&A: The Second Snow Edition (Updated x 2)



Today Mayor Bill de Blasio held a news conference on two separate topics: the significant snowstorm which had just begun and to announce the appointment of Maria Torres-Springer as Commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services and of Dr. Ramanathan Raju as the Commissioner of Health and Hospitals Corporation.

Rockaway Ferry & Boardwalk:

During the Q&A portion of the press conference, Grace Rauh of NY1 asked the mayor about the interim extension of Rockaway ferry service, as separately announced by the mayor’s office this morning, and about the projected May 2017 projected completion date for rebuilding the Rockaway boardwalk.  Ferry service was instituted on an interim basis after Hurricane Sandy destroyed the only subway access to Rockaway and it has been very popular with Rockaway residents.  The post-Sandy rebuilding of the boardwalk, under Parks Department jurisdiction, is a sore point for many Rockaway residents who see the three year schedule as unreasonably slow.  Here’s how the mayor responded.

Update – Full Q&A:

Here is Mayor de Blasio’s full Q&A, featuring snow prep and the de Blasio family shoveling arrangements, the mayor’s pre-K/middle school program initiative and the governor’s competing proposal, Health & Hospitals Corporation challenges, the Rockaway ferry and boardwalk and more.

Update #2 – Pre-K/middle school initiative:

This excerpt contains a discussion of Mayor de Blasio’s proposed pre-K/middle school program and the associated income tax surcharge.  Governor Cuomo has recently sought to preempt de Blasio’s plan, proposing a less expansive plan statewide, and not supporting a dedicated income tax surcharge.  Reporters asked many probing questions but de Blasio, politely, refused to signal any assent to the Cuomo plan supplanting his own.  He noted that “other advances … are welcome”, but that “the people of the City have given me a mission … to achieve this [meaning de Blasio's] plan.”

Speaker Selection: The Muzzio Edition (Updated x 2)



Wednesday evening, Professor Doug Muzzio moderated a council speaker forum at Baruch College.  Seven contenders participated; Jumaane Williams, Dan Garodnick, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Annabel Palma, James Vacca, Mark Weprin and Inez Dickens.

Karen Koslowitz:

Following the forum, we spoke with Council Member Karen Koslowitz about the race, how it’s shaping up with her fellow council members and when she expects the winner to be identified.  Koslowitz, a Queens Democrat, was elected to office in 2009 and re-elected this year.  She previously served on the Council from 1991-2001.

(Lots more video on the full page.) Continue reading

Beach 130th Street



In this video we’ve compiled clips of the beach and nearby homes on Beach 130th Street in Belle Harbor.  The clips start in early November 2012, just after Sandy struck and end this afternoon, exactly one year since Sandy.  There is great progress from the flat beach and battered homes in the initial video, but even today there is still much to be done.

The clips are from B-roll that I’ve taken on some my visits to B130th Street over the past year.  While there is far more to the recovery then shown in these clips, on this block and throughout Rockaway, they show a meaningful part of the story.

We’ve also published a couple of reports focused in whole or part on B130th Street, including here and here.

Surfer Joe (Updated x 2)



Today in Breezy Point residents commemorated the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy with a public ceremony and a volunteer effort at planting dune grass on a long sand dune that residents recently created.  Many elected officials and candidates, including Joe Lhota, Phil Goldfeder, Joe Addabbo, Eric Ulrich, Tish James, Scott Stringer and John Liu attended.

As we walked from the ceremony toward the ocean and the dune, I asked Joe Lhota whether he likes going to the beach for fun.  Turns out that he loves the ocean and loves to surf.

Update:

In the past three days, both mayoral candidates have talked sports in Breezy Point.  Sunday, Bill de Blasio received a less-than-welcome invitation to play basketball while visiting Breezy Point.

Update #2 – Lhota Press Q&A:

After planting dune grass, Joe Lhota spoke with the press.  He sought to keep the focus on Sandy recovery, but also made some revealing comments about his decision to run and some of the tactical considerations in his campaign.  He declined to criticize Bill de Blasio’s absence from Rockaway today, saying that there are many places and ways to commemorate the anniversary of Sandy and that he is “not going to use this as a day to politic.”

Lhota spoke very highly of the Blooomberg administration’s resiliency plans, describing the Plan NYC report as a “great roadmap” and an important part of Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy.

He seemed genuinely surprised by a reporter asking why he hasn’t done more to campaign on his role in recovery from both Sandy and the September 11th attacks, saying that he is “running on the future, not running on the past” and that “glorifying tragedies is not something that I think is important in campaigning.”  He added, perhaps naively, that “I think everyone knows what I did.”

Lhota also gave a detailed look at his decision to run for mayor and his related discussions with Governor Cuomo.

40 Years In The Making, Arverne East Moves Forward



80 empty oceanfront acres waiting for development – what could be hard about that?

In the case of Arverne East, a large vacant parcel of land in Rockaway, it’s been 40 years of challenges.  In modern times, the 2008 recession deflated the last real effort at development.  Paradoxically, Hurricane Sandy, which inundated the area, spurred the site developers to restart their efforts.  Their efforts have meshed with Mayor Bloomberg’s renewed determination to encourage waterfront development, producing significant progress.  As we reported in May, the Bloomberg administration organized a design competition seeking proposals incorporating the best ideas for resilient waterfront development.  This past week, a winning design was selected and announced at an onsite ceremony.  (The winning design is here.)

In this report, we look at the winning design with the lead designer, discuss major challenges and timing with the City commissioner in charge of the process and consider financing needs and timing with the lead developer.

de Blasio In Breezy Point (Updated)



Bill de Blasio visited Rockaway’s Breezy Point today, seeing Sandy recovery progress firsthand.

As part of his visit, de Blasio met with a small group of community leaders in Breezy Point.  The discussion (during the portion the press was allowed in, at least) focused on some longterm challenges for Rockaway, including rebuilding and the powerful economic issue of flood insurance, both it’s pricing and it’s applicability.  Changes underway, in part the result of the Biggert-Waters Act, and changes in the National Flood Insurance Program, may have profound consequences for Rockaway and other waterfront areas.  The answers aren’t easy, or even apparent yet for some questions.

Press Q&A:

Here is de Blasio’s full Q&A with the press.

Update – Beware the Basketball Invite:

In a lighthearted (we think) moment, Kevin Boyle invited mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio to join a 50+ basketball league organized by the Graybeards.  de Blasio wisely deferred on agreeing to give angry Yankee and Giant fans an opportunity for revenge.

Lhota In Far Rockaway (Updated)



Joe Lhota visited several organizations in Far Rockaway on Thursday, including the Achiezer Community Resource Center on Beach 9th Street and the Torah Academy for Girls on Beach 6th Street.

We spoke with Lhota concerning some Sandy related topics at the Sh’or Yoshuv Rabbinical College on the Rockaway/Lawrence border.

Press Q&A:

After touring the Achiezer Community Resource Center, Lhota spoke with the press.  Among the topics: the need to restructure city government for the first time in 11 years, Lhota’s recent ad and his view of Bill de Blasio, Banksy, the number of police officers and his synagogue mini-kerfuffle.

de Blasio Visits Rockaway (Updated)



Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio visited Rockaway yesterday, touring the closed Peninsula Hospital, visiting a family who continues to work on post-Sandy repairs to their home and attending a forum hosted by Faith in New York at St. Mary Star of the Sea in Far Rockaway.  Although Rockaway has progressed greatly in recovering from Sandy, much work remains.  Many residents and businesses continue repairing their damaged property and reorganizing their lives as the city and federal governments repair infrastructure and contemplate future steps.

Rockaway has long had severe financial and social stresses, with some sections as rough and impoverished as any in the city.  Those rougher sections of Rockaway happen to have an ocean beach, but they’re weighed down by the same troubles as neighborhoods in less bucolic locations.  Everyone in Rockaway, whatever their economic status, race and ethnicity or political views, was severely affected by Sandy and has faced great challenges in struggling to recover.  Unsurprisingly, however, those on the down side of Rockaway’s long standing economic and social fault lines faced Sandy with the least; the least money, the least ability to relocate, the least political influence, the fewest options, and have been the slowest to recover.  It was this part of Rockaway that de Blasio visited yesterday.

Press Q & A:

Following the forum, de Blasio spoke with the press.

Here are two excerpts covering Rockaway-specific questions.  The first, from Kevin Boyle of The Wave, addresses the dramatic increases in flood insurance resulting from the Biggert-Waters Act.

The second, from Katie Honan of DNAinfo and co-founder of Rockaway Help, addresses the hospital crisis in Rockaway following the closing of Peninsula Hospital and the current stress on Rockaway’s sole remaining hospital, St. John’s Episcopal.

Here is de Blasio’s full Q&A with the press, including his opening statement describing his visit.

Update – Forum on Sandy Recovery:

In his remarks at the forum on Hurricane Sandy recovery, hosted by Faith In New York, de Blasio called for an expansive use of Sandy recovery money.  He advocated addressing many of Rockaway’s long standing social and economic issues, calling it “our obligation … to figure out how much good we can do with the resources that we’re receiving, and not just in the narrow sense of helping people immediately in need, but how can we change the structure of things.”  Here are selected excerpts from his comments.