de Blasio Press Q&A: The Panti Bliss Edition (Updated x 2)



Today Mayor Bill de Blasio marched in the St. Pats For All parade in Woodside/Sunnyside. Organized as an alternative St. Patrick’s Day Parade which welcomes LGBT groups, the parade has gained significant political attention.  It’s a free spirited, whimsical cousin to the massive Manhattan parade.  A featured guest at the 2014 parade was Panti Bliss, an Irish gay activist and drag Queen who has received significant attention for a recent speech on LGBT equality.

After marching, the mayor spoke with the press.  Here is his full press conference, including an opening statement and questions from the press.  (Questions start at about 3:15.)

Among the questions was one posed by Capital New York’s Sally Goldenberg (at about 3:40): Why didn’t he march in Rockaway’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade yesterday.  His answer?  ”My approach has been to embrace parades that are inclusive, and that’s the standard we’re going to hold to.”  (Here’s some background on de Blasio and the Rockaway parade.)

Update – Skipping Rockaway Parade:

One of the press questions, asked by Sally Goldenberg of Capital New York, was why the mayor skipped the St. Patrick’s Day parade yesterday in Rockaway.  His answer was surprising.

Update #2 – A Minister, A Consul General & Panti Bliss:

The pre-parade remarks included three speakers from Ireland: Minister of State for Training & Skills Ciaran Cannon, performer and LGBT activist Panti Bliss and Irish Consul General Noel Kilkenny.  Many New York elected officials spoke, but the Irish speakers, particularly the two government officials, are notable for illustrating the notion that excluding LGBT groups from the Manhattan parade is not reflective of the sentiment in Ireland.  We’ve included their respective full remarks, plus a bonus Mayor de Blasio appearance, in this excerpt.

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.”

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.

Mayoral Debate: It’s Official!



Last night the Democratic mayoral candidates had their first “official” debate.  After more than 100 forums and debates hosted by different groups around the city, and televised debates on NY1 and WABC-TV Channel 7, the Democratic mayoral candidates participated in their first “official” debate organized by the New York City Campaign Finance Board under the city’s election laws.

For our initial report, we look at a question asked by moderator Errol Louis: “Should you be free to drink a beer on your own stoop?”  In some neighborhoods, residents have been ticketed for doing so.  Their anger at being ticketed has been further stoked by pictures of Mayor Bloomberg violating the same prohibition, unticketed, drinking wine at concerts in Central Park.  We spoke with Anthony Weiner on this topic, who offered a broader assessment.

Rockaway Hospital Rally



1199SEIU held a rally this week to push for the continuing operation of St. John’s Hospital in Far Rockaway.  St. John’s is the sole hospital on the Rockaway peninsula, Peninsula Hospital having closed last year.

We’ll start our coverage with a brief clip of Dante de Blasio speaking at the rally.  (We’re unclear on why the MC referred to him as Jonathan … but we think it’s Dante.)