Deputy Mayor Phillip Banks, Public Safety: Good afternoon. Thank you for tuning in. We have an interesting, I don’t know if we’d call it a show episode today here. The theme is going to be about July 4th and July 4th Safety. So I am joined today by the FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, and that commissioner, she will be speaking about safety as it relates to fireworks. Every year that we hear about these horrific stories about people who are playing with fireworks, all too often illegal fireworks, and they cause harm to themselves and harm to others and she will be just informing the audience about the dangers that associate with that and the safety precautions that you need to be able to take part in. And of course, again, once again, we are joined by our Parks and Recreation commissioner, Sue Donoghue, and she will be talking about safety in parks, beaches, pools, but parks in general, as we will see an increase of people visiting our parks, our beaches as we want to. We want to just make sure that we remain safe as we possibly can.
And we are accompanied here, but I think this is the first time we’ve had her, Mayor’s Office of Animal Welfare Director Alex Silver. And sometimes we forget about the safety when it comes to these pets, these four-legged furies that we have, dogs, cats, and any other animals. And she will be discussing some of the safety tips that we need to take in consideration especially if we are pet owners, but even our pets are in our proximity, and that’s going to be very interesting.
But at first, we’re going to start off with our NYCEM, New York City Emergency Management First Deputy Commissioner Christina Farrell. As many of us can recall, a few weeks ago, we saw that the air quality in New York City had dramatically decreased. I mean, the sky looked like it was partially brown and orange. And this is coming from the wildfires that have taken place in Canada. And now, for the last, yesterday and today it may be in the future, we’re going to see actually an increase in that air quality and that increase is a negative thing, and we need to make sure that we get the word out to our family, to our friends, to ourselves, to be able to make sure that we keep ourselves safe. So we’re going to start with you, Commissioner Farrell. Can you just let us know, give us a briefing about what we can expect and what are the things that we should be doing to keep us and our family safe?
First Deputy Commissioner Christina Farrell, New York City Emergency Management: Sure. Thank you. Thanks for having me here today. So as people have seen, as the Deputy Mayor said, there has been a decrease in the air quality in New York City and really across the state these past couple days. The State Department of Environmental Conservation has issued an air quality advisory city-wide, which has been extended until 11:59 p.m. this evening. We don’t think that this air quality alert will continue in the city over the weekend, but things can change, and we know that air quality can change quickly, so people need to stay alert.
Currently, the Air Quality Index in New York City is in the unhealthy range, which is above 150. We expect this to improve a bit tomorrow and then more on Sunday as rain comes in and washes some of this away. But we encourage all New Yorkers to visit airnow.gov, which is a site run by the federal EPA to monitor the air quality index levels where they live. As we did three weeks ago when we first had this, we have been messaging a lot through the Department of Health, through Notify NYC, the mayor’s office, and amplifying what the Department of Environmental Conservation is telling us so people learn about the potential dangers and what they can do, specifically people with respiratory health conditions.
Again, as we did the last time, we are still distributing masks across the city. We’re distributing them at all firehouses, so thank you, all police precincts, various MTA stations, Department of Health Health Action Centers, and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs is also working with immigrant populations at different sites across the city. If you go on nyc.gov or call 311, you can get more information if you’re interested in picking up some free, high-quality masks.
Just as I mentioned, we are sharing this information through Notify NYC. This is the city’s free emergency alert system. We have more than 1.1 million New Yorkers signed up for this and they have been receiving messages over the last few days. Emergency Management also continues to hold inter-agency calls with all of our partners to help them get the information so they can help New Yorkers stay safe. For people that are outside for prolonged time during today and potentially into the weekend, we recommend using a high-quality mask if you fall into a certain group. There is additional guidance from the Department of Health, and as noted, you can pick up those masks.
Also, speaking about Notify NYC, if people are not signed up for Notify NYC, we encourage them to do so. You can go to nyc.gov/notify, you can call 311, or you can download the mobile app onto your iPhone or your Android device. This service is available for free in 14 languages, including American Sign Language and many languages commonly spoken in the city. We do all different kinds of messaging just in addition to messaging about the air quality.
A couple things I wanted to mention. Earlier this spring, we set up a new group for people that live in basement or cellar apartments or are concerned about flooding. We have over 1,400 New Yorkers subscribed to that group. Also this week, to coincide with the pools opening, we have a new Know Before You Go service where we can let you know if pools or beaches are closed that you are interested in so you don’t go to those locations and find out they’re closed.
Also, talking about July 4th, from time to time, we will do a short code for people that are interested, maybe visitors are in town or people that are interested in a specific event. If people would like to text July 4 NYC to 692692, or for Spanish, text July 4 NYC ESP, they will receive specific information about the Macy’s 4th of July celebration, safety messages, other transportation concerns and things so they can have a fun and safe trip to the fireworks. So thank you.
Deputy Mayor Banks: So thank you. So that is very important. So just to me, just so if the Air Quality Index is 150, over 150 is considered unhealthy?
First Deputy Commissioner Farrell: It is. So it’s unhealthy to be outside for a prolonged area of time. We are nowhere close to what we saw a couple weeks ago when we got up to like 400 and a lot of other activities may kick in above 200, above 300, which we don’t expect to go to this time. And really, it’s most important, like with many emergency preparedness activities, people have to understand how it affects them, their family, the very young, the older people with respiratory issues and make decisions based on your specific situation.
Deputy Mayor Banks: So if someone, I just wanted to make sure I’m understanding this correctly. If someone wanted to get daily updates about the quality of the air, you’re suggesting that they go sign up for the system, right?
First Deputy Commissioner Farrell: So Notify NYC. For several years we have sent out, every time there is air quality advisory in the city, because we get the information from the state, we do send that out. So that’s one of the kind of alerts that people will get through Notify NYC.
Deputy Mayor Banks: And Notify NYC, because we’ve been working on that for some time now and the commissioner has done a fantastic job. We look at how many different languages people are tuning into. We look at how many people that we are trying to build that up. So we need help from the public. Here’s our ask is that if you have not signed up for Notify NYC, that you do so and you tell one person. Tell at least one person. This is a lot of information, a lot of helpful information, a lot of useful information, and more importantly, a lot of safety information that would benefit you and your family. And it’s the last thing is that if you do need a mask, right, you’re saying that we can go to any FDNY firehouse or any NYPD precinct and we can pick up a mask, correct?
First Deputy Commissioner Farrell: Yeah, exactly.
Deputy Mayor Banks: Okay, great. Thank you. Thank you, that was fantastic. Thank you, commissioner. Okay, so next we’re going to hear from our Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, and she’s just going to… July 4th, historically, a lot of fireworks, a lot of us enjoy it. We all know about the big Macy’s fireworks that has been a staple in New York City for some time now. A lot of people do enjoy that, a lot of people come out to take a look at it, but it’s dangerous, right? It’s dangerous when you are playing with these fireworks on your own. So for the most part, most of them are illegal. We want you to leave that to the professionals. And Laura, can you just tell us how we can keep ourselves safe?
Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh: Absolutely, and thank you for saying that. I think it’s really important to point out as exciting and fun as fireworks can be, they really do need to be left to the professionals. Every year we see incredibly serious injuries to civilians, particularly children, suffering terrible injuries, sometimes permanent, life-altering injuries from burns to even missing fingers. And so we really want to enforce that. As exciting as it may look, these are illegal to sell, they’re illegal to store, and they can be really, really dangerous. So please leave them to the professionals. As OEM mentioned, you can get information on where to see the professional fireworks show in the city.
We also have a Fireworks Enforcement Unit, and we’ve activated them this year. That unit is charged with actually intercepting the illegal fireworks that come into the city. If any New Yorker has any information about storage or sale of fireworks, they can call 311, and if they see fireworks going off, then can call 911. We, NYPD, will respond. When necessary, we do issue summonses and we do confiscate those fireworks. We also, for many years, have had our fire marshals actually travel out of state to Pennsylvania, surveil the known firework retailers, identify New York license plates, and then conduct stops as people enter back into New York City. And that surveillance is currently ongoing.
This is all in the interest of safety. We are trying to prevent New Yorkers from getting injured. Please leave the fireworks to the professionals. We cannot say that enough. They are incredibly dangerous. We have our professionals, the fire prevention team overseeing the Macy’s fireworks to ensure that those fireworks go off safely and without a hitch. Additionally, we staff EMS increases all over where we expect large crowds, the Macy’s fireworks, Coney Island, and in the Rockaways. We add additional units like Gators to work with the parks to make sure people are safe in the water as well.
We do see calls go up every year around 4th July, particularly medical calls. We see spikes on the days leading up to the holiday, and on 4th July into the night and through July 5th, because we do see that people, especially late at night after celebrating, have the tendency to set off fireworks.
One more time, please leave the fireworks to the professionals. Please hydrate. It’s going to be hot out there. If you want to see the professional fireworks, you can go to Notify NYC.
Deputy Mayor Banks: Thank you commissioner. We really need to push this message because you think about, and every year we read about it. Someone who’s lost their hands, their fingers, suffered some damage. If they had a chance to rewind the clock and do it again, would they mess with those fireworks? The answer is universally no. Now here’s your rewind. Don’t do it. You can still see the fireworks, you can still see the bang and the glitter and the pop and the glory, but we need you to be very careful. It is very dangerous. It’s illegal.
We are out there looking at the people who are going and buying this contraband, and we just need some help. So pass the word along. Dangerous, don’t do it and enjoy it July 4th as always. Thank you, Commissioner. I appreciate those comments.
Fire Commissioner Kavanagh: Thank you.
Deputy Mayor Banks: Another correlation when it comes to July 4th. Usually, hopefully we’re going to have great weather, and when we have great weather, we go to our parks, we go to our beaches, we go to our pools. But there’s a lot of safety that’s involved in there as well. Commissioner, thank you again, once again for coming up. Last time, you had a great presentation. You had a lot of good information, and I’m asking you to let our audience know, how do we enjoy ourselves and yet remain safe?
Commissioner Sue Donohue, Department of Parks and Recreation: Absolutely. Thank you, Deputy Mayor, and good afternoon everyone. As you said earlier, every year millions of people visit our beaches and pools for fun, connection, relaxation. I’m happy to say that swimming season is definitely here. Our beaches are open and lifeguards are on duty seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and our outdoor pools also opened this week and will be opening our outdoor pools from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. A little break in between, and then from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. until September 10th.
While swimming offers such an excellent source of recreation and a chance to cool off on the hottest days, we must also really be vigilant in promoting water safety. It’s something that’s so important to us as New Yorkers and as the Parks Department. First and foremost, the single most important thing that New Yorkers can do to stay safe at the beaches and pools is to follow all directions from our lifeguards. They’re the experts. They’re there to keep us safe. We would just really emphasize to obey all posted signs and flags. Remember, red flags mean don’t swim. We talked about this last time I was here. If there’s a red flag, it means we don’t want you going in the water.
Even if you don’t plan on swimming, there’s still really important ways to stay safe at our beaches this summer. One is never leave children unattended around the city’s water bodies, really important. We also recommend people wear sunscreen, stay hydrated. As we enter this busy holiday weekend, New Yorkers can check our website at www.nyc.gov/parks. As the commissioner noted, also be notified about the status of their local pools with know before you go, a free service available in 13 languages through the Notify NYC system. To sign up for the new notifications, visit nyc.gov/notifynyc. Lots of good information there.
Another thing we want New Yorkers to be mindful of being the 4th of July weekend is to barbecue safely in designated areas. We have at the Parks Department many beautiful free sites across the city, in every park, in every borough, and barbecuing is one of the best ways to enjoy 4th July in our city’s parks. We know that, we want people to do that, but we also want people to be safe and follow some rules. Such as when people barbecue, just don’t dump your coals on the trees. When you finish up with your great barbecue, we want you to not dump your coals at the trees. It’s really damaging to the trees and the tree roots and to our horticulture that we work so hard to protect. Please dispose of your coals properly.
There’s bins in each park. They’re painted red this summer so people can see them and utilize them effectively. We also recommend, please don’t use propane, only charcoal in our parks, and also just a plug to take out what you bring in and keep our parks clean, dispose of garbage properly. But also Deputy Mayor, there are also so many great activities happening in parks around the city. For example, on Sunday afternoon, you can catch a game at Hoops in the Sun, a great tournament that happens, or you can get your salsa groove on and learn some new dance moves at Orchard Beach in the Bronx. They have Salsa Sundays, which is so much fun. Or you can pick your favorite spot in one of our parks and watch the many displays of fireworks that we know are going on on Tuesday.
We also would suggest you can volunteer with members of the Broadway musical Wicked through our We Heart NYC campaign this summer with events happening across the city. You can come out, volunteer, engage in helping to green and support your parks. Lots of good events happening this weekend, but most importantly, we want people to have fun in our parks, but we want people to do it safely.
Deputy Mayor Banks: Now, how does one find out about all of these events, like the Hoops in the Sun and the ones… Where do they go to be able to become…
Commissioner Donohue, Parks: On the Parks Department website. Lots of good information.
Deputy Mayor Banks: All of this information about the events that’s taking place in the parks, if they go onto the Parks department website, which is what?
Commissioner Donohue, Parks: NYCparks.gov.
Deputy Mayor Banks: Yes, NYCparks.gov. Then they can become apprised of all of this information.
Commissioner Donohue, Parks: We list parks, events happening at parks by borough, by park. Lots of good information.
Deputy Mayor Banks: I mean, my takeaway from what the commissioner is saying is that it’s not a deprivation of your fun and your enjoyment. It’s just a way to do it. You’re going to have the same fun. You’re going to have the same enjoyment. When you go out to the park, you want the park to be clean. I think what her message is, is that leave it how you found it so that the person behind you can now enjoy the same entree into the park that you had once did. Dumping it, like the coal. Some people may do that remotely. They may not be trying to be disrespectful, but it is damaging from what I understand.
Commissioner Donohue, Parks: To the tree roots.
Deputy Mayor Banks: To the tree roots there as well.
Commissioner Donohue, Parks: Absolutely.
Deputy Mayor Banks: Then of course, in the beaches and pools. We all hear these horrific stories of people who drown. I remember when I worked for the Marine Patrol many, many years ago, they used to say that the people who drown are people who can swim because a lot of people who don’t swim, don’t even go near the water. We were like, it doesn’t make sense. Because you can swim, don’t disregard that red flag. You know what happens? If you want to go out 20 feet, maybe 10 feet, well do it. Will still suffice the same fun that you’re having. Please just be careful. We want you to exercise some caution. We want you to be respectful to your fellow citizens, but we certainly want you to enjoy it as much.
That was a great presentation as always the second time. We have to make sure we get her here again because she always gives a lot of proper information. Now we’re going to talk about our, can I say mutt? Is that a bad word? Can I say mutt? No, pets. I call them like the pets.
Commissioner Donohue: No, I don’t think so.
Deputy Mayor Banks: I always tease everybody who has a dog. We have a few people here, and when we get to do our calls, I hear their dog and I’d be like, hey, shut that mutt up. They’d be like, I don’t have a mutt. So I say that affectionately. But now Alex, you’re going to talk to us about how the correlation of keeping our dogs safe during this time as well.
Alexandra Silver, Director, Mayor’s Office of Animal Welfare: Yeah. Thank you so much. Thank you, Deputy.
Deputy Mayor Banks: Thank you for joining us.
Silver: Appreciate it. The Mayor’s Office of Animal Welfare is housed within the Community Affairs Unit and is well positioned to work with the many agencies that handle animal issues and also liaise with the community, with organizations, animal welfare organizations and advocates and just pet parents, members of the community about animal issues. Not just companion animals, but also wildlife issues, work closely with parks department on wildlife issues and working animal issues. It’s an interesting office.
But today, as you said, I’d love to focus on companion animals, and I’m so glad that we’re including pets when we talk about safety around July 4th, because many of us who have animals, we know they’re members of our family. They’re really family members. The first thing I just want to say, because we’re talking about the fun of fireworks. For animals, for dogs, it’s not always fun. Something to keep in mind. All animals, not just humans of course, are individuals with their own likes and dislikes. But many animals are sensitive to and afraid of loud noises such as fireworks. I’m sure some of us have dogs who maybe during a thunderstorm or fireworks have seen a very scared reaction. So I think we just have to be sensitive to that, aware of that. And with that in mind, it’s best that people keep their pets inside.
You do not want to bring your dog with you to fireworks. When they’re inside, you also want to make sure that doors are closed, any access to the outside, any windows. Because when animals get scared, of course they may run and run outside and we can’t trust that they know where they are, that they’re going to come back because of the stress that they’re under. So knowing that this is a very stressful time, knowing that this can be very scary for the animals, we want to make sure that they’re in a safe space, closed doors, closed windows.
And if you are concerned about your dog, you know your dog particularly maybe will react, it’s good to create a safe space; a comfortable area in your apartment or in your home where maybe they have their favorite toys, they have a comfortable blanket. It’s always a great idea to play calming music too. If not music, just turn the TV on, have some white noise. Because those sudden unpredictable sounds of fireworks, which we might find entertaining, can actually be very scary for pets.
There are some animals who have what’s called noise phobias, and if they’re very sensitive to sounds, you might want to check with your veterinarian about other precautions you could take for your animals.
And July 4th is also an opportunity, and I’m glad I have this opportunity here to talk about the importance of identification because unfortunately, when animals do escape, they might get lost. We see a lot of lost pets around July 4th. And so, it’s very important that everyone has proper identification on their animals. So not just tags on collars, but in New York City, it’s required that dogs are licensed. And if you haven’t already applied for or renewed your dog license, you can do that via the health department website online. This is a great time to do it if you haven’t already.
And it’s also important to microchip your pets. A lot of people hear microchips, they think it’s GPS. It is not GPS unfortunately. We can’t just always track where our animals are. But it is basically a chip the size of a grain of rice, very small and inserted under the skin of an animal. And what’s great about it is if your pet does get lost, microchip scanners can pick up that chip even if a tag comes off, a license comes off. So, at animal shelters, at vet offices, at police precincts, people will have scanners. They can locate that chip, and that chip is connected with information as long as you update it with your contact information. So very important that animals, and I would say not just dogs, but also cats are microchipped because we all know they can get lost as well.
So licenses, microchips, very important. I will say if you are out with your dogs, I hope again, we have emphasized that it’s really important that they don’t go out during fireworks. It’s probably not in their best interest. But if you are out, make sure they’re on a leash, make sure you’re mindful of their behavior and their surroundings. And it’s always important to read animal body language, which can be fun as well. And you teach kids about how to read human body language, it’s the same with animal body language. They tell us a lot with their ears, with their tails, with their general posture, with their eyes. There’s some wonderful resources online, so maybe a good time to study up and you can tell is your cat or dog telling you that they’re scared?
One other note I just want to point out is that animals play off of our behavior as well. So if we’re calm, they’re more likely to be calm. And that’s important to keep in mind. And I hope it’s not necessary, but because we did talk about the fact that animals may get lost, particularly around July 4th, if you do lose your pet or if you find an animal and you’d like to report a found animal, the best place to go is nycacc.org. That’s nycacc.org, and you can file a lost pet report. You can also file a found pet report, and we can hopefully reunite any animals that will go missing because of July 4th.
Deputy Mayor Banks: That was a lot of helpful information. So let me just try to break this down. One, microchipping, right? Is that the correct terminology?
Silver: That’s it. That’s it.
Deputy Mayor Banks: Is that expensive?
Silver: Different veterinarians can do it. In New York City, there are some low-cost, free services. I know the ACC Animal Care Centers does free vaccine clinics throughout the year where they also do free microchipping. And if anyone has trouble or is interested in looking for those services, they can also use the Mayor’s Office of Animal Welfare contact us form. And I can try to point them in the right direction. But best to start with asking, I think your vet.
Deputy Mayor Banks: Okay, so asking your vet. So that’s very… Okay, so if the dog is lost and someone comes and encounter the dog, they can determine that they have a chip and then the owners contact information. That’s very important. And I would maybe imagine, or at least I would hope that most dog owners or pet owners would know that, but in case you didn’t know it before, you know it now.
And it’s so true that the pets are, they’re not like a member of the family. They are a member of the family. I remember growing up that I used to get very upset with the kids. I never got upset with the dog though. Dog was always an [inaudible]. So that is very helpful. We do get that particular bond there. We just want to make sure that we are very, take note of this during this season. But something I just want to follow up: You say that they feed off on the emotions of their owner. Just tell me a little bit more about that.
Silver: Totally, totally. Yeah. It’s the same way with humans. If someone is acting a certain way in front of you, it might be contagious to how you behave. So if you’re jumping up and down in front of a dog, that’s going to agitate, that’s going to excite that dog. So it’s best that we stay calm and always good to not make an animal more frantic by our own frantic behavior.
Deputy Mayor Banks: Okay. That’s interesting.
Silver: And I should add, I apologize for not bringing a dog today. I think I disappointed everyone in this room for that. Next time I promise I will work on that.
Deputy Mayor Banks: Okay. That was great. Thank you very much. That was a lot of helpful, useful information and I certainly appreciate it. Okay.
Question: Yeah, James Ford with PIX11 News. First of all, big shout out to the parks department for having the big bags of sunscreen at the pool. Really appreciated that yesterday. Just saying. Then also, maybe we combine some of the areas here. I’m just trying to get more information about what’s being done to prepare people for the combination of high AQI numbers and the 4th of July weekend, including the fireworks display, and maybe even with pets and high AQI.
Deputy Mayor Banks: I want to hear a question. Did I hear a question in that? I missed it. Okay.
Question: What preparations, what advice are the various agencies giving? And what preparations are you making yourselves just for this convergence of possible high levels of pollutants in the air and people being out the holiday week?
Deputy Mayor Banks: Well, one, we just started. So part of it is getting information out on forms like here today. But individually, all of the agencies are pushing out this particular message there. When it comes to specifically the air quality, Christina has taken the lead from the administration point of view. So though I do enjoy speaking with her, I think we speak via about a hundred times a day. Seems like every 15 minutes we’re having another call about this air quality because it does play an impact.
And what happens is that you could feel healthy and fine, but your loved one who may have any type of a condition or someone younger, in fact could not. So we are pushing this message out as much as we possibly can to make sure that you, self-preservation is the first law of nature. We want you to be aware of this. We want you to take heavy, heavy precautions. I think we’ve had our Dr. Vasan get this message out as much as he possibly can. So, individually and collectively, the administration is pushing this message out because this is something that if you get the information that we certainly can solve that.
Question: The events are still going ahead as usual, but just with an eye toward…
Deputy Mayor Banks: Yes. Well, and Commissioner, correct me if I’m wrong, we have a number where if it reaches this particular number or we project this number, that some of the events we will stop, others that we will strongly suggest that they cease. I don’t think we’re at that point, at least the last communication we had, we’re not reaching that level as of yet. Am I correct?
First Deputy Commissioner Farrell: Yeah, no, exactly. So we’re nowhere close to where we were a couple weeks ago, and there were some events, there were some city events at Gracie Mansion and other things that we did postpone that week because it clearly, I think everybody recognized that was not a safe week to spend time outside. These numbers are way lower. It also is forecast to be better as we go into the weekend.
And one thing about the air quality, it’s only forecast a day in advance. So it’s not like a heat wave or hurricanes or snow where we have multiple days as we can see how it’s going. So we don’t have indications that we will have incredibly poor air quality on Tuesday when the fireworks are. But again, things can change and we will adjust.
I would also note, as the Deputy Mayor said, it’s all based on your personal circumstance, but I know that the July 4th fireworks can also be enjoyed on TV. And so, there’s other ways to enjoy things than being outside. And it just comes down to people being aware. We will send the information out if we start to see a large spike or something, which does not seem likely at all, we will adjust activities.
Deputy Mayor Banks: And Commissioner Kavanagh, I think when we spoke very recently, you were monitoring the number of asthma calls and where they were coming from. And if I’m correct, we didn’t see an increase during two weeks ago where we were at the height of it. Is that correct?
Fire Commissioner Kavanagh: Exactly. We monitored it two weeks ago to see if we would need additional resources. There were very small increases in vulnerable populations, but nothing that would change a need to increase EMS staffing. That being said, I think as the commissioner has said, and you have said people really should, I think about their own personal circumstances. So children, seniors, those who have asthma, of course, call us if you need us, but you don’t want to need us. So come pick up a mask from a firehouse, stay inside if the air does get worse, and hopefully you won’t need us. But if you do feel ill, we are there. We do have additional staffing because of July 4th anyways.
Deputy Mayor Banks: That’s very good. We don’t want you to need us. But if you do need us, we will be there.
Fire Commissioner Kavanagh: Then call. Yeah.
Moderator: Thank you. Earlier this week, the administration reached out to New Yorkers asking them to submit questions for the officials that have joined us here today. We will now get to as many of those as we can with the amount of time that we have left. Our first question comes from Ryan in Staten Island for emergency management who asks, at what air quality level numerically should we consider wearing a mask, and should we use an N95 or a regular surgical mask?
First Deputy Commissioner Farrell: Thank you. That’s a very good question. So as we’ve noted, it’s different for different people. I would say that the most important guidance if the air quality is compromised as it has been this week, is to really limit your prolonged time outside. So if you usually run outside, maybe you can run inside or do a different type of activity. If you were going to have dinner outside, you can move it inside. So really you want to limit the amount of time outside, but obviously we all have to travel and do other things outside. So it’s a slope. People with sensitivities, older adults, younger children, those with respiratory or other lung issues would probably choose to wear a mask sooner than the general population. As the air quality index signifies, once we get above 100, that’s when it is deemed unhealthy for people in the sensitive group and then above one 50 for the general population.
I would say from an emergency management perspective, there are many reasons to have masks in your go bag in your car, your house. If obviously lingering effects of Covid and people’s comfort level, if you have allergies and other things dealing with this. So this is why we’ve been giving out the masks at the firehouse, the police departments continuously, because it isn’t the thing where you should wake up and deal with it that day. Just like if it’s going to rain and you bring an umbrella, this is a similar type of thing. So we’re making these masks available so people can have them, work them into where they work and live and then just make those personal decisions based on their own situation. But again, we’re not at a level… We’re at the 200, 250, 300 way up high. So it really is a personal choice right now.
Silver: If I may add, this goes for pets as well, we want to make sure that obviously people are taking their dogs out for walks, but best to limit when the air quality is at these kinds of levels that we’re talking about. There are certain breeds of dogs that have particular issues with breathing, the short snouted dogs. So just be aware of that. You really don’t want to take them out for extended walks when you’re experiencing this air quality.
Moderator: Thank you. Next question comes from Jim in Brooklyn for the Fire Department who says, I reside in Cypress Hill and illegal use of fireworks, especially during these holidays is a big issue. How does the city respond to these nuisances?
Fire Commissioner Kavanagh: Thanks for that question. If he knows of a location, he should call 311 and give us that location of someone who’s storing or selling them. If they’re actually going off, he can call 911 and we, NYPD will respond right away.
Speaker 1: Great. Next question comes from Allison in Manhattan for the parks department, who asks, will public restrooms be open for extended hours around the 4th of July holiday?
Commissioner Donohue, Parks: Thank you for that question. Our public restrooms will be open till at least 7:00 PM through Labor Day, and I’m proud to say we are the largest provider of public restrooms in the city with over 1400 restrooms in parks across the five borough. So lot available and they’re open until 7:00 PM through Labor Day.
Moderator: Thank you. Question for animal welfare liaison from Jacqueline in Queens who asks, do you have any additional tips to ease the fear and anxiety of animals who experienced this during hours of peak fireworks around 4th of July?
Silver: Thank you. No, I appreciate that question. I love that we’re thinking about our pets during fireworks. As I said, I think the most important thing is to be mindful that these can be really scary for dogs and for our pets. Keeping them inside, keeping the windows closed, the doors closed. You can play, as I said, music or just white noise, fans or TV to calm them down. They can have a special area. Maybe there’s a special corner that they like or a smaller room where you can create this oasis of calm for your pet, maybe for you too, if that’s what you prefer. And treats, treats are always a great thing to use. You know what your dog… If it’s a dog likes maybe peanut butter, something to preoccupy them, something to distract them, their favorite toy. And again, if your animals, if you know that there’s particularly sensitive or fearful, it might be best to check with your veterinarian and they might be able to give you additional tips and advice on that.
Moderator: Thank you. And our final question comes from Chelsea in Brooklyn for the fire commissioner who asks, is it safe to have my e-bike battery in my apartment as long as it is not charging?
Fire Commissioner Kavanagh: So batteries that are not charging can still catch fire. Those are batteries that have typically been tampered with or are non-certified illegal batteries. So I would ask Chelsea to make sure that her battery is UL certified and that it hasn’t been tampered with. If it is either one of those things, she should not have it in her apartment. If it is certified, she can have it in her apartment, make sure it’s unplugged when she’s sleeping and charge it when she’s awake.
Deputy Mayor Banks: Okay. I just would like to close that. Give a shout out to a guest that we have here for my office, Frank Hernandez. In my office, we have people from various different agencies. Frank happens to be a lieutenant in the NYPD, this is his last day. In the NYPD, he did 21 years of service. He’s always carried himself with a lot of class, a lot of professionalism, and he leaves a trail of no betrayal and no bit of feelings. And in the NYPD, if you can accomplish that, that’s not remarkable. That’s almost like many gold status. So I just want to say thank you for what you brought here to this particular neighborhood.
When Frank came to tell us he was leaving, we had to joke that he came and said that he was thinking about leaving, wrapping up a career. And we were like, “Yes, we are finally getting rid of him.” But the reality of the matter is, you are a class act and you brought a lot and I really, really appreciate it. And he’s accompanied by his lovely wife Lauren. And Lauren, like we spoke about earlier. It’s a custom in the NYPD that your spouse cannot deny you any request on a day of his retirement. It usually starts with diamonds or platinum or new cars or diamond braces, and he cannot and not in fact deny it. So congratulations to the both of you. Good luck and we certainly wish you well. Okay. Back to you.
June 30, 2023