November 12, 2023
Gary Byrd: […] Opens the doorways for you to have a chance to do what we call, Hear From the Mayor. And the unique aspect as well is that the mayor wants to hear from you. Mayor Eric Adams joins us with his broadcast this morning. You can reach him and he will tell you how in just a moment as we welcome him on Veterans Day from 107.5 WBLS, the 110th mayor of New York City, my brother, Eric Adams. Eric, good morning.
Mayor Eric Adams: Good morning, brother. How are you? Is it me or does it seem like the year is just flying by?
Byrd: I was saying that earlier, brother. It’s on the move. There’s no doubt. We’re at the end.
Mayor Adams: I just really want to welcome back to another episode of my Hear From the Mayor, and I’m your mayor, Eric Adams. And if you are the first time you’re tuning in, the purpose of this show is doing just that. I just want to hear unfiltered from New Yorkers and New Yorkers will hear unfiltered from me.
And so listeners should tune in or give me a call and hear directly from me as your mayor, so as we are moving forward to building the city that everyone loved. Well, this is many ways to reach me. I try to be one of the most easy mayors to get in contact with.
They can listen to my Get Stuff Done Cast. We have some amazing guests on the cast on our podcast. We also have our newly launched Text With Eric when you can hear from me on how the city is doing.
And finally, I’m now on WhatsApp, you know, so we can deal with our international and immigrant communities. Because a lot of people use WhatsApp as a way of communicating and stand in touch with each other. So, folks can sign up to hear from me by visiting nyc.gov/hearfromeric. But today, while we are on the show, you can dial in to (212) 545‑1075.
And I’m really excited today. You know, we are looking at Veterans Day. We had an amazing parade yesterday, but I’m joined by, you know, one of my heroes in government, my amazing commissioner of Veterans’ Services, Commissioner James Hendon.
And we have a real special guest with us, a Purple Heart receiver, Elana Duffy. She’s a sergeant, first class retired US Army. And they want just really to discuss the importance of not only Veterans Day, but what our men and women are doing for us, as well as really talking about just their careers and some of the things that they’re doing.
This is a real exciting conversation for the thousands of vets out there, or loved ones who are veterans as members of their family. We will never forget, never forget what they have done and how they have served their country. Real great show today.
Well turn it over to the commissioner, Commissioner James Hendon. You know, I just learned when I was reading your bio, I thought I knew a lot about you, brother, but you’re a West Point grad.
Commissioner James Hendon, Department of Veterans’ Services: Thank you so much for allowing us to be here today, Mr. Mayor and Happy Veterans Day to all who are listening. You know, when we come together this season, we just want to make sure that we remember how freedom isn’t free. And I always try to remember folk… Remind folks of the sacrifice made by those men and women who serve.
You know, we look at our country, 247 years, 12 major wars fought by just a fraction of all of those people. And of those people we’ve seen, one and a half million who’ve been injured or wounded in action.
You have 9,000, so who’s still missing, and you have 658,088 who made the ultimate sacrifice. And so we love to come together on Veterans Day to give roses, not just to those who serve, but also to their families who stood in that foxhole with them to make sure that we can sit here today and pursue life, liberty and happiness.
Byrd: Well, well said.
Mayor Adams: Well said, commissioner. You know what’s fascinating, you know, you don’t only talk to talk, you walk the walk. You played a role in the Afghan border police. Just how was that in a real sense? Just, you know, what was life like during that whole activity?
Commissioner Hendon: It was an honor to be in a place where we were taking, you know, the fight back, the same people who attacked us so many years ago as far as 9/11. And I’d served in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2009 advising the Border Police.
What stood out to me about that deployment, Mr. Mayor, was just the how fortunate I am to be in America. You know, Afghanistan at the time was the fifth poorest country on the earth. And to see what folks had gone through and what little they had, and it made us think about all the benefits we have.
And also to something that when you’re out in those settings, your word is your bond. There are no police, there are no lawyers, there’s no one else out there when certain agreements are made. And so all you have to rely on is that handshake. And when I look at that and I look here in this country, I always tell myself, you know, when you take away all the pop and circumstances of who we are and what we have here in America, this is basically established through an agreement that many of our military service members and our first responders take to help us keep this thing intact.
Mayor Adams: Tell me, Department of Veterans’ Services, before we go on to Purple Heart of… Tell us about just an overview of what Department of Veterans’ Services, and this is the first in this nation that has an agency that’s solely dealing with our veterans. You know, what do you try to accomplish in that agency?
Commissioner Hendon: So, our charge is to assist and inform our veteran and military families. So, we try to help them take advantage of all that they’ve earned when it comes to benefits, opportunities and services specific to housing, healthcare, benefits, culture, education and employment.
And so, you know, folks can always reach out to us at nyc.gov/vets, and we are happy to connect any of our more than 200,000 veterans in this city and their loved ones with every opportunity, benefit and program that they have earned.
Mayor Adams: So, it’s more than just the vets, it’s also their loved ones… Their services that we provide for loved ones as well?
Commissioner Hendon: That is correct, Mr. Mayor. Oftentimes, especially dealing with older veterans, it may not be that veteran directly that you’re liaison with, but it may be that family member, that grandfather, that granddaughter, that wife, that husband, et cetera, and we make sure they not only have the cheat code to be able to do right by their veteran who’s a loved one, but also there’s certain benefits like dependent indemnity compensation, which is something paid to the, the spouse or dependent of someone who passes away to make sure they tied into that and other programs and offerings specific to caregivers and survivors.
Mayor Adams: You know, as I stated, we also joined with… We’re joined by Purple Heart recipient. And I’m just really impressed and I was reading over her bio. You know, you are just, you know, you’re just a real solid, solid citizen and a real warrior for our country. I want to first ask, how does one become a Purple Heart recipient?
Elana Duffy: Well, first of all, first of all, thank you, Mr. Mayor, for having us. And let’s see. Well, becoming a Purple Heart veteran is not necessarily what you want because it is an indicator that you are wounded during combat. So in my case, I was hit by a roadside bomb and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and ultimately lost my right leg.
Mayor Adams: And, you know, you continue to serve, but even prior to that, your credentials were impressive. You went into the service already being a graduate from Cornell University with undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering. You wrote to Civil and Logic Engineering briefly before deciding to enlist. What motivated you to enlist?
Duffy: Well, when I was in college, I watched the Twin Towers fall. I’d grown up looking at that skyline, and it was incredibly tough just sitting there with… At Cornell, there’s so many New Yorkers, there’s so many people from the city, from the areas where I knew. And just being surrounded by all of those people, I felt like I needed to do something.
And when I got out and started working in construction and engineering, it just didn’t feel right. So, I needed to do something, and I chose to enlist rather than go the officer route because I wanted to be doing something tangible and being on the ground and being able to interact with the people and being able to interact with the people that I was going to make sure were able to come home, be a little safer, make sure that not just our side was able to come home with fewer casualties, but also the Afghans, the Iraqis, I wanted to make sure that everyone could get home to their families at night.
So, I decided to work on the ground, become a source operator, an interrogator, and be able to find the bad guys with the bombs before the bombs went off.
Mayor Adams: Wow, that’s powerful. And it’s interesting. And you were in the thick of it, your deployments to both Afghanistan and Iraq. So, it was clearly that you didn’t go just to sit on the sidelines. You were up in it, you know?
Duffy: Yes. And that was my intention. I wanted to be able to interact. I didn’t want to push papers around or have to… I mean, women in the military really weren’t in direct combat at the time, unless you were military police or one of the other functions such as military intelligence collections. So, I wanted to be doing something that I felt was really going to make an impact.
Mayor Adams: So, it must have been, you know, extremely challenging after your injury, then retiring that, you know, I think you retired in 2012, you know, and then you had to…you wanted to continue to serve. And so you took that painful moment and you came back and you created something called Pathfinder.vet. What was that about and what motivated you?
Duffy: When I got out, I had an experience that unfortunately is all too common, where it was much harder to transition than I thought it would be. I came home, I came back to the city that I knew, I came back to people and friends and my family that I knew, but it was still really hard to figure out where I belonged and where I fit in.
And so I decided to start a platform that could help people find benefits, help people find nonprofits and organizations, and connect back with their community and have a reintegration experience that was a little better than my own.
Mayor Adams: And, you know, people don’t realize when you are in these states, commissioner. I recall, you know, after I retired from the Police Department, when you’re doing it every day you really don’t understand when you are out of it. You know, there’s almost like you are racing at this high level, then all of a sudden you come to a full stop.
You know, my son helped me a lot after my career, but I could only imagine, you know, that is some of the things that you are doing in DVS. How do you reacclimate and how do you allow people to just get back in civilian society?
Commissioner Hendon: You know, Mr. Mayor, two points to that, a lot of the work at DVS is to identify our veterans. Nationwide, only about a third of veterans self-identify. So they finish their service, they take that uniform off, and only one out of three will actively tell people that they wear that uniform. Here in New York City it’s just under a quarter, about 24.2 percent.
And to what you said, what I always tell folks is, it’s a handful of things. It could either be that I don’t want to take any benefits from anybody else, so the height of selflessness, or it could be that, you know, something was… I did something or something was done to me when I wore the uniform. I put it in a box. The box is all the way in the back of my mind, and I don’t want to walk near that box. So, to acknowledge I’m a veteran has me come closer to that box. And so that’s something we wrestle with at DVS to try to work, to get the word out, to have more of our brothers and sisters come into the light.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say with Elana, there’s a history in this country of people serving to protect the American experiment, even when it didn’t protect them back. She talked about being a woman in the military. So many stories from our women veterans dealing with this.
You go back in time, you’ve got Italian veterans who deal with this, you’ve got Irish veterans, you’ve got Chinese, Japanese, you know, Jewish, Muslim, and African American. We can go on and on as far as people who take this oath do this work even when the country isn’t truly ready to fully embrace them in the right way. And so we’re so grateful for those who serve for that reason too.
Mayor Adams: And that’s powerful, brother, because, you know, I think of some of the images where we saw young men and women during the Vietnam War. You know, I lost my 19-year-old uncle, uncle Joe in Vietnam. And, you know, you think about that that was during the height of the civil rights clashes, you know, so while of the battles were going on, it takes a special person to protect the soil that held the tree that hung your loved ones, but you’re still protecting that soil.
And so I think about what Elana stated on how some of the things women went through in the military, but you were willing to push through that and say, listen, I’m going to serve because it’s about the country, and it’s not about the eagles that go on within the country.
Byrd: And definitely about the phones next, Mr. Mayor, because the folks are standing by.
Duffy: Yeah. I think that that is a critical part.
Mayor Adams: Okay. Thank you. I think we think we’re going to hit the phones, but I hate that music. That music is an indicator we’re about to do a break.
Byrd: That’s right. Exactly. [Inaudible] to our sister as well certainly as well whose stories are absolutely compelling. Why don’t you give our listeners those numbers, Mr. Mayor, so they can give you a chance to hear from them this morning on 107.5 WBLS?
Mayor Adams: Yes. I look forward. Please dial in, (212) 545‑1075. Let us hear from you, the commissioner, Elana, or you could speak directly to your mayor.
Byrd: We’ll take a quick break and be back with you on here from the Mayor from 107.5 WBLS.
Byrd: It’s Veterans Day 2023. And the Hear from Mayor is on the air. Mayor Eric Adams is with us this morning with his broadcast, and, of course, you know, it’s called Hear From the Mayor, but the mayor wants to hear from you. (212) 545‑1075. Welcome back. Brother Eric, good morning.
Mayor Adams: Thank you. Thank you. Good to be back. You know, why don’t we hit the phones, go to a caller. I think we got a call in Harlem, right?
Byrd: That’s right. Good morning. You’re on the air, so please speak to us.
Question: Okay. Good morning.
Mayor Adams: Good morning.
Question: My name’s [Annette]. I’m calling from Queens, Laurelton. And my question is, the state-of-the-art, these casinos that they are bidding for, why couldn’t we have a state-of-the-art mental health facility where it would be on the concept of having all the amenities for indoor swimming, outdoor walking trails, bicycling or health classes, [inaudible] nutrition classes, but it would be a place for those who suffer illness those can enjoy activities alongside of taking medication. And since I have from one of…
Byrd: Great question.
Mayor Adams: Yes, yes, it’s an amazing question. And let me show you how much we are in alignment. There’s a real conversation right now about closing Rikers Island and building four more jails, one in each borough except for Staten Island.
And what I believe of something we should explore and the City Council should explore, who’s going to make the ultimate decision based on the law, is that we should really build, as you just stated, a state-of-the-art mental health facility. Over 50 percent of the people who are on Rikers Island right now are being charged with some form of…or have some type of mental health illness. And I think it’s around 18 percent have severe mental health illness.
Instead of using Rikers Island or any jail as a place to address those with mental health illness, I think this is a real opportunity for us to build a first class state-of-the-art mental health facility to give people the wraparound services they need. We’re going to spend billions of dollars instead of just looking at buildings, spending billions for a jail. We should focus on what 50 percent of that population is.
They should not be in jail. They should be getting help so they’re not recycled throughout the system. So, sister, I’m with you. You’re dead on. I 100 percent believe that.
Byrd: It’s Hear From the Mayor. And the mayor wants to hear from you. Your name and what borough you are calling from as you join us on 107.5 WBLS. Good morning. You are on the air. Go right ahead, please. Caller, don’t listen to the radio, listen to your phone. You’re in the air. First name and where you’re calling from.
Question: Yes. My is [inaudible] calling from [inaudible] and I’d like to speak with Eric and the commissioner as well to commend them both on their services and to let them know that I’m out here doing work on my own full service to the city for many different agencies. Basically communicating with people, you know, so people to people communication.
And I like to know what else it’s that I can do for them directly out here in service with the people and to see if I can possibly sit down with Eric one-to-one because I’ve been trying to get in touch with him through several different outlets and I have been unable to do that but to just basically let him know that I’m out here, boots on the ground, as I said, speaking with people, you know, person-to-person, and I’m just trying to figure out not only with this agency of the veterans, but with the agencies of all under the city…
Byrd: Time’s going to go past. Let the mayor speak to you. Go right ahead.
Mayor Adams: And thank you, sister. If you call our number as City Hall, there’s a link that you fill out that my scheduler looks at the request and we determine how to get the best service you need. You know, oftentimes, Gary, folks say, listen, I want to sit down with Eric his, you know, on the own. But it may be an issue around education. Then the chancellor’s who you should be speaking with. It could be an issue around housing, the housing. So, I vet it to make sure you’re getting the results you’re looking for.
But I commend her for helping out during the season of Thanksgiving. It’s not thanks receiving, it’s Thanksgiving and we should be really giving to people. That’s what that sister’s doing. Thank you for what you’re doing.
But reach out to City Hall, and we’ll connect you with the right person. If it needs to be me, I’m the one you would sit down with. But there may be a better person that could tell you exactly what needs to be done.
Byrd: It’s a Veterans Day Weekend on 107.5 WBLS. You’re going to get a chance to hear from the mayor, Mayor Eric Adams. We have time for just one more call. Please keep it succinct. Get it in. The mayor wants to hear from you. Thank you.
Good morning. Name and where you’re calling us from. Yes, caller, you’re in the air. Name and where you’re calling us from this morning. You’re in the air. Go right ahead, please. Name and where you’re calling us from.
Question: Hi. Calling from Bronx, New York.
Mayor Adams: Yes.
Byrd: And your name, sister, quickly.
Question: I’m calling for Linda. Well, I don’t want to say my whole name. This is Linda.
Mayor Adams: It’s okay. It’s okay. Linda, go ahead.
Question: My daughter came home from the military, came back and still looking for housing. Some of the buildings coming from an area in the Bronx or [inaudible] area where, like an expensive area, told her that she has to go, they put her in the back of the line and that military don’t get no priority. They still have to go in the back of the line. Been home since January and still looking for housing.
Mayor Adams: Okay. So, sister, I have Commissioner Hendon that’s on with us right now. Let’s look at that case specific and see how we could assist. There are different programs that are in place with senior housing, veteran housing, et cetera. And so we want to be as supportive as possible. Commissioner, you want to touch on that?
Commissioner Hendon: Yes, we’ll make sure to get your information so we can connect with you separately. But yes, we’re happy to assist. We have someone on our team who works with our veterans as far as navigating the different affordable housing, you know, programs that the city has. Also got to call out the Mitchell-Lama Veterans preference that our mayor established back when he was the chair in the senate of the State Senate’s Veteran Committee. And so we make sure that our veterans take advantage of that as well as far as affordable housing options. But happy to connect with your daughter, my sister. Yes.
Question: Just one thing. When they come home, this stuff should be in place already. I’m advocating for her and it’s not fair that I have to reach out and do all this stuff. Stuff should be in place when they come home and housing, number one, should be available and no one should be telling them they’re not special. They go in the back of the line. Excuse you. Some nerve.
Mayor Adams: So, listen, sister. Listen, you know and I know when you’re dealing with over 300,000 employees, some people don’t have the proper table etiquette that is deserving. They are special. We know they’re special. But we know we also have a severe housing crisis in the city. Severe. You know, with over 160,000 people and homeless and over 60,000 of just everyday New Yorkers in shelter.
Our housing crisis is at a proportion that none of us can imagine we were going to be at. Many of our seniors don’t have housing right now, our foster care children. So there’s a severe housing crisis. That’s why we’re continuing to build more and we need help from our state and city lawmakers to help us build more.
But please don’t embody or engulf the behavior of a person that was disrespectful because that is not representative of who we are as a city and not representative of how we feel about our veterans.
Byrd: And now we’ve got closing comments from our mayor, Mayor Eric Adams for this Veterans Day Weekend 2023.
Mayor Adams: Yes. I think, brother, really hearing from that sister that called and said how she’s on the ground volunteering, that says it all. Each one does, you know, one, each one of us reach out.
You see that brother or sister doing a… Or person, citizen walking the street in sandals during the wintertime, that means they need shoes. Let’s go in our closet and get one of those pairs. You see someone on the windbreaker in 13 degree weather, they need a coat. We all got enough in our cupboards and inside our home. Each one helps one, and we can get through this together.
Byrd: It’s the mayor of our city, the 110th mayor himself, Eric Adams, each and every second Sunday at halftime, 10:30 on WBLS, you’ll have a chance to hear from the mayor. And the mayor wants his chance to hear from you. (212) 545‑1075 is the number. Bank it and join us in our second Sunday presentation next month. Brother Eric, giving thanks for all you do, my brother.
Mayor Adams: Thank you. Thank you. And I want to thank Elana and I want to thank the commissioner, job well done serving our country and sharing with us today. Thank you.
Byrd: Giving thanks. Have a great day. And you as well. And thank you for listening.
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