Deputy Mayor Fabien Levy, Communications: Good morning, everybody. My name is Fabien Levy and I serve as Deputy mayor for Communications for the City of New York. Thank you again for joining us this morning as we continue our weekly media availability series.
Along with our weekly broadcast interviews are regular press conferences, our podcasts, radio show and social media channels, these media availabilities help provide New Yorkers with another opportunity to learn about the work of our administration and hear directly from the mayor.
They bring together leaders with decades of experience across important issues like public safety and public space and they provide all of you in the news media with a regular and reliable format to ask questions. So, joining us today, we have Mayor Eric Adams, First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright, Chief Advisor to the Mayor Ingrid Lewis-Martin, Chief of Staff Camille Joseph Varlack, Deputy Mayor for Operations Mayor Joshi, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development and Workforce Maria Torres-Springer, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives Ana Almanzar and Chief Counsel Lisa Zornberg. So, without any further delay, I’m pleased to turn it over to Mayor Adams.
Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. And again, these Tuesdays are important and we…little did we know that we will be holding these Tuesday briefings, give us an opportunity to spend a great deal of time to drill down on some of these issues.
Some of the things that we do during the week, we hold press and do these on topics. If they’re emergency situations, we will bring folks together and just really engage in whatever that emergency situation is. And so by no means by doing these Tuesday briefings, we are trying to delay the reporting of anything, but this just gives us an opportunity to get you folks in the room and just give a in-depth conversation on what we’re facing in the city.
And we’re facing many things right now in the city and our goal is to try to be as transparent and as accurate as possible as we give the information. It gets us nowhere when we’re just yelling out questions while I’m walking through the streets. It just doesn’t accomplish what I think you are really trying to do as you try to report on what’s taking place.
And also my team is always here. My press office is always here to answer inquiries. Deputy Mayor Levy and his team, they do an amazing job. If you have inquiries, we want to continue to do that as much as possible.
And something that’s really impacted me now is what’s happening on our streets every day. The incident that played out in Israel has really impacted this city. I say over and over again, this is an international city and things that happen across the globe, they play out in the City of New York, even during the war in Ukraine.
After the war in Ukraine, we had one of the largest Ukrainian populations, Russian speaking population. And so what happened in Palestine and what happened in Israel, we’re seeing it play out on our streets every day.
And so over a month now, many of us have struggled and watch our family, friends and neighbors as they struggle as the fighting in Israel and Palestine continue. This is not a conflict between Jews and Muslims, but we know it can take a toll on our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters and others who feel their pain.
We have seen large protests on a regular basis and we have seen incidents targeting our Jewish, Muslim and other ethnic communities that we are monitoring and stay on top of. And I just really want to take my hat off to the New York City Police Department.
Over 120 demonstrations in the City of New York, large demonstrations, a great deal of restraint outside of one or two terrible incidents such as breaking a police window and writing graffiti. For the most part, the police department has done amazing job of ensuring that this city remains safe.
But while overall hate crimes are down to date, we have to be extremely honest. Since October 7th terrorist attacks, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in hate crimes against our Jewish and Muslim communities. Not only as physical assaults are up in these communities, but the terminology, many of you heard it, you covered it, you hear some of the words that are being hurled at individuals.
And listen, this is not Europe in the 1930s and this is not who we are as a city and this is not who we are as people of New York. Hate has no place in our city, and one can voice peacefully, but to use some of the terminology that I have witnessed, it is really not who we are as a city and we want to continue to say that.
And yesterday, we had an amazing round table with Jewish, Muslim, Christians and other leaders as we sat right here in this room and talked about how do we continue the process of healing our city and coming together. We all want peace, yes, for Israel and Palestinians abroad, but also we want it here in New York City.
So to advance that goal, we’re going to continue to have these round tables. We’re going to continue to build our breaking bread building bonds, and our goal is to find a resolution. We’re not going to solve the crisis in the Middle East, but we can solve the crisis that’s playing out on our street, and that’s our focus and that is our goal.
This is what we want to continue to do and show our leadership in the real way as we see the increase in displays of hate against not only my Palestinian New Yorkers, our Jewish New Yorkers, but even what we saw among our Sikh New Yorkers as well and other groups.
We also want to just quickly before we open up, we wanted to go into what happened the other day at the Amtrak. There was a potential structural issue. Department of Buildings responded accordingly and appropriately. And out of an abundance of caution, there were some change in services.
We believe that the services are going to be back online on Thursday and part of the return to service and a full return to service by Friday. The contractors are doing their job. The necessary review is being done and hopefully we’re going to be up to full service.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor Adams: Hi, how are you?
Question: Good, good. How are you, sir? Last week you did not disclose, at this same briefing last Wednesday, that the FBI had seized some of your technology and then there was some additional technology you had to go back and give them.
Have you been asked to sit down for an interview? Have any members of your staff at the deputy mayor, commissioner level been asked for an interview and has anyone else on your team been asked for their electronics?
Mayor Adams: First of all, last week my information was completely accurate on what I shared with you. Accuracy is important and we were. And this is, and I cannot emphasize this enough and I’m just going to continue. It takes a lot of discipline.
This is an ongoing review. And as a former member of law enforcement, is always my belief, don’t interfere with an ongoing review and don’t try to do these reviews through the press.
We are fully cooperating, whatever the reviewers are looking for, we are fully cooperating with it and my role is to allow them to do their job without interference and I have to do my job of continuing to make sure the city navigates the various issues that we are facing.
Question: Mr. Mayor, you have to do a budget modification on Thursday. We already know that the next class of school safety officers, 250 safety officers, are not going to be hired. I wonder… It’s a multi-part question. I wonder, are you concerned about the fact that that cut is going to compromise school safety?
But also, I wonder if you could lift the veil on some of the other painful cuts that you’re going to have to make. And if you could talk about how painful this first round of cuts is going to be for New Yorkers across the board with all services.
Mayor Adams: Well, it is more than painful for New Yorkers. It’s painful for us. I’ve seen a great deal of just personal pain from the members of my team. These are initiatives that we fought hard for. It is part of our upstream mindset of how do you prevent crime and not just respond to crime to see some of the services that Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom has fought for for a long time on what we wanted to do and the entire team here.
And so this is extremely, personally painful for this administration, these projects and these initiatives that we knew were going to improve the lives of New Yorkers. Jacques, our OMB director, is going to do a presentation. We’re going to brief the speaker. We’re going to also brief our nonprofits, and Marica, it’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt a lot.
And when you go into the agencies and ask them to do — they already did three rounds of PEGs at three percent — now we’re telling them they have to do a five percent for the November plan and then another five percent in January.
This is… In all my time in government, this is probably one of the most painful exercises I’ve gone through. And when we look at around police what the numbers our police officers are going to be and how we’ve done so well and dropping crime in our city, when we look at the school safety agents, when we look at some of the other initiatives that we are doing. It’s going to be extremely painful for New Yorkers, and that is why we continue to say we need help.
Question: …You didn’t answer the part about whether you’re worried about the cut to the school safety agents. You think it’s going to compromise school safety? It’s an agency that’s already down over a thousand people and there have been incidents not only of hate in schools, but there have been incidents of weapons and things like that. So, are you worried about that and are you worried about these hate incidents that are going on?
Mayor Adams: We have been successful, unlike other municipalities where they’re having shootings on school grounds, in some of the cases of mass shootings, we have not had one shooting inside our schools because of the work of school safety agents and the New York City Police Department.
And so my conversation with the chancellor who was a former school safety agent and the commissioner that we have to make sure that we continue to create an environment for our children. We have to shift around personnel as much as possible.
We have to do a real evaluation on where do we have the high-need schools and we’re going to be leaning into parents and parent groups to do some volunteerism. We’re going to lean into our crisis management team. We have to pull an all hands on deck moment.
But am I concerned that we’re going to drop and make schools unsafe for our children? I’m never going to allow that to happen. But we are going to be straining at a very high level to get this done correctly.
Deputy Mayor Levy: Marcia, I’d also point out that Comptroller DiNapoli recently wrote an op-ed and he made it very clear, sadly, hard choices need to be made and this administration is making the hard choices. Maybe First Deputy Mayor Wright wants to speak a little bit more about the overall, not just school safety agents, but how it’s going to affect us.
First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright: Sure. And Director Jiha, we will be releasing the November plan on Thursday. There will be a technical briefing as well. But with the fiscal cliffs, with the office vacancies, which really those buildings contribute to our tax base, as well as the asylum seeker costs, the resources are not there and every single agency is going to feel the impact of these cuts and New Yorkers are going to feel it top to bottom. And so that’s just the truth. We’ll continue to manage through this crisis as we have continued to, but it’s going to be tough.
Question: Mr. Mayor, so last Friday after it was revealed that the FBI had seized your devices, your campaign released a statement saying an individual had acted improperly and that was reported to the FBI. Could you tell us who that individual is? Was it Brianna Suggs? Was it someone else on the campaign? And also, was that the precursor to the FBI stopping you and seizing your devices?
Lisa Zornberg, Chief Counsel to the Mayor and City Hall: I’m going to jump in here. So, many of you know that in addition to being chief counsel to the mayor and City Hall, I was formally the chief of the criminal division at SDNY, and that informs the approach. We’re going to be very disciplined. There’s a matter that’s under investigation. We at City Hall have the same goal as SDNY, and that is, they have work to do. Let them see it through so that justice can prevail.
All I am willing to tell you, and this is basically all that I’m willing to say, is that first of all, we’re fully cooperative. We’ve been proactively cooperative and following proactive outreach to the investigators, they determined that access to certain of the mayor’s devices was advisable and we, of course, complied and gave access. That’s it. We’re going to continue to cooperate, but we are not going to impede a federal investigation. Let it take its course, but not in the course of the press.
Question: After this investigation, they got a lot of speculations on the street and I just want to bring these concerns to you.
Mayor Adams: Yes.
Question: They want to know if there is something there that can prevent you to continue your position or you going to be there for the rest of the period?
Mayor Adams: I mean, with what this administration is doing from… Probably one of the highlights of my administration is what we did the other day, I think yesterday around the electric heliport that we’re opening. Today we were in Brownsville, acknowledging the success of decrease in Brownsville.
No one thought it was possible. Shootings are down, crime is down in Brownsville. We are focusing on the employment in Brownsville. We’re continuing to move forward and run this city, and I think New Yorkers should be proud of how we are continuing to move forward. That’s what New Yorkers are seeing. They want me to do my job and we’re going to continue to do the job.
Question: Hey, Mr. Mayor, how you doing?
Mayor Adams: Good.
Question: I wanted to go back to the day that the search warrants were executed on Brianna Suggs. When you came back from Washington, D.C., did you meet with Tim Pearson, Phil Banks, or any other members of the NYPD command staff? Additionally, if it actually turns out that the federal government does indict you, would you resign?
Mayor Adams: I’m not speculating on that. You are all the way downfield. I’m going to continue to do the job as the mayor as long as my responsibility to do the job.
Zornberg: Again, I’m just going to jump in. I think, folks, it’s really important to remember here, no one has been accused of wrongdoing. We’ve been fully cooperative. We are not going to impede an active investigation by providing more detail, and that’s our position.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Mayor and Lisa, with your caveats understood. You did express some concern about leaks. Do you have a view that this investigation is somehow a retribution? Do you believe that someone in the FBI is out to get you and are you confident that as the Southern District does continue to investigate, they’re not going to find any impropriety with your campaign finances?
Mayor Adams: I’m not going to speculate on where we are. I’m not going to speculate on that. I know what I tell my team all the time; follow the law, I know that.
And matter of fact, I tell the team to the point that I’m almost annoying and we are very clear on that. We don’t do the straw donors, and a lot of people don’t know what that means, but we don’t do the straw donors. We don’t do quid pro quo. We follow the law.
I’m very clear on that. I’ve stated it from my days in the Police Department, to my days of state senator, to my days of borough president and as the mayor. I just strongly believe that that’s what I spent my life enforcing the law. And I’m going to continue to tell the team that we follow the law in this administration and in all of my administrations.
Deputy Mayor Levy: If I could just also follow up on one thing. A lot of folks in this room know my old role. I was a spokesperson for law enforcement and a lot of you would ask, just tell me off the record about is this investigation ongoing?
And we made it very clear in the AGs office, you don’t talk about an ongoing investigation because you don’t want to sully the investigation, you don’t want to impede it and you don’t want to make the implication in the public that an investigation is ongoing and it’s going to lead to something that it’s not going to.
So, to the point Lisa made, you don’t want to impede a law enforcement investigation here. And just because there’s an investigation ongoing, it doesn’t mean anyone has been accused of anything. So, I would just remind everybody about that.
Question: What about the leaks, and do you believe this is retribution?
Zornberg: Look, I’ll step in there to say, my expectation is that any improper leaks by federal law enforcement officers will be fully investigated by federal law enforcement.
Question: Hi, yes. To follow up. Do you, Mr. Mayor, believe that you’re being targeted through this investigation? Want to know if you retained a lawyer before or after your electronics were seized, and who is paying for Boyd Johnson? Is it through the campaign or are you paying out of pocket?
Mayor Adams: Again, I’m not going to speculate on how we get here because I don’t know. You guys know what I know. My role is to be as cooperative as possible and continue to move the city in the right direction like we have been doing.
And I think we need to be very clear on how well we’re doing from the chief of staff and Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom’s ability to open up the HERRC to the announcements that we’re continuing to make and continue to roll out.
So, I can’t speculate on how we got here and what’s happening. We’re just going to do our role as to cooperate as much as possible.
Question: Did you retain the lawyer though before or after the seizure? And who’s paying Boyd Johnson?
Mayor Adams: Okay. I’ve had a lawyer for over 30-something years. My lawyer has been with me for over 30-something years and he has always been there with me. And as I see a need of additional legal services, I continue to do that throughout my entire career based on whatever issue is going on.
And any legal funds that I have to pay for what’s taking place right now is going to be a combination of out-of-pockets with me or whatever the law allows me to do.
Question: Did you contact the fire commissioner at the time in 2021, Dan Nigro, with regard to the opening of the Turkish consulate building with the expected visit of President Erdoğan?
Mayor Adams: I didn’t know of the expected visit. I believe it was UNGA. And yes, I did reach out to the commissioner as… This is what elected officials, what we do. When the constituency reaches out to us for assistance to another agency, we reach out to the agency.
I don’t think there’s an elected official in the city. Like many of them reached out to me and said, Eric, this is what we do every day. You reach out to an agency and ask them to look into a matter. You don’t reach out to an agency to compel them to do anything because I had no authority to do so. I was the borough president.
And so yes, we reached out because our constituency, I had the largest Turkish population outside of Paterson, New Jersey in this country, I believe was in Brooklyn, as the Brooklyn borough president. And we reached out to the commissioner to assist to find out what was happening and asked him to look at that.
And we’re talking about Commissioner Nigro, over 50 years of being a firefighter, a 9/11 hero. He’s an optimum professional, and I’m sure he’s going to take the necessary questioning. And if he was able to do something, he would. And if he couldn’t, he would say he couldn’t.
Question: Thank you very much, Mr. Mayor. It looks like that the federal government is not happy with you because for you speaking against President Biden’s administration’s immigration policies. Do you think that the recent inquiries, inquiries initiated against your campaign finance, is the result of political vendetta? And my second question is that, you are coping with a flood of immigrants and it costs a lot, billions of dollars. Do you think the federal government is going to help you in this initiative?
Mayor Adams: Well, our criticism, critique, analysis is based on the fact that this is unsustainable for New York City. And I can’t speculate that it was people are upset because I’m raising that. I must fight on behalf of New Yorkers, like the coalition we put together.
And I’m really thankful that we are really having a good coalition right now with Chicago, with Denver, you’re seeing the governor of Massachusetts, Houston. People realize that local municipalities should not carry the weight of a national problem.
And I’ve stated that last year, this is not an attack on the president. And in fact, I kid myself by calling myself the Biden of Brooklyn. I thought that what he helped us around crime and other initiatives were important, but this is a real issue for our city. As we just mentioned, the economic strain to this city is something that is not sustainable and we have to get the assistance that we need from the federal government.
Deputy Mayor Levy: I would just add also just to your second question about specifically funding for New York City. Obviously, we’re still a city in this country. We would expect funding to continue to come in. Last week also, we had, the mayor hosted a press conference talking about getting an assault weapons ban through Congress and the deputy director of the White House Office of Gun Violence participated in that press conference.
So, the White House is still very much aligned with many of the issues that are facing the city and Chief of Staff Camille Joseph Varlack, why don’t you talk a little bit about the conversations we’ve had about with our federal partners, maybe about asylum seekers?
Camille Joseph Varlack, Chief of Staff to the Mayor: Sure, absolutely. We are in regular contact with the White House. There are multiple meetings that happen during the week with FEMA as well. And Tom Perez has indicated that we will have someone from FEMA who’s going to be embedding actually in several cities across the country.
And I’m in regular contact with Tom Perez about all the issues that are facing New York City. So again, we are all one big family. There are times we’re not going to be aligned, but the fact of the matter is the work continues to move on.
Question: Mr. Mayor, how are you?
Mayor Adams: Good. Quite well.
Question: Going back to Henry’s question, has anybody else in your administration, either voluntary or involuntarily, handed over their phone to the FBI or any of their devices?
Zornberg: I’m going to just step in here to say, again, we’re not going to impede a federal investigation in any way. I’ll repeat what I’ve said, which is that we’re fully cooperative and we’ll continue to be.
Question: Hi Mr. Mayor. So, my question is regarding the antisemitism as well as the Islamophobia that’s going on. Parents are very, very concerned about what they’re seeing in the streets with we have… I know of parents, Jewish parents, who are concerned about their children traveling to and from school as well as in school because of certain posts that some teachers put up, so it makes them uncomfortable.
Then at the same time, we have Muslim parents who are also feeling uncomfortable and their children are also afraid. I understand that you’ve been doing or you did a roundtable with Muslim and Jewish community leaders, but for the parents who are concerned, and they brought this to the coalition as well, what do you say to them and what is your message and how can we bridge the gap?
Because while it’s good doing these meetings with community leaders, what about bringing actual, these parents, Jewish and Muslim parents, together because they represent different constituencies in different neighborhoods and they’re all afraid?
Mayor Adams: And you’re 100 percent correct, Mona, and that is why we are doing what’s called Breaking Bread, Building Bonds. Thousands of people have been part of these dinners and we’ve done hundreds of dinners.
The CAU is doing an amazing job of bringing people in the room, and that’s what we have to do. We have to do it on a granular level, and my goal is to bring these parents in the room. These parents should be hosting these multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi-generational meetings and gatherings.
Because we have to get to the point that we’re talking to each other again, because what I’m seeing playing out on the streets of the city is not who we are as a city. This city prides itself in its diversity and its ability to live together with all of the different ethnic groups, different languages, different houses of worship, different places of faith.
So, our goal is to really expand our Breaking Bread, Building Bonds to do even more dinners and have more people sit in a room, like you said, not only leaders but local communities. Because it’s amazing when you look at a place like Crown Heights.
Crown Heights has almost 150,000 residents in that area where you have a large Jewish, African American, Caribbean population, but it’s amazing how many of us don’t know each other and we need to come together to do so.
Right on Coney Island Avenue, you have one of the largest Pakistani populations surrounded by the very religious Jewish community. We want to encourage more conversation on a local granular level, so I agree with you 100 percent.
Deputy Mayor Levy: And, Mona, our Community Affairs Unit does outreach to different groups, not just faith leaders, but obviously, local communities like parents and stuff like that. So, we’d love to do that. I’ll make sure to talk with our CAU commissioner to talk about doing something like that.
Question: Tomorrow evening, we do have a school safety coalition virtual meeting with parents discussing their concerns. So, it would be wonderful if someone from the administration or Community Affairs could attend and just hear from these Jewish as well as Muslim parents and their concerns.
Deputy Mayor Levy: We’ll connect with you right after this to get the information on that.
Mayor Adams: Great idea. Mona, I sat down with some of my Jewish staff here and they shared their fears of wearing a yarmulke on the subway station or walking the streets, and then I sat down with some of my Muslims and Arab constituents. Some of them were from Palestine, and the women shared their concern about wearing a hijab on the subway system.
So, that fear’s on all sides. When I was with my Sikh leaders, they talk about wearing a turban. So, those symbols of our faith becomes targets of our faith and everyone is feeling very apprehensive. And so my goal is to bring folks to the table and understand we’re going to do our job as a Police Department, but it’s also crucial that we engage in these local conversations with each other.
Question: Mr. Mayor?
Mayor Adams: Yes.
Question: Could we get some more clarification? You said earlier that your legal fees are being covered by a combination of out-of-pocket and whatever the law will allow you to do.
Mayor Adams: Yes.
Question: Are campaign donations, in fact, helping to fund these fees? And if so, what’s the proportion? And then also dealing with your campaign as well, what are you telling your donors right now in the moment? Are you able to continue fundraising given the scrutiny that’s going on right now?
Mayor Adams: So let’s peel it back in layers. Number one, we have a compliance attorney. He’s going to make the determination on if any dollars could be used by the campaign. He’s doing that, he’s doing that analysis. That’s his role, and he’ll make the final determination after speaking to all of the entities involved, because there’s a lot of entities that are involved.
As it currently stand, no cost has come out of the campaign at all, and he’ll give us the final report on that. And my donors have called me. I haven’t called my donors. My donors have called me and they said, Eric, we know you. You have been consistent.
Some of my donors have been with me since I was a state senator, and they said, you’ve been consistent on your posture, your leadership style, what you have been doing for the City of New York, and they have remained committed and steadfast and we’re going to continue to do the fundraising that’s needed for the upcoming election.
But I have received nothing but support from my donor base and the countless number of people who send me either prayer hands, scriptures, words of encouragement. And I want to be clear, the day before this happened, I believed in God and I believe in more in God right now.
Yes. How are you?
Question: Good. How are you? Okay. Do you think it is justifiable or it’s a very hectic moment when the mayor of New York City coming out from a car, all of a sudden, the FBI round up the car and get out of his security team and take his cell phone and everything? Was it very justifiable? What was your reaction? Was it a heavy moment for you?
Mayor Adams: I cannot speculate.
Zornberg: Yeah. We’re not going to speculate. I discourage anyone here from speculating. We are really going to be quite disciplined about this. And just to repeat, there’s never been a moment in the last two weeks when we have not been fully cooperative and proactively cooperative, and we will continue to be.
Question: Hi, Mr. Mayor. I was going to ask you if you felt it was necessary for the FBI to stop you on the street. It sounds like you’ve addressed it, but did the warrant that you were presented with for the seizure of your phones name you as a target of the investigation or a witness? And also, did you reach out to anyone else at the FDNY at the time other than Commissioner Dan Nigro to address the issues at the Turkish consulate?
Mayor Adams: That’s a great question. As a matter of fact, I was going to speak on that, so I’m glad you asked to remind me. The reviewing agencies carry out their procedures on how they execute their actions, and I’m not going to second guess their actions of those who are in charge of doing these reviews. And so whatever methods they use, I respect that as a person who was in law enforcement. We have methods of doing what we do, so I respect the methods that are being used.
I want to be very clear about reaching out to FDNY to assist my constituents like all my other elected officials do in this city. I did not speak to any other individual in the FDNY, did not circumvent the commissioner. The commissioner was the person that I asked, can you look into this? And that was all I spoke with.
I didn’t speak to any chief. I didn’t speak to any deputy. I didn’t speak to anyone else because it is not my job to circumvent a commissioner. I spoke just with the commissioner, and the commissioner took the proper action.
I respect Commissioner Nigro and what he has offered to the city and his level of professionalism. And again, I cannot say it enough. Sometimes people misinterpret the role of elected official.
The role of elected official is to receive a call from the constituency of a particular issue, and then we go to the agency and assist them to navigate that. That’s the role of an elected official. I must have done that thousands of times of, people who were having a challenge navigating government.
And if you ask any elected official in this city that, is this what you do every day? Elected officials call me every day, we are having a problem getting a speed bump on my block. Can you reach out to DOT? I mean, this is what we do as elected officials, and I would be neglectful in my duties if a constituency reaches out to me and asks for assistance and I’m not giving them that assistance and asking the agency to look into their inquiry.
Zornberg: Let me just follow up that. Yes. There was a first part of the question. To my understanding, to the best of my knowledge. Well, first of all, it’s a fact, no one has been accused of wrongdoing in the investigation, to my knowledge, and there has been no indication that I’ve seen that the mayor is a target. Okay?
Question: Yes. Good morning, Mr. Mayor.
Mayor Adams: How are you
Question: I’m well. JR Giddings from the Reset Talk Show. Could you talk a little bit about the pushback that’s coming from the asylum seekers who are refusing housing at Floyd Bennett Field due to the fact schools or workplaces are not close enough?
Mayor Adams: And that was, when people talked about my trip to South America, I was trying to share that we were pushing back on those who were constantly telling the asylum, the migrant seekers down in South America that you come to New York, you are automatically giving a job, you are automatically going to be in a five-star hotel.
I wanted to go on those local networks and say here are the realities that are playing out in the city. Many people interpreted as I was saying, listen, don’t come to New York. People were enthusiastic about taking the trip to New York, but they needed to know what to expect.
And so those who were new arrivals, the way Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom and the chief of staff coordinated this, all the new arrivals were going to come to Floyd Bennett Field. And we wanted people to manage their expectation. I wanted to do that when I was in South America, manage your expectations of what life is going to be like.
Some people were disappointed in that. Some people wanted to find their own way instead of being at Floyd Bennett Field. But the reality is, I say over and over again, over 50 percent of the people who came through our process, over 50 percent of them are self-sustaining. And I think we have an impressive number on how many people that had the 30 and 60-day-notice. What is the number of 30, 60 day notice?
Deputy Mayor Levy: Less than 20 percent.
Varlack: It’s less than 20 percent.
Deputy Mayor Anne Williams-Isom, Health and Human Services: Less than 20 percent come back.
Deputy Mayor Levy: Camille, do you want to talk a little bit about what’s happening at Floyd Bennett Field as well?
Varlack: Sure, absolutely. So, as we have discussed over the courses of the weeks, and the mayor has been saying for months, we need assistance from the state and the federal government to manage this national crisis. The fact of the matter is we are out of good options.
And so our intention for Floyd Bennett Field, which is a semi-congregate setting for families with children, is that it is to be for new arrivals. A part of the reason that we wanted it to be for new arrivals is so that we avoid the issue where you have students that are already enrolled in a school at one location, they then move to Floyd Bennett Field and then the Department of Education has to figure out how to get those children back to their original school if that’s where they choose to stay.
As with any new site where we open it, sometimes there are bumps and fits in the road, and so there was a family that showed up on Sunday where they had been staying in a hotel and the child was already enrolled in a school in the Bronx. The family decided that they did not want to stay there and they checked themselves out of the facility. But that is the intention.
We have been working in close step with the Department of Education to make sure that we have shuttles that will take folks off of the field to another location, and then there are also shuttle buses that will take them to schools, and those schools are primed and ready to accept the new children into the location.
Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom: Camille, the only thing that I think I’ll add is I think this week we saw that the government in Massachusetts has said that they can’t support any more families with children and now they’re placing families with children on a waiting list. And so again, we’ve been saying this over and over again.
Any of you who will go out to Floyd Bennett Field, it looks stark. You’ll get a feeling like, is this where we really are and is this the best that we can do as a nation? And we think that we can do better as a nation, but this is a national issue and the federal government needs to step in to really help and to finish the job of what they’ve done. If you let people into the country, you have to allow them to get work and allow them to get housing that’s appropriate.
Deputy Mayor Levy: Also, just add to what Deputy Mayor Williams-Isom just said. I went to the border, and so did Camille, went to the border with the mayor in January this past year. We went and saw… And El Paso is doing an admirable job with everything they can.
But if you go to El Paso, they have a room in the airport where there are… There’s a newborn baby and a 65-year-old man sleeping on the floor right next to each other. So, are these ideal situations that we have here in New York? Absolutely not. Is this what we can do? Absolutely.
Because over 210 sites have been built, over 142,000 asylum seekers have come to our city and we are doing the best we can with very limited resources. It’s going to cost us $12 billion over three fiscal years, but we are just out of space. It’s just the sad reality of the situation.
Question: Hi. Just to revisit a question that’s already been asked. Have any of your top campaign or City Hall aides had their phone seized? And in anticipation of your response, how exactly is responding to that question interfering with the investigation?
Zornberg: I’m going to take that one. We have the same goal as SDNY in this. They have an investigation, they want to see it through. I can guarantee you that the U.S. Attorney’s Office does not want their investigation playing out in the press in drips and drabs and through leaks.
That’s not the way they operate. It serves no one. It doesn’t serve the public, it doesn’t serve the integrity of law enforcement. We are trying and have been extremely cooperative and respectful. That federal investigation, they’re looking at certain things, let them do their job. It is all to the worst to have speculation leaks to the press and commenting in dribs and drabs on a pending investigation. So, we’re not going to do it.
Question: I am Javier Castaño from Queens Latino. A lot of new immigrants are using lithium batteries to work, to survive in the City of New York. Those batteries are killing more than 17 people, and in Europe, close to 100. What the city is going to do to stop that trend?
Mayor Adams: First of all, our heart goes out to three generations that we lost in Brooklyn over the weekend. I traveled out there that morning and it was just horrific. And of my understanding, a lithium battery was in play as well.
These are real devices, and we really want to thank the commissioner who has sounded the alarm last year on the danger of surrounding these batteries. And we have put in place some initiatives. Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi, can you go into some of the things we’re doing?
Deputy Mayor Mayor Joshi, Operations: Sure. First of all, the city has banned the sale of any lithium-ion batteries, bikes, chargers and accessories that are not UL certified, that’s Underwriters Laboratory certified. So, that is… Not unsafe equipment is not allowed to be sold in New York City.
That doesn’t mean it won’t make its way here. So, we’re doing outreach and education. As you’ve seen, the fire commissioner has been very outspoken about that. Getting to, especially our delivery workers so they understand what’s at stake.
And what is very difficult for delivery workers is what is at stake. They’re in an industry where time is money. They’re paid to deliver, and speed is rewarded. And speed means oftentimes they take risky moves like using uncertified batteries and bikes and chargers or changing the mechanics of the bikes so that they go faster so that they can make more money.
And so I think something that the fire commissioner has been very outspoken and rightly so about, and something we’re working with council on is what is the role of the apps in this? What is their responsibility to make sure that the workers that they profit from have safe equipment without having to pay for it themselves?
And that’s something we should, as a collective conscious, be aware of. We’re all using these services. What’s at risk when we’re getting that food delivered? What’s the role of the apps and ensuring the safety of their workers?
So, we look forward to working with council, continuing our outreach education and really the stark reality is it is not worth it to save money to buy an off-brand bike, to fix the bike so it goes faster if the end result is that you, your family, your neighbors are risking their life and may be killed.
November 14, 2023 New York City Hall